Product Reviews: the Desklab Monitor

Back in 2019, I joined in on a kickstarter for the Desklab monitor, a portable touchscreen 4K monitor. This seemed like a great idea for me, as hey, I do a lot of travel and it’s really nice having a second monitor around. It wouldn’t be convenient while traveling, but at the hotel, having that second screen would make me a lot more productive, and so it’s definitely worth the money. With an arrival time of, oh, March of 2020, it’d arrive just in time for the spring conference season.

Then March of 2020 hit and travel went from travel to dozens of cities per year to dozens of steps walked per year. The monitor’s production was delayed to boot, so I didn’t actually get it until about April of 2021. That was not a great experience, but they’ve worked all of those logistical problems out so I won’t hold it against them.

What It Is

The Desklab monitor is a 15″ 4K touchscreen monitor, which supports USB-C and HDMI. If you want the touchscreen to work, you’ll need to use USB-C. Also, if you’re using HDMI, you’ll need to use the A/C adapter to draw power. When using USB-C against a laptop, no A/C power is necessary.

I bought the magnetic stand/cover as well and would recommend it. It feels at first like it’s not sturdy enough to hold the monitor up, but as long as you aren’t knocking it around too much, it’s quite stable. I’ve had a Desklab monitor sitting on my desk at home for the past 6 months and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to re-set the magnetic stand—and all of those times came because I bumped the monitor on accident or had to move it, not because the monitor slipped off of its own accord.

How I’ve Used It

Because I haven’t done so much travel in the past 18 months (he says, while typing this out in a hotel room), I decided to use it as a Voicemeeter board on my desktop PC, at which it performed admirably. I didn’t use the touch functionality very much because it “steals” the mouse pointer, but having a 15″ high-resolution screen nearby has been nice.

Ever since moving to a different audio input system, I haven’t needed Voicemeeter anymore. Now I keep my home and work e-mail on that screen, freeing up space on the main monitor for me to focus more on work and less on alt-tabbing to e-mail. It also forces the e-mail screen to be a little to the side and not right in front of my face, acting as a reminder that e-mail is asynchronous and if it waits another 30 seconds (or 30 minutes…), nobody will care.

I’ve also used it to play video streams, especially distractionary streams while I’m working. That way, I can keep the rest of my monitors available for work.

And Then Another

A couple months after getting my first Desklab, I ended up ordering a second one because I liked it so much. The original intent was to have a second monitor available for travel, but if I was going to have one strictly for my desktop setup (and frankly, that monitor’s not going anywhere), I’d want another for its intended purpose.

I can confirm that it “just works” with elementary OS and I’d expect it to work on other Linux distributions as well. As a 15″ monitor, just a little too big for my electronics backpack, but fits nicely in a carry-on bag.

Last Thoughts

The Desklab is a little expensive, but it’s a high-quality portable monitor. You can get a 1080p version for less, though honestly, I’d just save up for the 4K version. This is a niche product, but if you’re on the go or want a second monitor about the same size as your laptop monitor, it’s worth it. It does also support connecting to phones and the Nintendo Switch, but I haven’t had much of a need for either of those scenarios and haven’t tried it out.

I’ll end with two quick bits of commentary. First, I have noticed that sometimes it powers on with 20 brightness, making it hard to see. I tend to bump it up to 50-60 brightness to match my other monitors. This leads me to my second comment, which is that making these sorts of adjustments has too much of a “fumble around until you get it” feel to me. There is obviously a specific way to get to the menu, select menu items, and set values, but you do that through three buttons on the side and it’s a bit awkward, especially because the mean time between config screen interactions is high enough that I typically forget which button does what and end up fumbling around for a while until I get it.

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