Have You Ever Considered Traveling With Large Computer Monitors?

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Have You Ever Considered Traveling With Large Computer Monitors? post image

Click around the web and you’ll find estimates, all over the map, about how much screen size affects our productivity at work. The real numbers will obviously vary from person to person, and from task to task. But, for me, I’ve always preferred working on big screens.

When I managed a small design team in the mid 2000’s, the time it took us to create mechanical drawings was one of our business’s biggest constraints. I felt bigger monitors would help us work faster. I petitioned the owner of the business to purchase large monitors for all our designers. We had a long debate about it– it was a chunk of change — but he relented.

A few weeks later I walked into his office and, I noticed, he too had purchased a larger monitor.

“It works.” he said.

Of course, I have always thought, having extra large monitors wasn’t really an option for those of us who work location independently, often traveling week to week, month to month.

I spent most of my ‘traveling years’ with a 15″ Macbook tucked in my backpack. And when I bought a 13″ laptop last year I immediately felt the effects of less screen real estate.

So, when I signed a year-long lease last January, I over-compensated.

I went out and bought not one but two 27″ monitors…

A photo posted by Dan Andrews (@tropicalmba) on

I’d never travel with a big-ass monitor, though. That would be a total pain, right?

Perhaps not.

One evening, while scanning our forum, I came across a thread written by Halvor Halvorsen, founder of the Translatorium.

Here’s what he said:

Bringing the screen for travelling is actually very easy, I do it unless I’m going away for less than a week. Takes 5 minutes to assemble. When I pack it down, I just fill the bottom of the suitcase evenly with clothes with the screen faced down… The way I see it, it’s pure health and money… So more money, more spare time, and less suffering and pain. Who doesn’t want that?

Yeah, who doesn’t want that?

Of course, it depends on how you intend to travel. Bringing a monitor along on an open ended on-the-road adventure isn’t worth it.

But if you’re just going to Asia for a few months on business, and you’ve booked your accommodation ahead of time, why wouldn’t you take a suitable workstation?

So I decided to give it a try.

I figured that, in the worst case scenario, I’d crack a monitor. But perhaps I’d make up enough productivity to make it worth buying a replacement on my return to Barcelona?

Well, so far I’ve been on 3 long-haul flights and not a scratch. But, more amazing to me, is the ability to get work done. And here’s the thing: this might be even more important when you’re in town for a long conference, mastermind, or even exploring the neighborhood or checking out a new sport/activity/friends. If time at your workstation is limited, why not make the most of it?

I just arrived at an apartment in Bangkok 30 minutes ago, here’s my desk:

img_1603

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Packing the monitor was simply a matter of putting it, face down, at the bottom of a standard, full-size piece of luggage.

I then (scientifically!) wedged a bunch of clothes around the critical corners, using my jeans and shorts as sort of a ‘wedge’ to hold it in place. Setup was a snap.
img_1604

At minimum, I was certainly able to write this blog post much faster :)

Pro tip: using a big screen becomes even more effective if you become proficient in keyboard shortcut tools like Better Touch Tool or Moom. These allow you to quickly move windows around your desktop. I often use screens side-by-side, or in some cases, have two windows open for reference while I work on one document (a ‘meta’ example: right now I am editing this post on the left side of my screen, and checking the final version on the right hand side of the screen).

Here’s what that looks like:
screen-shot-2016-10-05-at-10-30-03-pm

Thanks again to Halvor Halvorsen, founder of the Translatorium, for bringing to my attention this delightfully simple idea.

Have you ever considered traveling with an external monitor? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Cheers,

Dan

 

Published on 10.11.16
  • TJ

    I use the Duet Display app to use my iPad as a second monitor when traveling. It works with both Mac and PC. http://www.duetdisplay.com/
    Asus and a few other companies also offer 15″ travel monitors with a case.
    https://www.asus.com/us/Monitors/MB169C-plus/

  • slick!

  • TJ

    Of course, in a few more years we’ll probably be wearing VR goggles and won’t care about physical screens!
    https://www.oculus.com/experiences/rift/911715622255585/

  • Look forward to that!

