As many TUAW readers know, I have a serious love affair with my 11" MacBook Air. If there's one issue that I have with it, it's that sometimes that screen seems just a little too small. Now AOC has released the e1649Fwu 16" Portable USB Monitor ($139.99) that is perfect for those situations where you want a second monitor for your MacBook Air or any other Mac.
For work with a laptop, the e1649Fwu is perfect. There's no power supply required; you just plug the monitor into a USB port, and you're ready to go. The screen measures 16" diagonally, and has a foldout stand that props the monitor up at a slight angle. The monitor can only be used in landscape (wide) mode on the Mac and has a fixed resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
What would you use a portable monitor for? It's perfect for giving presentations to a small group seated at a conference table, and it's a great way to get additional screen real estate with any Mac. While it's larger than the 11" MacBook Air I tested it with, the e1649Fwu weighs 2.3 lbs and fits into a backpack or computer bag. It would be nice if AOC included a cheap bag of some sort to pack the monitor in to keep it scratch-free when mobile, but I'd rather have the low price tag than a bag.
Apple purists will note that the monitor isn't up to "Apple standards." I noticed that when you're looking at a white display (a blank page, for instance) you can almost see the individual pixels on the screen. But still, it's a very bright display. Colors seemed a bit more saturated on the AOC monitor than on the MacBook Air display, but that is a personal observation instead of a highly sophisticated fact.
The connection to your Mac is made through an included USB to mini-USB cable. The USB side has two connectors. If you happen to have an older Mac with low-power USB ports, you might need to plug both connectors into ports to get sufficient power for the monitor.
If I have one complaint with the e1649Fwu, it's the location of the mini-USB port. For some reason, AOC chose to put it on the inside wall of the cavity made when you pull out the fold-out stand. As a result, it's hard to get to -- a simple connector on the back side of the monitor would have been sufficient and much easier to plug into.
Oh, yeah. I do have one more complaint -- the name. Couldn't you give it a more memorable title than e1649Fwu?
I'm quite impressed with the e1649Fwu. It's available online for about $130, there's no need to carry around a power brick or heavy cable, and it just works when plugged in. Mac users will need to download and install the monitor driver from the AOC website prior to plugging in the monitor, but you can do that before your monitor shows up on your doorstep. Once that's done, making the connection to the e1649Fwu with the cable gives you an instant second monitor.
Although I was unable to test the capability with a Mac, AOC says that multiple monitors can be attached to a single computer through multiple USB ports. That would be handy for gamers, day traders or anyone else who might want three or four monitors attached to their Mac.
The e1649Fwu doesn't seem to even get warm when it's on, and is completely silent. You would probably want to keep the host computer plugged in, as I'm sure that the load of the monitor would reduce battery life significantly.
The AOC e1649Fwu portable monitor is good-sized, reasonably priced and incredibly energy efficient. I can always tell if a product is a winner if I get the urge to buy it, and I'm seriously considering picking up one of these as a second monitor for my iMac and MacBook Air. It would be perfect for consultants who need to occasionally plug a monitor into a headless server and even makes a great primary screen for an 11" MacBook Air with its cover closed (think about using a Twelve South BookArc and external keyboard ...).