Like an increasing number of people, I do all my work on a laptop. When I'm at home, it's generally docked at my desk, attached to a large, stationary monitor. When I take the show on the road, I find I miss the convenience of having two screens at my disposal. Less real estate to work with means more switching between tabs and windows, making for a workflow that's less productive overall.
So conceptually, I find the Vinpok Split enticing. It's a portable, 15.6-inch, 1080p touchscreen monitor that connects to your laptop over either HDMI or USB-C. I'm not the only one intrigued: the product's Indiegogo campaign, which initially set out to raise $5,000, has collected nearly $2 million since October. And while I can't deny the utility and sheer cool factor of the thing, its bafflingly steep price tag makes it difficult to recommend to most people.
|Display||15.6" 1920x1080 IPS touchscreen, 280 nits|
|Ports||2x USB Type-C, 1x Mini-HDMI, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Dimensions||13.93" x 8.8" x 0.35", 1.38 lbs (without magnetic stand cover)|
|Price||$399 retail, $199 for "super early bird" backers (without accessories)|
|Size||This thing is surprisingly thin and light|
|USB-C connectivity||The Split can receive audio, video, and power through a single USB-C cable|
|Build quality||The Split is all cheap-feeling plastic, even the screen|
|Speakers||The two single-watt speakers probably sound worse than the ones in your laptop (and maybe even your phone)|
|Price||$399 feels absolutely bonkers to me for this product|
Design and hardware
I've always felt that display hardware should be so innocuous as to be nearly invisible, and the Vinpok Split is certainly innocuous. The front side is dominated by the 15.6-inch touchscreen display, with very narrow matte black bezels on the top and sides, and one about an inch thick on the bottom. Around back you'll find semi-gloss plastic with a sort of carbon fiber pattern. Towards the bottom of the left edge are the controls, comprised of a single button that pulls double duty as back in menus and power on/off and a multi-purpose dial for adjusting volume and other settings. There's also one of the Split's two USB-C ports. The opposite edge houses the other USB-C input, a Mini-HDMI port, and a headphone jack.
Those two USB ports are a bit of a head-scratcher at first. The one on the right edge is for data and power delivery, while the left is power only. The literature included with the Split spells this out, but the ports aren't labeled on the device, and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect two physically identical ports on a single device to function in the same way.
Using a Pixelbook, the included USB cable provides power and A/V to the Split, even without either connected to a power source. I was able to use the two devices like this for about three hours before needing to plug in. If you're using a device without USB-C, you'll have to connect with the included HDMI-to-Mini-HDMI cable, as well as connect the display to a power source with USB-C. This is a little annoying, as the Split doesn't come with a wall adapter.
My review unit included a magnetic kickstand cover that sticks to the back of the display, propping it up when it's in use and flipping over to protect the screen when it isn't. Protection is important because like the bezels around it, the display is matte plastic. That's good for staving off fingerprints but bad for durability; plastic scratches much easier than glass. This crucial accessory isn't included in the base price of $399, either — it'll be an extra $39 once the Split's crowdfunding campaign is over (although you can secure one for $19 if you get your order in now).
Screen and speakers
Questionable material choices notwithstanding, the screen is entirely serviceable. It won't blow anybody away, and 1080p is, in my opinion, the low end of acceptable for a screen this size, but viewing angles are fine, and after some fiddling, color accuracy is spot on (my unit skewed a touch warm out of the box, but it was easy enough to correct). You can tweak all the settings you'd expect to have access to on a monitor: contrast, color balance, sharpness, et cetera. There's even a blue light filter slider. The screen is a bit dim, though, maxing out at an uninspiring 280 nits.
As a touch panel, the Split works just fine on Chrome OS. It responds to touches with no noticeable delay, and even multi-touch gestures like pinch-to-zoom work just the way they should. On a pre-USB-C MacBook Pro, though, touch input requires both HDMI and USB connections, and it's janky to the point of being useless. Powered styluses like the Pixelbook Pen and Apple Pencil aren't compatible, either — unsurprising, but still a shame.
Unfortunately, the speakers are not good. They're quiet, they have zero bass response, and they get distorted pretty far below max volume. You can and should just stick to your laptop's speakers (or use headphones).
Should you buy it?
Probably not, unless you can get it at the discounted backer price. I've been using the Split extensively over the past couple weeks, and I do like it — I could see myself taking it on a working vacation to bang out some business from my hotel room. But for $400 ($440, if you buy the all-but-mandatory magnetic stand cover), it's tough to recommend. It's just a display, and while it's unquestionably fine, it's not a particularly impressive one. It doesn't help that there are similar products available from more established manufacturers like Asus and Dell for less money.
In addition to a second screen for your mobile workstation, you can use the Split as a display for gaming consoles, including the Nintendo Switch (without the dock, even, although third-party video hardware has been known to damage the system). This is another use case I can imagine benefiting from — but it still doesn't sell me on the device at its full asking price. It also works as an external monitor for some smartphones, but just a handful from Samsung and Huawei. I don't have any of those to test, and plugging it into other phones will only prompt a NO SIGNAL message.
The Vinpok Split is highly portable, and there's no doubt it's neat. If it were the only product of its kind on the market, I'd say it might be right for a certain type of person, but it isn't without competition. It feels a little cheap, too, and for a thoroughly okay 15.6-inch monitor, $400 is just too big an ask.
- You want a portable monitor and can get the crowdfunding backer discount.
- You don't want to support other companies that make similar products.
- You've got cash to burn and you just like cool stuff like this.
Don't buy if:
- You can't get the discounted price.
- You don't need a portable second monitor.
If you want to grab a Vinpok Split, you can check out the device's Indiegogo page — as of writing, there are still a few discounted units available.