Another day another interesting gadget hitting the internet – this one is a very large portable monitor (at least as far as aspect ratio goes) with an 8.8 inch screen running at a resolution from 420 in 1920. It’s called Elsonic EK-MD088, and while its size, shape, and built-in stand make it intriguing, it also raises the question: what would you use even such a narrow monitor for? And are there better ways to spend your 14,800 yen (around US $ 130)?
Gizmodo points out the most obvious use case for such a large screen: it seems tailor-made to keep scrolling Twitter or Instagram, keeping the ever-present Internet gloom next to your work. Honestly, this seems like a great way to destroy your brain – when I first saw it I immediately thought it would be nice to keep chat apps like Telegram and iMessage open on the side, so that I could keep tabs on what my friends and family were up to all day. You can also use it as a dashboard to monitor your IoT devices, or for more fancy uses like enjoying the full longcat experience without scrolling or seeing Tall Tweets.
Above: The type of content this screen was designed for.
There are a few notable quirks about the Elsonic, however. For a, Ars Technica note that it doesn’t look like it will be readily available outside of Japan (and even there it won’t ship until February 2022). Worse yet, it uses USB-C for power … but not video. Instead, the monitor has a relatively obscure Mini-HDMI port to handle inputs, which is a pretty big downside for convenience. If you forget your display cable somewhere, you probably won’t meet someone who can lend you a full-size HDMI to Mini-HDMI cable. It also doesn’t appear to have a built-in battery, so while the screen and smart built-in stand folds down to a compact size, you’d lose some of that space savings to the battery you want to bring. with.
The Elsonic is also fair, and I know that sounds silly, very narrow. While fine for news feeds and timelines, it would be difficult for general use – common second monitor apps like Slack can get pretty wobbly at 420 pixels wide, or may even refuse to go that narrow. Although the product page states that you can also use it horizontally, which would solve the app width issue, 420 pixels barely corresponds to a vertical height; you might be able to see three tweets or messages considering the taskbar and window chrome.
Additionally, one of the marketing images shows someone editing code on it. It sounds absolutely unbearable unless you can write your functions in 50 characters or less. Visual Studio Code will let you resize a window small enough to fit on the Elsonic (unlike my code editor of choice, Nova), but at what cost?
While it’s easy to see the appeal of having a vertical screen that you can take with you, you almost certainly have better options. For desktop use, many regular 16: 9 and 16:10 computer monitors have brackets that already allow you to orient them vertically, giving you even more screen space. This LG monitor currently on sale costs around $ 50 more than the Elsonic, but it’s also 24 inches instead of 8.8 and could serve as a decent low-cost gaming monitor in landscape with its 144Hz refresh rate. You could also probably get a monitor that could be turned on the side for much less than the asking price of the EK-MD088 by buying some desktop-focused used Dell locally.
If bigger isn’t better for your use case, or you’re looking for a portable solution, you can always buy a used iPad. Apps like Duet Display let you use the tablet as a second monitor for a Windows PC or Mac via a single cable (or even wireless using Duet Air or macOS ‘built-in Sidecar utility), and can even support vertical orientation. Pair an iPad Mini with a stand and you’ve got a slightly shorter but wider version of the Elsonic. And, of course, it’ll also be a tablet when you’re done using it as a display.
While these solutions may be more convenient for most use cases, I will admit that they lack the fun factor that big boi does, and there are some niche use cases where l ‘Elsonic makes more sense. And hey, maybe I’m totally wrong on that point, and we’ll all have dedicated screens for Twitter around this time next year – although that thought is almost too horrible to consider.