Inputs and Power
The Toshiba USB Mobile Monitor doesn’t feature much in terms of monitor inputs. Both the monitor’s power and video input are delivered via a single USB port on the left side of the monitor. This single input eliminates the need to carry an AC adapter or video cable but that added convenience comes with a minor inconvenience. The unfortunate side effect of using USB for the display input and power is that the 14-inch LCD panel technically requires more power than what USB provides in order to reach maximum brightness.
In short, you have to make a choice: You can use the included USB cable to connect the Mobile Monitor to your laptop (which makes life easy but limits the maximum brightness of the screen) or you can buy the optional AC power adaptor and power the screen via a standard power outlet.
Despite the fact that the Toshiba USB Mobile Monitor uses the same 14.0-inch LCD panel that Toshiba uses in most of its current 14-inch laptops, this external monitor delivers pretty good still image and video quality. The 14-inch diagonal widescreen display features a native resolution of 1366 x 768 which is good enough to watch 720P HD video while on the road. Although I would have liked to see a resolution of at least 1600 x 900 on an external monitor, Toshiba had to find the right balance between size, power consumption and cost in order to make a USB-powered mobile monitor that was affordable for the target audience. Any of the larger, higher-resolution display panels currently available to Toshiba would have required an external power adapter rather than just a USB cable.
Speaking of which, although I previously mentioned that the Toshiba USB Mobile Monitor requires the optional power adapter in order to reach maximum brightness, it’s important to point out that I never had any problems or complaints regarding screen brightness when using this monitor indoors. Toshiba’s spec sheet indicates this monitor has a maximum brightness of 200 nits and a 400:1 contrast ratio. I was eager to put this to the test since both these numbers are based on the performance of the screen with the optional power adapter. In our lab with the power adapter connected we recorded a maximum screen brightness of 201 nits and a contrast ratio of 324:1. We switched the Mobile Monitor over to USB only and recorded a new maximum screen brightness of 169 nits and 209:1 for the contrast ratio. Again, this is still perfectly viewable under even the brightest artificial light indoors but is a bit dim for outdoor use under direct sunlight.
If there is a single negative about the quality of this monitor (other than the USB power issue previously mentioned) it is that this LCD uses a TN panel and suffers from the same viewing angle limitations as any screen that uses a TN panel. In other words, the screen looks great if you’re viewing it from straight ahead or from the side, but the monitor looks overexposed or faded when viewed from above and colors appear distorted and inverted when viewed from below.
After spending a few weeks field testing the Toshiba USB Mobile Monitor I’ve come to the conclusion there isn’t much more that Toshiba could have done to make this a better product for its target audience. If you’ve ever needed to give a presentation in a small office setting then you immediately recognize the benefit of an external monitor like this. Also, if you’re someone who uses multiple displays at your desk it’s nice to have a portable multi-monitor solution for travel.
In a perfect world, I would have liked to see better screen brightness and contrast when this monitor is connected only via USB, but it’s merely a minor annoyance in most real-world situations. I’d also love to see a monitor like this with an IPS panel that offers better viewing angles, but that would come at an increase in cost and I suspect the MSRP of $200 ($190 street price) is near maximum of what most people are willing to pay for a portable display.
- Convenient second monitor for mobile professionals
- Reasonable price
- Decent brightness, color and contrast via USB
- Maximum screen brightness only available with power adapter
- Power adapter is an “optional” accessory