Best External Monitor in 2020 (July Reviews)

Are you in search of the best external monitors in the market? This past week, we dedicated 36 hours to finding high-quality monitors that can give you the best viewing experience at home or in office. We tested a total of 15 different monitors for the quality they could provide in rooms of different sizes, layouts, and lighting conditions. Out of all the items we tested, we selected six outstanding external monitors. These monitors are the ones that lived up to all of our expectations and more.

One monitor in particular, the Lepow USB-C 15.6” monitor, stood out among the rest. As our #1 pick, the Lepow has a high-resolution screen with HDR while being small and light enough to be portable. Read on to learn more about this amazing monitor and our five other favorites.

Top 6 Best External Monitors Compared

 #1  Lepow USB-C Portable Monitor

Award: Top Pick

WHY WE LIKE IT: Sleek and slim , the Lepow Portable Monitor offers excellent media quality that’s compatible with a wide range of devices. Equipped with Full HD and weighing only 1.76 pounds, the Lepow is definitely worthy of our top spot.

Pros
  • Full HD
  • Lightweight
  • Has built-in speakers
Cons
  • Brightness settings automatically reset
  • Built-in speakers are weak

The Lepow USB-C Portable Monitor is a 15.6” IPS monitor that features a 1080p display, a native resolution of 1920 x 1080, and HDR support to deliver visually stunning images. It’s perfect for playing games, watching movies at home, or delivering presentations at the office. The monitor sports a Type-C USB connector and a mini HDMI port, making it compatible with laptops, phones, and gaming consoles like the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or Nintendo Switch. It weighs only 1.76 pounds and is 0.3 inches thick, making it very portable.

The only drawbacks of this particular monitor are its weak speakers and its tendency to reset custom brightness settings when the USB-C port is used. However, its portability and the crystal-clear picture quality it delivers more than make up for these issues, making it our best overall pick.  It is one of the best external gaming monitors.

 #2  Newsoul 15.6” Portable HD Monitor

Award: Honorable Mention

WHY WE LIKE IT: The Newsoul Portable Monitor combines HD video and audio thanks to its HDR-enabled 1080p IPS-LCD monitor and dual stereo speakers. Its integrated eye protection technology helps keep your eyes safe while you enjoy its crystal-clear display, and its wide compatibility makes it useful for a range of devices.

Pros
  • IPS-LCD Monitor with HDR
  • 2 high-quality stereo speakers
  • Integrated eye protection
Cons
  • Odd button/port placements
  • Slightly heavier than others

This portable monitor by Newsoul sports a high-resolution 1080p display that supports HDR functions to create beautiful on-screen images while also providing excellent audio with its twin stereo speakers. The screen provides a 178-degree viewing angle, perfect for multiple viewers. The Newsoul monitor also comes with special Eye Care technology, which provides a soft, blue screen filter and eliminates flickering to protect your eyes.

You can use either a mini HDMI or USB Type-C to connect the monitor to your PC, laptop, phone, or gaming console. Its Type-C port handles all of the power, signal, and USB interface functions. The Newsoul monitor is slightly heavier than our #1 pick, weighing 1.99 pounds and measuring 0.43 inches in thickness. Users may also find it difficult to set-up in portrait mode because of how the connection ports and buttons are placed. You might also want to read about the best monitor for video editing.

 #3  AOC e1659Fwu Slim Monitor

Award: Best Budget

WHY WE LIKE IT: The AOC Slim Monitor is a budget-friendly option that can be very handy for frequent travelers. Its screen lights up at a gentle 200 cd/m2 brightness that’s bright enough without causing eye strain, and it comes with its own carrying case to make travel easier.

