This inexpensive portable display makes working from home easier [Review]

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Lepow Z1-Gamut review: Portable, affordable display
Whether for work or entertainment, the Lepow Z1-Gamut makes a fine MacBook companion.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The Lepow Z1-Gamut external display adds 15.6 inches of extra space to your computer for work or school. And it’s portable, so it can be folded away when not needed. The screen connects easily to a Mac or iPad, and costs under $200.

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Lepow Z1-Gamut review

More than ever before, people are working or attending school from home. An external screen makes using a MacBook or other laptop so much easier by increasing the work area. Those who have a 13-inch notebook will see the most benefit.

And anyone getting by in a small apartment or dorm room should consider a portable monitor, like the Lepow Z1-Gamut. A desktop display always takes up room, but a mobile one can be put away in a drawer when not needed. Or you can take it to a library, away from your irritating roommate.

Hardware and Design

Lepow’s offering is essentially a 15.6-inch screen wrapped in an aluminium casing. That makes it large enough to be useful but portable enough to be easy to carry around. To get specific, the casing is 16.8 inches by 8.8 inches by 0.3 inches. The product weighs 1.6 pounds.

This accessory easily fits in bags designed for 16-inch laptops. Whether it fits in a bag with a 16-inch laptop depends on the bag.

The Lepow Z1-Gamut is nice and slim.
The slim Z1-Gamut comes with a folio case that also folds into a stand.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Lepow Z1-Gamut Screen

The Lepow Z1-Gamut employs a 1920-by-1080-pixel display as its whole reason for existing. Given its 15.6-inch size, that works out to be approx. 141 pixels per inch. The brightness is 320 nits.

It offers 85% NTSC color gamut, which is 100% sRGB. The contrast ratio is 1000:1, and the refresh rate is 60 Hz. A set of basic controls on the right edge allow you to adjust the colors, brightness, contrast, etc.

To put this display into perspective, compare it to the 16-inch display in a MacBook Pro. That’s 3072 by 1920 pixels, which works out at 226 PPI. It offers 500 nits brightness. In a nutshell, Apple’s screen is much higher resolution, and brighter, too. Plus, it has a wider gamut so it can display more colors. So don’t expect Lepow’s to live up to this. That said, it’s good enough to be useful, as long as you don’t expect Apple quality.

In everyday terms, the display looks good but not great. In regular usage, it’s fine for most tasks where the primary focus is text: email, coding, writing reports or working with spreadsheets. As for graphics, it’s just OK. The Z1-Gamut offers decent color representation, but not as good as MacBook, iPad and iPhone. This portable display is not a bad way to watch video, but is not recommended for artists who need top-quality color reproduction.

My setup generally involves doing my everyday work on my primary computer’s screen, while the external display is used for secondary functions. That’s usually email and Slack, where screen quality is unimportant. When needed though, I’ll spread my primary task across both displays, which really speeds up some jobs.

I tested the mobile monitor in a variety of locations and lighting conditions, and never had a problem. That includes outdoors, where it’s usable. Just not in direct sun.

This isn’t Lepow’s first portable external screen. I also tested the previous model, and the new one is marginally better. Color gamut went from 72% NTSC to 85% NTSC, and brightness increased from 300 nits to 320 nits. These changes are welcome but not enough to justify an upgrade from anyone using the earlier version.

Ports

The Z1-Gamut connects via a nice-and-easy USB-C connection. Use the supplied cable to connect the external display to any recent MacBook in a few seconds. The laptop will supply power to this monitor. The same goes for desktop Macs. And even recent iPad Pro and the iPad Air 4 tablets can use this external screen.

Lepow also built in a mini-HDMI port. This allows the screen to be used with older Macs, as well as game consoles, DVD players, some PCs and many other devices. Even an iPhone.

There’s a second USB-C port on the display. Connect this to a wall socket so the screen gets power when using the HDMI port. This can also be used when the other USB-C port is connected to a MacBook, which will power the display and the notebook.

All the cables needed are included in the box. There’s a USB-C to USB-C cable, plus an HDMI to mini-HDMI one. Just for power, there’s a USB-C to USB-A cable and a wall charger with a USB-A port.

Audio

Lepow built a pair of stereo speakers into the left and right edges of the portable display, but they’re only adequate for quiet environments. Just about any ambient noise will drown them out. MacBook users will probably want to use their laptop’s built-in speakers, or use Bluetooth headphones.

Others can turn to the Z1-Gamut’s 3.5 mm audio jack. Plug in a speaker or a pair of headphones for sound you can hear.

Case/Stand and screen protector

The Lepow Z1-Gamut comes with a folio case that also acts as a stand. It’s moderately protective, defending the display from scratches and modest bumps and blows. But  real case is necessary for travel. I carry it in a backpack designed to hold two computers.

Lepow includes a screen protector with its accessory, but that seems unnecessary hassle. This isn’t a touchscreen, so keep your hands to yourself and the screen won‘t get scratched. And screen protector won‘t help if someone sits on your display.

As a stand, the folio case can securely hold the display up at roughly 105 degrees or 120 degrees. That’s leaning past 90 degrees vertical. The first option is a good angle for watching video and the second is right for work.

The case weighs 0.8 pounds. With the screen inside, the combination is 0.6 inches thick.

Lepow Z1-Gamut in its folding folio case.
The Z1-Gamut’s case isn’t unattractive. And note the USB-C, mini-HDMI and audio ports. Plus one of the speakers.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Lepow Z1-Gamut final thoughts

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that’s totally true for displays. The Lepow Z1-Gamut looks good enough for many people, but pickier viewers won‘t like it. It’s best for people who’ll primarily be working with text. Those who need to work with graphics or intend to watch hours of video might look elsewhere.

That said, the appearance of the Z1-Gamut is fairly typical of portable monitors in this price range. Getting a significantly better-looking mobile display costs more. Or you have to give up the portability.

Pricing

Lepow distributes its products through Amazon. And the Z1-Gamut is available from this giant online retailer for $199.99

Buy from: Amazon

Or you can save a tiny bit by buying the previous version for $188.98. As mentioned above, the screen is not quite as good looking, though.

Comparable products

The Vissles-M portable monitor is a similar size and just slightly more cash. And screen quality is somewhat better. The only drawback is this display is currently backordered.

Or there’s the AOC I1601FWUX, another 15.6-inch, USB-C display designed to be used on the go. It has a $196.99 price tag.

Alternatively, larger desktop monitors can be easily found for less money.  But those don’t offer the advantages of portability. You won’t take them to the library or on your next business trip.

Lepow provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.