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The Espresso Display Review: An Ultra-Thin, Freedom-Boosting Portable Monitor

The Takeaway: Even with its quirks, the Espresso display lives up to the company’s claim of being a premium portable monitor that frees up the work-from-home crowd to bring a second screen with them nearly anywhere.

  • 13- or 15.6-inch FHD 1080p display
  • 16:9 aspect ratio
  • USB-C and mini HDMI ports

    Buy Now


    If you’re still working from home at least some of the time, you might relate to my feeling trapped at my desk all day. Sure, I can unplug my laptop to head to the couch or back porch, but I’ll lose the convenience of the second screen I use to help me navigate the many tabs and programs I have open at once.

    Portable monitors are relatively recent products designed to solve this issue—and the new company Espresso has developed an eponymous display that’s currently the thinnest on the market at just 5.5mm. Available in 13- and 15-inch sizes, it will add additional workspace to your set up while remaining flexible to go with you almost wherever. I tested a 15-inch Espresso display for a few weeks for work (and play) from my usual desk to the couch to the patio to see if it lives up to its promises of portability.

    Espresso 15.6-In. Ultra-Thin Touchscreen Monitor

    Espresso Displays
    amazon.com

    $349.00

    Setup, Connectivity, and Design

    The first apparent thing about the Espresso is its premium design that rivals Apple’s iPad Pro (and also won gold in Australia’s Good Design Awards). The aeronautical-grade aluminum body feels sleek and lightweight but still durable enough that I wasn’t too worried about throwing it in a backpack for a weekend. I tested the display with Espresso’s FlipCase, which snaps on magnetically, adding some protection to the body while functioning as a stand (like most tablet case/stands) without making the display any thicker than my MacBook.

    I found setting up and connecting the monitor to my laptop to be surprisingly straightforward. First, Espresso clearly labels the three included cables—a USB Type C to Type C, USB Type A to Type C, and HDMI to mini HDMI. Fortunately, the Espresso is compatible with all kinds of devices, including Mac and Windows laptops, some mobile phones and tablets (though you’ll need additional adaptors for those), and even gaming consoles like the Nintendo Switch. There are three ports on the side of the display: the first USB Type C to power small devices, the second USB Type C port (which transfers power and video for devices made after 2017), and the mini-HDMI port on the bottom that will transfer video for older devices.

    Since I own a 2016 MacBook Air, this required me to plug in both the USB Type C to Type A and the HDMI cable through a Thunderbolt-to-HDMI adapter. Though those with older devices may have to use multiple cables to connect, I was glad that Espresso clearly describes this setup process through instructions included in the packaging, as well as a detailed support page that will walk you through how to connect to any device.

    Power and Performance

    Despite being accustomed to working from a 13-inch laptop screen, I still find it convenient to have a second screen on hand, such as to view my notes or research on one screen while writing on another. Even the larger 15-inch size of the Espresso monitor can’t match the space or replace a full-size monitor, but it’s a nice balance of more room without being so large as to tie me down to my desk. In addition to its helpfulness for frequent travelers or others who work from home, it could also be a great option for students to take from a dorm room to the library.

    The Espresso is equipped with a standard 16:9 aspect ratio and a decent 60Hz refresh rate, meaning it didn’t lag when I was playing games or videos. The display also has built-in speakers, which provided decent sound—though they’re positioned at the bottom edge of the device and sounded weaker and more muffled when the monitor was resting directly on a surface. Two buttons on the bottom left edge allow you to raise and lower the volume easily.

    While at first I was frustrated by the seeming inability to change brightness (Volume buttons but no brightness buttons?), these buttons also work for the screen’s lighting. Just hold in the top volume button to switch to brightness, and then use both buttons to brighten or dim the screen. With this feature and the ability to adjust the monitor’s colors from my computer’s settings, I had no trouble using the display outside in the sunlight or in a dimly lit bedroom with the blue light reduced.

    One minor inconvenience I ran into when using the Espresso was that, when I moved the screen or cables slightly, such as when changing positions in my seat with the display next to me, it would temporarily disconnect and go black before connecting again. It seems as though the video display ports could be more secure to prevent this, especially given that the device is designed to be portable enough to move around.

    Other than that, I was able to easily close up the Espresso display in its FlipCase after using it at my desk, and then carry it while still plugged into my laptop over to the couch or outside to the back patio without interrupting my workflow.

    Accessories

    While I only tested the monitor with the FlipCase, Espresso has plenty of other accessories to complement the monitor. I would recommend opting for the MountGo tabletop mount for desktop use if you plan to use this display in replacement or in addition to a standard monitor. For a wall-mounted option, there’s also the MountPro. I was impressed with how strong the magnets held to the FlipCase, so I think it’s safe to say that these mounts will also be secure despite not snapping onto the monitor.

    The Espresso website also offers a screen protector, backpack, and touch software, which turns the monitor into a touch screen compatible with Macs. While I haven’t tested those capabilities, this downloadable software allows you to set customizable settings—and it may just be the best option for Mac users who’ve been waiting forever for Apple to release a touch-screen MacBook.

    Unfortunately, all of these accessories can easily add up to well over the $300 base price of the 13-inch Espresso display. I would have liked to see at least one accessory, like a screen protector, FlipCase, or touch software, included with the monitor itself to make up for the high price tag. But instead, you’ll have to carefully consider what accessories you really need.

    Portable monitors are fairly new offerings, but keep in mind that the Espresso isn’t your only option—though it is the thinnest and perhaps most premium. The base prices of $300 for 13 inches or $350 for 15 are fairly reasonable in comparison to other monitors, though the many optional accessories can quickly add up to $500 or more. In comparison, the Asus ZenScreen costs just over $200 and is a smidge wider at 8mm, and although it comes with a case/stand, it doesn’t compete with the many accessories Espresso offers.

    Overall, the Espresso display may be the best monitor to invest in now if you’re looking forward to traveling once COVID-19 restrictions loosen up this summer or if you’re currently transitioning to a more hybrid work schedule. For many, it’s powerful enough to use as a primary monitor from home while remaining portable enough to take with you to days in the office or to work from cafes and even outside. After over a year of working from home, I’ve certainly enjoyed using the Espresso display as a change from my usual desk space.

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