Pros
  • 200 cd/m2 brightness setting
  • Reliable
  • Easy to set up
Cons
  • No HDMI
  • A bit heavy
  • 720p only

This low-profile 16” monitor by AOC is a cost-efficient option for those who are looking to buy an extra screen or two. It has a native resolution of 1366 x 768 only, which can’t really offer the same level of display quality that 1080p monitors (1920 x 1080) on our list can, but it’s still very useful for work or if you don’t mind using a lower-res monitor. It’s equipped with a USB 3.0 port for video and power input, and a built-in foldable stand that makes it very easy to set up.

The AOC Slim Monitor is a bit hefty. It weighs 2.4 pounds, making it one of the heaviest monitors in this list. It’s not as high-end as the rest, but you’ll definitely get your money’s worth from it. Also, check out best gaming monitor for PS4.

 #4  ASUS MB168B Portable Monitor

Award: Best Value

WHY WE LIKE IT: The MB168B is a portable monitor that can display crisp, high-quality images. It is as light as our #1 pick, automatically adjusts its brightness setting by up to 250 cd/m2, and comes with a 3-year warranty.

Pros
  • 250 cd/m2 brightness
  • ASUS EzLink Technology
  • 3-year warranty
Cons
  • May have driver compatibility issues
  • USB 3.0 only
  • 720p

ASUS is a trusted brand when it comes to computers, and the MB168B Portable Monitor is one piece of equipment that lives up to that name. It comes with a high-definition 15.6” screen with a 1366 x 768 base resolution and ASUS’s EzLink Tech that can help shave off some of your computer’s graphical load. The display will automatically shift depending on the monitor’s orientation, and it can also automatically adjust its brightness depending on the room’s lighting conditions. It has amazing color accuracy.

The gaming monitor weighs only 1.76 pounds and is 0.3 inches thick, which is very similar to our #1 pick. Its size and carrying case/monitor stand make it highly portable. Note that it only has a USB 3.0 connector and the drivers required by ASUS EzLink may need some configuring before it works properly. Read up on the best 4K gaming monitor to learn more about displays.

 #5  ASUS ZenScreen MB16AC 15.6” Portable Monitor

Award: Best Zero Edge

WHY WE LIKE IT: The ZenScreen is a portable Full HD, IPS monitor that boasts an award-winning design and stunning image quality while remaining compact thanks to its small bevel. It also offers Eye Care technology and customizable settings that can help you work at maximum efficiency. This is a nice 15 6-inch model.

Pros
  • Ultra Lightweight
  • Easy-to-toggle display settings
  • Full HD
Cons
  • Only one USB-C port
  • ASUS drivers may cause issues

The ZenScreen is another line of portable monitors made by ASUS. Unlike the previous ASUS monitor we covered, the ZenScreen pairs its Full HD IPS screen (1080p) with a thin bevel, which means its footprint remains low. It has integrated ASUS Eye Care technology that makes the screen flicker-free and eye-friendly. It also grants users the ability to quickly toggle between different monitor settings via the ASUS Display Widget .

The layout of its ports and buttons complements the monitor’s ability to quickly shift from landscape to portrait orientations and vice versa. However, it only has one USB-C port, and the drivers that run its software may conflict with your computer. At 1.7 pounds and 0.3 inches thick, the lightest monitor in our list, the ZenScreen is a great monitor to take with you anywhere. If you are a gamer, read about the best monitors for Xbox One X.

 #6  Lepow Z1 Pro 15.6” Portable Monitor

Award: Best Features

WHY WE LIKE IT: This iteration of the Lepow 15.6” Portable Monitor serves as a direct upgrade to its predecessor. The Z1 Pro sports a full HD screen with HDR, thin bevel that makes it compact enough for most surfaces, built-in speakers, and a wide angle for a great viewing experience..

Pros
  • Full HD Screen
  • Fast and smooth operation
  • Durable CNC Aluminum frame
Cons
  • Weak speakers
  • Pricey

The Lepow Z1 Pro makes a great secondary monitor for programmers and gamers alike. The HDR-enabled Full HD IPS screen means you’ll get amazing image quality and a good refresh rate, while its built-in blue light filter protects your eyes from strain over long hours. The newer LSO 3.0.1 software installed in it lets the monitor handle connections faster and smoother than before.

