Everyone knows that using two screens on your computer makes you more productive. Up until now, though, the best portable USB monitors have topped out at a modest 1366 x 768 resolution. ASUS is changing all that with its new MB168B+, a 15.6-inch USB monitor with a 1920 x 1080 display. With a price of just $199 and a svelte, 1.6-lb. chassis, the MB168B+ is a must-have accessory for business travelers or anyone who needs to be productive away from home.
DesignAOC e1659fwu (14.8 x 9.2 x 0.9 inches, 2.4 lbs.), which is also 15.6 inches, and the 14-inch Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421 (13.2 x 8.6 x 0.85 inches, 2.4 lbs.). However, unlike the Lenovo and AOC devices, the MB168B+ does not have an arm. The ASUS requires its 1-lb. canvas carrying case, which folds over for mounting.
When inside its case, the ASUS MB168B+ weighs 2.6 lbs. and measures 15.25 x 10.75 x 0.7 inches. In our testing, the case fit easily into one pocket of our large laptop bag, leaving room for a smaller notebook or tablet.
The ASUS MB168B+ looks very much like a premium product, with a metallic-colored plastic back reminiscent of the lids on ASUS' Zenbook line of Ultrabooks. The front and sides are a subtle matte plastic, which is much classier than the cheap glossy plastic on the AOC e1659fwu. The left side houses all of the MB168B+'s connectors and buttons: a single micro USB 3.0 port, a brightness rocker and a power on/off button.
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Once you have DisplayLink software, all you need to do is attach the monitor to a USB port on your computer and it should light up and display a second desktop for you. As with all secondary monitors, you can adjust its position, resolution and other settings in Windows by right-clicking on the desktop and selecting Screen Resolution or in Mac by visiting the Display section of the System Preferences menu. On Windows 7, our desktop wallpaper did not fill the entire screen if the primary monitor was a lower resolution than the MB168B+, though the background color did.
The flimsy 26-inch microUSB 3.0-to-USB cable ASUS bundles with the MB168B+ is the monitor's biggest drawback. In our tests, we found the cable too short, and its microUSB 3.0 plug popped out of the monitor far too easily. Even worse, a number of computers we attached it to -- including a MacBook Air with USB 3.0 ports and an old Acer Timeline 1810T with only USB 2.0 -- did not emit enough juice to power the monitor over a single port. Fortunately, when we used a USB Y cable to connect it to dual ports on these systems, the monitor worked just fine.
When we used a different USB 3.0 cable, it fit into the USB port on the monitor much more securely. If you're going to purchase the ASUS MB168B+, we strongly recommend that you purchase a USB 3.0 Y cable, which you can buy on a site such as NewEgg for as little as $10.
Using Velcro strips and a cloth back seems like a flimsy way to mount the monitor, but it felt fairly secure in our tests. Still, we wouldn't recommend putting the monitor on an unstable surface or jostling it too much. We were also able to position the monitor in portrait mode on the mount, but it seemed very top-heavy and we worried it might eventually fall over.
At 163 lux on our light meter, the MB168B+ is much brighter than the 103-lux ThinkVision LT1421, but falls a few points short of the 177-lux AOC e1659fwu.
While the 1920 x 1080 resolution is great for watching full HD movies, it's even better for productivity work. Using Excel 2013 at 100 percent zoom, we were able to fit 24 columns and 41 rows of content on the MB168B+'s display. In Word 2013 at 100 percent zoom, the ASUS monitor displayed two pages side-by-side with 49 rows of text each. By comparison, the 1366 x 768 ThinkVision LT1421 showed only 16 columns and 25 rows in Excel and one page with 27 rows of text in Word.
The ASUS MB168B+ USB monitor provided smooth, sharp images no matter what we threw at it. Whether we were editing in Excel or playing a high frame rate 1080p video, motion was perfectly smooth and seamless on the PC. On a Macbook Air running OS X Mountain Lion, we had no issues playing 1080p video or surfing the Web.
|Size||14.9 x 9.26 x .26 inches 15.25 x 10.75 x 0.7 inches (in case)|
|Weight||1.6 pounds / 2.6 pounds in case|