Lepow 15.6-Inch USB-C Portable Monitor Review: Versatile, Value-Priced
When I travel, I’ve been using a portable monitor for many years now. While covering a trade show, it’s great to have a second monitor to have datasheets and web pages available for reference (especially since almost all press materials are digital now). When I’m teaching on safari, it lets me work with more participants without a projector. And when I’m on my own, it’s still great to have a second screen for photo and video processing, or writing code. My current monitor is fine, but only works with PCs, so I was interested when Lepow asked if I wanted to review their 15.6-inch 1080p LCD version that works with a variety of devices ($184.99).
Lepow Portable Monitor by the Numbers
Typical of most decent portable monitors, the 15.6-inch Lepow LCD supports 1080p resolution. Impressively for the price, it is an IPS technology LCD. It also has a lot more capability than many of its competitors. For starters, you can connect to it using either HDMI (via its mini-HDMI port and included HDMI cable) or USB-C (for which a cable is also provided). Obviously, the USB-C option only works for devices that support video over their USB-C ports. If you connect over HDMI or an unpowered USB-C port, you can power the monitor either with another USB-A to USB-C connection or the included charger and cable. The combination of those options handles just about every scenario I could come up with.
None of that makes it any larger or heavier than necessary. It weighs in at 1.76 pounds, and measures .3-inches thick.
There is an OSD menu allowing you to tweak brightness, contrast, color, and a few other settings, which is slick for a portable monitor. I bumped up the brightness and contrast a bit from their defaults for use in a daytime environment. My only gripe about the controls is that the brightness seems to reset to 30 whenever you power up. I wish it would stay set where I leave it. To accommodate the scenario of powering the unit from one USB port while feeding it video through another, it has two USB-C ports in addition to the mini-HDMI port. There is also a power switch and a headphone jack. Lepow has also fit speakers into the unit, so it can provide an all-in-one media experience.
Putting the Lepow to Use
By using a magnet-attached rear cover, Lepow makes it easy to prop the monitor up at a couple of different angles. It comes with a lightweight screen protector attached by a thin tacky strip at the top. It is usable with the screen protector on, which is probably a good idea if you’ll be in a dirty environment or think it might get scratched, but the display is crisper without it.
I was prepared for some serious fiddling to get the display to work with various devices, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. First, I plugged it into a USB-C port on my Pixel Slate. As soon as I powered it on, it appeared as a second display. I didn’t have to change any settings. The only disconcerting part is that it’s tempting to want to touch the screen, but of course, it isn’t a touch-friendly panel.
I had a similarly-pleasant experience using it with my Huawei Mate 20 Pro. The display fired up instantly and the phone walked me through using it either as a mirror or my phone or with the Huawei’s EMUI Desktop mode. In that mode, you can use your phone as a touchpad, and optionally connect a keyboard or mouse to it — all of which drive the external display. As with the Slate, once you get used to the fact that you can’t simply touch the display to interact with it, it was fun to use, and I could see using it to do real work if I didn’t have a laptop with me.
Another nice feature is that when you connect the display over USB-C to a phone, and then to a charger using its other USB-C port, it charges your phone while you’re using it. That takes away the headache of worrying about battery when you’re using your phone as a desktop. Unfortunately, the desktop mode is device-dependent when it comes to phones. It doesn’t seem to work with Google’s own Pixels, for example, but says it will with most recent Samsung and Huawei models, and some others.
I also had a straightforward experience using the display with my Dell Precision 5540 laptop. It worked perfectly and received both video and power over the USB-C cable. Of course, if you don’t have a laptop with a powered USB-C, or you need to use HDMI, then you simply need to plug in a second USB cable for charging. The display looked crisp and reasonably colorful, although no one would confuse it for the high-end IPS 4K screen on the Dell itself.
Using the Lepow for Media
The display’s speakers aren’t super-loud, but they produce pleasant sound and have excellent separation thanks to their placement on either side of the display. As long as I wasn’t in a loud environment, I’d have no problem watching a movie using them. Of course, you also get a headphone jack. I can see using the display this way either with a phone or to play a movie on a second display while working on your laptop’s primary monitor.
The Lepow’s case is low-profile, which is great for portability. However, it also means that it doesn’t have any room to store the cables or charger. One thing I like about the case on my ASUS portable monitor is that the cables fold neatly inside it. Overall, at less than $200, the Lepow is a solid combination of good display quality, great connectivity, and an excellent price. If you do buy one, I highly recommend taking the time to calibrate it using a hardware calibrator like a Datacolor Spyder. It makes a big difference in both color and contrast.