Lenovo Thinkvision M14 lifestyle

The Best Portable Monitors of 2021

By Dave Dean Accessories, Remote Working2 Comments

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While monitors have been technically “portable” for decades, lightweight models that fit into a carry case rather than a station wagon are a more recent invention. Versions that you’d actually want to use? They’re very new indeed.

While the benefits of a second screen are undeniable, we’ve largely ignored portable monitors on this site in the past. They were just too expensive, had dim displays, didn’t work very well, and were still too big and heavy to really want to take outside the house with you.

That’s all changed in the last few years, as screen technology got better and lighter, USB C got rid of the bulky cables and chargers, and competition drove the price down. Several companies are now making portable monitors worth owning, with sizes and features to suit a wide range of needs.

We’d still suggest using a normal monitor if you work from the same space all the time, since you get much more for your money. If you’re a laptop user who travels regularly, often finds yourself hitting deadlines from the cafe, or needs to set up and take down your home office every day, however, a portable version makes a lot more sense.

Whether you’re on a budget, looking for the lightest version, or need extra screen size or a touchscreen, these are the best portable monitors of 2021.

Best Portable Monitor: Lenovo ThinkVision M14
  • Dimensions (incl. stand): 12.7 x 8.2 x 3.8 inches (32.3 x 22 x 9.7cm)
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds (598g)
  • Display Size: 14 inches
  • Resolution: 1920x1080 @ 60Hz
  • Nominal Brightness: 300 nits
  • Connection Type: 2 x USB C

Runner-Up, Best Portable Monitor: Asus Zenscreen Go MB16AHP
  • Dimensions: 14.2 x 8.9 x 0.3 inches (36.1 x 22.6 x 0.8cm)
  • Weight: 1.9 pounds (848g)
  • Display Size: 15.6 inches
  • Resolution: 1920x1080 @ 60Hz
  • Nominal Brightness: 250 nits
  • Connection Type: USB C, micro-HDMI

Best Budget Portable Monitor: Lepow Z1 Pro
  • Dimensions: 14.5 x 8.8 x 0.3 inches (36.9 x 22.4 x 0.9cm)
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds (776g)
  • Display Size: 15.6 inches
  • Resolution: 1920x1080 @ 60Hz
  • Nominal Brightness: unspecified
  • Connection Type: USB C, USB-A

Best Portable Touch-Screen Monitor: Asus Zenscreen Touch MB16AMT
  • Dimensions: 14.2 x 8.9 x 0.4 inches (36 x 22.7 x 0.9cm)
  • Weight: 2 pounds (900g)
  • Display Size: 15.6 inches
  • Resolution: 1920x1080 @ 60Hz
  • Nominal Brightness: 250 nits
  • Connection Type: USB C, USB-A adapter, micro-HDMI

Best Portable 4K Monitor: UPERFECT True 4K Portable Monitor
  • Dimensions: 14.6 x 9.3 x 0.5 inches (37.1 x 23.5 x 1.3cm)
  • Display Size: 15.6 inches
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160 @ 60Hz
  • Nominal Brightness: 400 nits
  • Connection Type: USB C, mini-HDMI

Best Portable Monitor: Lenovo ThinkVision M14

Lenovo ThinkVision M14 14' Full HD 1920x1080 IPS Monitor - 300 Nit 6ms 2xUSB Type-C Ports Widescreen Backlit LED LCD Mobile Portable Display Raven Black

If we were going to pick the two most important features in a portable monitor, they’d have to be weight and picture quality. Apparently Lenovo had the same idea, and came up with the ThinkVision M14 as a result.

The 14″ display is a little smaller than most of the competition, but it still has the same 1920×1080 FHD resolution that we typically see. This makes for a slightly sharper image than usual, and in this case, a lot less weight. At just 1.3 pounds, it’s significantly lighter than our other recommendations.

The M14 has an unusual design, with the screen connected to a fold-up base via a fancy hinge mechanism. The display itself is just 0.17″ (4.4m) thick, and can be adjusted to an angle anywhere from -5 to 90 degrees. The base unit holds all of the ports and circuitry.

There’s a small “foot” on the front of the base that can be flipped down for extra height, and the monitor stays solidly in place in both landscape and portrait orientation. Overall, there’s a lot more viewing flexibility than anything else on this list.

Color reproduction isn’t the strong suit of most portable monitors, but here again the M14 shines, with accurate colors across the range. It’s also nice and bright, and the anti-glare coating means you’ll still be able to see what’s on the screen even under harsh fluorescents or sunlight.

The monitor has two USB C ports, one on each side. It draws power from the laptop as usual, but also supports 65W power pass-through so you can plug your charger into one side, your laptop into the other, and power both at once. That’s useful if your laptop only has a single USB C port.

Note that USB C is your only connection option: there’s no support for USB-A DisplayLink, HDMI, or anything else. That shouldn’t be an issue with recent laptops, but will be with older ones.

