Users asked, and AOC delivered. The company has updated its 16-inch USB 3.0 monitor to offer traveling business professionals a sleeker device with a sturdier kickstand and better picture quality. The new e1659fwu ($129) offers a fairly standard 1366 x 768 resolution, but it provides a new Smart UI system to manage the monitor's settings and an accompanying protective case. Is this the best big-screen for on-the-go users? Read on.
Click to EnlargeThe glossy black e1659fwu is more beautiful and sleeker than its predecessor, the e1649fwu. Its screen is framed by inch-thick bezel and rubber grips sit on the monitor's vertical and horizontal bottom sides. Unfortunately, both the back and sides were quick to pick up fingerprints, just like AOC's earlier model.
On its plastic back is a big AOC logo next to a sturdy stainless steel kickstand. The kickstand folds in completely without jutting out, and in its groove is a USB 3.0 port. There are no buttons on the e1659fwu - the monitor turns on when it is plugged into a computer and settings are managed with its Smart UI software.
At 14.8 x 9.2 x 0.9 inches, the e1659fwu is about a half inch thinner than the bulbous e1649fwu. It's larger than the Toshiba USB Mobile LCD (13.4 x 9.4 x 0.6) as well as the Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421 (13.2 x 8.6 x 0.85 inches). To be fair, both of those have smaller 14-inch displays.
Weighing 2.4 pounds, the e1659fwu is the same weight as the ThinkVision LT1421 (with its cover), and is lighter than the 3-pound e1649Fwu and 2.8-pound Toshiba USB Mobile LCD. Without its bulky cover, the ThinkVision is just 1.8 pounds.
AOC also answered customers' pleas by providing a lightweight neoprene sleeve, so users can carry the e1659fwu around with ease.
Setup and Installation
Click to EnlargeThe e1659fwu, which is powered solely by USB, comes with a cable with a USB 3.0 head on one end and two USB connectors on the other. We plugged one of the USB 2.0 ends into our Dell Latitude 6430u laptop, and the e1659fwu immediately started installing drivers on our notebook. Once the drivers were installed, both the AOC and laptop screens blinked for a few seconds before quickly reappearing.
A separate driver had to be installed to enable the e1659fwu's Auto Pivot feature, which took a few minutes to download and run. Once the driver was installed, we flipped the monitor to portrait mode; both the AOC display and our notebook screen blinked for about 3 seconds, and the e1659fwu was in portrait mode.
We also tested the monitor with an older laptop (an Acer Aspire 4920) and the drivers took a significantly longer 30 minutes to install. But once the drivers were installed, the e1659fwu worked without lag.
Setting up the e1659fwu on a Mac was much more difficult. After installing the DisplayLink drivers on a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro (we had to download them from DisplayLink's site), the AOC monitor would flicker any time we tried to move a window onto it from the Mac.
When we reached out to AOC about this issue, the company told us it was the first time they had encountered this problem and contacted DisplayLink. According to AOC, DisplayLink's rep said it was aware of the problem happening with Safari, but that Chrome users should not encounter the problem.
On two different MacBook Airs, we tried dragging Chrome and Finder windows over to the monitor, and the screen blinked black and white -- and sometimes red, green, and blue -- before displaying the content. Even then, the monitor did not perform as seamlessly as it did on a PC, occasionally flickering and sometimes reverting to flashing colors as we browsed Web pages.
DisplayLink said it was working with Apple on a fix and hopes to resolve the issue, but it could not provide timing.
Image Quality and Performance
Click to EnlargeWe tested the AOC e1659fwu's performance on our two Windows notebooks by dragging windows across displays, editing a spreadsheet in Google Docs and watching a 720p trailer for "Thor: The Dark World" on YouTube. We also watched a 1080p trailer for "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and encountered no lag on the monitor. Dragging windows onto the e1659fwu was seamless.
By default, brightness and contrast are set to half, which makes the screen somewhat dim with muted colors. With brightness and contrast levels set to max, colors were bright and vivid, but had an overall blue hue.
The relatively low 1366 x 768 pixel resolution on the e1659fwu's 15.6-inch screen made smaller text fuzzy. However, viewing angles were ample. We could continue watching our trailer and working on our spreadsheet even at angles greater than 45 degrees.
At 177 lux, the e1659fwu's display was dimmer than the notebook category average of 226 lux, but we found it bright enough for daily use. It was also significantly brighter than the ThinkVision LT1421's 102 lux.
Click to EnlargeAOC's Smart UI lets you control the monitor's resolution, brightness, contrast and mirroring options. It's easy to use, but a little tricky to find -- it appears as an icon in the taskbar.
Having shed some bulk and upgraded its kickstand, the $129 AOC e1659fwu is an inexpensive monitor for people who need an extra screen on the go. However, the peripheral's performance on Macs is inconsistent at best. Overall, we prefer the Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421, which can be found for as low as $158 and offers better viewing angles on its matte screen. However, for mobile PC owners looking for a larger display, the e1659fwu is a good bargain.