Best portable monitors for laptops: Instantly boost your productivity anywhere - CBS News

By Jason R. Rich, Kaylyn McKenna, Fox Van Allen

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Best portable monitors for laptops: Instantly boost your productivity anywhere - CBS News

If you're a remote worker, student or someone who relies heavily on a laptop computer, you should seriously consider taking advantage of a portable monitor. One of these monitors easily connects to a computer via a USB to HDMI cable, typically requires no special drivers and allows you to dramatically increate your available onscreen real estate. In fact, using a portable monitor, you can easily multitask and run separate applications simultaneously or view multiple open web browser windows at once. A portable monitor can also be useful when gaming. 

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Instead of spending big bucks to buy a new laptop , try adding an extra portable screen (or two!) to your current laptop setup. These monitors come in a wide range of sizes and resolutions. Some even offer touchscreen capabilities. In situations when you need multiple monitors, in addition to the primary one built into your laptop computer, there are portable monitor options that attach to the back of the computer's existing display and then allow for two additional displays (one on each side of the primary display) to be used at the same time. 

Best of all, a portable monitor is lightweight, incredibly thin and will typically fit in your existing laptop case for easy transport. Then, whenever you need the extra display space, the portable display sets up in mere seconds allowing you to boost your productivity level dramatically. Most portable monitors offer one or more screens that can work together as a mega-screen or function independently. Let's take a closer look at some of the best portable monitors available right now. Whether you want 1080p resolution, touchscreen capabilities, or even 4K resolution, you have plenty of affordable options.

This roundup of portable monitors features some of the very best options on the market in terms of features, overall functionality, versatility, image quality and value. Here are our top picks, curated by the CBS Essentials editorial team.

Display Type: In-plane switching (IPS) | Screen Size: 15.6 inches | Resolution: 1080p | Refresh Rate: 60Hz | Ports: 2x USB Type-C | Dimensions: 14.1 x 10.1 x 0.2 inches | Weight: 2 pounds | Special Features: 16:9 aspect ratio, touchscreen with stylus support, optional stand allows for height and angle adjustment. 

Offering a maximum brightness of 300 nits, this one one of the thinnest 15.6-inch portable monitors available. It's powered via the USB port of your laptop computer using a supplied cable and offers convenient plug-and-play functionality requiring no special drivers. One of the key features that make this Espresso display unique is that an optional magnetic stand is available that folds up flat, but when open, allows you to adjust the height and viewing angle of the monitor, which can be used in portrait or landscape mode. 

A magnetic smart cover is used to protect the 1,920 x 1,080 pixel display during transport. This portable monitor has internal speakers and is one of the few that supports an optional stylus that allows you to handwrite, draw or annotate on the touchscreen display when using a compatible application. The aircraft grade aluminum housing is both durable and stylish. A less expensive 13.3-inch version of this display is also available.

Out of all the portable monitors available, this one provides the most versatility. It offers 1080p resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate that makes an excellent companion to a MacBook or Windows-based computer. Since it easily fits in a laptop computer's case, it's very convenient to travel with.

Display Type: In-plane switching (IPS) | Screen Size: 13.3 inches | Resolution: 1080p | Refresh Rate: 60Hz | Ports: 1x USB Type-C | Dimensions: 12.79 x 7.5 x 0.77 inches | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Special Features: Display rotates 270-degrees and swivels 360-degrees, 16:9 aspect ratio, glossy display

The best feature of this 13.3-inch display that offers 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution with a maximum brightness of 400 nits is that it attaches to the back of your laptop computers existing display and then slides outwards to the left or right, based on how you attach it. 

Without adding too much weight to your laptop computer, you can basically double your available screen space using this monitor that is powered by your computer using a supplied USB Type-C cable. This version of the monitor works with MacBooks, as well as most Windows or ChromeOS-based laptop computers. Once attached to your computer, the monitor's viewing angle (but not its height) can be fully adjusted. Thus, you can use it as a second monitor yourself, or rotate it so a person who is facing you can see the screen. Thanks to its built-in kickstand, you can use this monitor in portrait or landscape mode. Meanwhile, if you need two extra monitors connected to your computer, SideTrak offers the Swivel Pro Triple. It features that same design, but has two 13.3-inch pull-out monitors instead of just one.

