Can you even imagine being born before 1995? Not only would you have grown up without a smartphone, you also would have had to walk to school (uphill, both ways, in the snow). Your favorite video games would have been physically confined to your living room, along with the 98-pound, 16″ CR-TV you played them on.
Fortunately, it’s 2020, and now you can take your games almost anywhere. Laptops capable of running most AAA games are a thing, but they can get pretty expensive. Just look at these best gaming laptops.
Portable gaming monitors for consoles are a much more affordable option.
We’ve handpicked five of the best easily-movable screens on the market, and we’ve put together a useful buying guide to help you evaluate them objectively.
Top 5 Portable Gaming Monitors
Portable gaming monitors are still kind of a new-ish thing; only a small number of manufacturers are putting serious money into producing them, and a big chunk of those that do exist are cheap foreign knockoffs of seriously questionable quality.
Asus, AOC, and GAEMS appear to be the three biggest portable gaming monitor manufacturers. Some major players in the desktop monitor sector—like ViewSonic and HP—are starting to break in though, slowly but surely.
Let’s be clear about one thing: portable monitors are super different from traditional desktop monitors, especially when you use them for gaming. We want to stress that it’s only been a few years since such a thing as a portable gaming monitor could even exist; that particular form of technology still has a lot of growing to do.
Don’t expect 18 hours of battery life and 1ms response times, even in the highest-end models. Bear in mind that the main draw here is that they’re portable—you have to give up a lot of what’s become standard in desktop monitors to achieve that, so keep your expectations modest.
Best Choice: GAEMS Vanguard
Pros & Cons
- Durable construction, nice protective case
- Easily portable with built-in cable management
- Lackluster 720p resolution
- Storage pouches for controllers, cords, and accessories
- Compatible with all fifth- and sixth-gen consoles
- Integrated speakers
GAEMS Vanguard Review
If you’re after a truly all-in-one solution for taking your games on the road with as little hassle as possible, we recommend the GAEMS Vanguard portable gaming system.
We would assume that if you’re out to buy a portable gaming monitor, you probably intend to travel with it—so above all else, it should be both durable and easy to move from place to place. The GAEMS Vanguard excels on both fronts, which is the main reason it’s taking home the “best overall” award.
Its hard plastic shell is pretty strong, especially given how light the whole thing is (whatever console you stuff in there will account for 90% of the total weight). It probably won’t last long if you wail on it with a crowbar, but it should be able to handle being dropped without transferring too much impact energy to your console.
As far as usability, the GAEMS Vanguard is about as easy as it gets. The 19″ screen is built right into the lid and it’s easy to tuck your console’s HDMI and power cords out of the way inside the case, so all you need to do is open it up, plug into a wall outlet, and you’re ready to play.
It’ll accommodate any fifth- or sixth-gen console, which is mostly a good thing, but the foam inserts in the bottom are cut to a “one size fits all” size that doesn’t actually fit all sizes, at least not perfectly.
PS4s, in particular, are a mild hassle; their disc slots are lower than they are in most Xbox units, which means you can’t insert or eject discs without lifting the console up, which necessitates undoing the security straps.
There are a handful of other minor issues with the Vanguard, but nothing we’d call too bothersome, except the dated 720p resolution, which is (borderline falsely) advertised as 1080p.
The actual claim made by GAEMS is that the screen is scaled to 1080p, which supposedly means that because the screen is smaller than average, it looks like it’s 1080p. Whether or not that appears to be the case to your eyes is a separate question—we’re just not thrilled with the rather deceptive claim.
The GAEMS Vanguard is a fairly steep investment at $300, but lots of Amazon reviewers that have owned one for several years report that they’re still going strong, so if you take your consoles out and about on a regular basis, it’d be a solid long-term choice.
Premium Pick: UPERFECT 15.6-inch Gaming Monitor
Pros & Cons
- Crisp, bright images
- 60Hz refresh rate and 3-5ms response time
- Weighs less than 3 pounds
- 15.6” QHD+ screen
- Integrated speakers and dual audio output jacks
- 2-year warranty
UPERFECT 15.6-inch Gaming Monitor Review
The UPERFECT 15.6-inch Gaming Monitor offers QHD+ 3200×1800 resolution, a slim and lightweight design, and a sexy look all in one package.
As far as we can tell, most portable gaming monitors top out at 720p. That resolution may look fine (to some people) on tiny screens, but the fact remains that they’re not 1080p, so it’s nice to see a portable screen that is QHD+. The UPERFECT 15.6-inch Gaming Monitor produces really pretty images that are sharp and colorful.
The UPERFECT’s portable gaming monitor also boasts a 60Hz refresh rate and a 3-5ms response time, both of which are just okay by desktop display standards, but those stats are positively stellar in the less advanced world of portable gaming monitors.
