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Published May. 10, 2022

When you’re using a laptop or traveling and need more screen real estate, a portable monitor can give you a dual monitor experience even when you’re away from your desk setup. The best portable monitors provide new versatility and solid picture quality in an easily portable form factor. 

Plus, laptops, tablets, and smartphones provide convenience and mobility, but those small screens can cause headaches, blurry eyes, and fatigue. Digital eye strain is already an automatic negative byproduct of using digital devices, and trying to crowd a lot of information on such a small screen only exacerbates the problem—especially if you’re using the computer devices for several hours a day.

However, a portable monitor can provide a much better working and viewing experience. And since we’re still living in the age of COVID-19, it can also provide a much safer way to share your screen with colleagues, clients, and classmates, so they won’t have to stand or sit so close to you.

Picking the right one for you will depend on several factors, but we’ve done the legwork to select and highlight some of the best options currently on the market.

How we picked the best portable monitors

As a freelance journalist for over 10 years, I’ve reviewed home and tech products for publications including PopSci, CNN Underscored, NBC News Select, Popular Mechanics, Architectural Digest, Tom’s Guide, The Daily Beast, USA Today’s Reviewed, Apartment Therapy, The Spruce, and Bob Vila. Our personal monitor selections are based on personal testing, extensive research, recommendations from fellow critics, and user impressions.

What to consider when buying the best portable monitors

There are several factors to consider when choosing between portable monitors. Budget, resolution, and ease of connectivity are usually top of mind. However, other factors may depend on your personal preferences. These are some of the features you should keep in mind to ensure the portable monitor meets your needs:

Screen size

Portable monitors tend to mirror the sizes of laptop displays, coming in sizes from 14 inches to 15.6 inches to 17 inches. Since you’re always moving portable displays around, picking a screen size comes down to personal preference. A larger screen looks great and makes things easier to see, but keep in mind that a larger screen will take up more space on your desk or table, as well as in your laptop bag or suitcase.

Connectivity

Most portable monitors connect to devices via USB-C and/or mini-HDMI cables (such as this inexpensive AmazonBasics option). While an increasingly wide array of phones, tablets, PCs, and other devices support USB-C, you may need a USB-C hub, adapters, or a USB-A to USB-C cable. Likewise, you may need to purchase an HDMI to mini-HDMI adapter for mini-HDMI-based screens. Make sure that the monitor you select has the ports you need to pair it wherever you plan to use it, including your laptop, smartphone, tablet, camera, and game consoles.

Resolution

Your portable monitor’s resolution will determine the sharpness and clarity of its picture. As you can see based on our selections, most portable monitors support 1080p resolution, (often referred to as Full HD). That puts it on par with most basic and mid-range desktop monitors. There are high-resolution models, including some portable 4K monitors. And, just like when shopping, say, for desktop monitors for Macs, they cost quite a bit more.

Refresh rate

Refresh rate, measured in hertz (Hz), refers to how many times your monitor can redraw an image each second. A higher refresh rate opens the door for a higher frame rate in games and smoother movement in menus and other software. All of the monitors on this list feature a 60Hz refresh rate, which means the screen updates 60 times a second. That’s lower than we’d recommend for a standard monitor but it is standard among portable monitors. That said, there is a 144Hz display, which stands out as an especially good choice for gaming and drawing.

All IPS, all the time

While desktop monitor panels come in a few flavors, all of the portable monitors on our list are In-Plane Switching (IPS) displays. This technology ensures color accuracy and better views from wider angles (for example, even if someone is standing on the far-left side of the monitor, the view should be good. However, it’s debatable if an IPS display panel makes that much of a difference in a portable monitor. 

Audio

Some portable monitors include built-in speakers (and headphone jacks), which may or may not be important in certain situations. If you’re connecting your monitor to a computer or phone, you may already have the audio covered through the device. In general, the speakers on these monitors aren’t especially impressive, so external desktop speakers or over-ear headphones are usually the way to go. That said, if you think that monitor audio will be useful, be sure to check for that feature.

The best portable monitors: Reviews & Recommendations

Even with the limitations of their size and form factor, the best portable monitors come in different sizes and have different features. Whether you need it for work, school, or play, at least one of these displays should be a perfect fit.

