Don’t buy a second screen for your laptop, use your tablet instead

A few days ago, I was using my Surface Go to do some work while sitting on the back yard patio. It was a pleasant spring day. The birds were chirping, the grass was green, and my wife’s flowers smelled great. It was nice to be outside, except for one thing.

A lack of screen real estate was hindering my workflow. I normally use 3 monitors. Trying to do everything on one was causing a disruption. I began day dreaming about acquiring one of those USB companion monitors that you see at Best Buy or advertised on Amazon.

Not one to waste an excuse to buy new equipment, I was researching the options when I remembered that there was a software solution for this issue. I had tried it a few years back and liked it. iDisplay was a set of programs that you installed on your PC and Mobile, to turn the mobile a secondary display. Once I’d moved my digital life over to the Surface, my iPad mini had been collecting dust in my junk drawer. I wondered if the app was still available?

I dug out the iPad, updated it, and checked the app store. Sure enough, iDisplay was in my purchased apps, so I installed it. Then I visited the company’s web site http://www.getidisplay.com/ to get the Windows component. A few minutes later I had my second screen up and running. This solution has a few advantages over standalone USB monitors.

Once connected, the iDisplay operates like any other monitor.
  • The app is less than $20.00, but a new USB monitor is more than $100.
  • The secondary tablet has its own battery and doesn’t draw power from your main system.
  • It is wireless (cabled is an option on some systems).
  • The tablet’s touchscreen functionality still works.

There are of course some drawbacks. When run wirelessly, the frame rate on your companion screen is going to be in the fifteen to twenty frames per second range. This is fine for emails and spreadsheets, but not so great for video. The is also a small bug in the Windows application. Once you’ve connected your iDisplay(s) and then disconnected, you can’t connect again until you restart the program.

While writing this post, I noticed there are quite a few apps in the app store for this purpose. I didn’t investigate any of them since I already owned iDisplay. It fit my requirements but, if you’re new to this concept there may be some benefit in trying the others. I should also mention that iDisplay isn’t only for Apple devices, it works on Android and Windows too. You can also run multiple iDisplays, just install the app on each device.

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About Kevin Trent

IT professional with almost 30 years of experience in Infrastructure, Architecting, Administration, Development, and Communications.

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