Portable Monitors: The Productivity Gadget You Didn’t Know You Needed
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Portable Monitors: The Productivity Gadget You Didn’t Know You Needed

Lightweight displays and repurposed tablets can turn any space into a mobile multiscreen office.

By Nicole Ngyuen
Mon, Feb 14, 2022Grey Clock 4 min

Hybrid workers like me tend to bounce around. At home, I’m in whatever spot is quietest. At the office, thanks to Covid-19, I’m hot-desking. And right now, at the Airbnb where I’m enjoying a skiing work vacation, my writing desk is a kitchen table.

Laptops make all this possible, but their relatively small screens tend to cramp productivity. A seminal 2007 study by researchers at the University of Utah found that participants who used a larger display completed tasks 52% faster. A few years later, researchers at Wichita State University concluded that using dual monitors boosted productivity, regardless of screen size.

So if you want to be more effective while working from anywhere, you’re going to want a monitor, and not a heavy desktop one. New lighter-weight portable screens are hitting the market, and there are more ways now to turn old devices into extra displays, too. Here are your main options:

  • USB-powered screens often cost as much as traditional monitors, but they are slimmer and lighter, and get their electricity straight from your laptop. Some products include two added side monitors.
  • Second-screen software turns your existing tablets (and computers) into extended displays. Apple built it into the Mac and iPad operating systems, and Windows is now compatible with certain Samsung tablets. There’s also an app that lets you choose other devices.

I reviewed four different multiscreen scenarios that made my work tasks easier. Whichever screen or app you choose, be mindful of your laptop’s battery—plug-in displays guzzle power—and your potential neighbours. On a plane, don’t pull out your mega triple-screen setup unless you got lucky and have the row to yourself.

EspressoDisplay v2 Touch-Screen Monitor

The appeal: Big screens, slick design

Price: $669 for the 13-inch, $749 for the 15-inch at espres.so

Compatibility: Most Mac, Windows and Chrome computers

Pros: The Espresso display looks like a superslim iMac. Colours are vivid, and pixels are barely perceptible with the screen’s 1080p resolution. Even the larger of the two models weighs under 1kg, and the magnetically attached stand, sold separately, folds flat to fit in a computer bag.

There are two USB-C ports on the side of the screen: One drives the display connection, while the other can connect to a power brick to charge your laptop, if its own ports are in short supply. The Espresso is touch-enabled, even for Macs, which don’t natively support the capability. You can use two fingers to scroll, or pinch to zoom. The display can also be used in portrait orientation.

Cons: At maximum brightness, the Espresso still isn’t as bright as my M1 MacBook Air, and the screen is reflective, so it can be hard to see in some lighting. You need to download software called EspressoFlow to adjust settings such as brightness and volume. The setup is pricey: Essential accessories such as the stand ($69) and protective case ($39) cost extra. And if your laptop still uses Mini DisplayPort, the older mobile video standard, the adapter costs $40.

Xebec Tri-Screen 2 Laptop System

The appeal: More screens, compact rig

Price: $699 at thexebec.com

Compatibility: Most Mac, Windows and Chrome laptop

Pros: The Tri-Screen 2 adds two thin 10-inch screens, each with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels, to either side of your laptop. An expandable holster attaches to the back of your laptop’s display. A rear kickstand supports the added weight (about 2 pounds). The style is great for smaller spaces. You can even work on the couch if you have a sturdy pillow or something else to prop the kickstand on. As with the Espresso, an additional USB-C port supports laptop charging.

Cons: The screens are small, and you need to tinker with the displays’ resolutions to make text readable. My laptop, a late-2020 M1 MacBook Air, required extra setup: an additional adapter ($70), two dongles and a cable, plus a driver download, because the computer only natively supports one external monitor. Those cables need to be disconnected every time you retract the displays. Alex Levine, the company’s chief executive, said his team is working on larger screens and simpler setups.

Sidecar for Mac and iPad

The appeal: Ready-made for Apple users

Price: Free, but requires a supported iPad and Mac

Compatibility: Macs running MacOS Catalina or later, and an iPad using iPadOS 13 or later

Pros: Sidecar is built into Macs and allows you to use an iPad as an extended display. It works with even the basic 10.2-inch tablet model. Both devices need to be connected to the same Apple ID. Sidecar can work wirelessly over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, but I recommend using a USB cable for the most stable connection.

The feature provides basic touch interaction. Sidecar even unlocks some limited functionality of the Apple Pencil, so you can select and tap things on the iPad’s screen. Some apps, including Apple’s own Preview, also support drawing and markup.

