The Toshiba USB Mobile LCD Monitor is a mobile display designed to hit the pavement with hustling workers who need additional screen space, whether you're working from a hotel desk or airport lounge during a long layover. This $199 accessory provides 14 extra inches of screen real estate--and it weighs about as much as a 10-inch netbook. Should enterprising suitcase dwellers take the plunge?
The way the Toshiba USB Mobile LCD Monitor comes wrapped up in stylish-looking faux leather, you'd think it was a high-end tablet, not a 14-inch external screen. The case unfolds to become a stand for the display, so it looks cool, adds functionality, and helps protect the screen. The bezel is a shiny black plastic and the back is a matte texture.
Overall, Toshiba's mobile monitor looks much sleeker than the Field Monitor Pro, though the latter offers a sturdier metal stand. It's 13.4 x 9.4 x 0.6 inches for the Toshiba versus a larger 14 x 10.2 x 1.3 inches for the Field Monitor Pro. Factor in the Toshiba monitor's weight of 2.8 pounds (3.4 with the adapter), as opposed to the other display's 4.8 pounds (5 pounds with the adapter), and it's clear which one we'd stuff into a carry-on.
Along the front is a green LED power button along with brightness controls. A miniUSB port is on the left edge, and a power adapter port is on the right. Unlike the Field Monitor Pro and the Monitor2Go, the Mobile Monitor doesn't offer additional USB ports or a Kensington lock slot.
You won't have much trouble getting the Toshiba Mobile Monitor to work with your notebook. It's compatible with Windows 7, Vista, and XP, but not Mac OS X. In most cases, the monitor was plug-and-play; its display drivers installed automatically after we connected the monitor via USB. In one case we downloaded display drivers from Toshiba.com, but notebooks that have an optical drive can use the included software CD.
The Mobile Monitor's resolution is locked to 1366 x 768 pixels. However, unlike the Field Monitor Pro, Toshiba's device doesn't support portrait mode, a feature some mobile professionals might appreciate. The Toshiba monitor activated in extended desktop mode automatically in each notebook we tested. We could also mirror our primary display or rearrange the position of both screens via the Display settings in the Control Panel.
The Toshiba mobile monitor can be powered exclusively via USB; an included Y-shaped cord connects the display to a notebook via one or two USB ports (some older notebooks will require you use two USB ports). A dedicated AC power adapter is sold separately for $39.99, which adds 9.2 ounces to the travel weight. Unfortunately, USB only provides enough power to brighten the display to 50 percent. If you want full brightness, you'll need to spring for the adapter. However, he Field Monitor Pro cannot be used without its adapter, so the Toshiba monitor is more portable out of the box.
We tested the Toshiba Mobile Monitor with several notebooks, including a HP Pavilion dm3t (a low-voltage Core i3-330UM), a Lenovo ThinkPad X220 (Core i5-2520M), another Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11 (low-voltage Core i3 U380) and two Toshiba notebooks, the NB505 netbook (Intel Atom N455), and the 13.3-inch T235 (Intel Pentium U5400).
With USB power, the Toshiba Mobile Monitor's 1366 x 768 pixel resolution wasn't very bright. The Hanna trailer (viewed with YouTube in 720p) had murky detail. To boot, viewing angles became blotchy around 120 degrees. A little further to the right or left and about 70 percent of the action was blacked out.
Things improved significantly when we added the power adapter and upped the brightness to 100 percent. At full brightness, a freeze frame from the Hanna trailer showed more nuance than before; we could see more of the title character's frizzy hair and better read the expression of her interrogator's face. Viewing angles widened to a more comfortable 130 degrees, too, and the added luminosity made our Google Docs spreadsheet slightly easier to read, though we didn't have much trouble there before.
The Field Monitor Pro's 15.4-inch LED-backlit panel has a taller 1280 x 800 resolution, which means more vertical room for web browsing and reading text. While images on the Field Monitor were generally sharper, the Toshiba monitor did a better job with colors and shadow. With the AC adapter, the Toshiba monitor matched the brightness of the Field Monitor Pro. For that reason, we think the adapter is a must have.
Notebook Performance Impact
To test performance, we dragged windows from one display to the other, edited a spreadsheet in Google Docs, and watched a 720p YouTube video of the movie trailer for Hanna. For the most part, we noticed little to no latency with any of the notebooks. Window movement across displays was crisp and seamless, and there was no cursor freeze or load time editing our Google Doc spreadsheet or when composing e-mails.
We did notice slight stuttering video when we watched the Hanna trailer using the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 11, Toshiba T235, and Toshiba NB505 netbook. Those systems respectively contain a low power Intel Core i3-U380, a Pentium U5400, and an Atom N455 processor, all chips built for moderate performance. However, the Field Monitor Pro stuttered even more when we used it to stream YouTube video and edit Google Docs with the Toshiba NB505 and Lenovo ThinkPad 11.
Those who wish to use the Toshiba Mobile Monitor with a netbook should note that many include low-performance Intel Atom processors and Windows 7 Starter, which only lets you mirror the display, not extend it. Still it's a useful tool for presenters. However, don't expect flawless playback if you plan to watch online video with the Mobile Monitor paired to a netbook or another system packing a low-performance CPU.
Road warriors who want a portable display that can hit the road as easily as a good business notebook should take a good look at the Toshiba USB Mobile LCD Monitor. It's easy to carry, affordable, and looks dapper in its leather-like carrying case and stand. While we recommend you purchase the power adapter to maximize the brightness, the Toshiba monitor is a cut above the Field Monitor Pro, a 15.4-inch alternative that costs $90 more, weighs nearly 1.5 pounds more, and performs poorly with less powerful notebooks. If you're to multitask on the road and look professional doing it, the Toshiba USB Mobile LCD Monitor is a good value.