Years ago when my Gen-1 iPad started to become obsolete, I explored the possibility of using it as a secondary display that can be used with a desktop or laptop. But the solution seemed less elegant, involving connecting to the same Wifi instead of using direct cables.
The Rise of USB Powered Monitors
Meanwhile, an innovative solution has already been in the market for many years: USB powered monitor. Quite simply put: this monitor does not require AC adapter to power up. Better still, it does not require the standard VGA/HDMI/DP cables. All it needs is one single USB cable, which carries both video and power to the monitor. What it means is that you can enjoy multi-screen displays on-the-go.
First-generation displays are understandably limited by the development of USB display drivers and USB power, and their screen resolution are relatively low. But now in 2017, such USB monitors can achieve rather impressive quality for productivity use. AOC is one of the first companies that manufactured USB-powered monitors since the start of the decade. ASUS, whose brand name is better known in this part of the world, started manufacturing in recent years too.
Prior to MB16AC, ASUS had developed a few USB monitors, like the MB168B+, MB169B+. The latest USB monitor, officially named “ZenScreen”, runs on a single USB Type-C cable to plug to computing devices. Here are some impressive specs:
- 15.6-inch, Full HD 1920×1080 16:9 IPS Panel, 800:1 contrast ratio, 220 cd/㎡ brightness
- 780g, 8mm thin
- Flicker-free and low blue light technologies certified by TÜV Rheinland
- Supports display and power via native USB Type-C or USB 3.0 Type-A with installed drivers
- 8 Video Preset Modes: sRGB Mode/Scenery Mode/Theater Mode/Standard Mode/Night View Mode/Game Mode/Reading Mode/Darkroom Mode
- Supports auto-rotate (requires Windows OS and driver installed)
Dual Display Anywhere
With USB powered monitors, it is possible to make use of multi-display while on the move. I, for one, am spoiled with dual-monitor set-up at home and at work, so the ability to plug a USB monitor without AC power improves my productivity.
I like the display calibration, which is tuned to exhibit less blue light and pleasing to the eyes. The ASUSPRO B9440 pales in comparison, appearing with a green tint.
Flexible Smart Case and Stand
The included smart case sticks to the MB16AC securely with magnets, no clips required. Other than protecting the monitor during transportation, the case folds into a stand in both landscape and portrait modes.
It even has a pen hole to insert any pen to prop the screen up.
Both the smart case and ZenScreen Pen is included in the package.
Works with Huawei Mate 10 series Desktop Mode
Because the MB16AC runs on hybrid-signal solution with native support for USB Type-C connections, it does not require software drivers when using with USB-C devices. Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro have a new feature that can plug to an external monitor to get desktop mode. The use case is similar to Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note8 except Huawei’s solution does not require a separate DeX Station dock.
For Huawei, just plug the USB-C cable directly from the phone to ASUS MB16AC, and you can work and play anywhere on the large monitor. Huawei’s solution is even more hardware-saving because the phone can also be used as a virtual keyboard and trackpad.
One might not think it is worth lugging another massive tablet-like accessory when commuting. But for those who understand the value of having dual displays, the ASUS ZenScreen will be your productivity saviour. With the latest Huawei smartphones supporting desktop mode, USB monitors become even more purposeful.
The MB16AC retails at S$439, while older model MB169B+ is still available at online retailers like Lazada. If your current computing device supports USB-C port, then I would recommend getting this latest model. For consumers whose laptops use the standard USB 3.0 Type-A ports, the older models work well too.