Cons: There’s no iPad camera support, so you still have to use your Mac’s camera for video calls. The touch gestures are limited to scrolling, copy/cut/paste and undo/redo. You can’t use an iPhone as a second screen. You also can’t customize iPad screen resolution to adjust text size. Sidecar won’t work on older devices or devices that can’t be updated (for instance, some employer-administered devices).

Duet Second-Screen App

The appeal: Works across different platforms

Price: $21 for iOS, $10 for Android/Chromebooks, free for Mac/Windows, pre-installed on select HP computers; $28 a year for premium features; at duetdisplay.com

Compatibility: For iOS, Android, Windows 10, Chromebooks and Mac devices

Pros: Duet is fully platform-agnostic. With a Mac or PC as the primary screen, you can use a variety of other devices, from an Android tablet to an old iMac, as a secondary or mirrored display. Touch-wise, there’s slightly more functionality than Apple’s Sidecar: You can click with a tap, and right-click with a tap-and-hold, or use your finger to pan in Google Street view or virtual real-estate tours. Duet also supports portrait orientation. People with new HP Envy and Spectre models get free access to Duet’s iOS and Android apps.

Cons: A subscription is required for wireless connections, Apple Pencil input, additional touch gestures and remote desktop access. Also, you can’t use the cameras of those connected devices for your video calls.

Coming Soon: Samsung’s Giant Windows-Compatible Tablet

Samsung recently announced new tablets, including a massive 14.6-inch Galaxy Tab S8 Ultra, the biggest tablet on the market to use the high-contrast screen tech found mostly in premium smartphones. Galaxy Tab tablets, starting with last year’s S7 models, can be used as a wireless extended display for Windows 10 computers over a Wi-Fi connection. I haven’t had the chance to test the new Tab yet, but it looks like a promising portable Windows monitor—for around $1540.


Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: February 13, 2022.


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Private club memberships and luxury cars are some of freebies on the table.

Mon, Aug 15, 2022 6 min

When Ryan Wolitzer was looking to buy an apartment in Miami Beach late last year, several beachfront properties caught his eye. All were two-bedroom homes in high-end buildings with amenities aplenty and featured glass walls, high ceilings and an abundance of natural light. But only The Continuum, in the city’s South of Fifth district, came with a gift: a membership to Residence Yacht Club, a private club that offers excursions on luxury yachts ranging from a day in south Florida to a month around the Caribbean. Residents receive heavily discounted charters on upscale boats that have premier finishes and are stocked with top shelf spirits and wine. Mr. Wolitzer, 25, who works for a sports agency, was sold.

“The access to high-end yachts swayed my decision to buy at The Continuum and is an incentive that I take full advantage of,” Mr. Wolitzer said. “It’s huge, especially in my business when I am dealing with high-profile sports players, to be able to give them access to these incredible boats where they experience great service. I know that they’ll be well taken care of.”

Freebies and perks for homeowners such as a private club membership are a mainstay in the world of luxury real estate and intended to entice prospective buyers to sign on the dotted line.

According to Jonathan Miller, the president and chief executive of the real estate appraisal and consulting firm Miller Samuel, they’re primarily a domestic phenomenon.

In the U.S. residential real estate market, gifts are offered by both developers who want to move apartments in their swanky buildings and individuals selling their homes. They range from modest to over-the-top, Mr. Miller said, and are more prevalent when the market is soft.

“When sales lag, freebies increase in a bid to incentivize buyers,” he said. “These days, sales are slowing, and inventory is rising after two years of being the opposite, which suggests that we may see more of them going forward.”

Many of these extras are especially present in South Florida, Mr. Miller said, where the market is normalizing after the unprecedented boom it saw during the pandemic. “The frenzy in South Florida was intense compared with the rest of the country because it became a place where people wanted to live full time,” he said. “Now that the numbers are inching toward pre-pandemic levels, freebies could push wavering buyers over the finish line.”

Kelly Killoren Bensimon, a real estate salesperson for Douglas Elliman in Miami and New York, said that the gifts that she has encountered in her business include everything from yacht access and use of a summer house to magnums of pricey wine. “One person I know of who was selling a US$5 million house in the Hamptons even threw in a free Mercedes 280SL,” she said. “They didn’t want to lower the price but were happy to sweeten the deal.”

A car, an Aston Martin to be exact, is also a lure at Aston Martin Residences in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Buyers who bought  one of the building’s 01 line apartments—a collection of 47 ocean-facing residences ranging in size from 325 to 362sqm and US$8.3 million to US$9 million in price—had their choice of the DBX Miami Riverwalk Special Edition or the DB11 Miami Riverwalk Special Edition. The DBX is Aston Martin’s first SUV and retails for around US$200,000. It may have helped propel sales given that all the apartments are sold out.