Few other travel-friendly screens can approach the levels of performance you’re used to from your PC or TV—especially at the astonishingly light weight of 1.25 pounds—so the UPERFECT 15.6-inch was an easy premium pick.
This monitor’s tiny build is a double-edged sword, though. It’s so thin that it wouldn’t take much to break it if you’re not careful. You’d almost certainly want to find a nice padded bag to carry it around in. It’s small enough that it would probably fit in most Xbox or PS4 totes right alongside your console.
In our opinion, the UPERFECT 15.6-inch Gaming Monitor’s biggest drawback is its price tag. $320 seems a bit steep for a portable gaming monitor, even if it is WQXGA+. It’s got a few extra nice-to-have features (like dual audio outputs and a USB-A port for compatible single-input devices) that sort of help to justify the price, but it still seems high to us.
That being said, even in 2020, there aren’t a ton of portable gaming monitors to choose from, so we’re confident that the UPERFECT 15.6-inch Gaming Monitor is one of the best ones out there.
Best Value: HORI Universal HD
Pros & Cons
- Large screen
- As portable as the T905, but a bit more durable
- Large screen makes low resolution more noticeable
- No remote control, awkward side buttons
- Slim and portable w/ folding case
- 15.6” 720p screen
- Compatible with any HDMI device
HORI Universal HD Gaming Monitor Review
If our other two top picks cost more than you’re looking to spend, consider the comparatively budget-friendly HORI Universal HD portable gaming monitor. Despite the PlayStation 4 in its name on some product pages, the HORI Universal HD portable gaming monitor is, in fact, compatible with any device that uses HDMI outputs, including all modern Xbox consoles, so don’t worry about the slight misnomer there.
It’s the best portable gaming monitor under $200 we’ve come across, largely thanks to its excellent balance of features. The larger-than-average 15.6″ screen is nice, but it’s also big enough that you’ll probably be able to notice that it’s only 720p.
Like the GAEMS Vanguard, the HORI touts itself as a full HD display, which is confusing at best and technically untrue at worst. Exact specs are hard to find when it comes to refresh rate and response time, but at a glance, both seem adequate.
The HORI is bigger than the T905, but it’s just as portable—and a bit less fragile, thanks to the faux-leather cover that it comes with. It feels like a large modern-gen Kindle in terms of overall size and weight, and the cover doubles as a stand too. You’ll still need some sort of bag or case to tote your console, cables, and games around in, though.
This portable monitor doesn’t come with a remote control like most comparable models do, which wouldn’t be a big deal if not for the fact that its buttons are awkwardly placed and difficult to manipulate, especially in landscape orientation. That’s the only major-ish complaint we have, though.
Even at $250, the HORI would be a pretty solid portable gaming monitor, so its actual price of $200 makes it an awesome choice for budget-conscious shoppers. If you need a new desktop monitor but don’t want to spend a lot on it, check out our roundup of some of the best budget gaming monitors.
Best Viewing Angles: Kenowa 15.6″
Pros & Cons
- True full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution
- IPS panel allows for wide viewing angles
- Requires separate adapter for most HDMI connections
- Confusing button layout
- USB-C and mini HDMI input options
- Protective aluminum case
- Bright display for outdoor viewing
Kenowa 15.6″ Portable Monitor Review
The Kenowa 15.6″ portable monitor has some minorly annoying drawbacks, but its price-to-features ratio makes it worthy of a silver medal in the best overall category.
Buying expensive electronics from little-known overseas manufacturers can be a harrowing experience, but in this case, we think you’d be pretty safe betting on the Kenowa 15.6″ portable monitor. (Note that there’s a more expensive touchscreen version available, which is NOT the one we’re reviewing here.)
For starters, the Kenowa monitor is actually 1920 x 1080, unlike some other portable gaming monitors that utilize dubious wordplay to try to make you think they are. The screen is nice and bright; it definitely looks somewhat washed out when viewed in direct sunlight, but noticeably less so than most non-phone screens do. It also utilizes an IPS panel with a 178° viewing angle, which is another thing that can be hard to find in portable monitors.
Our two biggest complaints about the Kenowa monitor are its button layout is sub-par (the up/down navigation buttons are reversed, and all of them are hard to press) and the fact that you’ll probably need to spend another $10 to use the thing. It has a mini HDMI input, but all major gaming consoles use standard HDMI connections, so if you’re picking this up on Amazon, add a mini HDMI to HDMI adapter to your cart while you’re there.
In spite of those two caveats, the Kenowa portable monitor is still an excellent choice for gaming on the go; its highly competitive price is almost just a bonus.