Best portable monitor: Asus ROG Strix (XG16AHPE) 

Buy it used or refurbished here: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Asus ROG Strix has a high refresh rate and lots of great features, making it the best choice for most people.

Specs

  • Screen size: 15.6 inches
  • Weight: 1.98 lbs
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Display type: LED
  • Refresh rate: 144Hz
  • Inputs: HDMI, USB, Audio jack
  • Battery life: 7,800 mAh

Pros 

  • 144Hz refresh rate
  • Landscape and portrait modes, plus a universal tripod
  • Nvidia G-Sync compatible
  • Battery-powered option

Cons

  • Expensive

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best portable monitor is made for gaming. The Asus ROG Strix 15.6-inch portable monitor is one of only a handful of models with a 144Hz refresh rate, which provides smooth animation in and out of games. 

Even if you don’t play much though, it has some very useful bells and whistles. Its kickstand rotates, so you can easily switch between traditional landscape or vertically minded portrait mode. It also has stereo speakers, in case you forget your headset at home.

In addition to a micro-HDMI to HDMI cable, a USB Type-C cable and a USB Type-C to A adapter are also included. One usual feature is the universal tripod socket—a hole with a ¼” thread—which makes it convenient to use the portable monitor with a tripod stand. However, a sleeve, which can be used as a stand, is also included.

If you really want to max out your portable gaming setup, Asus also makes an even bigger 17.3-inch version of the Strix portable monitor with a 240Hz refresh rate. Most people, even gamers, don’t really need a 240Hz display, which is why we recommend the less expensive model. If you want to carry around a zero-compromises esports display, though, it may be worth the extra cash.

Best budget portable monitor: Lepow Z1-Gamut   

Buy it used or refurbished here: eBay

Why it made the cut: The economically priced Lepow Z1-Gamut is loaded with features.

Specs

  • Screen size: 15.6 inches
  • Weight: 1.7 lbs
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Inputs: HDMI, USB, 3.5mm audio
  • Battery life: N/A

Pros

  • Reasonably priced
  • Landscape/portrait mode
  • A variety of cables included
  • Dual speakers

Cons

  • Screen could be brighter

Lepow consistently produces high-quality portable monitors at an affordable price, but we’re especially taken with the Lepow Z1-Gamut, which offers everything that most people would want from a portable monitor for $100 less than our top pick. The Z1-Gamut works in either landscape or portrait mode. It can connect to devices via mini-HDMI or USB-C. The dual speakers and headphone jack allow you to choose how you want to handle audio. In addition, its 178-degree visible angle means you can see the screen well no matter where to place it. Simply put, it’s a great value for a solid portable monitor.

Best portable monitor for laptops: Lenovo ThinkVision M14

Lenovo

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Buy it used or refurbished here: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Lenovo ThinkVision M14 is more limber than a gymnast.

Specs

  • Screen Size: 14 inches
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Inputs: 2 USB Ports
  • Battery life: N/A

Pros

  • Compact size
  • Tilts liberally

Cons

  • Can’t rotate for landscape/portrait mode
  • No integrated speaker

If you’re looking for something to pair with a smaller laptop, the 14-inch Lenovo ThinkVision M14 delivers strong performance in a more space-conscious form factor. Trimming 1.5 inches may not seem like much of a difference, but when you’re trying to fit a portable monitor into a laptop bag, that 1.5 inches makes a world of difference. Plus, it’s the perfect companion size for 13.3-inch MacBook Air and Pro laptops, as well as smaller designs from Lenovo, HP, and Dell. The monitor also tilts from -5 degrees to 90 degrees, making it ideal for school and work environments where you need to mirror your display to show your classmates and colleagues. 

Best 4K portable monitor: Innocn 15.6-inch OLED Portable Monitor (PU15 PRE) 

INNOCN

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Why it made the cut: The Innocn PU15 PRE is expensive, but its 4K OLED display is incomparable among portable displays. 

Specs

  • Screen size: 15.6 inches
  • Weight: 2.07 lbs
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Inputs: USB and HDMI
  • Battery life: 5,000 mAh

Pros

  • 4K resolution
  • OLED panel
  • Touch screen
  • Portrait and landscape modes

Cons

  • Very expensive

Innocn’s top OLED portable monitor is the most expensive pick on our list, and for good reason. Among desktop monitors and laptops, 4K OLED touchscreens don’t come cheap (and we won’t even talk about the best OLED TVs prices). Among portable monitors, they are virtually unheard of. Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) displays feature self-emitting backlit pixels that can independently turn on and off when an image calls for it, producing incredible contrast and a more vivid picture. Combine that with 4K resolution and, well, it’s very pretty.

