Lepow 15.6-Inch USB-C Portable Monitor Review
Achraf GR

Lepow 15.6-Inch USB-C Portable Monitor Review

The Lepow Z1 is currently the most affordable portable USB-C monitor on the market ... Poor Image Quality; Limited Brightness and Contrast.

The Lepow 15.6-inch Portable Monitor ($187.99) is one of the better large-screen mobile displays we've tested, thanks to its 1080p native resolution and a wider selection of inputs than you'll find on most briefcase monitors. But although its pixel count is good and the screen is roomy, its colors look flat (a common issue among recent portable monitors). That makes it best for productivity use, though it's okay for casual video or photo consumption. If you shop carefully, you may be able to pick it up at a bargain price. Note, though, that most competing portable monitors, including our Editors' Choice pick, use smaller 14-inch panels.

An Offer I Couldn't Refuse

Over the past year, we have been ramping up our coverage of portable monitors, and have come across some good-to-excellent ones, such as the HP EliteDisplay S14 and the Editors' Choice Lenovo ThinkVision M14. But for every laptop companion display from well-known brands like those, as well as stalwarts such as Asus and AOC, you can find more from obscure vendors such as GeChic, Elecrow, Eyoyo, and Lepow.

Normally, manufacturers loan us products to test, and we return them once the review is published.So I ordered one for myself, with the intention of also reviewing it. The monitor arrived in two days. I've taken it through its paces, and although it's not perfect, I have no regrets about buying it.

Based in Shenzhen, China, Lepow is a global operation with a US presence. A quick look at the Lepow website might give you the impression that it's a fly-by-night operation—the text on the About page is all Latin "Lorem ipsum" dummy copy.

One for the Road

A matte-black slab with rounded corners, the Lepow monitor measures 0.3 by 14.4 by 8.7 inches and weighs just 1.7 pounds. The bezels are relatively thin for a mobile monitor: 0.25 inch at the top, 0.4 inch on each side, and 0.8 inch below. On the unit's left edge are a mini-HDMI port, a USB-C port, and a 3.5mm audio-out jack...

On the right edge are the power button, a wheel for navigating the onscreen display (OSD), and another USB-C port, this one for powering the display. There's also a speaker grille on each side.

The Lepow comes with a protective cover, matte black on one side and gray on the other, that doubles as a foldable stand. Unlike the HP EliteDisplay S14 and the AOC I1601FWUX, whose covers protect only the display panel, the Lepow cover's folds around the display to shield both front and back.

The stand supports only landscape mode, unlike that of the AOC I1601FWUX, which can also hold the panel in portrait mode once you pivot it by hand. You can prop up the screen, however, against a surface in a vertical orientation or lay it flat in front of you. The included user guide shows you how to rotate the onscreen image to portrait mode in Windows to match the monitor's physical rotation.

Connectivity Choices

While the AOC I1601FWUX and the HP EliteDisplay S14 each comes with a single USB Type-C port, and the Lenovo ThinkVision M14 has a pair of them, the 15.6-inch Lepow includes two USB-C ports and one mini-HDMI port. While one of the former supports video input (using DisplayPort over USB, which allows data, video, and power transfer), the other is strictly for powering the monitor in situations where the host device can't handle the power load. Lepow bundles a USB-Type-C-to-A cord and an AC adapter for this purpose. The Lepow can also be powered from a laptop. I mostly ran it connected via USB Type-C cable to my Dell XPS 13 ultraportable, with the Lepow panel drawing its power from that notebook.

A Look at the OSD

You can access the device's onscreen display (OSD) using the aforementioned wheel (a.k.a. roll key), which is in effect a small button on a tiny geared wheel. You can either push the button in (to open the OSD or select a menu choice) or rotate the wheel up or down (to navigate between menu items or adjust values such as brightness or contrast). While not as easy as the mini-joystick controls of many desktop monitors, the wheel proved a cinch to use with a little practice. I preferred it to the multi-button control systems still found on many mobile and desktop displays alike.

The first menu choice, labeled Brightness, lets you control brightness, contrast, black level, and sharpness over a range of 0 to 100. (Note that when you turn on the Lepow, its brightness defaults to 30 percent, so unless you plan to be away from a power source other than your laptop for a long time, you may want to turn it up.) Next is the Image menu. The first item, called Eco, lets you choose among six picture modes: Standard, Game, Movie, Text, RTS, and FPS. The second, DCR, lets you enable or disable dynamic contrast ratio. The third, Aspect, lets you choose between a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio or the classic 4:3 ratio.

