Connections consist of a single mini USB 2.0 port, which as mentioned provides both power and the video signal to drive the monitor’s 1,366 x 768 resolution. USB 2.0 would usually not provide enough bandwidth for a video signal like this, but thanks to DisplayLink technology the signal is compressed before it’s sent to the display, and then decompressed again by a chip in the LT1421 before getting shown. This tech works with both USB 2.0 and 3.0.
Unfortunately, unlike some DisplayLink devices the ThinkVision is not plug-and-play, but the driver is provided on a CD or can be downloaded from Lenovo’s site. On the plus side Lenovo provides a sturdy and lengthy 1.8m miniUSB to twin USB Y-cable, handy for those with older laptops that may not supply sufficient power over a single USB port.
Once its driver was installed, the ThinkVision LT1421 worked flawlessly. Lenovo’s DisplayLink Manager provides a control panel with all the options you could want when setting up a secondary screen, including extend, clone, primary and screen rotation. Physical controls are minimal, with an easily accessible rocker switch at the chassis’ rear letting you adjust between 16 different brightness settings.
Naturally, the most important aspect of any monitor is its image quality, and here the 14in LT1421 proves a decent contender albeit with a few caveats. Its 1366 x 768 resolution nicely matches most laptops, and its matt finish ensures annoying reflections shouldn’t be an issue. Colours are bright and punchy despite the ThinkVision’s low 200cd/m2 maximum brightness while blacks come across as fairly deep. Backlighting, meanwhile, is perfectly even with no bleed whatsoever.
Unfortunately it’s not all good news. Viewing angles suffer the typical TN-panel weaknesses: though they’re fairly good from the sides with only mild contrast shift, vertically even the slightest change in angle can affect contrast and colour severely. Contrast and dark detailing aren’t perfect either, with the subtlest shades being indistinguishable. And on some gradients and subtle colours, blockiness and banding betray that the ThinkVision LT1421 can only display 262k colours rather than the 16.2 million that most six-bit panels manage with the aid of dithering. In other words, for entertainment or colour-critical work this monitor may not be an ideal addition (depending on how you use it).
However, for its intended tasks - office productivity or presentations - and most other light uses, the ThinkVision LT1421 is certainly good enough. Its price of £120 may seem expensive considering that you can get a 23in, Full-HD IPS screen for less with the ViewSonic VX2336s-LED, but there’s as yet very little competition in the mobile USB monitor market, and the ThinkVision reliability is backed by a three-year warranty from Lenovo.
If you fancy a portable 14in USB monitor to use as a secondary display together with your laptop – or even as a primary with a netbook – for increased productivity or presentations, the ThinkVision LT1421 is a good choice. Thin, compact and light enough to fit in a messenger bag alongside your laptop, this 1kg screen features durable build, decent image quality, and it’s all powered over a single USB port thanks to the magic of DisplayLink.