Screen Quality

Since we're talking about a 14" monitor being powered entirely off of a pair of USB 2.0 ports, producing a quality image is actually a fairly low priority. Toshiba's Mobile Monitor uses a 14" TN panel, but thankfully eschews the glossy finish that GeChic opted for on their screens. Still, picture quality is pretty dire: the screen is less than ideal for video and certainly inadequate for any kind of serious, color-sensitive image editing work.

Toshiba rates the Mobile Monitor at a brightness of 220 nits and a contrast ratio of 400:1, which is almost comically exaggerated (just like GeChic's ratings were). Here's how the Mobile Monitor stacks up compared to the two GeChic screens:

  White Level Black Level Contrast Delta-E Color Gamut
Toshiba Mobile Monitor 129 0.74 174 13.64 50.3
GeChic OnLap 1301 142 0.7 134 2.53 42.7
GeChic OnLap 1302 186 1.19 156 2.53 42.7

At least partially due to the smaller screen size but also undoubtedly also due to not having to power a DisplayLink chip, GeChic's screens are able to produce better brightness than Toshiba's can. While Toshiba's screen also demonstrates a slightly better percentage of the AdobeRGB1998 gamut, it's not exactly a major win either, and the delta-e is absolutely horrendous--almost like our calibration software just doesn't work with the USB-based display, which is entirely possible. Honestly it's fairly easy to notice the Toshiba screen just isn't producing super accurate color, but given what it's intended for, this is something we can live with.

It's also worth mentioning that while the Toshiba Mobile Monitor has a brightness control, there are only two settings, making me wonder why they bothered with two brightness buttons. The figures I listed above are at full brightness; the low brightness setting is half the white level and black level.

Performance

Here's where things get a bit dicey and where the difference between a display driven by DisplayLink and a display driven by a proper GPU surfaces. First, let's take a look at a basic metric: power consumption. Since these screens are all being driven off of the notebook's power, we can hook our test system, Acer's Aspire TimelineU, up to our Kill-A-Watt meter while plugged in and get a basic idea of how much power they pull.

  Power (in Watts)
No USB Display 9
Toshiba Mobile Monitor, Idle 15.5
Toshiba Mobile Monitor, Load 29.3
GeChic OnLap 1301, Idle 14.6
GeChic OnLap 1301, Load 20
GeChic OnLap 1302, Idle 15.6
GeChic OnLap 1302, Load 25.5

I connected each monitor (one at a time), set it to clone, and then dragged a Gamutvision screen around the desktop to give it some work to do. The increased brightness of the OnLap 1302 seems to take its toll on power consumption, but DisplayLink's CPU overhead is an even bigger hit. In fact, during testing, while the GeChic displays worked fine, the bottom half of the Toshiba Mobile Monitor actually cut out completely. The complete image came back after a reboot, but this is worth noting nonetheless.

In more casual use, the Mobile Monitor held up a lot better. It was able to play back 720p YouTube video with relative ease, and it's certainly fine for any basic desktop tasks. I also like the form factor of Toshiba's solution a lot more; while GeChic's displays both use clunky mounting mechanisms to attach to a notebook or flimsy stands made out of green rubber blocks, Toshiba's screen comes built into a nice leather folio that folds open into a stand. True, it's not physically attached to the notebook like GeChic's displays are, but I honestly prefer having a better stand.

The quirks of the Mobile Monitor stem more from the DisplayLink technology than anything within Toshiba's power. When testing video I was able to detect a slight lag between video and sound (nothing major), and the system has a hard time resuming from sleep mode with the Mobile Monitor attached. The Mobile Monitor will produce a picture while the main system display won't. None of these quirks manifest while using GeChic's solutions, but that's because GeChic's solutions are essentially basic screens that happen to use a USB cable for power instead of a standard power cable.

Introducing Toshiba's 14" USB Mobile LCD Monitor Conclusion: Depending on Your Needs
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  • tzhu07 - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    That thing looks really plasticy. Like I could twist it with my hands. Reply
  • magreen - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    holy hell, what is the resolution of this thing? I can't believe you just laid out (and I clicked through!) a 3 page review of a thing supposed to extend your screen real estate and you never name the resolution! Reply
  • Zalcor - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    1366 x 768, according to Newegg. Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Shouldn't have to go to newegg to find out an important detail about a product in a product review. :P Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Article is now updated with a table for your reading pleasure. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Holy hell, I can't believe I'd make a mistake like that kind of omission.

    Well, I can believe it, I just don't want to. Though to be fair, I get so used to small screens coming through here that unless it explicitly says otherwise, I just assume it's that dismal 1366x768 (which is less dismal when you're talking about a USB 2.0 powered screen).
    Reply
  • magreen - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the update. I do share your sentiment about the dismal 1366x768 standard. Reply
  • GTVic - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    I too find it hard to understand why a small inexpensive portable device powered by a USB cable can't perform as well as a high end monitor desktop monitor... Reply
  • davepermen - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    not, because it isn't cool in itself (i had some displaylink 7" mimo displays before, they're cool), but because it's not a touchscreen. with win8 right around the corner, i want to finally see tons of nice touchscreens in all sizes and with all sort of connectors, including that size and connection (including usb3). Reply
  • repoman27 - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Those figures were recorded at the wall, so the peak power increase of the whole system with the Toshiba display attached was only 20.3 watts. As was noted in the article, much of that was due to high CPU usage by DisplayLink. Reply

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