- Durable, thin and light
- Protective cover
- Matt finish on screen and body
- Runs completely off a single USB
- Adequate image quality
- No portrait mode
- Relatively expensive due to lack of competition
- Some image quality issues make it unsuitable for photo work
- Review Price: £120.00
- 14in 1366 x 768 matt-finish screen
- Receives power and video through single USB 2.0 cable
If you want to optimise productivity, one of the best ways to do it is to get a second monitor. Whether you’re a home, business or professional user, more desktop real estate to work in makes everything easier and allows you to have more windows open side by side.
But how do you cope with this if you’re on the go, other than dragging a massive monitor, video and power cables around? Well, you can go for a portable, USB powered screen like the 14in Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421.
Light and slim enough to fit in a large messenger bag without too much trouble, this 1kg monitor receives both power and video signal through a single mini USB cable – and thanks to a sturdy cover that fully protects its fragile display area, you can throw it into the same bag as a laptop without too much worry.
Presentation of this monitor is typical Think, the moniker Lenovo uses for all its business and executive products. It’s entirely finished in durable matt black plastic, which is reasonably scratch resistant and provides a good grip, though it’s not as nice as the soft-touch finish found on many ThinkPad laptops like the X220. Our only real complaint is that the monitor’s cover especially does show up fingerprints rather well.
Weight and dimensions are around 1kg for the screen and 1.3kg with cover, while the screen is 38mm at its thickest point with the cover adding around 3mm. Build quality is good, with perfectly fitted panels, reasonably thick plastics and minimal flex. It’s nowhere near as tank-like as the affordable Lenovo ThinkPad X121e, but then this is a very different product, and it feels plenty durable to survive the rigours of the road.
Once off, the ThinkVision LT1421’s cover can be used as a base for standing the screen on, though this is not a requirement. We might have preferred a cover that was actually attached to the display, but at least this arrangement gives you an out-of-the-way place to stow it while the monitor’s in use.
Meanwhile, a flexible leg at the ThinkVision’s rear lets you adjust tilt in generous measure, with grooves on the inside of the cover acting as adjustment increments. The leg’s tip is rubberised and the screen rests on thick rubber pads to prevent marking any delicate surface you may want to use it on. However, we would have liked to see the leg swivel to support using the monitor in portrait mode.
You can of course fold the monitor into the cover with its screen facing out to give it a flat profile or prop it against something. Though there’s no height adjustment, by default the LT1421 will line up neatly with most 13-15in laptops.
Obviously this portable display will have an impact on your laptop’s battery life if your laptop isn’t plugged in, but at a low maximum of 4.2W and a mere 0.1W in stand-by, it shouldn’t cost you more than a third of your mobile juice in a worst-case scenario – and in most cases you’ll be using this display near a power outlet for your laptop/netbook/tablet anyway.
Continue reading page 2 of the Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421: Connectivity, Image Quality, Value and Verdict >
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.
Score in detail
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.