Monitors for Working Out of the Office

One of the more common questions asked by readers is a request for recommendations of external LCD monitors which can be attached to a laptop so that mobile users have two displays.  This post summarizes current thoughts on how to do this based on my experiences and the experiences of my friends, Randy Johnston, Bob Spencer, and Val Steed.  Together, we teach hundreds of CPE courses to accountants across North America each year, and also make recommendations at TechnologyBestPractices.com, CPAFirmTech.com, TotallyPaperless.com, and AccountingSoftwareWorld.com.  Many of us are also active consultants with CPA firms nationally either independently or through organizations such as NMGI.

The K2 CPA Firm Tech team members had an e-mail discussion re: our personal opinions on portable monitors for CPAs about three weeks ago. 

  • Some of my co-workers @ K2 (Val, Randy, Bob) are recommending an HP 21.5” touch screen monitor – the HP L2105tm 21.5”($299).  Personally, I think this one is too big to lug around (14.1 lb (6.4 kg), Dimensions (w x d x h) 20.2 x 9.1 x 16.5 in).  The one I mention below is smaller, but does not have the multi-touch touch screen, and is also only an 18.5” display instead of a 21.5” display, resulting in much less work area, but my recommendation is a little over half of the weight of the HP model.  Info on HP model L2105tm is available on the HP website.
  • Due its the much smaller form factor (17.72" x 11.65" x 2.83", Weight 7.94 lbs), I’m recommending the Samsung LD190N monitor for staff and seniors when out of the office  ().  It is a 18.5” LCD (1360 x 768 native resolution), and has a 5ms response time with decent contrast.  I purchased one of these for my own use a few weeks ago.  Some things you should know about this display:
    • This WILL NOT fit in my backpack sized for a 17”notebook, so I haven’t taken it on the road yet.
    • The monitor is NOT HDCP capable, so you will not be able to play Blue Ray DVDs on it, and only has an analog VGA cable input.
    • Since this one is only $119 vs. the $299 of the HP above (the HP is clearly a superior monitor, but it’s big, you could always buy a few of the Samsungs, and then see if you need a larger display and the touch interface. 
  • You might try to find a good deal on 17” monitors, although I don’t know of any specific models to recommend, as most everyone is going to something bigger these days.

Screen protection will be a concern for most users, as there is no protection provided with either of these displays, and they will be very easy to crack.  I plan to protect my screen two ways:

  • I plan to use black velcro (matches the framing on the monitor) to attach a trimmed corrugated plastic For Sale sign you can buy at Lowe’s/Home Depot and use it as a hard piece to protect the screen.
  • I will see if any of my existing bags will hold the monitor so I can avoid purchasing a special case for it (I have about 10 laptop cases from throughout the years).

There are a number of alternatives for a case, including:

  • For the smaller Samsung and other 19” class displays, there’s a closeout bag by Shuttle (gaming PC manufacturer) which is designed to transport their discontinued XP19 - 19” monitor (which had a piece of plexiglass over the LCD) from place to place.  I don’t have one at this point, but it looks pretty interesting, and is $60 @ Directron, an online closeout store.
  • One firm reported that they use the CaseAce LCD harness to transport monitors and shield the screens from damage.  This is a cover shaped like a messenger bag (with the bottom open) to let you carry your monitor by the handle mounted on the top of the bag.  (Note: This harness appears to not be water tight, so you may want to also carry a trash bag with you to seal the monitor in the event of very heavy rain).  There is a larger version of this LCD harness which will let you carry monitors up to 24”. 
  • Another firm reported that they used contact paper to reinforce the original packaging which came with their monitors and are using these boxes on the infrequent occasions when they need to move from site to site with their LCD.

Finally, some users will want to have more than one 22” monitor available in the office.  There are a number of solutions which will let you run the second external monitor (e.g. laptop LCD + 2 External LCD’s), including:

I would NOT purchase more than one of any device until you test it and verify that the drivers will not conflict with your applications and operating system.  I have had numerous issues with drivers for these items in the past, and some of the ones you can purchase at retail in office supply stores have software which will hang up when you try to run the PC without the attached monitor – which defeats the purpose of having a laptop.

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by The K2 Team - Look here for anything that involves technology and accounting. K2 Enterprises is the largest supplier of technology CPE (Continuing Professional Education) for CPAs, CGAs and CAs in North America. The K2 team routinely reviews software and hardware products from all major publishers and teaches accountants how to use these tools effectively. The entire K2 team has 10+ years of experience, many with 30+ years of technology and accounting experience.

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