  • And here I thought I was the weird one traveling to trade show after trade show with a monitor in my suitcase. :) I then switched to putting it in a hockey duffle bag (with a towel wrapped around it with tape) which also was big enough to hold our pop-up banners and other trade show materials (brochures, notepad giveaways, etc). No damage to the monitor after 10 or 12 trade shows within a 3 month timeframe. This is all to say that monitors are more durable that one might think.

  • Dan that’s a big screen :-) I often travel with a smaller one. Saying that you could easily have a two screen setup using your laptop as one if you grab a Logitech wireless mouse keyboard combo, they have one that is about 15″ wide “the keyboard” in most of the tesco lotus’s in Thailand around $25 works a treat.

  • I do the same. I have a MacBook Pro and the 12″ iPad Pro. With Duet, I have 2 screens of roughly the same size. What I like is that together, they’re still not really that heavy. I carry them both in my messenger bag which I bring with me everywhere. You kind of feel like a boss when you sit in Starbucks with 2 monitors…and no power cords!

  • dang that’s surprising! (re: keyboard) will take a peak.

  • haha that sounds like a hustle kit! :) re: durability, I think that was one of the shocking things to me about the post as well (10 years, he didn’t mention breaking one) and with all the effort I go to “replacing” my monitors by going shopping in each location i ended up in, figured it was a worthy experiment. so far so good.

  • Very cool way to stay light, have never looked into this

  • This is very interesting. I also realised a year ago that working on a 12″ Macbook was tiring me a lot. Never considered traveling with a big screen though, even though it does not break doesent it take a lot of your luggage space and weight? I was considering getting a 15″ laptop when the new macbook comes out, if its light, if not there are a lot of light PC options now.

    I´m going to Bali for 3 months in december and I contacted the coworking place Dojo Bali, they happen to rent out screens and the same price that you pay extra to use your own, so I will take that for this trip.

    My business partner travels with this 15″ second screen which he is really happy about. For my work, I dont find I need a second screen that much, just a bigger one.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GHAKH6Y

  • Bunty

    I have; but I value the versatility of easily switching between 2 screens more than screen size. When I travel shorter distances with a light, small backpack, I carry a USB powered screen.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8bf17529a323cd5d8a4f5eea30afd55d7f9365fb7ae8cceac40a653a071b17f9.jpg

  • makes sense to me, there’s a lot of value for me too in a ‘reference’ screen, use case for me is checking documents/spreadsheets while composing emails etc.

  • re: lot of luggage space and weight ? not really… still coming in under weight requirements and once the monitor has been covered up by clothes I more or less forgot it was in there.

  • rumurphy

    This is my set up for two years now (can’t figure out how to rotate the pics on here). It’s been a game changer on the road or at the local coffee shop. The cardboard stand, while ghetto, is clutch. It weighs practically nothing and you can make one wherever you are. I’ve been using the same cardboard and still holding up well and is very stable.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e9a57bab39686a8d1c10332ced8fa5272c86c8343ef24eabc179f1c52101882e.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cda0a79083c8588513feac1c93391f529d78c9feb49e99e5472a8822d7cda2ba.jpg
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a46912cd35e517bd003887ad5b4e1764f60e0d766ff3bb1f1e4cbd48f7332349.jpg

  • haha that is so funny! great product idea actually, another reader of this blog was in development of something with similar properties but I believe never ended up shipping it outside of personal use. very cool!

  • that is great, will definitely consider taking my big monitor to bali! thanks for posting your experience!

  • :D

  • Arie

    Just got the Asus MB169+ as a second (USB) screen for on the road. At 800 grams it has the same dimensions and resolution as my primary laptop screen, which makes window manipulation that much easier. Be aware of a slight lag for these USB screens.

  • Sick set up! That’s committing to a lot of bulk to carry around, though.

    I’d love a big external monitor (or two), but don’t want to carry one around.

    A couple of intermediate solutions that work is just to buy one if you’re in a hub for at least three months, and stash or sell it when you leave. The extra productivity is worth the cost.

    Another sick setup I recently saw was to attach a iPad pro to the side of your laptop screen. Is mobile and you can take it to coffeeshops if you want.