The problem with low speaker volume still persists with the Lepow Z1, however. If you prefer to use earphones or dedicated speakers, then Z1 Pro is a good option for you. You can use it with the best monitor stand.

How We Decided

Finding the right monitor can be difficult, especially since the differences between each model are fairly small. Even though every monitor may look the same, those tiny differences are the ones that make each model stand out from the rest.

Aside from the quality of their display, we selected these monitors based on their screen resolution, brightness, and contrast ratio. You’ll immediately notice the difference in quality between a 720p and a 1080p monitor; the amount of pixels they can display greatly affects the sharpness of the image, while their brightness and contrast ratio affect screen visibility and color quality respectively. We also put portability, connectivity, and ease of use into consideration. The best 144Hz gaming monitor is also a good gaming choice. Some prefer models like the Dell Ultrasharp, but look at specs rather than brand. Check out other computer accessories to get the most from your PC.

External Monitor Buying Guide

The Most Important Features to Consider

  1. Resolution
    A 4K monitor’s resolution defines the total amount of pixels that it can display at any single point in time. Higher resolutions mean the display quality of the monitor will be better, but it may cause some computers to slow down because of the additional load, while lower resolution monitors will have the opposite effect. Make sure it has good viewing angles too.
  2. Size and Connectivity
    The size and wiring compatibility of a monitor can greatly impact its portability. If you’re looking for a monitor that you can use even when outside of the house or office, then take a look at its dimensions, size of its bevel, and connection ports. A monitor that can be used with just one connector port is much more convenient to use than a monitor that requires two or more. And if you have a thunderbolt 3 device you want to connect a device that matches.
  3. Brightness
    The brightness of a monitor will affect its display visibility as well as its effect on your eyes. The standard monitor brightness is right around 200-300 cd/m2.
  4. Contrast Ratio
    Contrast ratio refers to the balance between bright and dark colors that are displayed on a monitor’s screen. The typical contrast ratio for computer monitors is 1000:1; the higher the ratio, the better the image quality. And don’t forget to get a good pair of computer speakers. Your gaming monitors need it. And speaking of gaming, make sure you have a good graphics card.

External Monitor FAQs

What is a PnP monitor?

The term PnP stands for “Plug and Play.” This means that all you need to do in order to use a monitor is plug it into a compatible system.

Can I use portable monitors as my primary monitor?

Yes. They function just like normal monitors, so you can use them as such. Just be mindful of the connection types that the portable monitor allows.

Can I connect to a portable monitor wirelessly?

It depends on the monitor. Some monitors have a Bluetooth functionality that can let you display your phone or computer’s screen remotely.

Can I use a TV as a monitor instead?

Most modern televisions can be used as monitors for desktop PCs or laptops in case their primary monitors break down. So long as the television has a USB or HDMI port that’s compatible with your device, you’ll be able to use it as a monitor.

My device connectors don’t match the ports on my monitor. What can I do?

There are different types of connector adapters that can let you plug in your device to your monitor despite the mismatch. Adapters like HDMI to USB, USB-A to USB-C, or just about any other combination is available for purchase from retailers. Alternatively, you can connect your device to the monitor via Bluetooth if the feature is allowed.

Do I need to install special drivers for my monitor to work?

Most monitors come with their own software that’s automatically installed when plugged into a computer. Some manufacturers have specialized drivers that are meant to support unique features found in their monitors. Monitors with unique features like some ASUS or Acer monitors will work as generic PnP monitors, but their special features will remain unusable unless their corresponding drivers are installed.

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Geri Mileva

Based in Prague, CZ, Geri is a freelance writer with nine years of experience. Technology, marketing and finance are among her favorite topics to write about. She's also a strong advocate of plant-based and ethical living.

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