I’ve been a multi-monitor evangelist since the CRT days, and one of my biggest pet peeves is having to use a laptop with just one monitor. A single monitor is enough for some, but I simply cannot be productive if I am restricted to a single screen. In the past, I have solved this issue by purchasing laptops that feature multi-monitor setups such as Lenovo’s W701DS circa 2011. That laptop weighed over 11-pounds, and its second monitor was exceptionally dim, had poor color quality, and just never worked well. I lugged the W701DS behemoth around the Consumer Electronics Show in 2011 for five days straight, and when I returned home, I never took it on a business trip again due to its cumbersome weight and size.
Another attempt at a portable multiple monitor laptop setup happened a few years later when several tech companies began releasing 13-inch Display-Link based portable monitors. Unfortunately, these too suffered from poor back-lighting, low pixel density, and they required an external power source to even work. Not to mention, they were thick and heavy. So you can understand my skepticism when I was contacted by a company named Lepow and was asked to review their new 15.6-inch 1920×1080 full HD, IPS, USB C portable monitor. I agreed, and a week later the monitor was sitting on my doorstep.
Available on Amazon for under $200, Lepow says that “This USB C monitor delivers stunning 1920 x 1080 resolution visuals with awesome color reproduction. The IPS screen delivers a vivid image and an awesome viewing experience when extending your screen or playing games. This monitor is compatible with modern laptops, PCs, some smartphones, PS4, XBOX ONE, Wii or Nintendo Switch, etc. You can connect any of your devices to this portable monitor easily via Type-c or Mini HDMI port to display everything from business presentations, games, videos, TV series, photos, and more. With a slim 0.3-inch profile and just 1.76 pounds, Lepow 15.6 inch portable monitor is ideal for your life and work to make a simple setup on-the-go dual-monitor and mobile presentations.”
Features & Specifications
- Model: Z1 Gamut Aerolite Black
- Screen Brightness: 320cd/m square
- Resolution: 1920×1080
- Screen Type: IPS
- Weight: 1.7lbs
- Screen Size: 15.6-inches.
- Auto Rotate: Yes
- Audio Out: 3.5mm Jack & Stereo Speakers
- Video In Connectors: Mini HDMI & USB C / Thunderbolt 3
- Included Accessories: Faux Leather Protective Case/Stand, USB C Cable, Mini-HDMI Cable, USB A to USB C Power Cable, 5V 2A Power Adapter, Plastic Screen Protector (undersized, not usable) and a screen cleaning cloth.
So, let’s take a closer look at the monitor and see if it’s worth that nearly $200 price tag.
I’m not one for unboxings, but I do feel that quality packaging is important to protect the product during shipping, and I can say that Lepow nailed the packaging on this one.
As you might expect, all of the contents were packed neatly inside of a clamshell-style cardboard box, with foam protecting the top and bottom of the monitor from impacts.Even more impressive was the rigid plastic sheet that was covering the actual screen to protect it from getting scratched during the packaging process. Some of the past portable monitors I have reviewed have had their screens protected in shipping by a thin layer of cling film which barely provided any protection at all.
The Lepow 15.6-inch USB C monitor appears to be very well made despite its feather-light 1.7-pound weight design. Unlike most of the plastic-housed monitors I have tested in the past, the aluminum frame featured on this monitor provides a lot of rigidity and completely removes that cheap plastic feel one might expect from lesser quality products. Measuring in at just 14.4-inches wide by 8.7-inches tall, and just 0.3-inches thick, this monitor will be able to fit comfortably inside any laptop backpack or shoulder bag without any noticeable negative effects. As an added bonus, on a recent road trip, I found that it tucks nicely into the back pocket on my vehicle’s seats for convenient access.
I was able to watch a movie in the passenger seat from my laptop, while a passenger in the back seat watched the same movie on the portable monitor. I did have to use a longer USB C cable, but I have several that are 10-feet long, so this was easy. I did find that battery life suffered on the laptop while powering the monitor through the laptops USB C port, so I connected a small 5,000mAh power bank to the monitor’s USB C power port, and my Laptop’s battery life returned to normal.
The monitor’s bezels are acceptably thin with each side measuring in just under 0.5-inches wide, 0.25-inches wide at the top, and 0.8-inches wide at the bottom. The bottom bezel is made from the same aluminum that the frame is constructed from, and features the Lepow logo screen printed in the center.
Taking a look at the right edge of this portable 15.6-inch USB-C monitor we can see the power button, a scroll wheel for navigating the on-screen settings menu, and a USB-C port for powering the display with a separate power source to help conserve connected devices battery life. Note that this USB-C port does not feature any data connectivity, and can not be used to drive the display.
Spinning around to the left edge of the monitor we find the 3.5mm audio-out jack, a USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 port that is used to drive the monitor as well as power it. Above that is a mini-HDMI port. Note that when using HDMI, you will need to power the monitor with the included power adapter via the USB-C port that is located on the right-hand side of the monitor.Above each set of these I/O devices is a small audio grill that actually works fairly well to protect the speakers while still allowing acceptable sound levels to pass through. I was actually impressed with the sound from this monitor, but I would not rely on the built-in speakers in any setting that has a moderate to loud ambient soundscape. For example, when using the monitor in a vehicle, road noise is enough to overpower them. In a quiet setting such as an office, bedroom, or other “quiet” environment, the speakers do well. I would have to recommend that you use headphones either paired to the Bluetooth connection on your device or to use a pair of 3.5mm wired headphones from the monitor’s audio out port.