  • Cheers! Yeah I did the buy and stash for years, the tradeoff for me would be 1) shopping for the monitor and 2) not getting one if I haven’t committed to a final work space, so in effect I’d spend weeks or even months not getting one b/c I’d be in apartment purgatory… right now, for example, I’m in a 2 week rental in CM working on the big screen, not sure those two weeks would be 27″ ‘enabled’ before this strategy. That said, I am lugging around some big ass luggage. :)

  • nice one! at minimum would be very useful for tossing stuff up for reference and doing the primary work on your home screen

  • Makes a lot of sense. The extra screen size is definitely a game changer (which I sorely lack).

    Let me know once you’ve found a solution to pack a good mobile pullup bar, scale, and standup desk in there as well and I’ll copy your setup ;)

  • haha defo a biz op in there somewhere

  • Oliver Oberdorf

    This is my setup too and it’s great. I mainly use it for trading with extra charts on the usb screen and a tablet showing a twitter feed.

  • Just dropping by… a few months later and a handful of flights more, and one unexpected extension here in Asia and this move has been absolutely invaluable.

    I’ve had to think a bit ahead at airports and stuff, but for day-to-day keeping up with the business, and with the occasional big day in front of the computer to push out a new project, it’s just been a game changer.

  • Sean S

    Gents, this entire dilemma can be solved easily without ever needing an actual monitor. Email me for the details of the perfect invention I came up with that is lightweight and can give you a visual display that is 3-5 times bigger than your traditional flat screen monitors. Thanks! Sean S

    ssweeney@sweeneyhospitality.com

    Director and Event Technolgy Professional for over 15 years.

  • TJ

    Just came across this neat triple monitor solution for laptops called Slidenjoy. They are based in Belgium: https://www.getyourslide.com/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6SUTsH35Fo

  • TJ

    Here is another interesting portable monitor solution, the Arovia Spud. http://www.arovia.io/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n3mJZv7-u0

  • appreciate the heads up TJ

  • I’ve been traveling with two 1080p 21.5″ 1.5″ thick Dell IPS LED monitors in my carry on luggage for years. They barely fit in the carry on bag, but still room for a week’s worth of clothes. Set up portrait mode next to my laptop, they work perfectly. It only fits in the larger US-sized overheads.

    I’ve cracked 2 monitors over the years. In both cases it was the unusual times I travelled United, which has a policy of sending plane-side checked luggage to the airport baggage claim carousel rather than plane-side pickup. But the monitors only cost $100-200 each.

    I’d like lighter monitors or more cable convenience, but most monitors designed for travel are too small, too few pixels, or not bright enough.

  • Javier Candela

    Hello, I highly doubt you’ll respond to this any soon, if at all, but how would you think about fitting a 21-24~ monitor + a small form factor PC + keyboard and mouse in a suitcase?

    I suppose I could do that and then use an additional suitcase for clothes, etc.
    To be honest, I don’t usually travel, so I’d just want it to be able to move around houses (every X months, not even often).

    I was going to buy a laptop, but since I want a really BEAST system to be able to have the best performance I’d ever dream of for gaming, it’s not the best option due to very high temperatures on these. Otherwise, I’d just get a notebook…

  • Boutar Badii

    That’s exactly what I was thinking about for my monitor, and you sir have encouraged me! haha!
    Thanks you man!! ^^

  • you got it :)

  • Since writing this I’ve cracked one monitor as well, but I blame myself for not sufficiently wedging the thing in place (I didn’t bring enough clothes). Started putting a little more energy into protecting the thing and so far no more incidents.

  • ME too! lol

  • Mike S.

    Just a +1 and thanks. I have been working up the gumption to try this, and this level of detail is exactly what I was looking for — and the comments are helpful too. Thanks for this!

  • You got it Mike, I’ve become somewhat obsessed with this as it’s really been a game changer to have a quality workstation while on the road.

    Here’s an updated tip: I now use one side of the styrofoam clamshell packaging at the bottom of my luggage, I then put the monitor facedown into the clamshell and put my clothes on top. Works great and gives me some extra confidence, and one side of the clamshell doesn’t take up so much space (if you use both sides it takes up way too much of the bag IMO). Good luck!

  • john smith

    What is the brand and size of the monitor you travel with?

  • john smith

    @TropicalMBA:disqus What is the brand & model of the monitor you set up in your: “I just arrived at an apartment in Bangkok 30 minutes ago, here’s my desk:” picture?

  • HP 24″ I find fit’s nicely into my luggage.

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