Although Apple refuses to make a touchscreen Mac, the Espresso Display V2 is ready to fill in the gap. There are 15.6-inch and 13.3-inch versions of the very slim external display, and both support touch and an optional stylus.
I tested the screen with a MacBook and iPad to see how well it performs in ordinary use. And I also tried out the stylus as well as the stand for desktop use and the case for taking the display on the go.
Espresso Display V2 review
Apple executives are insistent that there are no plans for a touchscreen Mac. But you don’t have to wait for Tim Cook and Co. to change their minds.
Connect an Espresso Display V2 to your Mac with a single cable and start reaching out and touching your apps. Or use a stylus to interact with them.
Beyond that, the LCD in this screen is gorgeous. And rotatable. Plus, Espresso offers a range of accessories so you can use it in the office or while traveling.
- Hardware and design
- Final thoughts
Hardware and design
The Espresso Display V2 is a very stylish piece of kit, even before you turn it on. Most of the exterior is a single piece of aluminum that the screen is set into. All the rival screens I’ve tested have plastic casings, so this one really stands out.
The edges are sharp while the corners are rounded, so the accessory matches the look of a Mac. The gray coloration helps in that area, too.
I’m testing the 15.6-inch version, and it’s 14.1 inches wide, 10.1 inches tall and and amazing 0.21 inches thick (358 x 256 x 5.3mm). It weighs 1.9 pounds (865g).
The 13.3-inch version is 12.1 inches by 8.9 inches by 0.21 inches (308 x 228 x 5.3mm). The weight is 1.4 pounds.
No matter the size, the Espresso Display V2 has a 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution. That gives the larger version a pixel density of approximately 141 ppi. The 13.3-inch one is about 166 ppi.
The LCD can display 16.2 million colors. And the refresh rate the the usual 60Hz.
The backlight maxes out at 300 nits. I found that easily bright enough to use in my office. It’s also sufficient for using the screen outdoors, in the shade. Direct sunlight isn’t recommended.
The range of viewing angles are exceptionally good. Two people can easily look at the screen simultaneously.
Use two fingers to swipe up from the bottom of the display to open a pop-up window with brightness, contrast and tint.
Beyond the specs, I used the Espresso Display V2 side-by-side with a MacBook, and the two looked great together. The struggle in using external screens with Apple laptops is the MacBook’s display is of such high quality that cheap LCDs look extra terrible. That’s at all not the case with Espresso’s product.
It might not seem that way from just the specifications. The 16-inch MacBook Pro has a 3456-by-2234-pixel resolution at 254 pixels per inch, for example. But in real-world use, the Apple and Espresso displays are close enough that you are unlikely to notice a difference in quality in ordinary use.
That said, I’m not doing art. I’m a writer who watches video and plays games on his computer. And the Display V2 looks spectacular when doing what I need it for.
What truly sets the Espresso Display V2 apart from the pack is its touchscreen. Plug it into your Mac and you have the touchscreen Mac you’ve always wanted.
macOS isn’t designed for touch, though, so Espresso had to write an app to enable the feature. Espresso Flow is free, and there are both macOS and Windows versions. With it, you can use your finger as a mouse, or set up gestures to control your Mac apps.
I tinkered with the touchscreen functionality quite a bit, and it works very well. I found the display to be as sensitive as an iPad. But you have to get accustomed to using it because macOS is not iPadOS. I know that seems obvious but it really affects how Espresso’s product works. It works fine… once you get used to it. And configure it as you want.
Touching the screen is optional. Display V2 also acts as a standard external screen that you can use with a mouse pointer. And note that a mouse or trackpad is really the only option with iPad.
There’s also an optional active stylus. More on this in a bit.
Both the 15.6-inch version and the 13.3-inch one are available with touch support. In addition, Espresso offers a 13.3-inch version without a touchscreen.
Landscape and portrait
All it takes to turn the Espresso Display V2 into a portrait-oriented screen is rotate it 90 degrees. [As demonstrated here] That’s a bonus when working with long documents.
I tested the feature with my MacBook and it works as expected.
