Lockdown has been an opportunity for self-discovery for us all. Maybe you’ve used Zoom to re-ignite a long distance friendship once thought lost, or mastered a home workout routine. Maybe you’ve tackled your gaming pile of shame, or binged an entire Netflix boxset.
But, what’s happened for many, is that the ‘new normal’ has turned your home into an office. Those four walls of sanctuary after the commute have become your one-stop-shop for work, play and everything else in between.
Getting into a comfortable rhythm working at home can be difficult – there’s the lack of social interaction, despite the widespread use of video calling apps, there’s home distractions such as chores and childcare, and of course there’s the hardware problems. Your monitor, laptop, desktop, mouse, keyboard and all manner of other accoutrements are likely missing, not to mention a desk set up ideally by an occupational health expert if you’re lucky.
What’s helped me get into my regular working rhythm was picking up a portable monitor for my ageing (2012) MacBook Pro. I’ve been using the Lepow Portable Monitor, and it’s been really great at giving me the digital space to get my work done – without taking up too much space in the physical world. Here’s what I’ve found.
My portable lockdown pal
Now, to be clear, this isn’t a full review – I’ve not had enough experience with a variety of portable monitors to be able to offer comparative insight here. But I can speak for the day-to-day use of the Lepow, which I’ve really enjoyed. Here’s a quick run down of the key specs and features:
- Lightweight at 0.7kg
- 1080p, 15.6-inch IPS screen
- Supports 60fps for gaming
- Magnetic kickstand carry case included
- No battery (supports USB power supply, including from a laptop)
- HDMI input
- Other accessories included: USB-C to USB-C cable, USB-A to USB-C cable,HDMI to Mini HDMI cable
- $169.99 (around £130)
I’ve seen colleagues sing the praises of portable monitors, but it’s always seemed a bit like overkill to me. But as the reality of my long-term stay at home kicked in, the benefits started to make sense.
The Lepow boots up the instant I connect it to my MacBook, and starts working as a second screen once the two are connected by HDMI cable. (It’ll also work with a smartphone, though I’ve personally found little use for that feature). The USB power supply means there’s no messing around with extra power adapters, and while it draws a lot of juice from my MacBook if I’m away from a wall outlet, it’s a simple set up when I am settled. In about ten seconds, I’ve got 15 extra inches to throw spreadsheets up on, or second monitors to look at stats and documents while zoom calling on the other, relatively affordably.
There’s a few gripes – the screen resets to 30% brightness every time you turn it off being the main one, a clever battery saving technique, but annoying in practice. Also, the OSD stays up a little longer than is necessary after fiddling with settings. But the flexibility of its lightweight portability makes it more than worthwhile.
Being at home all the time, and regularly testing gadgets and games, it’s made for a great partner for my PlayStation 4 Pro and Nintendo Switch. It’s 1080p screen won’t make the most of the Pro’s 4K capabilities, but there’s 60fps support. Having to review the lengthy Ghost of Tsushima in lockdown and being able to offer up my living room TV to my flatmate while ploughing hours away with the Playstation on the kitchen table with the Lepow was the sort of thing that would have made 12 year old Gerald giddy.
All this at a time when I can’t really even leave my house. Now, I know it’d be a bit obnoxious to take this to a cafe and work remotely with, but as that remote lifestyle becomes more and more normal in a (one day hopefully) post-Covid 19 age, it’s at least an option. And for those who travel regularly and need to set-up a makeshift office in hotel rooms across the globe, it’ll work wonders.
It has to be said too that, in my current situation (sharing a kitchen table as a desk with an also-currently-working-from-home flatmate) the extra space needed to set up the second monitor isn’t always practical, either. I’m doubling my share of table real estate, much to the chagrin of my pal.
It may not be the most exciting moment of self-discovery that could have been made in isolation then, but there you have it. I now know I love portable monitors. Thanks pandemic, I guess?