Is a single USB port all you need to power up a second monitor?
Installing a second monitor on your desktop PC is super easy and can give big gains in productivity, or at least the ability to waste time on meme web sites with twice the efficiency. Notebooks are another story, with few good options for a second screen. Some eager beavers even resort to a slim but still massive second desktop screen.
Fortunately, salvation is here. At a mere 14in, the Lenovo LT1421 may be smaller than many popular notebook screens and with an RRP of $199 it’s by no means cheap. It has no speakers, onboard OSD or any of the usual LCD fare. What is has, however, is the ability to run solely off a single USB port. No power pack, no separate data cable. You do need to install the included driver (from CD or online) but then it’s totally plug and play. You can also use up to six monitors at once if you so desire.
All things considered, the imagine quality is excellent. It’s as bright as your regular notebook screen and has vibrant colour reproduction (though only 262k colours) and great viewing angles of up to 90 degrees horizontally (50 vertically). It has an LED backlit screen with a resolution of 1,366 x 768 and a pleasing matte surface. You can adjust the brightness with a rear-mounted toggle. Spec wise, it has a 400:1 contrast ratio, 200 cd/m2 brightness and an 8ms response time. We experienced no lag and even HD video played back without any issues.
While it ran from a single USB port on our desktop and test notebook, the included standard mini-USB cable actually has two plugs. Lenovo reports this is for some older notebooks that can’t supply as much power through each USB port and need both to run the monitor. In our testing it ran perfectly when plugged in up to a five-metre USB extension cable -- letting you easily run it over long distances. Power draw is apparently very low but it’s hard to check accurately. Running on battery, our test notebook gave an estimated 10 minutes reduced battery life with the Lenovo plugged in, but your mileage may vary.
The LT1421 only weighs 835g and is under 10mm thick at the edge. Round the back it’s a little meatier but does include a handy fold-out stand with rubber tip that keeps it stable on any surface. It also comes with a clip-on cover (an extra 500g) to protect it from damage when you slip it into your notebook bag. One word of warning though, practise removing the cover before you take it out in public otherwise that suave deployment of your cool new bit of tech will look more like you’re wrestling to open an overly stubborn notebook.
The LT1421 can be found for a few dollars under the RRP, but if you need extra screen real-estate while on the go the Lenovo is totally worth the cost. Available from Lenovo, retailing for $170
.APC rating: 7/10