How to double your laptop screen and stay mobile: Mobile Pixels DUEX Plus USB monitor-transformer review

By: Technoslav Bergamot | 11.05.2023, 23:00
How to double your laptop screen and stay mobile: Mobile Pixels DUEX Plus USB monitor-transformer review

This external USB laptop display is a striking representative of a device created by enthusiasts at their own startup, Mobile Pixels, determined to make a truly handy portable display for work. With a clever laptop lid mount, USB power, FullHD resolution and modes of operation born from real-world usage scenarios. It can be deployed to face the audience in presentation mode and duplicate the laptop screen. It can be detached and placed side-by-side in portrait mode (useful for editing documents and web pages - coders and designers will appreciate it). In one move the orientation can be changed and installed on the other side of the laptop. The main difference from other similar monitors is the design that uses 4 strong magnets to attach to the notebook lid. With complete portability intact - along with the DUEX Plus optional screen, the laptop fits just as easily into the appropriate compartment of a backpack or bag.

Five reasons to buy Mobile Pixels DUEX Plus:

  • the ability to use a second screen with the laptop in mobile mode;
  • three usage scenarios (additional screen, duplicate screen with presentation, separate monitor with stand in portrait orientation);
  • dimensions that match the size of an ultraportable laptop;
  • great gift for the gadget lover;
  • reasonable price, comparable with the cost of a regular smartphone.

Two reasons not to buy Mobile Pixels DUEX Plus:

  • you do not need a second monitor under any circumstances;
  • you are not ready to mess around with magnets and see them on the laptop cover;

A little history

The first portable monitors, as a class, appeared around 2010, just after the USB transmission option appeared in the specifications. One of the first noted Samsung, its models for corporate clients presented HP, but as is often the case, external monitors were quite a narrow niche, with specific needs of customers. As a result, Asus, which regularly updates and supports its range of portable monitors, got a foothold in this niche (we even had a couple of reviews: MB168B and MB168B+ and ZenScreen GO MB16AP). I tried to use such external monitors, but somehow they didn't stick. I also had an attempt to use an iPad as an external monitor. This feature appeared in macOS a couple of years ago and was available for macbooks starting, I remember, in 2018. On the one hand, the idea looked curious: an iPad connects as a second screen wirelessly. On the other hand - it still needs power, and yes, and a stand. Also with this connection everything was lagging relentlessly, so I abandoned these experiments.

What is it

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The external monitor DUEX Plus by Mobile Pixels interested me for several reasons. First, it offered a clever design solution and solved issues with both portability (the display attaches to the back of a laptop and is so easy to transport and deploy/deploy in one motion) and power. Secondly, matched the size of a 13-inch macbook (DUEX Plus 13.3" diagonal, there is also a version DUEX Lite, it has 12.5"). Finally, a separate advantage was the fact that the manufacturer is fully focused only on these devices, and does not produce anything else. In practice such startups, created on enthusiasm and desire to solve one problem, but do it with ingenuity, often achieve good results. I was also intrigued by the possibility of transforming the display. And it also has drivers for Windows and MacOS, it knows how to work with Samsung smartphones in Dex mode and with Nintendo Switch gaming console, which extends the potential audience well. The specifications of the display are simple: FullHD resolution, 300 nits brightness, 4.5 watts power consumption and a sweep frequency of a modest 60 hertz. There are two USB-C inputs and touch buttons on the body for menu control (yes, it has a simple menu for brightness control).

What's in the box

In addition to the monitor itself in the box is a USB cable (one end USB-C, the other end is a hybrid adapter that allows you to connect it to both USB-C and a traditional USB-A), a booklet with installation instructions, 4 strong neodymium magnets 20x2 mm, a set of 12 gel dots for attaching the magnets (at first I was worried that they can't be found in the future, but they are easily found on the market by searching "glue gel dots for balloons" - this is what we use them for, as it turned out). By the way, magnets are also easy to buy if you, like in that joke, break or lose them, they cost pennies. There are also two A4 sheets. One contains a reminder of the monitor usage scenarios and a QR code to download the drivers. The second sheet is a... template for proper placement of the magnets on the back of the laptop.

Appearance and installation

With all the simplicity of design and ease of installation, the very first time everything looks too unusual not to pass up. But here a clear instruction comes to the rescue. You only need it once because it is very simple (you might have a better judgement than me and you won't need it at all). The tricky thing about the design is that the display moves on a skid, but has extra freedom of movement thanks to 4 more magnetized skids. This allows the display to protrude a few centimetres beyond the surface of the cover.