Best Design: ViewSonic TD2230
Pros & Cons
- Full 1920 x 1080 resolution
- Respectable contrast ratio and response time (for a portable monitor)
- Huge 22″ (or 24″) screen is awesome…
- …but really pushes the limits of portability
- Stand is rather flimsy
- Touchscreen display
- USB-A, USB-B, HDMI, and DisplayPort inputs
- Comprehensive 3-year warranty
ViewSonic TD2230 Review
ViewSonic is generally known for its budget-friendly products, but given all the features packed into the TD2230, we thought it more fitting to have it compete in the premium category.
We know what you’re thinking, and it’s totally fair. An argument can be made that a 22″ screen isn’t especially portable, but hear us out. Let’s get the obvious upside out of the way: Having a big screen is always pretty nice, and the TD2230 is a fair bit bigger than most of its competitors. Its bulk isn’t as much of a drawback as you might think, though; it’s really skinny and fairly light, so it’s not like you’re lugging around a full-size desktop monitor.
Other nice features include true 1920 x 1080 resolution, an IPS panel with a 178° viewing angle, and high marks for both contrast ratio and response time (1000:1 and 14ms, respectively). Yes, 14ms is sluggish by desktop standards, but it’s fantastic for portable gaming monitors—most offer something on the order of a positively molasses-like 25ms.
This monitor’s stand earns a C- for durability and it’s our biggest sticking point. It feels liable to snap if you were to push down firmly on the top of the monitor, and that’s just not gonna work for us long-term. Be extra gentle with the stand, or—even better—remove it and take the flimsy plastic pins to your local hobby shop or hardware store so you can replace them with stronger metal ones.
Despite its high-ish price and the cruddy stand, the ViewSonic TD2230 still gets an A- from us.
Portable Gaming Monitor: Buying Guide
Portable gaming monitors are different enough from regular desktop monitors that shopping for them requires a whole different mindset. There’s a lot less demand for portable gaming monitors, so the technology is a few years behind (the simple fact that they’re a lot smaller than desktop monitors necessitates less advanced hardware to some extent, too).
You’re not going to find 144Hz refresh rates and 1ms response times here—at least not without dropping some serious cash on a totally custom display. Not to sound cheeky, but the number one thing to keep in mind with portable gaming monitors is the fact that they’re portable. Mobility and convenience are nice things to have for console gamers, but to get them, you’ve got to give up some performance.
In this buying guide, we’ll go over compatible and incompatible video inputs, audio options, weight, durability, storage and portability considerations, and using portable monitors with other devices such as laptops and phones.
If you just search Amazon or Google for portable monitors, most of what you’ll find will be monitors that are not suitable for gaming. Single-input work monitors (models that transmit both power and video signals via a single USB-A or USB-C cable) are everywhere, but those types of connections are incompatible with gaming consoles.
To ensure that you get a monitor that will work with your Xbox or PlayStation, it’ll need to have at least one HDMI input and a standard AC/DC power cord. Any portable monitor that checks those two boxes should work with a fifth- or sixth-gen console, even if it’s not specifically marketed to gamers. There aren’t many such monitors out there, though—only a few dozen different models, as far as we can tell.
Refresh Rate & Response Time
Many gamers consider 60Hz to be a minimally acceptable refresh rate for gaming. It’s easy to see why, especially in 2020 when some current-gen consoles can draw 60 frames per second. It’s not too hard to find a 60Hz refresh rate on a portable gaming monitor, but 100/120/144Hz refresh rates are still largely science fiction.
Response times are a different story, though. If you’ve been gaming on a 5ms or faster screen for years, you need to hit the brakes and prepare to accept an uncomfortable fact: Virtually all portable monitors suck in this area. 25ms is a pretty standard response time in this world, and that delay may feel downright maddening to you.
Nonetheless, we encourage you to adjust your expectations and place them in context. You probably don’t want to play ultra-competitive, hyper-fast online multiplayer games with a 25ms response time, and we don’t blame you, but for single player games (and at least for some multiplayer games—you could always fire up Hearthstone), 1/40th of a second of lag won’t kill you. Give it a few hours and you’ll hardly notice anymore.
The main advantage of portable gaming monitors (the very fact that they’re portable) is presumably your biggest priority if you’re shopping for one. Some sacrifices must be made, at least until the technology and demand for portable monitors both catch up to where desktop monitors are today.
Some portable gaming monitors are marketed as being exclusively for one console or another (even when that claim isn’t made explicitly, it’s sometimes implied). Such claims are rarely true, and when they are, it’s usually because there’s a minor issue with a console’s physical dimensions—like how current-gen PS4s don’t fit perfectly in the GAEMS Vanguard. At the end of the day, any device with an HDMI output will work with any device that has an HDMI input.
The same goes for phones and laptops too. If anything, you have far more options for portable gaming monitors if you’re not planning to use a console with them. Remember those single-input monitors we went over in the Video Inputs section above? Most smartphones with a USB-C port should be compatible with them, and some laptops are (although additional software is often required).
