Looking to level up your “mobile” office? Yes, digital nomads and folks who work on the go, I’m talking to you! Often find yourselves frustrated with the minimal amount of screen real estate your laptop has to offer? If you answered yes, then you should consider the Asus ZenScreen MB16AC as your next portable monitor purchase.
- MountEra Mount Clip
- USB Type C Ultra Short Cable 0.3m
- USB Type C 90 Degree Angled Adapter
Portable USB-C powered monitors (emphasis on portable) seem to be on the rise. I just so happened to have recently invested in one and so far my experience with it has been positive, and I just wanted to share what that experience has been like so far in this personal product review.
The screen real estate an external monitor & laptop gives me when I’m working at home is something I’ve become accustomed to. However, going from that back to just my laptop limits my efficiency when I leave home to go work out of a cafe, or anywhere else, really. To soften that jarring transition a bit, I started looking into portable monitors, and one which I could ideally bring with me when I go out.
This was the ASUS MB16AC, a 15.6 inch portable monitor. For the sake having the same kind of productivity & efficiency as when I’m working at home, I decided to take a chance with this, and so far it’s been pretty awesome!
The display is a 1080p IPS display. You’ll immediately notice the difference in screen resolution if you’re used to looking at a retina display. While 4K would be nice, I was more after the portability factor.
And in fact, 1080p really isn’t that bad. I suppose if you’re a graphic designer or someone who works with photo editing that needs super precise color accuracy, then this screen may not be for you.
But for the common folk, I believe it would suit us just fine.
Just to reiterate, the screen is powered by USB-C, so whatever it’s connected to is where it will draw its energy to power the display.
This WILL significantly drain your laptop battery, in my case, a MacBook Pro (15-inch 2017). But if you’re the kind to be constantly plugged in, then I suppose this won’t be an issue.
To give a little more context on the kind of environment I was testing this under, here are some brief notes I took while using the product within a 3 hour work session:
- 7:30AM – MacBook Brightness (80%) + ASUS Monitor Brightness (70%) | Battery 100%
- 8:55AM – Battery 50%
- 9:30AM – Battery 22% -> END (at this point i started charging my laptop)
As you can see, only 2 hours of use I went from 100% battery to 22%. But it’s probably worth noting, I did have the brightness on my main laptop cranked up! I was also running numerous applications in the background, these being the main ones:
- Google Chrome (5 tabs) + 1 tab using an internal proprietary chat client for my main work
- Ghost Browser
- One Password
- Keyboard Maestro
- Another internal tool being a proxy client software
I have yet to test how long my MacBook battery would last when connected to the monitor under lower brightness. I imagine it would naturally last a bit longer.
Back before portable monitors were a thing, I actually used to use my 3rd generation iPad as an external monitor for my Toshiba netbook using the Duet app as the software that connects the two.
The lag time with moving windows or apps between the two devices was horrendously bad. And that’s all I remember from working with an “external monitor” set up.
Fortunately, times have changed and to get back on topic, I can pleasantly say there is absolutely zero lag time with the ASUS MB16AC. If there is, then I haven’t noticed it all.
Mounted VS Propped
Now, here’s the section I couldn’t wait to get to — this is a fun one!
The monitor comes with a magnetic case, similar to what the iPad has, and it can be used to to prop the display upright, and at different angles. I really only use the basic folding position if and when I use it.
However, I’m much more of a fan with the way the monitor looks when mounted directly onto my laptop, which is how you see it in my videos.
The mounts you see me using are separate purchases, and so far they show promise of holding up. I’m using x2 MountEra Mount Clips to attach the screen to my MacBook. I’m really glad I bought x2, since two mounts are definitely needed. I wouldn’t be too sure about the screen holding up on only one mount.
You should also take note that I’m using a substantially shorter USB-C cable (0.3m) to connect the screen to my laptop. This makes for a more simple & clearn cable management solution.
Additionally, this would only work when the screen is mounted on the right, since there is only a single USB-C port on the ZenScreen. I wanted the port to be as close to my MacBook’s USB-C input as possible.
To avoid not being able to actually plug in the cable in the screen when mounted so close together, I purchased a nifty little USB-C 90 Degree Angled Adapter to solve this. I’m sure you can pick something like this up at your local electronics store, but if you’re lazy you can always just order it on Amazon for a negligible price.
Ever since rocking this setup in cafes or coffee shops, I definitely get a lot eyes on it, and even some folks actually coming up to me asking what screen this is and how I mount it to my laptop.
The space it occupies when completely set up is not all that much, as it is literally taking up 15.6 more inches of space than you normally would. It’s enough to make folks think this person means business, but not so much that it’s obnoxious.
It’s not heavy, but it’s not a featherweight either. It’s listed as 780g (1.72 lbs | .78 kg), but when you add the case to it, it’s mostly closer to a good 2lbs.
The monitor fits just nicely in my Aer Fit Pack 2 along with my MacBook in the laptop pocket of the bag, but I noticed the weight difference immediately after adding it in.
I had to KonMari my bag a bit after realizing how much heavier it was. Made sure that only items that sparked joy in my life were left in there…
Practical Use Cases
- Works as a 3rd monitor
- Use it to watch something passively in the background while working i.e. stock prices, chat or video client, … YouTube
- Functions as a mirrored monitor which could be useful if you need to present something to a client and need to show them what’s on your screen
- Take advantage of its vertical orientation to display your work… vertically! For developers, this would be useful if working with long blocks of code that run hundreds of lines down your editor
Other Notable Points
- Apparently mobile Android devices are able to work nicely with this monitor. I don’t know what that’s like since I’m an Apple user for everything. But there are YT videos out there that show how it works.
- The screen is very fingerprint prone
- USB Type-A compatible (comes with an adapter)
- Oh right, if you were wondering about the retail price, it is $250. But you could of course find lower prices if you buy it on Amazon