If you're used to working with a dual monitor setup at your desk, it can be hard to live with just your notebook when you're out on the road. Being able to assign different applications to each screen, and enjoy all that extended desktop real estate is a real bonus when it comes to productivity, and leaving it behind isn't easy.
Toshiba has come up with an innovative answer to the quandary above, with its USB Mobile Monitor. As its name suggests, this is a monitor that's designed to be mobile, just like your notebook, giving you all that dual-screen goodness no matter where you happen to be. The video data is pumped to the Mobile Monitor via the USB port, with no need to employ traditional video connectors such as D-SUB, HDMI or DVI. The DisplayLink technology that Toshiba has used is nothing new, but it's not just the video signal that's coming down the USB cable, it's also the power to drive the monitor itself.
The Mobile Monitor ships with a twin-USB to mini-USB cable. A single USB port doesn't carry enough power to drive the monitor, so you need to plug into two USB ports on your notebook. This would be something of a problem on my 11.6in MacBook Air, since it only has two USB ports and they're located at either side of the chassis. However, since the Mobile Monitor isn't compatible with Macs, that's not as much of a problem as it first seemed, although its Windows only compatibility is disappointing.
The fact that the Toshiba Mobile Monitor doesn't require any kind of external power source, just makes it all the more portable. Improving that portability further, is the fact that the monitor comes in a faux leather carry case, which both protects the screen and acts as a handily adjustable stand when you're using it. The Mobile Monitor is roughly the same size as a 14in notebook, so it shouldn't be too hard to slip into your bag if you're going to be out on the road for a while.
With a 14in widescreen display, the Mobile Monitor sports a resolution of 1,366 x 768. That should work quite nicely with most ultra-portable notebooks, and create a near seamless dual-screen setup. The Mobile Monitor can be angled to match the screen on your notebook too.
There's not much in the way of controls - just buttons for power and brightness adjustments. On the left edge is a mini-USB port, while on the right is an AC adapter port - I'm not sure why you'd need to use an external power supply, unless of course you don't have two spare USB ports.
The Mobile Monitor isn't going to win any awards for image quality, but it can hold its own alongside more notebook displays. The picture does have a slightly washed out look to it, no matter how you adjust the brightness, and viewing angles aren't particularly wide either. That said, you're not likely to need wide viewing angles from, what is essentially, a personal screen.
Brightness is somewhat lacking too, even at the highest setting, but considering the Mobile Monitor is pulling all its power from a USB port, that's not a huge surprise. The brightness might improve when connected to a mains power supply, but since the screen doesn't ship with one I couldn't check. Again though, the brightness is ample when alongside most notebook displays.
The Mobile Monitor is one of those products that's a Godsend if you actually need it, and something of a curiosity if you don't. Personally, I think the concept of a portable companion monitor for notebook is a great idea, but then I travel a lot and find myself working 'till the early hours of the morning in hotel rooms all too often.
If you do think that the Mobile Monitor is just what you're looking for, at least it won't break the bank. The screen can be had online for around £110 from a number of retailers, which seems fairly reasonable considering the potential increase in productivity.
The Toshiba Mobile Monitor is an interesting product that addresses the needs of a certain type of mobile user. If you're not that type of user, you'll wonder why the Mobile Monitor exists, but if you are, you'll wonder why it has taken so long for a product like this to appear.
The lack of Mac support is a big disappointment though, and would rule the Mobile Monitor out for me, despite the fact that the concept suits my needs well.