If this is not done, then part of the screen will be covered by the laptop lid. The screen is established simply: we take gel points, we glue on magnets, we establish magnets in the center of a slide (we use the sheet with a template), we release the second surface of gel points and we firmly attach all design to a laptop back cover. That's all, now the screen can be even detached - the magnets stay on the back cover. It remains to install drivers and you can work (the manufacturer strongly recommends not to connect the monitor before installing drivers).

This additional displacement is achieved thanks to a clever design providing movement of the magnets inside the horizontal troughs. They all move at the same time (which is why it is important to set them exactly at the right distance from each other with the help of a template sheet). The magnets, on the one hand, easily move along the metal plate and hold the monitor on the laptop cover. On the other hand, it allows, if necessary, to completely detach the monitor from the laptop lid, leaving the magnets on the gel velcro on the lid.

Without the monitor attached, the laptop lid may seem unaesthetic to some, but that's the price of being able to use this portable monitor.

Setup features (for MacOS)

Even a child can cope with the installation of drivers, but this was the first time I encountered the need to reboot the macbook when installing software. The instruction, however, warned me about it.

After the reboot you can connect the display and in the screen settings select which side of the macbook will be the external display.

Voila! I now have a second display with its own settings!

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The monitor has its own simple menu which is controlled by three buttons on the case. Next to it you can see two USB-C connectors. I don't really know why there are two of them - the first is used only for power supply, the second allows you to power the monitor and transmit the image as well so of course I used it only.

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Three modes

One of the advantages of the DUEX Plus is its versatility, which I have never encountered before. Firstly, it can be held in the folded state on the back of the laptop, and simply pulled out when needed, with one move. And it can be placed both to the left and to the right of the laptop screen. I ended up leaving it on the left, just because the macbook's USB outputs are on the left.

Thanks to the extra stroke of the magnets, you can extend the monitor beyond the laptop lid and even swing it around a bit for easy operation. In doing so, the magnets hold the weight of the design well.

Secondly, the screen can be rotated 180 degrees, and then it becomes similar to the Asus Taichi notebook, which has displays on both sides of the lid. This mode is called "presentation", the implication being that it is convenient for showing a presentation in which the audience sits in front of the speaker rather than spread out around him. It's not a typical scenario for me, but I'm sure someone will be thrilled with it.

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Thirdly, you can detach the monitor from the laptop lid and set the screen vertically. In this case, the settings of the second monitor to select the rotation of 90 or 270 degrees (depending on how the monitor is turned, left or right it stands, in my case is 270 degrees).

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Accordingly, in the settings of the location of the second monitor, it is already displayed in portrait orientation:

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This option will be appreciated by all who like monitors with the function Pivot, in my experience so love to do programmers and web coders.

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A fly in the ointment

This whole barrel of honey is obviously not without a fly in the ointment. When using the second screen I had only one inconvenience when working with macbook - the movement of the cursor on the external screen is a little slower than with the main screen, which creates discomfort. But if the second screen is used more for viewing than for work (usually all sorts of dashboards with real-time updates are displayed on it, I also added messengers), then it is possible to work. That's the only residue I have from working with DUEX Plus.

Neighbors of the line

Mobile Pixels now has a total of three models of these portable monitors. In addition to the DUEX Plus, there is also DUEX Litewhich has a smaller 12.5" diagonal and a single USB-C connector. And there is an uber-device Trio with two screens. It comes in three versions: 12.5" diagonals (the Trio proper) and 14" (Trio Max). Though the site offers laptop versions with 15"-16" and 17.3" diagonals at the time of purchase. But since the capabilities of the built-in macbook graphics card is not limitless, the resolution of the main screen drops at this from 3360x2100 to 1786x1226.

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In this case the monitor settings start to look like this:

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It certainly looks amazing (but in the specs they write that macbooks with M1 processor are not supported yet):

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What competitors have

It is a paradox, but portable monitors with a diagonal of 13 inches or less are not on the market now. The most common are Asus MB16 series monitors, but their diagonal size is 15.6", which makes them less convenient to carry with ultraportable notebooks (ultrabooks and macbooks). Perhaps this is the main reason for the emergence of Mobile Pixels, which saw a market where there is, albeit a niche demand (after all, not every laptop owner needs a second monitor), but a lack of competitors.

Three things to remember about Mobile Pixels DUEX Plus

  • This is a portable USB monitor for 13-inch laptops with a magnet mount
  • It works with Windows and MacOS operating systems
  • It has three operating scenarios (additional screen, presentation mode with duplicate screen and vertical stand mode)

For those who want to know more

  • ASUS ZenScreen GO MB16AP review: Mobile monitor with battery and USB Type-C
  • Pair review of Asus MB168B and MB168B+ USB monitors: a travel kit
  • ViewSonic VSD220 review: a monitor with Android