ASUS ZenScreen MB16A Portable Monitor Review

ASUS ZenScreen MB16A Portable Monitor Review


Productivity wise, having more than the standard 16:9 screen is always better and ideal to have as you have more screen real estate for multi-tasking or having multiple windows. Having that extra screen space can be in the form of opting for a 18:9 / 21:9 ultrawide monitor or by adding more 16:9 screens of different resolutions. The main problem of having ultrawide and multiple displays is not being able to take them on a go due to their bulkiness. ASUS’ approach to solve this problem, is providing a portable solution by going for a tablet-like form factor eliminating the bulkiness of a full-fledged monitor. Enter the ASUS Zenscreen MB16A, a 15.6″ laptop sized 1080p monitor with the convenience and portability of a tablet.

SPECIFICATIONS

Panel Size: Wide Screen 15.6″(39.6cm) 16:9
Panel Type : IPS
Resolution : 1920×1080
Display Viewing Area(HxV) : 344.16 x 193.59 mm
Display Surface Glare
Pixel Pitch : 0.179mm
Brightness(Max) : 220 cd/㎡
Contrast Ratio (Max) : 800:1

UNBOXING AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Asus ZenScreen MB16A’s box immediately shows the product and it’s possible orientations. Upon opening the box, you are greeted with what it seems to be an egg tray-like box with the MB16A’s cover.

The package contains the following*:

  • MB16A 15.6″ Monitor
  • ASUS Smart Case
  • DisplayPort over USB-C cable
  • USB-C to A adapter
  • ZenScreen Pen
  • Quickstart guide

*Our sample only came with a USB-C to A cable but retail units should have the accessories listed above.

The ZenScreen is sleek with a glossy display that’s not too reflective and thin bezels except for the bottom.

The bottom chin has a silver finish which houses 2 OSD buttons on the left and an ASUS logo on the center. Resting on the right-hand side is a power button and a punched hole for attaching a keychain or security locks.

The Smart Cover uses magnets to attach to ZenScreen. Unlike the Ipad Pro or the Surface, it doesn’t use a pin type magnet instead, it uses the magnets behind the screen to secure it in place.

The ZenScreen MB16A with the smart cover is considerably thin and is of the same thickness as the Zenbook S UX391. This makes the ZenScreen MB16A very portable and easy to store in a bag as it does not consume a lot of space. You might get away with a 14″ backpack if you have good padding, though, I’d still recommend getting a 15.6″ laptop bag if you wish to store the ZenScreen MB16A and a laptop for safety purposes.

ASUS ZenScreen MB16A Portable Monitor Review

Setting up the ZenScreen MB16A is very easy with just attaching the cover to the screen and plugging it via the USB-C cable and you’re good to go. Windows immediately detects the monitor and sets it as a secondary screen.

Viewing Angles and Stand Flexibilty

Viewing angles of the MB16A is not an issue thanks to its IPS panel. The 200nit max brightness, while not that bad as its still bright enough for indoor use, might post an issue if you want to take it outdoors.

Portrait mode is one of the MB16A’s selling points especially if you’re a programmer or you’re viewing long spreadsheets. It’s fairly easy to set up thanks to the smart cover. Do note that you should considering your cable’s length if you wish to position it in portrait mode.

SOFTWARE

You can use the ZenScreen MB16A out of the box with any USB C or USB A ports without the need for it to be a thunderbolt port. However, you are required to install DisplayLink drivers if your device does not support it out of the box. DisplayWidget can also be downloaded to provide additional flexibilty of the ZenScreen MB16A.

DisplayWidget lets you tinker with the OSD Menu and even some extras with the App Sync. Do note that the DisplayWidget has to be installed for the auto rotate feature to function.

Conclusion

ASUS ZenScreen MB16A Portable Monitor Review

Let’s break it down:


Performance. The convenience on having an extra portable screen definitely increase overall productivity. The ZenScreen MB16A proves to be a need rather than a want. The glossiness of the screen is not enough to compensate for the underwhelming 200 nit brightness of the display. It’s dimmer than your average display both on monitors and laptops.

Build Quality. Overall build quality of the ZenScreen MB16A is pretty solid with very minimal flex of the screen itself. The weight of 1.4kg coupled with a thin height and minimal flex shows that asus crammed all the necessary components inside the monitor. Thanks to the efficient use of space, there are no extra bells and whistle contributing to the bulkiness of the monitor. To add, the smartcover covers the front and back of the ZenScreen protecting it when stored inside a backpack.

Functionality. While the ZenScreen MB16A does increase productivity by having a secondary screen, it also acts as a double-edged sword as it quickly drains your laptop’s battery when connected. Thankfully, this can be solved if you have your laptop plugged in. Having one cable for both display input and power is a great convenience as you won’t have to deal with extra cables and finding an additional socket to power the monitor.

Bundle. The ability to tinker with the Zenscreen’s settings using the DisplayWidget software instead of using the OSD buttons is very convenient and a timesaver as you won’t have to deal with the stress and frustration of navigating through the 2 buttons. ASUS’ Implementation of the MB16A’s smart cover is by far its weakest point. If not in an optimal position, the ZenScreen would just slide down making it frustrating to position it the way you want.

Value. The price Php 16,500 definitely sets the ZenScreen MB16A as a premium accessory and targets a very niche market. The cost of getting extra productivity is not cheap but it’s not as expensive as it is justified by the features, function and convenience that it provides.

The idea of having a portable secondary display quite enticing as it increases workflow and productivity. ASUS’ solution however, is not that perfect considering it mostly failed on the comfort and ease of use side of things. The SmartCover is floppy compared to other solutions like the ipad pro or surface pro. It does get the job done, but it’s not as flexible on what I would expect for a screen-tablet, especially for its price. The Screen’s 200nit brightness is not that impressive as I find it lacking in today’s standard. The 200nit brightness and its color accuracy make it good as a secondary display for excel, coding and multi-window use but not for media consumption due to the aforementioned screen brightness.

ASUS still has some points to improve on the MB16A considering it’s the 3rd iteration from its ZenScreen product line. Having touchscreen support or a “real” ZenScreen pen would make it the perfect companion for users who want more screen real estate when travelling thanks to its thin form factor and protective smart cover. Nonetheless, it’s a good product that definitely serves its purpose.

Should you buy it?

The ZenScreen MB16A should be a no-brainer to recommend if it weren’t for the premium price-tag. Though, if money is not a problem and you have the spare Php 16,500 to burn and you are looking for an accessory that would last you even if you upgrade your laptop for switch from windows to mac and vice versa, then the ZenScreen MB16A is arguably a must have accessory to increase your workflow and productivity. If the MB16A had touchscreen support and an internal battery, it would’ve been merited with a Gold Award despite its pricing. But for what the ZenScreen MB16A brings to the table bundled with a lengthy 3 year warranty, it is worthy enough for the B2G Silver Award!