If you research buying a portable monitor, you’ll see that most such screens aim at business users looking for a secondary display for a laptop. Many fewer target general consumers, and almost none service gamers. That’s why the $ 199.99 Hori Portable HD Gaming Monitor Pro piqued our interest. Alas, though, it is not well named: It’s not really HD (or at least full HD), and it’s definitely not a gaming monitor. Meant to be used with a gaming console as a portable primary display or with a laptop as a secondary one, this 15.6-inch monitor does have some attractive qualities, such as a pair of HDMI inputs and a sturdy protective cover. But they’re not enough to counterbalance its shortcomings in design and panel quality.
A Clumsy-Looking Carry-On
My first impression? The Hori Portable HD Gaming Monitor Pro (hereafter referred to as “the Hori,” for brevity’s sake) comes off as big, bulky, and clunky. None of those is a quality that you want in a portable monitor, but the Hori does have some eminently redeemable qualities. If you could put this thing in a time machine and send it back years, to an era when screen bezels were meaty, USB Type-C had yet to emerge, and resolutions on portable devices rarely hit full HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels), then the Hori would be a pretty good product.
But the time is late 2018, and the Hori feels like an anachronism. The bezel around the 15.6-inch screen is almost an inch wide on all four sides. The monitor, as a whole, is 17mm thick, which isn’t terrible, but for context, the 14-inch HP EliteDisplay S14 I recently reviewed is just 11mm thick. Put another way, the Hori is about two modern smartphones thick.
Despite the dimensions, the Hori is not especially heavy. At approximately 42 ounces, it’s only about seven ounces heavier than the aforementioned (and much more compact) HP portable monitor, and that with a much bigger screen.
You’ll spot lots of ports and buttons on the Hori portable monitor, but they’re neatly divided. The right side has all the I/O, and the left side is where you’ll find the onscreen display (OSD) buttons. Thus, everything that’s plugged in to the monitor will be on the right side, keeping the left clean and tidy and free of obstacles when you need the OSD. The included cover never occludes the ports or buttons—nor the two onboard stereo speakers—even when it’s completely closed.
The cover provides excellent protection for the monitor. It wraps around the whole works, protecting both the front and the back. A thick elastic strap holds the cover in place when you’re carrying the display. It’s not nearly as elegant as a design that uses a magnet for the same purpose, but it is quite secure.
Speaking of inelegant but secure: Two flathead screws hold the cover on to the back of the Hori portable monitor. This is one of the strangest such designs I’ve ever seen. You actually have to get a flathead screwdriver (or a quarter, or whatever you can scrounge up that fits into the slot) and remove them if you want to take the cover all the way off. (And then, of course, you have to not lose the screws until you need them again.)
Sometimes the covers on portable displays like these get a little goofy and complicated, and you’ll sit there for several minutes figuring out how to fold the cover so the monitor is propped up correctly. Not so in this case; in fact, you don’t actually fold it at all. You just open the cover and position the monitor’s bottom edge in one of three slots. This lets you position it at one of three angles (108 degrees, 113 degrees, or 118 degrees). You can also fold the cover back entirely and lay the monitor 180 degrees flat.
The only drawback to the simplicity of the cover is that the front part of it sticks out several inches in front of the monitor. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s not a great look. It’s more attractive when the cover folds under and behind a portable monitor and essentially disappears.
Controls, Presets, and Connectivity
Unlike some of the newer portable monitors that rely on DisplayPort over USB Type-C—a marvelous innovation that delivers power, video, and audio through a single cable—the Hori requires its own power adapter. For media, it offers not one but two HDMI ports. A button on the monitor lets you toggle between them. This would be more beneficial on a desktop monitor, where you’re more likely to have two HDMI devices connected, but it’s a neat feature that gives you some flexibility in unusual situations when you need it. (Say, toggling between a laptop’s input and that of a game console like the Nintendo Switch.)
An HDMI cable comes in the box with the Hori, but it’s quite short, at just 1.6 feet. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In reviewing the HP EliteDisplay S14, I bemoaned the excessive length of the cable, because it was a little ungainly. The Hori’s cable arguably goes too far in the other direction. If your laptop’s HDMI port is on its right side, the cable can’t reach all the way and connect to the Hori’s HDMI port around without forcing you to position the monitor right next to the laptop. (What’s the sweet spot, length-wise? Hard to say. Maybe two feet.)
By far, my favorite feature of the Hori is the pair of 1.8mm headphone jacks. You and a friend can plug in your own headphones and enjoy a movie or share the sound of a Smash Brothers match without disturbing anyone else. This feature simply doesn’t exist on laptops, which makes sharing a laptop screen while watching a movie a bit of a challenge. If you want to blast the sound for all to enjoy instead of keeping it to yourself, the Hori has its own stereo speakers, too.
The OSD is reasonably well-appointed, and as these things go, it’s moderately easy to figure out the buttons. The topmost button is simply an HDMI input toggle, and the bottom one is the power button, so you know to avoid both when navigating the menu. The middle four buttons are what you need to poke. The Menu button brings up the OSD and moves back stepwise when you’re deep into it; the Enter button selects and deselects; and the up/down volume buttons let you navigate (and sometimes adjust) items within submenus. (The volume buttons also, you know, control the volume.)
