Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cheap portable HDMI monitor for your laptop. The original Atrix LapDock

What you see above is a 11.6" Lapdock being used as a secondary, portable extended display for my 15" Macbook Pro Retina.

A few months back, I reviewed a cool gadget, a 15" MHL HDMI portable monitor from GeChic which can be read here. Yes, it was a cool gadget but a bit bulky and pretty pricey for something that may not be used on regular occasions. I then turned my attention to the Motorola LapDocks because they have been great in the gadget scene. First, I got myself a newer LapDock 100 and that didn't turn out so well. The newer docks have been made more difficult to use as a dummy monitor. Well, after a few weeks, I ended up with the original Motorola Atrix Lap Dock. And I have to say, I am very pleased. These are still selling for $60-80 which, in my book, is a STEAL of a bargain!

To use this as a portable HDMI monitor, all you need are some cables, couplers and adapters. The device has two ports: Micro-USB male and Micro HDMI-D male for video. To use as video, you need to get a female Micro HDMI-D coupler. Then you connect to anything that can use HDMI which includes displayport, mini-displayport, and Thunderbolt.

If you want to use the LapDock as a portable keyboard and mouse in addition to the screen, you need a micro-USB to full size USB. You also have to splice the USB cable; cut the red line which is the +5V line that carries power. Connecting to USB host devices will result in back-feed; both ports sending power to one another and that can cause damage. Note. The USB keyboard and trackpad is purely optional. You can simply and only use the screen if you are afraid of splicing and dicing cables. It is pretty easy.

Once you get your cables rolling, all you need to do is plug it in. If your computer has displayport or mini-displayport/thunderbolt, you will obviously need extra adapters. I was able to use with a Thunderbolt Macbook in addition to my DisplayPort Thinkpad with no problems.

You will also get HDMI sound. Heck, plug a DVD player and you can have a small video station for the kids! These work great for video players, android sticks, you name it.

Native video resolution is 1336x768 which is 132.85 PPI. Very sharp for a 11" screen. I just don't like 1336x768 resolution on anything larger than 13". As you can see below, next to my 15.4" Retina Macbook, the screen's resolution is adequate for a 11 incher. The Macbook is running at 1680x1050 HiDPI mode. Obviously, running it higher, there will be a big mismatch in real estate.

Back to the USB. If you want to use this as a portable workstation with keyboard and mouse, it works pretty good.  Unfortunately, advanced multi-seat is a bit more complicated. I could not get VMware to recognize the trackpad as a mouse. I think I'll figure it out in a few days. The point of having VMware recognizing it means you can turn it into a multi-seat thin client (as I outlined in this previous post). There are two extra USB ports that also turns this into a hub. With a mouse attached to the LapDock, I was able to get multi-seat working.

Overall, I am pretty ecstatic about this. I actually prefer the LapDock 100's pop-out cable but this is a much sleeker device. The fit-n-finish is very good and the screen has excellent viewing angles for a standard TN screen. Keyboard and trackpad is average. The trackpad has very slow response but then again, it is nice to have something over nothing. I can see it working in a pinch.

In the next few days, I am going to do a write-up summary of the different portable monitor options for those who need an extended display for their laptops. I'm guessing this may well be my choice and recommendation.  As pictured below, it is incredibly slim and fits nicely in my 15" Retina macbook's laptop sleeve.


  1. icemonkey.com has the lapdocks right now for $49 free shipping

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  3. How much maximum power output from the lapdock usb running on battery?
    I want 2A to power an android board, if you have ipad please try charging it and see if it's work.


    1. They don't have enough juice to power an iPad. You may try using a y-connector to for extra power.

  4. I had been looking for a very small monitor for my Mac Mini for when we travel to Asia to teach English for 8-9 weeks each year. I have larger HP monitors at home and our winter place in Florida. I have a Dell netbook but the keyboard is difficult to get use to and I don’t like Windows since I have used Apple/Mac computers since 1981. My son who is a computer and software engineer, alerted me to websites telling about connecting my Mac Mini with the Motorola LapDock. (weblog.mrbill.net/archives/2012/05/11/using-a-motorola-atrix-lapdock-as-a-hdmi-monitor-and-usb-keyboard-mouse and http:fortysomethinggeek.blogspot.com/2013/05/cheap-portable-hdmi-monitor-for-your.html ) I purchased the connector items required in the blogs from eBay and did the modifications as explained, but I couldn’t connect to the LapDock and as you can see in the second website, it didn’t work with the LapDock 100 but with the LapDock atrix. I had purchased a LapDock 100. I purchased a male/male HDMI cable through Amazon for $5.06 and fooled around trying different things and low and behold my screen on the LapDock came up, but I couldn’t remember what I did and couldn’t repeat it. My son suggested that the sequence I did might be important and he suggested several things. What works is to have connecting USB cable and HDMI cable connected to the LapDock, but the LapDock is not turned on. When you only have the LapDock as your monitor you must turn on your Mac Mini without seeing it come up. I timed how long it took to come up (37 -43 seconds) and then turned on the LapDock. There it is on the screen with LapDock keyboard and trackpad working and also my Mac keyboard and mouse working. So tomorrow I am heading off to Asia with the LapDock as my monitor, keyboard and trackpad (plus a mouse) for my Mac Mini.

    1. Lapdock 100 doesn't work. If you read my blog and other articles. I made that same mistake. I sold my 100 and got me two original atrix docks.

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