Have you ever thought how handy it would be to have a large computer monitor with you when you travel? Well, you probably haven’t thought that, because, on the face of it, it’s a crazy idea: lugging around a great big heavy monitor in your luggage?!
However, this isn't an entirely outrageous idea; in fact, I’m carrying around a monitor for my laptop, and when I’ve got some heavy computing to do it’s so convenient. So how do I manage this?
Like everything in life, selecting what computer gear to buy and carry around is all about compromise. My laptop has a 11.5” screen so it’s only a little larger that my 10.1“ tablet (same height, 3.5cm wider), and it’s a bit limited compared to using a full-sized 15.5”-screen laptop; but it fits comfortably into my day pack, it’s fairly light for a laptop (1.5kg), and that tiny screen uses next to no power, so it goes for hours and hours on battery power, and still gives me the advantages that a laptop has over a tablet .
However, when it comes to any serious and substantial work, especially graphics, that tiny screen is pretty suboptimal, and plugging in the large monitor, which then gives me two screens to work on, transforms my setup. Here’s what it looks like set up on a desk in my current house-sit.
My laptop and monitor set-up
All the stuff at the back and side of the desk is the house-owner’s gear, which I’ve moved aside while I’m here. My gear is just the laptop, the monitor, the keyboard, and the mouse.
My laptop is to the right of the monitor; it’s an Acer 2-in-1 (laptop and tablet computer) with a touch screen – the keyboard folds back underneath so that you can use it as a Windows tablet computer, which I don't, but it also gets the keyboard out of the way and acts as a stand in this setup.
The separate keyboard and mouse are both Bluetooth connected devices – the Bluetooth peripherals cost a little more that wireless ones, but I don’t have to have a wireless dongle sticking out the side of my laptop and taking up a USB socket, and I can also use these Bluetooth peripherals with my tablet to make it into a micro laptop for ultra-light-weight travelling, (but that’s another story.)
Monitor toting criteria
Now, I can get away with carting a monitor around partly because I’m housesitting while I travel, so I have a home base for weeks at a time, and partly because I’m only travelling on surface transport at the moment, mostly in a small car with two other people, so I can afford a little more weight and space. If I was constantly on the move with no home base, and commonly travelling on aircraft, I would leave the monitor at home (if I had a home); In fact, I’d probably leave the laptop behind too, and stick to my much lighter and smaller and amazingly useful tablet, as I did in 2015 when I travelled around the northern hemisphere commonly jumping on and off aeroplanes, busses, and trains, and doing lots of walking with a backpack.
So what monitor am I using?
Choosing the right monitor is obviously very important for this, and the overriding criteria are weight and volume – you won’t be carrying a heavy, top-of-the-range 27” or 30” graphics monitor with you. In fact, it’s the cheap, bottom-of-the-range 19” monitors that you will be choosing from. Mine is an Acer, which cost me less that AU$100. Mostly it’s only 14mm thick, with a thicker (37mm) area at the middle of the bottom edge for the stand, the electronics, and the connections. The bare monitor weighs 1.65kg, and with the base attached it weighs 1.9kg. There’s also a little power supply which weighs another 150 grams. That’s more than you’d want to add to your carry-on luggage, but it’s still pretty light.
The current equivalent monitor to mine is the Acer E1900HQ 18.5" LCD monitor, which weighs 1.83 kg, and which you can buy from Officeworks in Australia for AU$94 at the time of writing. Most other monitor manufacturers make a similar product in the 2-3 kg range.
Packing the monitor
When I pack the monitor up, I take its base off and pack it between layers of clothing in my travel backpack. I have some pieces of foam that I have cut from a camping mat that I also carry for my morning exercise routine, and I put these against the screen face. Here's my monitor, disassembled and ready for packing:
And here it is, in my travel backpack:
Despite what I have said above, my monitor (and my laptop) have been in my travel backpack as it has gone through the rigors of air travel and airline baggage handling with no trouble and no damage.
If having a larger monitor is useful for what you do as you travel, and you travel meets the criteria that I have described above, then it can be done, and quite effectively!
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