Two things set the $349.99 Asus ZenScreen Touch (MB16AMT) apart from most every general-purpose mobile monitor we have reviewed. First, it has a touch screen, a feature that it shares with some interactive pen monitors like the Wacom Cintiq 16. Second, it has a built-in battery that recharges, which can be a godsend if you’re viewing content from your phone, or if your laptop’s battery is low on juice. This 15.6-inch display, which is best for use with Windows computers and Android phones, is feature-rich and a joy to use, and it’s our new Editors’ Choice for mobile monitors in its size range. It’s not cheap, but it’s very capable.
Zen at Your Fingertips
The ZenScreen Touch measures 9 by 14.2 by 0.4 inches, and is housed in a handsome, silver-gray case. At its heart is its 15.6-inch, touch-sensitive 1080p (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) IPS panel. The screen is the same size as those of the Asus ZenScreen MB16ACE, Asus ZenScreen Go (MB16AC), AOC I1601FWUX, and Lepow 15.6-Inch USB-C Portable Monitor, all of which we have tested or are in the process of testing.
As was the case with all these panels, the ZenScreen Touch worked with my late-model Dell XPS 13, with no apparent compatibility issues despite the laptop’s and ZenScreen’s difference in screen size and native resolution. (My XPS 13 has a 13.3-inch, 4K UHD screen, with twice the vertical and horizontal pixels as a 1080p screen while retaining the same 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio.) The ZenScreen Touch should also be a good fit for a 15.6-inch or larger laptop, provided that it has DisplayPort-over-USB-C video-out connectivity.
The screen supports 10-point capacitive multi-touch input, meaning that you can control it using standard finger-based touch gestures such as pinching, stretching, or scrolling. Asus also provides a stylus pen with the panel. You can use its soft “eraser” end for scrolling, tapping on links, and other touch functions. At the other end, it’s an actual pen that writes—on paper, with ink. (It can also serve a third function, which I’ll get to in a moment.)
It was a joy to navigate with the ZenScreen Touch using just my fingers (and occasionally the stylus). But whether I used my hands or the stylus, the screen was very responsive to my touch. I tested it mostly with my touch-screen Dell XPS 13, but the ZenScreen Touch can be used with a Mac, as well, albeit with predictably limited touch functionality.
Also, although the monitor can connect to an Apple iPad with a USB-C port, you’ll have to use the tablet for touch control, as the ZenScreen doesn’t support touch input on iOS devices. It does better with Android devices, if they run Android 6.0 and support Host Storage mode and the HID multi-touch function with the Asus ZenScreen Touch App installed. (Asus has a list of supported phones, but it doesn’t seem to be updated regularly, so check with the company if you have questions about compatibility with recent devices.)
Note that the ZenScreen Touch’s touch control, though fine for general-purpose use, lacks the precision of a touch-screen display designed for artists. If you are looking for an interactive, touch-based monitor for creative work, you will want to go with a pen display such as the Wacom Cintiq 16 I mentioned earlier. It has a very sensitive stylus for artistic work, though that model doesn’t support finger-based touch. (For that, you would need to upgrade to the Cintiq Pro line.)
A Built-In Power Boost
Generally, mobile monitors draw their power from the computer or device to which they are connected. This is not practical for a smartphone, which has a limited battery capacity, connects to a power source only when charging, and would have to provide power to both itself and the monitor. Asus solves this by equipping the ZenScreen Touch with a built-in 7,800mAh battery that it can run off, eliminating the need to draw power from the phone. According to Asus, the monitor can run up to 4 hours at full brightness on a charge. The only other similarly equipped portable monitor I have tested is the Asus ZenScreen Go. If you’re going to use the Touch with a phone, be sure to keep the monitor’s internal battery charged.
Common among mobile monitors is a case/stand combination, and Asus provides an origami-style cover that doubles as a stand. As a case, it wraps around both the front and back of the monitor and magnetically adheres to it. A magnetic strip on the case running the width of the ZenScreen Touch affixes to the monitor in back to provide the prop-up support. You can adjust the monitor’s tilt by placing its bottom edge in one of two grooves. There are several ways of folding the stand, including one to support the screen when placed in portrait orientation.
Asus also designed in a quick-and-easy way to prop up the monitor that doesn’t require the stand. Just push the pen/stylus that Asus provides—or any pen or pencil of similar diameter, for that matter—point-first through the hole in the ZenScreen Touch’s bottom bezel, from the back, until about an inch of the pen protrudes in front. The pen acts as a stand leg; the monitor rests on its bottom edge with the pen keeping it upright, tilted slightly back. It’s surprisingly stable. A pen will also support the ZenScreen Touch when it is placed in portrait orientation. This is not a makeshift solution; Asus shows this configuration in its promotional photos for the Touch and describes it in text. Points for originality!
A Joyride Through the OSD
Two other mobile monitors in Asus’ ZenScreen line, the ZenScreen (MB16ACE) and the ZenScreen Go, feature two control buttons in their lower left corners for navigating the onscreen display (OSD) settings. The ZenScreen Touch, though, has only one.
In fact, the ZenScreen Touch has just two buttons, period: a power button in the lower right corner, and the control button. But while at a glance you might mistake the latter for an ordinary button, it’s actually a five-way controller, similar to the miniature joystick controls you find on many desktop gaming monitors. You can press the button in, usually to enter a command, or you can push it up, down, or to either side to navigate.