Meanwhile, the touchscreen feature allows you to use the portable monitor like a drawing tablet. It has stereo speakers, in case you need them, and it can be used in both portrait and landscape mode. At $799.99, it is considerably more expensive than the rest of our picks, but it also delivers a higher class of picture.

Best portable touchscreen monitor: Asus ZenScreen Touch MB16AMT

Buy it used or refurbished here: Amazon

Why it made the cut: The ASUS Zenscreen Touch’s portable touchscreen is responsive and easy to use. You can even draw on it.

Specs:

  • Screen size: 15.6 inches
  • Weight: 1.98 pounds
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Display type: LCD
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Inputs: 2 Micro USB
  • Battery life: 7,800 mAh

Pros

  • Touchscreen
  • Built-in speakers
  • Compatible with Thunderbolt 3

Cons

  • Have to download driver for USB Type-A connection

The ASUS ZenScreen Touch’s 10-point 1080p touchscreen won us over with its intuitive fingertip control, which makes it incredibly easy to make changes to documents, play games, and draw on slides. It comes with many of the basic features we look for, including stereo speakers and a smart case kickstand. Having a portable monitor with a touchscreen is especially helpful for traveling workers getting things done on a phone. You can use the ZenScreen Touch app to control your Android phone, making it a perfect pairing for a powerful flagship like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. There’s even a smartpen holder for your stylus to ensure you don’t lose it when not in use.

Best portable monitor for vertical use: SideTrak Solo Pro

SideTrak

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Why it made the cut: This space-saving option can be turned sideways to fit into tight spaces.

Specs

  • Screen size: 15.8 inches
  • Weight: 1.22 lbs
  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Display type: LED
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Inputs: USB-C (2), Mini-USB, HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Battery life: N/A

Pros

  • Landscape and portrait modes
  • Sturdy built-in kickstand
  • Built-in speakers
  • Headphone jack
  • Multiple inputs
  • Tilts

Cons

  • Protective case sleeve is extra

The SideTrak Solo Pro isn’t the only monitor on our list that allows you to use it in either portrait or landscape mode. However, it has the sturdiest built-in kickstand, and it’s the only one I feel comfortable using vertically. (In fact, I’ve gently pushed it in portrait mode to see if it would topple over. It endured.)

The full HD IPS LED screen has an anti-glare coating, which makes it easy to view from different angles, which is helpful since the monitor tilts up to a 90-degree angle. It has mini-HDMI, USB-A and two USB-C ports (and cables), making it compatible with various types of devices, and there are built-in speakers and a 3.5mm headphone jack to support different listening needs.  

FAQs 

Q: Are portable external monitors worth it?

Using a portable external monitor makes a lot of sense when you are traveling and need to temporarily set up a multi-display workstation. The ability to see clearer and avoid jumbled text and data can help you avoid making mistakes and also decrease digital eye strain. They’re also very convenient for presentations and group projects, where you need to share your screen with others.

Q: Do portable monitors have sound?

Some portable monitors feature stereo speakers. Frankly, though, even the best of them deliver mediocre sound. You’re likely better off pairing a nice pair of Bluetooth headphones or a portable Bluetooth speaker with your primary device.

Q: What is the best portable monitor?

We think the Asus ROG Strix is the best portable monitor. It has a 144 Hz refresh rate, rotatable screen, and dual speakers, in addition to a variety of cables and a universal tripod socket.

Final thoughts on the best portable monitors

A portable monitor helps make it easier to do serious work away from your primary work setup. Having more screen space to spread out all your windows can help you keep track of things. Looking at a larger display, especially compared to a phone’s screen, will help reduce eye strain. Plus, you have a way to mirror your screen and show other people.

If money is no object, the Innocn OLED provides the best resolution possible. However, you can spend a lot less and get something very useful, from the gaming-focused Asus ROG Strix to the very affordable Lepow Z1-Gamut. No matter what you go with, simply having one of these displays should hopefully make your life a little easier.

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