From the Color Temperature menu, you can choose among Cool, Warm, and a user mode that lets you set red, green, and blue values individually. Then there are three OSD Setting menus, which let you perform tasks such as choosing a language, muting or adjusting the speaker volume, selecting a port (USB-C or HDMI) for the signal source, enabling a low-blue-light mode, performing a factory reset, and enabling or disabling the high dynamic range (HDR) mode, which I'll discuss below.

Color and Brightness Testing

As usual, I did our luminance and color testing in standard mode using a Klein K10-A colorimeter, a Murideo Six-G signal generator, an X-Rite i1Basic Pro 2 color profiler, and Portrait Displays' CalMAN 5 software. Lepow rates the 15.6-inch Portable Monitor's luminance at 300 nits (candelas per meter squared), a very bright rating for a mobile display, but I measured only 169 nits. This is within the narrow brightness range in which most mobile monitors fall; a notable exception is the Editors' Choice Lenovo ThinkVision M14, which produced a sunny 280 nits in our testing.

The Lepow is the first mobile monitor I've reviewed that has an HDR mode. Labeled 2,084, the setting is essentially the HDR10 standard used in nearly all HDR monitors. I went into the Windows 10 display menu and checked the Windows HD Color settings, but they showed no indication that the Lepow could support HD video or gaming, which is unusual because almost every HDR-enabled monitor that we've tested over an HDMI connection can. This led me to suspect an HDR emulation—that is, various tweaks to color, contrast, and brightness designed to simulate true HDR. Nonetheless, I ran the monitor through our tests again with the HDR setting enabled, and it showed a boost in brightness to 196 nits. I measured its contrast ratio at 1,146:1, a bit greater than its 1,000:1 rating.

A Pinched Color Gamut

In our color testing, the Lepow covered just 65.4 percent of the sRGB color space (see the chromaticity chart below). The triangle represents the colors that comprise sRGB—essentially, all the colors that can be made by mixing different percentages of red, green, and blue. The white boxes show where the data points would be for a monitor that covers the full sRGB space. Things were no better when I ran the test a second time, but in HDR mode.

Several of our test points—the black circles—are well within the triangle, indicating that this panel can display about two-thirds of the sRGB colors, especially toward the red/purple/blue part of the spectrum. The blue circle is slightly outside of the triangle, meaning the Lepow covers a tiny range of blues and greens beyond the sRGB spectrum.

Subjectively, I tested the Lepow at home, in coffee shops, and in the office by viewing our usual selection of photos, video clips, and websites, as well as working with office documents. The results were similar over both USB-C and HDMI connections. As expected based on our color testing, reds and purples frequently looked muted (see the photo below).

This renders the monitor fine for business or casual use, but a poor choice for videophiles or photo editors.

HDR: Seeing Red

I also tried the HDR feature with both photos and videos over both USB-C and HDMI connections. It definitely had an effect, increasing contrast and punching up the color, but to a point that sometimes bordered on the garish. This may provide one advantage in gaming—it's harder for an enemy to hide from you. Reds were significantly oversaturated, to the point that, on looking at a photo of myself sitting in a faux Game of Thrones Iron Throne at an event I'd attended, I found myself wondering when Westeros had acquired a red king.

Lepow provides a three-year warranty for the display, which is typical of monitor warranties.

At a Sale Price, Money Well Spent

I'm glad that I acquired the 15.6-Inch Lepow Portable Monitor while it was on sale. It lets me bring a second screen larger than my laptop's on the road with me, and it provides both USB-C and HDMI connectivity. I can power it either from an AC adapter or from my laptop. Its only significant downsides are its limited gamut and dull colors, which make it a less-than-ideal choice for watching movies or working with photos.

Although I can no longer find it for $109, even at its list price of $169.99 the Lepow is not a bad deal. This is less than you'd pay for the similarly equipped AOC I1601FWUX, which has the same screen size and resolution and similar color issues but just a single USB port. Should you want a really good mobile monitor for both personal and business use, however, I suggest you spring for our current Editors' Choice Lenovo ThinkVision M14. Not only does it have the widest color gamut of all the portable monitors we've tested recently, but it's also much brighter. And instead of a relatively flimsy foldable stand and protective cover, it uses a hinged panel that attaches to a small base that houses its ports, giving it a wide range of tilt angles.

Lepow Z1 15.6 inch Computer Monitor 1920 x 1080 Full HD IPS Display USB-C Game Monitors with Type-C Mini HDMI Support Switch PS4 XBOX Gamepad



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