The $ 219 HP EliteDisplay S14 has some impressive specs for a portable monitor, though the niftiest of all boils down to one letter: “C.” This business-oriented travel monitor has a full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) native resolution, using a 60Hz panel with a 5ms response time. The listed static contrast ratio of 700:1 is nothing to write home about, but it uses an in-plane switching (IPS) panel, not the lesser TFT LCD you might expect. And it’s powered—video signal and juice alike—solely by a USB Type-C port. If you have a late-model laptop that supports DisplayPort over USB-C, this is an ideal second-screen companion that will double your desktop space wherever you travel, and be easy on your eyes (and shoulders) while doing it.
Compact, Slim, and Trim
When it comes to portable monitors, the quality of the image is arguably equally as important as its physical attributes, or perhaps even a bit less so. This is in contrast to typical desktop monitors, where the image you stare at all day is paramount. It becomes a fixture of your work space, as permanent and psychologically invisible as wallpaper. Grayish blacks, low refresh rates, and dim colors just aren’t compromises you want or need to make.
With a portable monitor, though, you can live with some visual compromises. Less so key mobility factors such as size and weight and power requirements. If you can’t fit the thing into your carry-on, you’re not going to be able to use it at all during that big presentation.
The HP EliteDisplay S14 delivers on the physical aspects, for the most part. The thin bezel on three sides of its screen more or less matches what you see on the latest ultralights and other laptops, and those are the kind of mobile-minded devices you’re likely to pair with this screen. Seemingly subtle and inconsequential design conceits like that go a long way toward making a product something that you actually want to use. No one wants to park their svelte laptop next to a bulky-bezeled monstrosity of a monitor.
There’s a further visual balance to take into consideration. Portable monitors sit side by side with the laptops they’re connected to, and they’re usually about the same size as those laptop displays. This stands in contrast to desktop monitors that usually loom over a connected laptop on your desk. You want side-to-side mouse movement to be level between the laptop display and the external one. Although you can easily adjust that via Windows Display Settings, having two displays that are physically the same size and thus aligned certainly helps.
The HP EliteDisplay S14, then, is an ideal companion for a laptop with a 13.3-inch or 14-inch screen. Those with 15.6-inch laptops won’t enjoy the same symmetry. Being so small makes it more portable—it measures 0.34 by 12.91 by 8.2 inches (HWD) and weighs but 2.2 pounds—which is a positive, but it’s not ideal if maximum screen real estate is what you really need.
The monitor comes with a magnetic cover that doubles as a stand, which is pretty much standard fare for these sorts of devices. This cover, though, doesn’t wrap around the entire device; it protects the screen only. It holds itself in place rather firmly, so you don’t have to worry about the cover sliding off and exposing the display to scratches and the like, but I wish it didn’t leave the back exposed. Over time, it’s going to get banged up.
The cover-as-stand really gives you only one orientation: a horizontal format with an approximately 15-degree leanback. And unfortunately, the HP EliteDisplay S14 does not work in a vertical orientation at all. The display image won’t rotate, smartphone- or tablet-style, even if you find a way to prop up the panel on its narrow edge. I’d prefer to see a little more flexibility here. Being able to choose among three angles or even between just two would go a long way.
The single orientation and position, at least, is sturdy enough, such that I’d feel comfortable leaving it propped up on a desk and walking away to do something else without worrying about it falling over.
The only oddity about the magnetic cover is that the magnet is bulky, so there’s a wide bump on the underside of the monitor. It’s not the most attractive thing, aesthetically speaking. I worried initially that it would lead to instability, but the rest of the cover-as-stand compensates admirably. I suppose the strength of the magnet and its size are a trade-off that’s worth making.
Controls, Presets, and Connectivity
The HP EliteDisplay S14 has a power button on its left edge; the crucial USB Type-C port is on its right. It comes with an approximately six-foot-long USB Type-C cable, so you’ll have plenty of length regardless of which side of your laptop your USB Type-C port is on and how far away you want the monitor to be.
The cable length is a double-edged sword, though. It may be great if you need the flexibility to move that second display around, such as if you’re giving a presentation around a conference room table. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to fit yourself and your loadout onto, say, a small Starbucks table, that’s a lot of extra cord. You might want to have another short cable on hand for times like those.
Note that there’s no separate power cord for the HP EliteDisplay S14. All the juice is supplied by the USB Type-C port on your PC. This is one of the wonderful advantages of USB Type-C. The single-cable solution to power (via USB Type-C’s Power Delivery, or “PD”), audio, and video makes for an ideal portable monitor setup, free of clutter and unbeholden to a power outlet.
That said, because a laptop you plug the monitor into is powering this large, bright display, its battery will drain faster than normal, so it’s wise to try and plug that host laptop into an outlet when you can. But you don’t have to, which is what makes the USB-C setup so flexible.