Display Type: OLED | Screen Size: 13.3 inches | Resolution: 1080p | Refresh Rate: 60Hz | Ports: 1x USB Type-C, 1x Mini HDMI | Weight: 1.6 pounds | Special Features: Maximum brightness 400 nits, 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, 100,000:1 contrast ratio, 16:9 aspect ratio, 1ms response time for gaming, plug & play connectivity, HDR10 support

Available for less than $200 on Amazon, the INNOC portable monitor offers a stunning OLED display. However, you only get 1080p resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate and HDR support. This particular monitor stands on its own using a detachable kickstand and can be set up on either side of your laptop computer. It's powered by your computer using a USB Type-C cable. The benefit of a OLED monitor is that you get more vivid color, better contrast, richer blacks and brighter whites compared to other display types. 

If you're someone who works in front of your computer for many hours at a time, you'll appreciate this monitor's flicker-free design with reduced blue light emission, which means less eye fatigue. The ultra-thin (0.27-inch) thickness makes the monitor easy to travel with. The 100% DCI-P3 color gamut performance, along with its maximum brightness of 400 nits, help to ensure you'll consistently see accurate and bright colors, regardless of what type of content you're viewing. If you thought using a portable monitor as a companion to your laptop computer was unattainable due to price, think again.

Display Type: In-plane switching (IPS) LCD | Screen Size: 15.6 inches | Resolution: 4K (3,840 X 2,160 Pixels) | Refresh Rate: 60Hz | Ports: 1x USB Type-C, Mini-HDMI | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Special Features: 16:9 aspect ratio, 600 lumens max. brightness, 1500:1 contrast ratio, 100% Adobe RGB, supports HDR, comes with leather smart cover

In the past year, many overseas companies that you might not have heard of have released 4K resolution portable monitors for sale on Amazon. Meanwhile, some of the well-known monitor companies have dabbled in portable 4K monitors, but most have either discontinued them or they are extremely difficult to find in stock. That said, the UPerfect True 4K Portable Monitor is not only extremely affordable, but thanks to its 3,840 x 2,160 pixel resolution, it's ideal for editing photos or video, streaming TV shows and movies or viewing any type of content where higher resolution (as opposed to 1080p) really matters. The monitor's HDR support showcases the detail and richness of each color in whatever you're viewing.

This 15.6 inch portable monitor is just 0.15 inches thick, weighs a mere 1.5 pounds and comes with a leather smart cover for transport. This cover doubles as a kickstand to hold the monitor upright when it's being used. Another impressive thing about this monitor is its maximum brightness of 600 lumens. It also has built in speakers. And for gamers, you get FreeSync support. The monitor's frame is made from lightweight and durable aluminum. You also get a rather wide 170-degree viewing angle.

Display Type: In-plane switching (IPS) LCD | Screen Size: 14 inches | Resolution: 1080p | Refresh Rate: 60Hz | Ports: 1x USB Type-C | Dimensions: 12.79 x 8.19 x 0.35 inches | Weight: 1.3 pounds | Special Features: 16:9 aspect ratio, screen protector folds out into stand, flicker-free, low blue light

For your everyday computing needs, the ASUS ZenScreen MB14AC offers an additional 14-inch display for a laptop computer. It's easy to transport using the magnetic smart cover that folds over to become a stand. Resolution is 1080p with a 60Hz refresh rate, which is more than adequate for a remote worker or student who doesn't need a touchscreen or 4K resolution to handle higher-end photo or video editing.

Without any special drivers, this portable monitor will work with virtually any Windows-based laptop or MacBook. And as an added convenience, it can be positioned in landscape or portrait mode and automatically adjust. To reduce eye fatigue, the monitor is both flicker-free and offers low blue light emission. It's powered directly from your laptop computer, so there's no need to lug around an extra power supply.

