For road warriors who find that their notebook just isn't enough, the Lenovo LT1421 Wide Mobile Monitor is a viable option that could help them do more in less time. For everyone else, however, it's probably worth waiting for the USB 3.0 models.
When it comes to getting work done on the road, it's hard to beat a great laptop - but with the latest trend of ultralight ultraportables, many road warriors are aching for a solution to limited screen real estate. Can Lenovo's LT1421 fill that niche?
What it is
The Lenovo LT1421 Wide Mobile Monitor is a 14-inch LCD that Lenovo has designed to act as a secondary display for use when your notebook just can't get it done. With a hard, protective case, there's a reason the company branded this device under its ThinkVision line of displays - it really feels like it could take a beating and keep right on going. There's a built-in hinged stand, and a couple of buttons on the rear that let customers switch through its 16 shades of brightness.
What it isn't
It's not a laptop. It doesn't have any expansion ports on it. There isn't a battery, or any kind of A/C power adapter - you'll be powering this guy solely from your notebook. There is no storage, no ability to read files - it's a display, and only a display.
Build and design
I mentioned earlier that the LT1421 Wide is a Think-branded display, and it is completely deserving of that title. The mobile monitor is very sturdy; it looks and feels like the fabled ThinkPad line; wrapped in its protective plastic case, you can toss this in your bag along with any of your other gadgets without fear of a scratched or broken screen. Doing our own drop tests on an evaluation unit probably wouldn't go over too well at Lenovo's headquarters, but you can likely get away with relatively serious falls without too much trouble.
As part of that ThinkVision line, the LT1421 is black, so if you're a Lenovo company, it'll fit right in with everything else you carry. Even if you're not, it looks pretty great. The styling is conservative, of course, but in an age of gaudy gadgets, that's not such a bad thing.
The unit itself feels surprisingly weighty for a device its size. The display on its own weighs right at 1.9 pounds, which is the figure you'll see quoted in all of Lenovo's advertising materials. That's slightly disingenuous, however, as the monitor comes with that solid protective sheet - it weighs almost another half a pound, which brings the total weight up to 2.31 pounds. It's still light, of course, but extra weight is never great.
Key to the stability of the LT1421 Wide is that previously mentioned plastic cover - it's quite durable. It's also a bit annoying, however, as it can be difficult to pop the display out of the protective jacket. Rubber feet that help to keep the unit stable make it impossible to slide out, so to get it open, you instead bend back the bottom of the unit ever so slightly. When you're finished working, you can simply slide the monitor back into the top and bottom tracks of the cover.
Lenovo's mobile display also comes with a special two-headed power cable. One end features a mini-USB output - that part plugs into the display itself, while the other side branches into two full-sized USB ports, each of which plug into USB ports on your laptop. The reason this comes with two displays, and not just one, is that it helps to guarantee that the LT1421 receives a minimum level of power from the notebook; this is increasingly important as you turn the brightness higher and higher.
Why would you want this?
So, we've covered that it's a monitor. And it's mobile. That's all important stuff.
To get an idea of how well the LT1421 really performs, however, I took it on the road, just like a Real Mobile Professional might. I'm actually really glad I did, too - sitting next to all of the bright, shiny monitors in a typical office, the Lenovo display doesn't seem all that impressive. It didn't feel *that* bright, for example, it's a big slow, and its refresh rate doesn't measure up to traditional desktop and laptop displays. Take it on the go, however, and it's easy to change your opinion of the unit.
There are times when the limited screen real estate on a notebook simply isn't up to the task. Netbooks were and are the worst about this; newer laptops might be trending larger, but not by much. The recent spate of ultrabook releases, for example, mostly offered users resolutions of 1366x768 or just a bit more. If you want to work on a PowerPoint presentation while researching a few company documents, that won't do. Similarly, editing photos or video (something that this staff runs into frequently) can be a bit of a hassle.
Before everyone jumps in, many laptops can do all of these tasks pretty well, and many users can do these tasks well on any laptop. That being said, a secondary monitor can be a huge boon to productivity, especially on such small screens - move all your toolbars or PDFs over there, and use the main display for your regular content.
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