Once you upgrade your desktop to two or more monitors, it’s tough to go back to one—but lugging them along with your laptop is less than practical. Enter the USB-powered portable display, a second monitor you can easily take with you.
These productivity-boosting portables use small, lightweight components and a single USB cable for both video and power, meaning you can take a second screen along with your laptop or Windows tablet with only a little extra room in your bag. They’re especially good for longer trips, where you have time to set up a dedicated workspace and spread out. Here are the best on the market.
Table of Contents
- What to Look For in a Portable Monitor
- The Best Overall Portable Monitor
- The Best Budget Portable Monitor
- The Best Large Format Portable Monitor
- The Best Gaming Portable Monitor
A portable monitor is just a screen that works over USB. But there are a surprising number of variables in that formula.
- Connection: what kind of USB connection does your laptop have? Most newer models use USB Type C, with video built into the spec. But older laptops may need to rely on USB-A (the rectangular one) and slower DisplayLink drivers.
- Size: If you can’t fit your secondary screen into your laptop bag or carry-on, it isn’t going to be much use to you. Check the dimensions.
- Screen Quality: Most portable screens use an IPS panel: slow refresh and response, but accurate colors. You might also want to check reviews for brightness, as you may be using it in unpredictable lighting conditions.
- Stand: An often-overlooked aspect of a portable screen’s usability is the stand. Permanent, built-in kickstands are more adjustable and reliable than a carrying case that doubles as a stand-up prop.
This smaller, 14-inch screen uses the same design language and build quality as Lenovo’s ThinkPad line of laptops, making it a cut above the rest of the options on the market. Its integrated kickstand is much more stable and streamlined than other options, and its dual-sided USB-C ports are extremely handy: you can plug in your laptop’s power supply on either side, letting it adapt to cramped workspaces.
The M14 uses a full HD IPS screen, making it equal in color quality to most high-end laptops, and it comes with a slick felt carrying case. It’s a little more expensive than most of the other options, but if you’re a frequent traveler, you’ll love the way it fits into your mobile lifestyle. The even more expensive Thinkvision M14t adds a touchscreen option, though most users won’t need the additional functionality.
If you need a larger screen than fourteen inches, the 15.6 inch ASUS Zenscreen MB16AC is worth considering. Its stand isn’t as nice, but it can automatically rotate for portrait or landscape mode.
Lenovo ThinkVision M14
This smaller, highly portable monitor uses a great 1080p panel and an excellent hinged kickstand design.
For the price, you won’t find a better portable monitor than AOC’s entry-level offering. Its 15.6-inch panel is big, though its low-resolution 720p panel is dimmer than some other options. But a unique fold-out kickstand (rather than an integrated case prop) means it’s more stable than many alternatives, in both landscape and portrait orientations.
This model uses an older USB 3.0 connection with the USB-A port, so it’s ideal if you have an older laptop without a USB-C port. (You’ll need to get an adapter or go with a more expensive newer model if you have no A ports available). Surprisingly, the screen has a port integrated into the rear panel and a standard VESA mount, so you can use it as a full-sized monitor or a secondary display if you want to transition to a more permanent workspace. Note that, due to the reliance on DisplayLink software, it may not work well with MacOS laptops.
AOC e1659Fwu Portable Monitor
This affordable USB-A design works with older laptops, and has a dependable fold-away stand.
It’s hard to find larger screens for a portable monitor because, you know, “portable” is right in the title. But if you need more screen space than bag space, this screen from Niuto is one of the only 17-inch, USB-powered panels on the market. It’s designed primarily for game consoles and includes a mini-HDMI port for accepting video inputs beyond the standard laptop. It also has an integrated speaker, though it’s weak.
But if you want to use it with a laptop, it’s more than capable of fulfilling the job, with 1080p video via USB-C and an IPS screen. The included folding case doubles as the display’s kickstand, which isn’t great—you might want to go with a tablet-style stand instead. The extra size allows it to have some extra outputs, including a headphone jack and USB-A, and it comes with a separate power brick and mini-HDMI adapter.
NIUTO 17.3-inch portable monitor
This huge portable monitor can accept standard HDMI input or USB-C.
If you’re looking for a portable monitor that can actually take advantage of high-powered gaming hardware…well, you’re going to be looking for a while. Many screens claim to be designed for gaming, but that generally means they have an HDMI input, and not much else. This screen from G-STORY is the exception: in addition to some thoughtful usability features, its 15.6-inch, 1080p panel has just a 1ms response time and can handle refresh rates up to 165Hz, making modern gaming computers and consoles look fantastic.
The screen’s integrated, fold-out kickstand holds USB-C and mini-HDMI ports, while two front-mounted speakers will do if you don’t have any headphones. If you do, there’s a jack directly on the front. Note that in order to drive this more powerful screen, you might need to use two USB-C ports or the integrated wall adapter. Also in the bag are a carrying case, an HDMI-to-MiniHDMI adapter, and—a unique addition on this list—a remote control for volume and image adjustments.
There’s a more expensive option that comes from ASUS, the ROG Strix XG17AHPE. But at double the price with a built-in stand, it’s only an option if price is no object.