A few months ago, we got an early sample of a very interesting portable touch monitor called Desklab. This unit was part of a very successful Kickstarter campaign which raised almost $700K earlier this year and in this review, we wanted to find out how useful it can be for photographers, videographers, and content creators.
Build and design
Before we start, we need to clarify something. The Desklab comes in two versions, one with a 1080p panel and the other with a 4K. Both versions are more or less identical aside from the panel and initially, we thought that we are going to test the 4K version but apparently, when the unit was sent to us they were all out of the 4K versions so this review will cover the 1080p unit which as we will show you is still very sharp.
Desklab 1080p/4K portable touch monitor
The monitor has a viewable area that is 15.6″ across and the unit itself is almost 36cm wide (14″) by 22cm (8.5″) tall with fairly thin bezels on three of its sides. The Desklab is very thin – only 1 cm (less than 0.5″) at its thickest part and is also very light at about 725 grams (or around 1.6 lbs).
On the right side, there are four ports – a micro USB for connecting accessories such as a keyboard/mouse, etc. Two USB-C connectors for data and power and a mini HDMI port (which is better although far less common than the micro version. A full-size HDMI would be even better although it would require a thicker frame).
On the left side, there is a power button, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a small clickable scroll wheel for changing the menus (we would prefer more traditional keys here). The bottom of the unit has two speakers and the back has the Desklab logo on a very nice dark textured finish. The back also has a notch to support the optional stand.
Besides some of the obvious things that you can do with this kind of touch monitor such as a second screen for general productivity work, using it larger screen for your Smartphone, gaming and watching Netflix videos etc., there are quite a few photos and especially video related applications that such a monitor can provide and that we have tested.
One use for it is as a secondary larger monitor for stills and video shooting. Although it doesn’t support any monitoring tools (which is why you might need to loop it to a more conventional 5″ or 7″ monitor), being much larger it can help with both composition and focus and can also be used as a director’s monitor if rigged properly.
When it comes to sharpness, even our 1080p Desklab looked good, so we can only imagine how sharp the 4K version can be. When we compared the Desklab to our Portkeys BM5 monitor we noticed that the Desklab had way narrower viewing angle, the colors were not very accurate and the maximum brightness was way lower than the BM5 (but that monitor has 2000 nits of brightness so this isn’t a fair comparison).
All in all, this display was not designed with professional monitoring in mind but you can still use it as a secondary display in a number of practical scenarios.
We rigged the Desklab with the clamp (on the left) and put it on a light stand
One thing that you can’t do at the moment (but you might be able to do in the future) is use the touch capability of the monitor to control the camera’s touch focus feature. We have already talked to Sony about adding this and although we are not sure if this is technically possible with current Sony cameras it could be a really nice addition.
Talking about the touch capabilities of the Desklab takes us to the second use case for this monitor as a secondary computer screen for content creators. We tested this application with several different PCs and it has some limitations. We needed separate power and data cables (HDMI and USB-C, although it theory if your computer’s USB-C has a power delivery mode with HDMI support it might be able to work with a single cable), the touch capability had some issues especially when extending the screen on Windows 10.
Connections on the right side
TheDesklabis a very attractive offer for anybody looking for a large, light, and thin portable monitor with touch capabilities. For photographers and content creators especially, this can be useful in a lot of scenarios both when shooting and during post-production as well as for general work on the go.
The screen is really light and portable, solidly built with lots of connections and decent sharpness and brightness for indoor use.
When it comes to drawbacks – we are not big fans of the optional magnetic stand and for photographers finding a bracket that’s big enough with a 1/4″ 20 is going to be hard (we did find a sort of a workaround which did the job for us but it’s not ideal).
Maybe the biggest issue aside from mounting the screen is the lack of an internal battery. This means that you will always need to power the unit from AC/computer or a hefty power bank (normal one for the 1080p version or a PD supported one for the 4K version). For desk work, this isn’t an issue but if you move around a lot it can get a bit more complex.
The touch features from our experience are also a hit and miss kind of thing, not so much because of Desklab but more because of poor OS implementation which we could only hope will improve over time.
As for pricing, the 1080p version which we have used currently sells for $300 while the 4K version goes for $400.
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