Thursday, September 9, 2021

GMK Xpanel 4K USB Type-C touchscreen portable monitor

Two minute review

External monitors - as used with a laptop - are not a novelty but GMK ups the ante by adding touchscreen capability to its 14-inch portable monitor and throwing in 4K resolution as well. The result is the Xpanel, a superb screen that promises to boost the end user’s productivity by expanding the available real estate or working area significantly. It does so at a price point that’s been hitherto - and to our knowledge - never reached. 

It is thin, well built and hits a sweet spot thanks to its 14-inch form factor which is not too small and not too big, making it a great companion for space-saving desks. It might be a bit of a hard sell though for customers who just want a small external monitor without touchscreen capability. The AOC I1601FWUX, which uses Type-C, comes from a recognized brand, has a 15.6-inch screen and a much, much smaller price tag, would be a better choice.

Pricing and availability

Get $60 OFF the Xpanel 14 inch 4K UHD portable touchscreen monitor from Amazon for one week only courtesy of an exclusive discount voucher code (PR$60OFF-KD1) which brings the price of the display to a mere $279.99 with a free monitor sleeve case thrown in.

Side View

(Image credit: Future)

Design

The first thing that comes to mind when you first handle the GMK Xpanel is how thin and compact the product - which is built primarily with aluminum and glass - is. At its thinnest, this external monitor is only 5mm thick, with the kickstand - which also houses the connectivity - adding an extra 8mm.

Bottom Bezel

(Image credit: Future)

The screen itself - a 14-inch one - is surrounded on three sides by a 5mm bezel and a slightly bigger one at the bottom. Altogether, the portable display is 320mm wide and 206mm high, for a weight of only 780g.

Ports Right Side

(Image credit: Future)

On one side of the kickstand a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microUSB port and the power/return button. 

Ports Left Side

(Image credit: Future)

On the other side are a miniHDMI port, plus two USB Type-C ports. On the bottom edge of the GMK Xpanel are two rubber feet - to keep it stable - and two speakers located on the same side. Alongside the monitor, there’s also four cables (two USB-C, one HDMI to mini-HDMI and one microUSB to USB), all measuring 1M in length. In addition, there’s a PD charger and a screen wiping cloth.

It doesn’t have VESA mount screw holes so you won’t be able to shove it on a monitor stand for example. 

GMK Xpanel Review Listing

(Image credit: Future)

In use

The GMK display supports HDR, Freesync, 100% sRGB coverage and 10-point touch. It has a claimed response time of 5ms, a 350cd/m2 brightness and a 1000:1 contrast ratio.

We tested the display using the Dell Latitude 7490 business laptop which comes with one Thunderbolt 3 port but you will be able to plug it - with optional adaptors - into a surprising number of products including digital cameras and gaming consoles.

Note that some will require external power supply as well because of power requirements and that you are expected to use the bundled cable - we tried with a third party Thunderbolt 3 cable and it didn’t work. What that means is that you probably will not be able to use it with a long USB cable unless you use the extra power adaptor.

We also tried the GMK 4K with the still popular Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and GMK has an ever growing list of smartphones that are compatible with the portable monitor.

With a pixel density of almost 315ppi, it surpasses Apple’s Retina Display - which is considered as the benchmark for sharpness on screens - by a wide margin, giving it a crisp display spread over more than 8.3 million pixels. Because it uses IPS technology, its viewing angles are excellent with well-reproduced, natural colors; the display however is extremely glossy and the fact that by default, the brightness is not set to high, doesn’t help at all.

Device Menu

(Image credit: Future)

You can, of course, use the user-friendly on screen display settings to change all this: it includes six presets as well as the ability to have a user-defined color temperature plus touch sliders for audio, contrast and brightness.

14-inch 4K touchscreen portable monitors are rarer than their 15.6-inch counterparts and 4K ones even rarer. That’s because it serves a very niche audience which will appreciate the extra pixels; however for most users, 1080p should be more than enough for most use cases. Touch capabilities on the display were good with no noticeable lag.

Kickstand

(Image credit: Future)

The kickstand is a treat to use as it opens up to 90 degrees, while being firm but flexible. Shoving all the ports there proved to be a good idea as it - in theory - makes the display a bit more stable, as it moves the centre of gravity nearer to the bottom.

Should I buy the GMK Xpanel 4K portable monitor?

Buy it if:

You want 4K and touchscreen: That’s the very essence of the GMK Xpanel and if your use cases do not tick both cases, then there are cheaper alternatives worth looking into.

You want a smaller form factor: 14-inch is compact enough to be carried around easily, some users will prefer a 15.6 or 16-inch form factor that offers more real estate.

Don’t buy it if:

You don’t need 4K. Most prospective customers will find a 4K monitor overkill for their needs. If you fall in this category (or if you don’t need a touchscreen), then you may save a few bucks choosing something else.

You don’t have USB Type-C connectors. The GMK definitely loses some of its appeal when you use it with a HDMI port and its power adaptor.

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