Laptops have two big usability problems:
- Small displays - After using large desktop monitors, working on a laptop feels cramped and unproductive for anything beyond simple web browsing.
- Terrible ergonomics - Your head is tilted down to view the screen, which can lead to back problems after long periods. A common solution is to use a separate keyboard and mouse and raise the entire laptop using a stand (I haven’t tried it but The Roost looks like a good one).
With the release of decent USB powered monitors there’s now a simple solution to both these problems. Place a second display above the built in one:
This setup has the following advantages:
- Productive - Tons more screen space using the 1920 x 1080 ASUS 168B+ display in addition to a Retina MacBook Pro 13 set to 1440 x 900.
- Ergonomic - More time is spent looking straight ahead to the external monitor, which is closer to eye level. Less frequently viewed content is placed on the laptop screen.
- Portable - The monitor weighs only 800g (1.76 pounds) and draws power via the USB cable. No external keyboard or mouse is required.
There’s still room for improvement however…
- The ideal stand should hold the monitor closer to the laptop. A lightweight stand designed for this purpose would be awesome.
- The colors on the monitor are horrible compared to the MacBook. It’s OK for text, but not for color sensitive work.
- There’s a slight lag and jerkiness when large changes happen on screen, probably due to the bandwidth limitation of USB 3. Again, this isn’t a problem for manipulating text but could be annoying for graphically intensive tasks.
I’ve been using this only a short while, but so far it’s a huge improvement over the laptop on its own, and allows me to work away from home without affecting productivity too much.
UPDATE: After forgetting to pack my laptop stand one day, I decided to scour the flat for something that could permanently live in my backpack. I found this which works surprisingly well, it’s lighter, keeps the montior closer to the laptop, and doubles as a container for cables :-)
Disclaimer - the amazon links in this article contain an affiliate code. I didn’t write the article to make money from these links, but since I was linking to these products anyway I thought it was worth experimenting.
I’m 16 months into my language learning startup, Readlang. So far I’ve been working completely alone, learning a lot about web development, design and marketing as I go. I’d like to say that I’m learning about running a business too, but calling it a business sounds like a stretch, since it’s still only making pocket change.
This is going to be brutally honest, I’m not afraid to share numbers. For starters, here’s the performance of the site over its entire lifetime so far, from Nov 2012 to mid March 2014:
|Signups:||4,667 (19% of visitors)|
|Paying Subscribers:||126 (3.1% of signups, excluding the first 600 users who have free lifetime membership)|
And this is how I arrived here, month by month…
Chrome for iOS has been my main browser since I bought my iPad over a year ago. I love the way it syncs my bookmarks and history with my desktop Chrome browser and its familiar UI. But one thing that occasionally annoys me is its speed. From the start Chrome was marketed as the fast browser but so often on iOS it feels like I’m browsing in bullet time.
I blamed it partly on having the first iPad with a retina display (3rd gen) which is a little underpowered to push around all those pixels. But mainly, I just figured that all mobiles and tablets were slow, right? Well, not quite…
I’m spending the summer in Madrid at the moment. It’s a great place to work on Readlang. It keeps me in language learning mode, and it’s way cheaper to live than my old home of London, which is handy when trying to bootstrap a business. The one problem is the heat, my friends back in the UK are complaining about the 30 degree heat wave there at the moment, well that’s nothing compared to the 42 degrees (that’s “fourty-two” in case you suspected a typo) it reaches here in Madrid.
Oh, and we don’t have air conditioning.
Busuu noticed that I have a gmail address and presented a “Go to your email” link taking me straight to gmail. It’s a nice touch.
Pity about the dodgy CSS in the spam folder message though.