Like many enterprise users, I’ve gotten used to having a dual-monitors set up at the office. This lets you focus on one screen, but easily see what’s going on in another application on the other screen. When creating a document, I typically work in one screen, while the information I’m reviewing to write it—from email, web pages, spreadsheets, or other documents—are on the other. Some people leave e-mail or their communication tool (such as Slack or Teams) always open on one screen while using the second screen for the things they are actively working on. Indeed, dual monitors on desktops—or a laptop plugged into an external monitor—are very commonplace in today’s work environment.
But what happens when you go on the road? Desktop monitors are too bulky, but recently, a couple of vendors have started making second displays designed to travel with you. I’ve been testing out a Lenovo ThinkVision M14, which plugs into a laptop with a USB-C connector that supports Display Video out (which most current laptops do).
The M14 is a 14-inch IPS display with Full HD (1920 by 1080) resolution. It has a matte black body, designed to complement Lenovo’s ThinkPad line, and 300-nit antiglare screen. As far as the display itself goes, it looked quite good—sharp and with a good viewing angle. Basically, it looks like a ThinkPad display, although I’ve tried it with a variety of machines including the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga, and the Dell XPS 13, and it worked great with all of them.
Set up is easy: plug in a USB-C cable (included) into the monitor and into a port on the laptop, and you get a second screen. You can also plug the power cable into the monitor and use pass-through power to charge the laptop. Using the same controls you would with a desktop monitor plugged into a laptop (or desktop with two monitors attached), you can easily make it mirror the current screen, or (more likely), extend that display.
You can adjust the angle of the monitor easily. The display comes on a base that includes the electronics and USB-C/ DisplayPort connectors on both sides, so you can place it to the left or right of the laptop. The left side includes controls for the brightness, and for a “low blue light” setting. You can adjust the angle of the monitor from flat to 90 degrees, just like lifting the cover of a laptop; and there’s a little stand that pops down from the base to give the monitor some extra height.
It doesn’t have nearly as many controls as a typical desktop monitor, but I didn’t really miss them. After all, on most laptops, you don’t have to adjust contrast or white balance, so why should you on an external display that complements it? (PCMag’s full review has more details about the technical capabilities of the monitor; I thought it looked very good, and was more concerned about how easy it was to travel with.)
The monitor is rather light (1 pound, 6 ounces for the unit itself, the cable adds another 2 ounces), and it comes with a gray and red protective sleeve, so it’s easy to travel with.
So the question is whether it’s worth taking a second display with you. For me, it depends on the trip. It’s certainly not useful if you’re planning on using your laptop on a plane or train—you don’t have the space. Nor is it necessary when you are at a conference, taking notes on a laptop that sits on your lap. However, when you get back to your hotel room after a day of taking notes and want to actually create content, that’s when a second display comes in handy. Alternatively, if you’re travelling to someplace like a remote office where you’ll be sitting at a desk, you can always have that second screen with you.
In actual use, I found myself only taking it on trips where I knew that I would be spending significant amounts of time in my hotel writing—and even then only on trips of more than a couple of days. When I did bring it with me, it made writing articles and blog posts from my notes much easier.
With a $ 249 list price ($ 215 when I look for it today), it’s a great option for people who travel frequently, particularly those who move between offices a lot.
Here’s PCmag’s full review.