The version of the monitor that I received for review came with a free screen protector, but unfortunately, this felt like it was more of an afterthought and an attempt to add value to the product as the screen protector was too small to cover the entire screen by almost 0.5-inches all the way around. Furthermore, the screen protector was made from cheap plastic that was already scratched straight out of the box and likely would have provided no significant protection to the screen at all. I would really like to have seen a tempered glass screen protector that protected all the way to the edges considering the price point that this monitor retails for. If you are interested in a 15.6” tempered glass screen protector for this monitor, I recommend this one from Amazon.com.
Lepow ships the monitor with a faux leather protective case that features magnetic attachment points that doubles as a stand with two landscape positions and no portrait position. The case is nothing special, but it does fit the monitor well, and if you are using a tabletop, it displays the monitor at two easily viewable angles. This case is honestly what makes the lack of a screen protector that fits, somewhat ok with me, as it does secure magnetically to both sides, and seems durable enough to withstand somewhat minor common impacts.
Thoughts after 1-month of testing.
Unfortunately, I was unable to test the color reproduction quality of this monitor because my X-Rite color calibrator has been out on RMA for almost three months thanks to COVID-19 delays, and I simply could not delay this review anymore. So, let’s take a moment to talk about real-world testing and uses.
While my laptop is technically a “Gaming Laptop,” I mostly use it for content creation, storage, and entertainment while on the go. I do game with it at some LAN parties my friends and I hold every so often, but the majority of my Dell G7’s life has been spent editing photos and videos, writing articles, and watching YouTube videos. So for this review, I focused heavily on productivity applications, and only touched briefly on using the monitor in a gaming scenario.
A Boost In Productivity
Overall I found the monitor to be quite useful as a secondary display for menial tasks such as using a web browser, editing documents, or watching web videos, but I did not trust the color reproduction enough to use it as the main monitor when editing photos or video. If you want to move your timeline in Premiere Pro or use it as a display for the histogram in Photoshop or Lightroom, it works well, and that’s where this monitor’s strengths shine.
Having this monitor available whenever I needed a second display was invaluable so many times over the last month, and on days where I needed to work in a spreadsheet at the same time I was writing an article, the ability to not have to switch between active windows saved me so much time. As I mentioned earlier, I like to keep it in the pocket on the back of my vehicle’s seats, and I have used it several times when presenting design plans to my clients in my day job.
I also found the Lepow 15.6-inch portable USB-C Monitor to be extremely handy when working with a Raspberry Pi using the HDMI cable option, but if you are using one of the raspberry Pi variants/clones, you might run into issues with the HDMI option working at all. I tried the HDMI display option across several different development boards from the early 2010s and none seemed to be compatible. This was likely a driver issue on the boards themselves, or some funky early ARM MPU and HDMI version bug. Every modern device I tested with the HDMI port seemed to work fine.
I’m briefly going to touch on gaming with this monitor, but only from a PC gaming standpoint as I only game on PC. Does it work well for gaming? Well, that’s a complicated but simple answer at the same time. Yes and No. If you play games like Planet Zoo, The Sims, City Builder Sims, or app style games that are fairly static without a lot of fast-paced movement, then it works just fine. If you are more of an FPS, MMORPG, RPG, Survival, or Battle Royal Player this is not the monitor you want to buy to the game on.
For fun, I attempted to play Call of Duty Modern Warfare’s Warzone Battle Royale, and to say that it was virtually unplayable on this monitor is an understatement. I experienced a high level of screen tearing, screen lag, and was not landing any of my shots. It’s great if you’re clicking around what’s mostly a static image, but it’s just not powerful enough to do any serious gaming, but I went into this knowing that this monitor’s gaming performance would be exceptionally lackluster.
Overall, I’m quite happy with the monitor when using it for light-duty tasks, and it works exceptionally well as a second laptop monitor. If your mobile phone or tablet supports USB-C video output, it’s a great way to enlarge your screen. Add in a $25 Bluetooth keyboard, and you could turn your mobile device into a very productive machine, while minimizing the number of things you need to have a complete mobile office.
I am a bit disappointed in the included screen protector, but that’s not a complete deal-breaker for me. With 15.6-inch tempered glass screen protectors costing less than $30, it’s easy and cheap enough to add one if you feel you need that level of protection. On the other hand, I really like the included case/stand. It feels well-built enough to withstand the daily wear and tear if you are pulling this in and out of a backpack several times a day, and its magnetic attachment points make setup quick and easy.
The screen’s color reproduction was a little lack-luster, as everything seemed a bit washed out. This was visually apparent, and I honestly did not need my X-Rite to confirm this. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case with almost every portable monitor on the market, and I feel it has a lot to do with the screen’s backlighting, and also the use of cheaper, possibly surplus LCD panels; but that seems to be the norm with all of the 15.6-inch and 14-inch portable monitors on the market today.
All in all, I feel that the Lepow 15.6-inch portable USB-C Monitor is a smart buy if you are looking to add productivity to your USB C, Thunderbolt 3, or Mini-HDMI equipped Laptop. This monitor is Android, IOS, Windows, Mac, and Linux compatible making it very versatile for the modern connected family. As I mentioned earlier, this is a great way to add a second screen for video viewing on road trips and works well for professionals on the go who need a second screen for client presentations, or for general productivity. I feel it’s fairly priced at just under $200, but if you are patient, you can catch it on sale for up to $30-50 cheaper on Amazon. Overall I like this monitor and feel confident in recommending it to anyone who’s looking to add a large screen to their mobile setups.