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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  • themossie - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    For a cheapie laptop monitor with HDMI in, grab a Motorola Atrix Lapdock or Bionic Lapdock for ~$60, a Micro HDMI cable and a Micro HDMI female to female adapter (http://www.ebay.com/itm/280761232832) for $5... works great, and has lots of other uses!

    Only downside is weight, ~2.5 lbs.

    More details at http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1...
    Reply
  • jacobdrj - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    AOC has had similar products on the market for a while now, for a decent price. How does this compare to it? Does it change orientation via accelerometer? Matte or Gloss? Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Instead of spending $200 for a monitor, why not spend $79 for something that runs off AC power, and $20 for a power inverter, and $20 for a battery, and clump them all together.... lol seriously or just by a monitor that runs off DC. If you need a 2nd monitor that chances are you have either 120V AC or 12V DC power available. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    My thoughts exactly.

    This monitor seems to serve one purpose, a purpose which requires all of the following to be true:

    a) you have no source of power for it other than your laptop computer

    b) despite having no other source of power, you do have the space and a good reason to want to use a second display even though the laptop's battery will be drained rather more quickly

    c) packing a short HDMI or VGA cable with your laptop and your additional display which you are already carrying with you, is impractical for some strange reason

    d) you don't want to do anything particularly demanding with your second display, as doing so may well cause the system to crash or become unstable

    I'm struggling to think of any scenario whatsoever which satisfies all of the above criteria.
    Reply
  • euler007 - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Looks like a good idea, Apple should patent it. Reply
  • Display Alliance - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    http://www.displayalliance.com/news-categories/201... Reply
  • Einy0 - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Just a word USB - VGA Trigger devices suck crap. I can tell you from experience the are awful to deal with. Reply
  • anac6767 - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    Could you guys agree to not suck off Apple for just ONE article? In the first friggin' paragraph you wrote:
    "While notebook hardware has steadily improved over the years, outside of the recent MacBook Pro with Retina Display there haven't really been any moves forward in improving desktop real estate in some time."

    and then:
    "This fact of life has resulted in a bit of a niche market in the form of small, USB-powered screens."

    OK, so your take is that Apple is (somehow out of the dozens of OEMs) the only company innovating in laptop displays. And yet this ENTIRE MARKET of USB-screens has somehow come to exist without Apple's blessing. Tip: not everything needs to be described in "Apples" guys, like some sort of ridiculous fantasy computing metric. Excellent laptop screens have existed since the beginning and are simply not advertised because manufacturers don't want to bind a panel to a model. This should change.

    Oh, and one of you has got it right with that x120e I see pictured in the article (refered to a an Acer for some reason). THAT is a terrific computing value at under $400 (I paid $325 for mine) and yet you couldn't be bothered to give it a shout out. Apple's what gets the clicks, right?
    Reply
  • killerb255 - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    Server troubleshooting, especially one that doesn't have a monitor.

    ...still not sure if that would justify the price tag of one of these things, though...
    Reply
  • abirdie4me - Friday, June 29, 2012 - link

    I've been using the Toshiba usb monitor for a couple years, it is perfect for my needs. I'm a consultant and travel weekly, I just throw it in my laptop bag and take it everywhere I go. It works great as an extra screen to display my email or to compare documents side by side. I've had no issues with the DisplayLink software, just installed it on both XP and Windows 7 and it simply worked. Highly recommend this monitor if you only need it for office work. Reply

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