On the left side of the monitor are two ports, a USB Type-C and a micro-HDMI; the ZenScreen Touch comes with a USB-C cable that supports DisplayPort over USB-C (enabling the monitor to receive video or data, as well as power), as well as a USB-A-to-USB-C adapter, and a micro-HDMI-to-HDMI cable.
Pressing the controller once launches a menu of its functions. Pressing it in again takes you to the main menu; toggling it to the right closes the menu; toggling it to the left lets you control the speaker volume; pressing it upward lets you control the input source; and pressing it downward lets you choose whether your input device is a phone or PC.
Functions accessible through the OSD are surprisingly comprehensive, rivaling those you might find on an Asus desktop monitor. The main menu has eight items, identified by icons. The first one, called Splendid, actually opens a submenu showing eight picture modes: Standard, sRGB, Scenery, Theater, Game, Night View, Reading, and Darkroom. The second, Blue Light Filter, lets you choose among four levels of blue-light reduction for reducing eyestrain, particularly at night—or you can leave it off. The third, Color, lets you control color temperature and saturation but also brightness and contrast. Next is Image, which controls sharpness, aspect ratio, and more. The fifth item, System Setup, lets you control settings like Auto Rotation (so the text or image on the screen will remain right-side-up whether you’re in landscape or portrait orientation), Eco Mode, and Language. The sixth, Shortcut, lets you go to widely used settings like Brightness. Next is MyFavorite, which lets you set, save, and access favorite settings. The final item is the menu exit selection.
The ZenScreen Touch’s OSD is among the best I’ve seen on a portable monitor, rich with options and a cinch to navigate using its mini-joystick control. In addition, many of the monitor’s functions can be controlled from a PC through a Windows desktop app known as Asus DisplayWidget.
Brightness and Color Testing
I did our luminance, color, and contrast testing using a Klein K10-A colorimeter, a Murideo Six-G signal generator, and Portrait Displays’ CalMAN 5 software. A lot of mobile monitors claim luminance (brightness per unit area) ratings in excess of 200 nits (candelas per meter squared), but only a handful have achieved that in our testing. The ZenScreen Touch is one of the happy few, testing at 240 nits, just short of its 250-nit rating. Its 1,260:1 contrast ratio is well in excess of its 700:1 rating, thanks to its ability to render dark shadow areas.
In our color testing in Standard mode, the ZenScreen Touch covered 69.1 percent of the sRGB color space (see the chromaticity chart below). The triangle represents the colors that comprise sRGB—essentially, all the colors that can be made by mixing different percentages of red, green, and blue. The white boxes show where the data points would be for a monitor that covers the full sRGB space. Several of our test points—the black circles—are well within the triangle, indicating limited color coverage toward the red and purple part of the spectrum, while the blue point at lower left indicates slightly expanded coverage toward the blue/green.
This color chart shows a pattern very similar to those of nearly all the mobile monitors we have tested since late 2018. As far as its color coverage, the ZenScreen Touch did similarly to the Asus ZenScreen Go (72.7 percent of sRGB) and the ZenScreen MB16ACE (69.8 percent), better than the AOC I1601FWUX (only 61.4 percent of the sRGB space), and slightly better than the Lepow 15.6-Inch Portable USB-C Monitor (65.4 percent of sRGB). The only portable monitor we’ve tested lately that did substantially better is the Lenovo ThinkVision M14, which covered 97 percent of sRGB. (We generally look for at least 95 percent sRGB coverage in desktop monitors.)
This limited color coverage revealed itself in reds and purples looking dull in videos and photos that we viewed from our standard test suite. These results are similar to what we’ve seen on many other mobile monitors we have recently tested (with the notable exception of that Lenovo).
The ZenScreen Touch has a pair of internal speakers, which can come in handy if you’re viewing, say, content from your phone. Volume and audio quality are decent, though not good enough to warrant switching to these speakers from my laptop’s speakers.
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Asus provides a three-year warranty for the ZenScreen Touch, which is typical of monitor warranties.
Touch Control, and Extra Juice Too
Be sure to check out the Asus ZenScreen Touch (MB16AMT) you have a need for a portable monitor with a touch screen—this model supports both gesture-based multi-touch using your fingers and touch control using the included pen/stylus eraser. It also—like the ZenScreen Go—has a built-in battery to let you use the Touch with an Android phone or to provide enough juice to run the monitor should your laptop’s battery run low. These two features set it apart from other general-purpose mobile monitors, and, combined with a good feature set (including that comprehensive OSD and its mini-joystick), make the ZenScreen Touch our Editors’ Choice for a portable monitor in its size range (15.6 inches or larger).
Our only caveat: The ZenScreen Touch is on the pricey side for a general-purpose mobile monitor. But it is well worth the premium if you have need for its touch control and the extra juice that its battery provides. Its one operational drawback is the tendency for some colors (chiefly red and purple) to look dull, an artifact of its relatively limited color coverage, but many recent portable displays exhibit the same shortfall. The only general-purpose mobile monitor with appreciably better color that we have reviewed lately is the Lenovo ThinkVision 14, our Editors’ Choice for mobile monitors with 14-inch or smaller screens.