Espresso offers a folding desktop stand that makes rotating the screen a breeze. But more on this later.
The accessory has a pair is USB-C ports, and that’s it. But that’s all you need to connect your Mac or iPad to the screen. And Espresso provides the necessary cable.
No external power supply is needed, so you can easily set the external screen up when you’re on the go. But the Display V2 has a second USB-C port so you can bring in power if you wish.
You can use Espresso’s screen with computers and gaming consoles that don’t have USB-C, but there is no direct support for HDMI or Mini Display Port. To get those, you’ll need to purchase adapters. The HDMI one is $39, while the Mini DisplayPort version is $29.
On three sides, the screen bezels are relatively slim: 0.25 inches. But, like the iMac, Espresso Display V2 has a considerable “chin” at the bottom. It’s 2.2 inches wide, and is the secret to its slim design. Rival external displays are thicker, but don’t have the chin.
And it leads to one of the rare downsides of the Display V2: it’s wider than will fit in many laptops bags. Not thicker — wider. Consider the 16-inch MacBook Pro. It is 9.8 inches wide. This screen is 1.3 inches wider than that.
I have a backpack with a slot designed to vertically hold 16-inch notebooks. This external screen won‘t fit in it. But I have another that holds laptops horizontally, and Espresso’s product does fit in that one… barely.
The quirk won‘t matter if you plan to keep the Display V2 in your office. Or just carry it around town with Espresso’s flip-cover case.
Espresso built a pair of speakers into the bottom edge of the accessory. In my testing, these were about to put out as much as 75 dB a couple of feet from the front screen.
That’s enough to be easily hearable in a quiet environment. And the audio quality is… adequate. A bit thin.
You might want to connect external speakers for more, better sound. There’s no audio jack so you’ll need to connect your computer to AirPlay or Bluetooth speakers.
The Display V2 comes with the USB-C cable you need to connect it to your Mac or iPad. It’s 35 inches and bright white to match Apple’s cables.
A collection of add-ons made specifically for this external display is available for purchase separately.
Espresso Pen — The $79 active stylus can take the place of a mouse or trackpad. It is comfortable to hold and has a button for Control-click. This is likely the reason many people want Display V2 — they plan to use this with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and similar apps.
This stylus is optional, but the Display V2 has built-in palm rejection so you can lay your hand down on the screen when you write or draw.
As a nice bonus, the Pen clings magnetically to the display when you’re not using it.
Espresso MountGo — This $69 folding stand is one of the best I’ve ever used. (I wish iPad was designed to work with something similar.) It folds nearly flat so it’s easily portable, then expands to become a stand that can hold the Display V2 at a variety of angles and heights.
The screen attaches magnetically but securely. Plus, the stand allows the screen to rotate between landscape and portrait orientations.
Espresso Case — For carrying the Display V2 around the office or the town, there’s the $39 flip-cover case. It attaches magnetically, then covers and protects the display when you’re on the go. When you’re ready to get to work, flip it behind the screen and bend it into a stand.
Naturally, it comes in two sizes to fit the 15-inch or 13-inch versions of the display.
Espresso MountPro — This $49 mount lets you use the Display V2 with a VESA arm.
Espresso Display V2 final thoughts
This is one of the best-looking external screens I’ve ever used, and the design is top notch too. The fact that it’s also a touchscreen puts it in a category almost by itself.
Espresso offers a range of useful add-ons for the product, including an active stylus.
The only downside is the “chin,” and that’s only as problem if you want to take the external display on the road.
The Espresso Display V2 is a top-quality product that’s loaded with features. And it’s priced to match. The 15.6-inch touch version is $499. The 13.3-inch one with touch support is $439, while a version without the touchscreen is $339.
Buy from: Espresso
You can definitely find a nice-looking portable display for less. Like the InnoView Portable Monitor INVPM001, which is $199. But this isn’t a touchscreen, and it has a plastic casing — you have to pay more to get more features.
I haven’t had a chance to test the Desklab Portable Touchscreen Monitor, but the 15.6-inch touchscreen cost less than Espresso’s.