An Aston Martin came with the sale for some buyers at Aston Martin Residences in Miami’s Biscayne Bay. Aston Martin Residences

The US$59 million triplex penthouse, meanwhile, is still up for grabs, and the buyer will receive a US$3.2 million Aston Martin Vulcan track-only sports car, one of only 24 ever made.

“We want to give homeowners the chance to live the full Aston Martin lifestyle, and owning a beautiful Aston Martin is definitely a highlight of that,” said Alejandro Aljanti, the chief marketing officer for G&G Business Developments, the building’s developer.  “We wanted to include the cars as part of the package for our more exclusive units.”

The US$800,000 furniture budget for buyers of the North Tower condominiums at The Estates at Acqualina in Sunny Isles, Florida, is another recent head-turning perk. The 94 residences sold out last year, according to president of sales Michael Goldstein, and had a starting price of US$6.3 million. “You can pick the furniture ahead of time, and when buyers move in later this year, all they’ll need is a toothbrush,” he said.

Then there’s the US$2 million art collection that was included in the sale of the penthouse residence at the Four Seasons Residences in Miami’s Brickell neighbourhood. The property recently sold for $15.9 million and spans 817sqm feet. Designed by the renowned firm ODP Architects, it features contemporary paintings and sculpture pieces from notable names such as the American conceptual artist Bill Beckley and the sculptor Tom Brewitz.

But it’s hard to top the millions of dollars of extras that were attached to the asking price in 2019 of the US$85 million 1393sqm  duplex at the Atelier, in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood. The list included two Rolls-Royce Phantoms, a Lamborghini Aventador, a US$1 million yacht with five years of docking fees, a summer stay at a Hamptons mansion, weekly dinners for two at lavish French restaurant Daniel and a live-in butler and private chef for a year. And the most outrageous of all: a flight for two to space.

It turned out that the so-called duplex was actually a collection of several apartments and a listing that went unsold. It did, however, generate plenty of buzz among the press and in real estate circles and was a marketing success, according to Mr. Miller.

“A listing like this that almost seems unbelievable with all the gifts will get plenty of eyeballs but is unlikely to push sales,” he said. “Empirically, it’s not an effective tactic.”

On the other hand, Mr. Miller said that more reasonable but still generous freebies, such as the membership to a yacht club, have the potential to push undecided buyers to go for the sale. “A nice but not too lavish gift won’t be the singular thing toward their decision but can be a big factor,” he said. “It’s a feel-good incentive that buyers think they’re getting without an extra cost.”

Examples of these bonuses include a membership to the 1 Hotel South Beach private beach club that buyers receive with the purchase of a residence at Baccarat Residences Brickell, or the one-year membership to the Grand Bay Beach Club in Key Biscayne for those who spring for a home at Casa Bella Residences by B&B Italia, located in downtown Miami and a residential project from the namesake renowned Italian furniture brand. The price of a membership at the Grand Bay Beach Club is usually a US$19,500 initiation fee and US$415 in monthly dues.

The Grand Salon at at Baccarat Residences Brickell in Miami.
Baccarat Residences

Still enticing but less expensive perks include the two-hour cruise around New York on a wooden Hemmingway boat, valued at US$1,900, for buyers at Quay Tower, at Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City. The building’s developer, Robert Levine, said that he started offering the boat trip in July to help sell the remaining units. “We’re close to 70% sold, but, of course, I want everything to go,” he said.

There’s also the US$1,635 Avalon throw blanket from Hermes for those who close on a unit at Ten30 South Beach, a 33-unit boutique condominium; in Manhattan’s Financial District, a custom piece of art from the acclaimed artist James Perkins is gifted to buyers at Jolie, a 42-story building on Greenwich Street. Perkins said the value of the piece depends on the home purchase price, but the minimum is US$4,000. “The higher end homes get a more sizable work,” he said.

When gifts are part of a total real estate package, the sale can become emotional and personal, according to Chad Carroll, a real estate agent with Compass in South Florida and the founder of The Carroll Group. “If the freebie appeals to the buyer, the transaction takes on a different dynamic,” he said. “A gift becomes the kicker that they love the idea of having.”

Speaking from his own experience, Mr. Carroll said that sellers can also have an emotional connection to the exchange. “I was selling my house in Golden Isles last year for US$5.4 million and included my jet ski and paddle boards,” he said. “The buyers were a family with young kids and absolutely loved the water toys.” Mr. Carroll could have held out for a higher bidder, he said, but decided to accept their offer. “I liked them and wanted them to create the same happy memories in the home that I did,” he said.

The family moved in a few months later.