On the other hand, I would have liked to have the option of a power cable I could use with the HP EliteDisplay S14, to remove the power demands from the connected PC under some circumstances. The monitor can pull up to 15 watts. Further—although no one is doing this at the moment in mobile monitors, as far as I know—I like the idea of being able to plug the monitor into a wall outlet and use that path to power a USB-C-connected laptop.
The port and power-button placements are ideal, but there are four OSD buttons whose location is perplexing. They’re on the bottom edge of the HP EliteDisplay S14, which is tough to access when you have the monitor propped up. Technically, because of the height afforded by the magnet’s hump, you can slide a finger under there and get to the buttons. But the gap is just 10mm high and 8mm deep, so I could really wedge only the very tip of my index finger in there. Plus, you can’t see the buttons at all, so you have to work with them entirely by feel.
The OSD’s menu organization is interesting, though. Pressing any of the four buttons brings up the same top-level menu, which consists of four areas (Main Menu, Information, Viewing Modes, and Brightness). Each of those areas is represented by icons that are aligned directly atop the four physical buttons, in turn. When you press any of the buttons, you’ll see the corresponding submenu. Conveniently, the navigation controls for each of those submenus is displayed at the bottom. They do change depending on which submenu you’re in, but you can always clearly see which button does what, so it’s quite easy to use. There’s no learning curve to speak of.
The Main Menu gives you access to brightness, contrast, color control, input, image control, power settings, and more. You can even adjust the menu buttons, layout, look, and more from there. It’s perhaps a little odd that brightness, which you can adjust from the Main Menu, has its own dedicated menu area, although to be fair, that setting is one you’ll likely use often. By putting it there, you save a button press. But then again, you can assign a different setting to that button from the aforementioned Main Menu if there’s something you’ll want to use more often than the brightness setting.
You also get six preset viewing modes you can pick among: Low Blue Light, Night, Reading, HP Enhance+, Multimedia, and Photo. If you’d rather fiddle with the various settings to fine-tune the display to your liking, just select Custom to use that instead of one of the presets.
It’s a little unclear to me how the monitor defines “Custom,” but it appears to revert to whatever settings you last configured manually. For example, I dialed up the brightness level to 100 and did the same for contrast. When I switched into a preset mode and then back to Custom, both settings remained at 100.
The HP EliteDisplay S14 isn’t in the same class, in terms of performance, as most of the monitors we’ve reviewed, but that’s to be expected. Being a portable monitor, it’s not in the same product class, either, so we must take the performance results with a grain of salt.
We performed our luminance, color-accuracy, and contrast-ratio testing using a Klein K10-A colorimeter and SpectraCal CalMAN 5 software. The test showed that the HP EliteDisplay S14 doesn’t have an especially wide color gamut. You can see that the points in the chromaticity chart are all inside the sRGB triangle, with the exception of blue. This means the color accuracy is relatively poor and has a narrower range compared to the other monitors we’ve tested.
See How We Test Monitors
It’s also not as bright. We measured the HP EliteDisplay S14’s luminance at 171 nits, which is a bit lower than its professed 200cd/m². (One cd/m² = one nit.) However, the black levels were 0.167, and that factored into an overall 1,024:1 contrast-ratio measurement. That’s not a remarkable contrast ratio, per se, but it’s better than HP’s listed 700:1 static contrast ratio.
The eyeball test, compared to a higher-quality laptop monitor (your most likely real-world scenario), tells us that this monitor has grayer blacks. It’s also just a bit duller, without as much pop. But given that this is, again, a portable monitor, that’s absolutely to be expected. In the end, the color and contrast exceeded our (admittedly meager) expectations.
We hesitate to put too much emphasis on gaming performance, because the vast majority of users won’t be using this business-minded travel monitor for gaming. A greater concern than “Does WoW look sweet on this display?” is “Can I read my spreadsheet clearly?” The answer to the first question is that games look merely okay—the 60Hz refresh rate is a limiting factor, but more dramatic is the somewhat dull color. All things considered, though, it’s really a pretty decent experience for a 14-inch portable display.
The answer to the second question? Yes, definitely.
Of course, creative pros such as photographers, anyone who shoots and edits video, journalists, and the like need a second display that affords at least some degree of color accuracy. In that regard, although the HP EliteDisplay S14 is no substitute for your beautiful, color-calibrated desktop monitor, when you’re on the road and trying to edit your work in a hotel room, you could do a lot worse than this monitor.
An Undersize Monitor That Overdelivers
It’s not a surprise that the HP EliteDisplay S14 isn’t on par with the quality of a good desktop monitor. It’s not supposed to be, and it’s not trying to be. The value of an exceptionally portable monitor like this starts with the physical factors and ends with performance that’s good enough to pass muster.
In that regard, the HP EliteDisplay S14 gets a passing grade. If you have a high-quality laptop, you’ll probably notice the quality difference when it’s side by side with the monitor, but not by much. Given what it is, that’s high praise indeed for the HP EliteDisplay S14.