You can choose among four brightness presets (Movie, Game, Standard, or Text), with one User preset that you can further define. The Audio area gives you essentially the same options, so you can mix and match video and audio presets as you like. Once you have those set, drop by the Color Temp area to fine-tune the look of the display from there. The other three submenu areas are just for things like setting the language and identifying the product serial number.
PC Labs performed luminance, color-accuracy, and contrast-ratio testing using a Klein K10-A colorimeter and SpectraCal CalMAN 5 software. As expected for a portable monitor, the color gamut isn’t as wide as even a middling mainstream desktop monitor. In fact, it’s rather similar to our results on the HP EliteDisplay S14: The color accuracy is rather poor, although the blue is reasonably strong.
Hori listed the contrast ratio for this monitor at 400:1, which is not very good, but our measurements showed that it’s slightly better than that, at least, at 488:1. It scored 178.1 nits of brightness (marginally better than the HP monitor), but its poorer black level score (0.365) dropped the contrast ratio low. The HP offered a 1,024:1 contrast ratio.
See How We Test Monitors
However, to be blunt, beyond the formal testing, the idea that this is a “gaming monitor” is downright laughable. The resolution alone negates that premise. A 15.6-inch monitor that can only display 1,366 by 768 resolution? Woof. Picture in your mind how bad that would look. Can you envision it? Well, the reality is probably worse than you imagine.
Initially, I hoped that some of the roughness of the display was due to bad scaling from a full HD source, so I dug up a laptop that has a native 1,366-by-768-pixel resolution to check. I wasn’t sure I would be able to find one, but my ancient (in tech years) Acer Chromebook did the trick. The result: Let’s just say it wasn’t a scaling issue.
Okay, I said, how about looking beyond games? No luck: Reading websites is just no fun at all on the Hori. Text is downright blocky. If you’re thinking of using this as a second screen for when you’re travelling and want to get some work done, extending your spreadsheets and whatnot…don’t.
Funny enough, the display looks better with streaming video content. Granted, better than “ugh” is not saying much, but if you treat this monitor like a small TV instead of a serious productivity or gaming monitor, you’ll be happier. For example, say you’re in your office at night working on…oh, a monitor review, but you don’t want to miss the University of So-and-So match. Putting the stream on that 15.6-inch display is the thing to do, as long as you sit back a ways from it. It’s like an impressionist painting, in that way: Up close it looks messy, but if you’re far enough away, your eye blends things, and the image makes more sense. And because this monitor is so large, you can get away with it. Kind of.
Does that last paragraph sound like an endorsement? It’s not. Don’t buy this monitor for anything other than watching some streaming content in this manner. And it’s not that it does one thing well; it does one thing well enough, and that might actually be by accident.
Sizing and Audio Considerations
One further thing to bear in mind, if you’re thinking of using this as a second display, as opposed to a primary one for a gaming console. You generally want your second display on a given laptop to be the same size as the laptop it’s attached to, as well as the same native resolution. That will allow for smooth tracking from one screen to the other when mousing or moving windows around. Many gaming laptops will be 15.6-inchers, like the Hori screen—so all well and good on that score. But essentially none will be 1,366 by 768, not if they were made anytime in recent years. Even cheap laptops these days at the 15.6-inch screen size will more likely than not have 1080p panels. So the Hori will look subpar and out of sync next to almost any modern machine.
Looking beyond the image: the audio. It’s perhaps surprising to see built-in stereo speakers on a portable monitor, but it’s something of a cool idea. You can toggle between two different devices, and the audio will be routed through HDMI and the monitor from the appropriate device, muting your laptop or other source’s speakers. (If your laptop’s speakers are inferior, the Hori’s could make up for them.) Even so, you can control the volume via the connected device, which is kind of handy. Further, if you’re going to be sitting in front of the Hori passively watching content, you might as well enjoy the audio coming right at you, rather than from your laptop that’s situated off to the side. (Of course, if you’re using the Hori as a second panel in a productivity situation, you’ll have audio coming just from the side, which could sound unbalanced and odd.)
The Hori’s speakers are nothing special—on par, at best, with average in-laptop speakers—but they get the job done. They’re loud enough that I preferred to dial down the volume a few ticks rather than crank it all the way up.
Pros? Cons? Bah! Just Needs More Pixels
This is essentially the story of the Hori: For every con there’s a pro, and vice versa. But one of the cons is, well, a King Con.
The Hori is bulky, but relatively light. It has a short HDMI cable that stays out of your way, but it would be nice to have a lengthier one available, too. The power cable’s a plus (some portable monitors lack one and are powered from the host’s USB Type-C port), but you have to always plug it in. The cover protects the monitor well, but it’s ugly and inelegant. Having stereo speakers on the monitor itself is cool, but you have to use them instead of your laptop speakers.
One fatal flaw makes all of this seesawing moot, though: The display is large, but it has a woefully low resolution for its size. It probably won’t match the native resolution of your 15.6-inch laptop, and using it for anything text-based is just not a good idea. That limits you to streaming content, and even that looks only marginal on this monitor.
If the price were right, it might be a little tempting to grab a Hori Portable HD Gaming Monitor Pro just for fun for use, say, with an HDMI-equipped retro gaming console. But at $ 199, it needs to deliver a lot more for your money to justify the buy.