The minimal weight, impressive color reproduction, and sturdy, flexible stand combine to make the ThinkVision M14 our top overall portable monitor pick. As long as you have a recent laptop with USB C, there’s an awful lot to like and very little to complain about.

Pros
  • Very lightweight
  • Good color reproduction and brightness
  • Base acts as a sturdy stand
  • Flexible screen angle
  • Two USB-C ports, with power pass-through
Cons
  • USB-C only. No USB-A or HDMI support for older machines
Buy on Amazon

Runner-Up, Best Portable Monitor: Asus Zenscreen Go MB16AHP

ASUS ZenScreen 15.6' 1080P Portable Monitor (MB16AHP) - Full HD, IPS, Built-in Battery, Eye Care, Foldable Smart Case, USB-C Power Delivery, Ultra-slim, Micro HDMI, For Laptop, PC, Phone, Console

Asus has been making portable monitors for years, and it shows. The company sells a range of different models, and two have made it onto our list. The Zenscreen Go MB16AHPZenscreen Go MB16AHP is the better choice for most people, and one of our top portable monitor picks overall.

The monitor is slim and quite lightweight, with an attractive dark grey frame. The 15.6″ display is standard for a portable monitor in 2021, as is the 1920×1080 FHD resolution.

It ships with a case that both protects the monitor in transit, and with a bit of origami, acts as a stand that holds it upright in either portrait or landscape mode. You can adjust the viewing angle via the various grooves on the base of the stand.

Despite not having a touchscreen, it also comes with a stylus that can be stuck into the hole on the bottom right corner of the monitor to hold it in place without the case. It’s unusual but actually works pretty well, especially if you’re cramped for room on your desk.

What really sets this monitor apart from the rest, however, is its built-in 7800mAh battery. While it can draw power from a wall socket or your laptop like other portable monitors if required, it doesn’t have to.

Powering a portable monitor drains a laptop’s battery much more quickly, so the MB16AHP is ideal if you’re working for hours in a cafe or anywhere else where outlets are hard to come by. You’ll get up to four hours out of the internal battery before needing to power from something else.

There’s a single USB C port on the monitor that handles both display and power, along with a micro-HDMI port for connection to older devices. Stereo speakers are also built-in, so you don’t need to rely on the anemic ones in your laptop.

Brightness and contrast are above average for a portable monitor, but colors can be a little dull, however, especially in the red part of the range. It’s an issue common to many portable monitors, so if you need the best color accuracy, consider the Lenovo M14 (above) instead.

All in all, this is a portable monitor that gets pretty much everything right. It’s well-made, with good brightness and viewability, and works with both older and more recent laptops. Attractive, reasonably lightweight, and with extras that set it apart from the pack, it’s a solid choice for a wide range of buyers.

Pros
  • Has its own battery and speakers
  • Can use either pen or case to hold monitor in place
  • Stylish
  • Works with wide range of devices
Cons
  • Colors somewhat dull
Buy on Amazon

Best Budget Portable Monitor: Lepow Z1 Pro

Portable Monitor - Lepow Upgraded 15.6 Inch IPS HDR 1920 x 1080 FHD Computer Display Game Screen with USB Type-C HDMI for Laptop PC MAC Phone Xbox Switch PS4 Include Smart Cover Screen Protector Blue

You’ve basically got two choices when it comes to portable monitor manufacturers: one of a handful of major brands (Lenovo, HP, Asus) or any number of Chinese companies you’ve never heard of. Lepow is very much the latter, but it’s actually been in the market for quite a while.

The Z1 Pro is an upgraded version of the popular Z1 model, with basic specifications that are exactly what you’d expect from a budget portable monitor in 2021: 15.6″ display, 1920×1080 resolution, mediocre color reproduction.

What sets the Z1 Pro apart from the dozens of other no-name portable monitor brands, then? It’s the little things. For starters, as well as the ubiquitous USB C option, there’s also a micro-HDMI port on the monitor and the appropriate cables to use either option.

The case turns into a stand, as usual, but there are two grooves in the base to give at least some choice of viewing angle. The stand only works in landscape mode, but the monitor itself supports portrait mode: you’ll just need to find a different way of keeping it in position.

For a 15.6″ monitor, the Z1 Pro is surprisingly light at 1.7 pounds. Even with that low weight, there are a pair of speakers built into the monitor, along with a headphone jack. The speakers are quite weak, so you’re more likely to use the ones on your laptop, but still, it’s a nice touch.

The biggest problems with this monitor are the color reproduction and brightness. As with many others, reds and purples appear quite washed out, and while you can change various settings to try and make up for it, the alternative is having every other color look unnaturally saturated.

The brightness level also isn’t great. While the specifications suggest the same nominal 300 nits as our top pick, the ThinkVision M14, the Z1 Pro is a lot dimmer in the real world. It’ll be fine indoors in normal lighting, but don’t expect great visibility in direct sunlight.

