Constant travel requires finding ways to replicate the beneficial parts of a life spent primarily in one locale. The ability to stay active with portable workout routines comes to mind. So too does replicating a home office when the demands of work require more than a single laptop screen.
Using a single screen for larger projects means less productivity for things like web design. I’m willing to add a few pounds to my luggage for domestic travel or even trips abroad if the pros outweigh the cons. I still stick to a MacBook Air sans secondary portable monitor for bigger international trips so I can more easily use my favorite carryon backpack, but a roller bag carryon with just enough room for a portable monitor and accessories when duty calls isn’t the end of the world for even the most minimal of travelers.
The following portable monitor for travel and supplementary gear makes up my preferred portable office setup and works with the three travel laptops I recommended in a previous post.
ASUS MB168B+ 15.6in LED Portable Monitor
Count me in for any portable LED monitor that offers full HD resolution and price point around $200. At 1.8 pounds and a mere 8mm thick, the monitor can easily slip into a laptop sleeve with the included carrying case. I do recommend buying a more sturdy shock absorbent case for people who travel frequently, but will say the monitor has survived general travel wear and tear. I would caution people expecting any portable monitor to completely hold up under the conditions inside a backpack; I only take the monitor when my Burton Wheelie Roller Carryon is my preferred luggage for business-oriented trips.
Extra Computing Without More PlugsMost portable monitors, including the ASUS LED Monitor, are powered by USB and do not require a separate plug adaptor.
The full HD 1080P high definition resolution (1920 x 1080) is great for basic productivity software like Microsoft Office and Excel, as well as more advanced work typical of web or graphic designers. I still personally use it to display instructions or emails from clients—along with an opened web browser to view live previews of any web design work—and keep my MacBook Air screen free for actual design work or whatever is the biggest priority like an Adobe Suite program.
A Note About Mac Usage
Portable monitors and Macs are notoriously difficult due to a lack of display drivers to really tweak settings like brightness and contrast. Even with the DisplayLink driver installed on a Mac, the experience from a brightness and customization standpoint is never going to compare to a PC. The ASUS’s built-in brightness control doesn’t even work in a Mac environment and remains stuck on the dimmest setting.
Confirmed Brightness Fixes: For people with a PC handy or running Windows on their Mac via BootCamp, simply adjust the brightness settings as needed in a Windows environment and the settings will be retained when reverting back to a Mac. Another option is to quickly use the built-in brightness toggle right as the computer boots up; make sure it’s the few seconds before the Apple logo appears. The second option is tricky because there isn’t anything on the monitor to use as a guide, but with a few restarts the desired brightness level can be obtained.
A comparable AOC 15.6in USB-Powered Portable LED Monitor is cheaper and has similar reviews on many websites, but I can’t justify a monitor with a larger, curved form factor and lower resolution. I bought the monitor and promptly returned it after about two hours of use. The AOC monitor does have a better (built-in) stand and at half the price might still be a consideration for those who don’t prioritize saving space.
Best Accessories For a Travel Office
Travel USB Hub
Most ultra portable laptops–including my MacBook Air—only have a few USB outlets. Start doing the math and a portable monitor, mouse, external hard drive, and so forth start quickly vying for the two available spots. Luckily, the inexpensive Sabrent 4-Port Mini Portable USB Hub is touted as the “World’s Smallest USB 3.0 Hub” and really does a phenomenal job at giving a user more USB ports without taking up luggage space. I plug my external hard drive into one of my two available USB outlets and this hub into the other to give my spots for not only the portable monitor connection, but thumb drives, charging chords, etc.
Power Cable for Monitor
Another consideration is to spring for a $10 cable traditionally used for external hard drives that acts as a passthrough from the monitor to laptop with an additional USB chord to plug into an outlet for added juice. Portable monitors can be powered by just a laptop, but of course take up additional battery power and I prefer to plug everything into an outlet when given the chance. Check out this option with an additional USB extension chord if the power supply is located at floor level.
Travel Plug Adaptor with USB Ports
Last but not least, the setup ideally needs a plug adaptor with USB compatibility to avoid carrying around extra plugs and losing the ability to plug the laptop itself into the plug adaptor. This all-in-one plug adaptor from MOCREO is durable, space-friendly, and works in every country. The best part? It also offers two USB ports in addition to the standard outlet for powering the portable monitor as mentioned above; simply use the plug itself for a laptop, one USB port to power the monitor, and the other for a phone or other charging need.
Portable Monitor For Travel Summary
The portable monitor for travel setup I use costs about $200 on Amazon without price shopping or hunting down coupon codes. I bought the portable monitor during a holiday sale for $160 and was able to get everything needed for a portable two-pound workstation for just under $200. Feel free to give other suggestions in the comments area and I’ve also provided every item in one list below for to use as an easier reference.