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The Lenovo ThinkVision M14 Mobilizes My Multi-Monitor Addiction

Rating: 9/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $250
The ThinkVision M14 connected to a laptop.
The ThinkVision M14 is a fantastic USB-C powered portable monitor. Michael Crider / Review Geek

When you go from a multi-monitor desktop PC to a laptop, it feels like switching from a sports car to a tricycle. But portable USB monitors can fix that problem, and Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 is the nicest one I’ve ever used.

The M14 is amazingly portable and flexible, and its ThinkPad-style fit and finish is unbeatable. You need a laptop or tablet with USB-C to use it, and it isn’t the cheapest option out there. But if you want a second screen that’s ready to go anywhere, you should put the M14 at the top your shopping list.

Flawless Fold-Out Design

I’ve used multiple USB-powered portable monitors in the past. Usually, the case doubles as a floppy stand or there’s a weak plastic kickstand on the back. The M14 puts all of them to shame with its integrated design, which features a full, laptop-style hinge for the standing platform, and a small fold-out extender for a little extra height. The stand also holds both the USB-C charging/video ports, the power and brightness buttons, and a Kensington lock slot. The only thing on the screen is, well, screen.

The Lenova ThinkVision M14 two-part kickstand.
The two-part kickstand is the best I’ve ever used on a portable monitor. Michael Crider / Review Geek

When folded out, the base is incredibly stable anywhere within its 90-degree range of motion. That’s probably because the entire assembly is feather-light at just 1.26 pounds, with a 1/4-inch bezel around three sides. If you slip this thing into your laptop bag, you might forget it’s there.

The back of the Lenova ThinkVision M14 lying flat.
At just over one pound, the entire package is remarkably light and portable. Michael Crider / Review Geek

The fold-out stand also means the M14 fits on almost any desk or table that can accommodate its 13-inch width. When you fold it up, it’s just half an inch thick at its thickest point. And with USB-C ports on both sides to charge it, you can put the M14 pretty much anywhere.

USB-C All the Way

Speaking of those ports, they’re also pretty flexible. You can plug in a USB-C-to-C cable on either side of the screen to connect to your laptop or tablet, or any other device that adheres to the USB-C video-out standard.

And I do mean any device. In addition to its Lenovo cousin, the ThinkPad T490s, I tested the M14 monitor with a Chrome OS tablet, which immediately detected it and started sending correctly-formatted video. I also checked to see if it could charge my Galaxy Note 8 simultaneously. To my surprise, the phone also recognized the screen and activated the built-in Samsung DeX feature to output a desktop interface. Score one for standardized video!

A Samsung Galaxy Note 8 connected via USB-C to the M14, which displays the Samsung's DeX phone interface.
Compatibility with USB-C standards means the M14 even works for Samsung’s DeX phone interface. Michael Crider / Review Geek

You can also use the monitor as a pass-through for a USB-C charger. So, you can plug the screen into a laptop and run its LCD panel off the laptop’s battery. Or you can plug it into a charger on one side and use the other to send power to your laptop.

This is a neat trick, but its utility is limited—you have to plug a PD-compatible charger into the right side only, and then use the left for video. It’s handy the screen can handle large amounts of power, but there’s little reason to plug the power adapter into the screen, rather than directly into your laptop.

The back of the M14 with USB-C cords connected on both sides.
Either USB-C port accepts power or data. But for pass-through power, you have to connect on the right. Michael Crider / Review Geek

Also, unlike some older USB-powered monitors, the M14 doesn’t appear to work with generic DisplayLink drivers. So, you can’t plug it into a rectangular USB-A port, no matter how fast it is.

You must have a USB-C port with Display Port 1.2 Alt Mode capabilities to use the M14.

Good Picture, But No Touching!

The image quality on the 14-inch, 1080p panel is decent, but not amazing. That’s pretty standard for a USB monitor, where portability and screen real estate take precedence over strict color accuracy. It’s bright, crisp, and the panel is matte, just like a ThinkPad. It’s ideal if you want to go dual-screen in an airport lounge or hotel room.

The ThinkVision M14 connected to the ThinkPad T490s.
The ThinkVision M14 and the ThinkPad T490s make a handsome pair. Michael Crider / Review Geek

You can adjust the brightness with the small buttons on the left side. You can press another button on that side to activate the blue light filter, which has only one setting. That’s all you get in terms of adjustment, but again, portable screens are designed with simplicity over configuration in mind.

The only bummer is the lack of a touch screen, which is something you probably expect on a portable monitor at this price. I suspect that given the ThinkVision’s button-down branding, a matte panel that’s easy to see in all lighting conditions was more important than touch screen capability. Touch doesn’t tend to work great on multiscreen interfaces, anyway. Still, it’s something to note if you want a touch screen for your mobile workspace.

The brightness and blue light mode buttons on the side of the ThinkVision M14.
The controls are simple, with only brightness, blue light mode, and power (on the opposite side) buttons. Michael Crider / Review Geek

Also, when I connect the screen to a laptop with the power going both in and out, there’s a faint whining sound comes from the panel. I can only hear it when I’m in a silent room, and it didn’t bother me. However, this is the kind of flaw that might drive others crazy after a few months.

Yes, Please!

The M14 is a pretty pricey addition to your laptop bag ($250, at this writing). But as someone who’s lugged around bigger, heavier, and harder-to-use screens, I’d say it’s well worth it. The excellent design, solid picture, and eminent portability of this screen make it easy to take along—even if you’re just heading to the coffee shop.

The M14 halfway in its gray protection sleeve.
The package comes with a simple sleeve to protect the screen. Michael Crider / Review Geek

If you need touch functionality or haven’t yet upgraded to a laptop or tablet with USB-C, you’ll be disappointed with this screen. Others, however, will be thrilled with the M14’s versatility and quality.

If you’re desperate for more screen real estate while you’re on the road, grab yourself one of these!

Rating: 9/10
Price: $250

Here’s What We Like

  • Super-stable stand design
  • Light and portable
  • Flexible cable/port design
  • Great fit and finish

And What We Don't

  • Can't use older USB ports
  • No touch-screen option
  • Slight whining noise

Michael Crider Michael Crider
Michael Crider has been writing about computers, phones, video games, and general nerdy things on the internet for ten years. He’s never happier than when he’s tinkering with his home-built desktop or soldering a new keyboard. Read Full Bio »