If neither of those things is a deal-breaker, the Z1 Pro offers plenty of monitor for not a lot of money in a lightweight and easily transportable package. Throw in a three-year warranty, and you have our budget portable monitor choice for 2021.

Pros
  • Good price
  • HDMI support as well as USB-C
  • Lightweight for a 15.6″ model
Cons
  • Poor color reproduction
  • Not as bright as the specifications suggest
  • Stand doesn’t support portrait mode
Buy on Amazon

Best Portable Touch-Screen Monitor: Asus Zenscreen Touch MB16AMT 

ASUS ZenScreen 15.6' 1080P Portable Touch Monitor (MB16AMT) - Full HD, IPS, 10-point Touch, Built-in Battery, Foldable Smart Case, USB-C Power Delivery, Micro HDMI, For Laptop, PC, Phone, Console

If you’re used to having a touchscreen on your laptop display, there’s no reason you can’t have one on your second monitor as well. As the name suggests, the Asus Zenscreen Touch is the touch-enabled version of the Go model mentioned above, with almost exactly the same specifications.

There’s the same 1920×1080 resolution on a 15.6″ display, the same internal battery so you don’t need to draw power from your laptop, and the same muted color palette that’s common to pretty much every portable monitor except the Thinkvision M14.

The main difference, of course, is the screen. Multitouch-enabled, you’ll get full touch support on Windows and some Android devices, limited support on macOS (since it’s not built into the operating system,) and none on iOS. It’s relatively bright for a portable monitor, which is a nice change.

As with the non-touch model, you get an Asus e-ink pencil in the box, but here you can use it for more than holding the screen upright. Whether you’re using your finger or the stylus, the display is reliable and quick to respond to your input.

Controlling the various settings is done via a single button on the bottom of the monitor that’s actually a five-way joystick. It’s one of the better approaches to menu navigation we’ve seen, but there’s also a Windows app that lets you configure many of the same settings.

The Touch works over either USB C or the combination of micro-HDMI and USB-A, and all of the cables and adapters you need come in the box. There’s a pair of speakers built-in, which work fine but are probably no better than the ones you have on your laptop already.

Weighing only slightly more than it’s non-touch siblings, if you’re looking for the best portable touchscreen monitor of 2021, you’ve found it in the Asus Zenscreen Touch.

Pros
  • Touchscreen works well
  • Comes with a stylus
  • Both USB-C and HDMI/USB-A options
  • Internal battery
Cons
  • Heavier than non-touch models
  • Colors somewhat dull
Buy on Amazon

Best Portable 4K Monitor: UPERFECT True 4K Portable Monitor

UPERFECT True 4K Portable Monitor, 15.6'' UHD IPS 3840x2160 USB C Monitor Unique Arch Metal Frame,100% sRGB 400 Nits Brightness, HDR FreeSync Speaker HDMI Type-C OTG VESA Computer Monitor w/Smart Case

The vast majority of portable monitors max out at FHD (1920×1080) resolution, and for many users, that’s perfectly fine. For those who want something better, however, options are quite limited, and good options are even more limited still.

That’s why you could do a lot worse than checking out the UPERFECT True 4K Portable Monitor. Reasonably priced and full of features, it’s a display that’s pitched at gamers but is equally useful for anyone else needing a high-resolution portable display at a reasonable price.

The 3840×2160 resolution is coupled with a 60Hz refresh rate, and 3-5ms response time, which means this UPERFECT monitor is no slouch in the specifications department. It has both USB C and mini-HDMI connections, and appropriate cables in the box.

The protective case folds up into a stand, but only in landscape mode. You’ll be able to switch to portrait mode from your laptop settings, but will need to lean the monitor against a solid object or find some other way of keeping it upright.

Brightness levels are quite good, and color reproduction is ok, although not as good as the Lenovo model mentioned above. As with many other portable monitors, stereo speakers are built in, but you’re unlikely to use them in preference to headphones or the ones built into your laptop.

Pricing for this model is usually quite competitive, often not much more than some of the other 15.6″ portable monitors. If you’re looking for something slightly different, UPERFECT also makes a touchscreen version that auto-senses whether it’s in portrait or landscape mode and rotates accordingly, but you’ll usually pay noticeably more for it.

Pros
  • High resolution
  • Well-priced for what it is
Cons
  • Stand doesn’t work in portrait mode
  • Average color reproduction
Buy on Amazon

Main image via Lenovo, other images via Amazon

About the Author
Dave Dean

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a traveler for 20 years, and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken-down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    The best portable display for a Mac is an iPad, used with Sidecar. It is bright, true colors, connects even by WiFi and adds touch + pencil support. Yes, it will cost more than a travel monitor, but if you have one, it is the perfect fit.

    1. Dave Dean Author

      Yeah, we talk about that option here (albeit with Duet and other apps rather than Sidecar). If you already have an iPad and are happy with the smaller screen size, it’s a good choice.

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