If your phone or laptop has something other than a USB-C port, the best advice we can give is to do your own research to see if your particular devices are compatible with particular monitors. There’s too much variability in hardware and software for any other blanket statement to be accurate.
Portable speaker technology is certainly better now than it was a few years ago, but getting big sound from a small package is still a tall order unless you’re spending at least a few hundred on speakers alone. Bottom line: don’t expect too much from any built-in speakers that portable gaming monitors might have. We think you’re better off bringing along some decent headphones. We have recommendations for the best wired gaming headset and the best USB gaming headset.
Whether or not you decide to roll with the built-in speakers on your new portable gaming monitor, it’s likely that you’ll need to change a few settings on your console. If you normally use headphones or optical audio (surround sound) on your console at home, check your Xbox or PlayStation audio output options and ensure they’re set to HDMI. Otherwise, you may get no sound at all from your portable monitor.
Storage and Portability
Portable gaming monitors come in two basic flavors: slim, ultra-compact screens that look like e-readers and hulking briefcases that look like cutting-edge field laptops from 1997. (in this article, we reviewed four of the former and one of the latter.) The caseless variety seems to be a lot more common, but if you go that way, you’ll still need a bag or box to store your console, controllers, cords, and games in.
GAEMS is pretty committed to the all-in-one approach; most of their portable monitors come permanently affixed to cases designed to hold all your crap in one place. These models are obviously significantly heavier, and it’s important to note that they rarely (if ever) have internal batteries.
A battery capable of powering a 16-inch or bigger screen for any useful length of time would add a lot of weight to a package that’s already pretty heavy. These integrated models are not a good option if you’re not sure you’ll have access to wall outlets where you plan to be gaming.
While integrated models are heavier and lack batteries, they do generally protect the screen itself much more effectively. Some models even use variants of designs originally developed by the U.S. military for protecting delicate electronics in harsh environments, which is pretty neat. If you end up purchasing a standalone model like the T905 or the HORI, make sure you’ve got a plan to protect it from drops, damage, and spills.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are our answers to a small selection of questions about portable gaming monitors that large numbers of people are typing into Google.
What Is the Best Portable Gaming Monitor?
We like the GAEMS Vanguard, and we think we made a strong case for why it’s the overall best portable gaming monitor on the market right now. Its high marks in convenience, durability, and modularity outweigh its mildly disappointing 720p resolution.
Ultimately, though, the best portable gaming monitor for you will depend on your priorities. If yours absolutely has to have an internal battery, then the Vanguard (and most of GAEMS’s other products) won’t be a good choice for you.
Fortunately (and also, unfortunately, from a certain perspective), there are so few portable monitors out there that are suitable for gaming that you could probably research all of them in an afternoon.
Can a Tablet Be Used as a Monitor?
It really depends on the tablet and on what you want to connect to it. A significant (and growing) number of Windows and Android tablets can be used as monitors, but the exact process of getting that set up varies considerably between tablets. iPads are more finicky and generally only work seamlessly with other Apple products (it’s possible to get an iPad to play nice with a Windows or Android device, but it’s often an unpleasant and imperfect experience).
The laptop, phone, or console you want to have the tablet act as a monitor for matters, too. Some tablet/laptop combos require special software in order to work together. Regardless of manufacturer and operating system, tablets won’t work with consoles unless they’re Plug and Play compatible and have matching inputs; a significant number of tablets aren’t and don’t. Refer our guide to the best gaming tablet to see if they are a fit.
Can You Use Your Phone as a Monitor?
Short answer: no, not in most cases—at least not for gaming.
Slightly longer answer: Again, the exact combination of devices you want to use matters. It’s possible to have your phone act as a duplicate or extended monitor when connected to a PC or Mac, but there’s almost always a multi-step process involved that requires some extra software on both ends. As always, it’s harder (and sometimes impossible) to get Apple and Windows/Android products to play nice together.
As far as we can tell, it’s close to impossible to connect a game console to your phone. Cables are rarely the issue—HDMI to USB-C cables exist, as do many other uncommon combinations. The problem is that you almost always need to do some prep work on both your phone and the device you want to connect to it, and you can’t modify a console in that way.
Someone with a lot of technical knowledge and a willingness to violate all the warranties could probably pull it off, but most of us will have to search for other solutions, like how to play PS4 on a laptop.
Once upon a time, console gaming on the go was only a realistic goal if you could afford an ultra-expensive gaming laptop (or if you were willing to haul a regular TV around everywhere). Nowadays, if you’ve got a modern console, an excellent portable monitor to go with it doesn’t have to break the bank.
Alternatively, you can use your laptop as a monitor and skip the purchase.
The portable gaming monitor market is still a pretty small and quiet one, but as technology improves and our lives become increasingly mobile, there will surely be more such monitors to choose from before long. In the meantime, we’re pretty confident that at least one of the five we’ve picked out here will be a great match for you.