In situations when you need others to view your display, since it's only connected to your computer using a single USB cable, the monitor can be positioned in any direction. However, it also offers a wide viewing angle, so even if someone is off to the side, they'll clearly see what's being display in 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution. For added convenience, located at the bottom of the monitor is a 1/4-inch screw thread, so it can be attached to a height adjustable tabletop tripod (sold seperately). The ZenScreen MB14AC has a very affordable price. Once you start using it, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.

Display Type: In-plane switching (IPS) LCD | Screen Size: 2x 10.1 inches | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,200 pixels | Refresh Rate: 60Hz | Ports: 2x USB Type-C, Mini-HDMI Input (video only) | Dimensions: 12 x 7.5 x 1 inches | Weight: 2 pounds | Special Features: 1080-degree screen rotation, 16:10 aspect ratio, adjustable brightness, fits laptop screens between 12 and 20 inches

Sometimes, three monitors is better than one--especially when you need to multitask and be extra productive while on the go. With the Xebec Tri-Screen 2, you simply attach the two monitor setup to the back of your laptop's existing monitor. You're then you're able to pull either or both 10.1 inch displays out as they're needed. The Tri-Screen 2 is designed to work with laptop computers with a screen that's between 12 and 20 inches.

The display's setup relies on your laptop computer for power. It only adds about an inch of thickness and two extra pounds of weight, so it will likely fit in your existing laptop case. When it use, however, it can dramatically improve your productivity and multitasking capabilities. But keep in mind, the two monitors you're adding are just 10.1 inches (measured diagonally), so they're on the smaller size. Other companies offer larger options, but they're heavier and take up a lot more space when both screens are extended. Using the Tri-Screen 2, each monitor's tilt angle can be positioned independently and can rotate up to 180-degrees.

Display Type: In-plane switching (IPS) | Screen Size: 2x 14 inches | Resolution: 1,920 x 1,200 pixels | Refresh Rate: 60Hz | Ports: 2x USB Type-C, Mini-HDMI | Dimensions: 9.75 x 6 x 0.9 inches (folded) | Weight: 3.3 pounds | Special Features: Compatible with laptops that have a screen between 13 and 16 inches, aluminum alloy casing, 16:10 aspect ratio, 178-degree viewing angle, FreeSync and HDR modes, screens rotate up to 150-degrees, 400 lumens max. brightness

For a remote worker with a decent budget, the Oiiwak Triple Portable Monitor offers one big perk -- you get two extra 14-inch displays that attach to the back of your existing laptop's monitor. This setup works with Windows-based laptop computers or MacBooks. The monitors themselves have a lightweight and durable aluminum alloy housing. Thanks to each monitor's 1,920 x 1,200 pixel resolution, 60Hz refresh rate and 400 lumens maximum brightness, you get a lot of flexibility in terms of the applications that can be run and the amount of on screen real estate that's available.

To ensure the monitors display accurate colors, both support 1500:1 contrast ratio, 74% NTSC, 100% RGB, 78% Adobe-RGB and 100% DCI-P3. Basically, they're able to display up to 16.7 million colors and offer a 5ms response speed. Each monitor also offers an impressive 178-degree viewing angle. Both offer support for HDR and FreeSync and can each be rotated between 0 and 150 degrees to achieve the ideal viewing angle. This model is designed to support laptop computers with screens between 13 and 16 inches. A separate version of this product, the Oiiwak S15 Triple Portable Monitor, supports laptops with a screen size between 15 and 17 inches.

Jason R. Rich ( is an internationally recognized consumer technology expert with more than 30 years' writing experience. He's also an accomplished author and photographer. One of his most recently published books, The Remote Worker's Handbook: How to Effectively Work From Anywhere ($24.99, Entrepreneur Books) is now available from Amazon and wherever books are sold.

First published on August 31, 2023 / 10:00 AM EDT

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Best portable monitors for laptops: Instantly boost your productivity anywhere - CBS News

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