Capsule Review: GeChic's On-Lap 1302 Laptop Monitorby Dustin Sklavos on April 15, 2012 12:00 AM EST
Just three months ago we took GeChic's 13" USB 2.0-powered monitor, the On-Lap 1301, for a test run. What we found was a compelling concept for a product that was marred by some usability issues. Apparently we weren't the only ones who felt like the On-Lap needed a revision; the On-Lap 1301 proved successful, but it wasn't on the market for very long before being replaced by the new On-Lap 1302. The big question is: just how much can be revised over the course of just a few months? The answer is more than you'd think, but less than you'd hope.
If you didn't get a chance to read our review of the 1302's predecessor, the GeChic On-Lap is a USB 2.0-powered monitor that connects over HDMI or VGA. That means that it doesn't employ DisplayLink and thus lacks all the benefits and weaknesses of that technology. Personally, I prefer running over HDMI and VGA since that means the display benefits from proper GPU acceleration and doesn't hit the CPU like DisplayLink can.
So What's New?
GeChic has gone and completely reworked the On-Lap 1302's shell and connectivity. Its predecessor, the 1301, measured roughly 14"x9", was about a half an inch thick, and weighed nearly two pounds. The 1301 was plenty portable and I found that it wasn't so heavy that it would tip over my ThinkPad X100e, meaning any larger notebook shouldn't have any issues with it.
With the 1302, dimensions have stayed roughly the same (albeit much thinner) while GeChic managed to shave a half of a pound off of the weight, and it makes a surprising amount of difference. Also gone is the suction-cup mounting system, but the problem is that while what GeChic has replaced it with is a large part of the reduction in weight, it's also almost strictly worse. The suction-cups were surprisingly effective at keeping the 1301 attached to a notebook, and you could add adhesive mylar pads if they weren't quite enough. The point is that generally, you didn't have to really modify your notebook in any way to get the 1301 to attach. The same is not true of the 1302.
The 1302 uses a bracket mounting system, where one metal bracket is affixed to the lid of your notebook with adhesive tape, and then the 1302's bracket slides on to that. I'm not sure exactly what GeChic can do to improve how the On-Lap mounts to a notebook, but this feels like a step backwards and once again, the way the screen pivots out ensures it's always going to be exposed (and thus prone to dust and dirt.)
Fortunately, the green rubber block stand has been improved. Unfortunately, it's again only an incremental improvement. You can mount the screen to the set of rubber blocks a number of different ways, but the essential problem remains: the blocks themselves are clunky and feel like a kludge rather than a legitimate solution. It's worlds better than the previous design, but the blocks honestly need to just be eschewed entirely and replaced by a single plastic flip-out stand.
Finally, indicative of how quickly the 1302 was rushed to market to replace the 1301, the OSD remains completely unchanged. GeChic smartly moved the buttons to the bottom front of the display (and they're much easier to use as a whole), but the OSD still thinks the buttons are on the back and off to the side. I'm not sure anyone else would notice this (since I don't know how many people would've used the 1301 first), but I did and fixing this is a bit of polish the product could really use.
Update: The firmware for my monitor was pre-production; production versions have the OSD oriented correctly.
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dicobalt - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - link1366x768
Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - linkAre you kidding me? Did you not see what this was? Do you understand that driving a high resolution screen increases power consumption?
dicobalt - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - linkIt's just that I can't imagine someone using this in a place where you can't plug in the laptop anyway *shrug*
This Guy - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - linkAnd how much power does a spec USB socket provide? 2.5W?
dicobalt - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - linkPerhaps a battery inside the screen (like a tablet) so it's not drawing off the laptop battery at all?
FrederickL - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - linkI had written this post before I noticed in your posting below that the thought had already occurred to you. Oh well, I'll post it anyway - you know what they say, "great minds think alike"!
How about going the whole hog with the concept. I.e. A battery-powered touch-screen thin client (wireless) connected to a box running Win8? If the tech was well implemented you would have an ass-kicker of a tablet that you could use around the office/home without have to sync/administer two separate os installs. It would of course be restricted in range (not fully mobile in that sense) but I could well imagine a user case for being able to work wherever I want in the house (or at work) and not being nailed to our home-office chair or my workplace desk. You could literally take your desk-top with you to work-place meetings. Just a thought -:)
dicobalt - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - linkI have thought of that as well, a device that is literally nothing more than a mobile display (using WiDi) and touch input device (using wireless USB). You would have more casual and mobile access around the house. There is no reason a weak mobile CPU should be hammering away at running a cut down mobile OS and software when you have a powerful desktop in the next room.
It would even work with decently powerful laptops. You could have the laptop tucked away in your backpack or briefcase while using it with the removable display. All the computing would be done on the laptop base but the display would be totally wireless and you could carry it around. Perfect for places with little or no desk space or standing room only. It would be handy for presentations where people could connect their displays to your computer and get your display output in their hands instead of on an often awful projector in a dark cave.
I have the sneaking feeling this is what Intel has been planning all along in order to combat the tablet market. It's like getting a free tablet with every laptop purchase and it's perfect now that Win8 is on the way.
FrederickL - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link
"I have the sneaking feeling this is what Intel has been planning all along in order to combat the tablet market. It's like getting a free tablet with every laptop purchase and it's perfect now that Win8 is on the way."
This is by way of reply to both your new postings.
I have to say that I would be astonished if the idea had not already occurred to them and some of the more ingenious OEMs. They want to distinguish themselves by adding value? What about your home office pc + thin-client remote touch-screen bundle? "The complete flexible solution for your home office" - damn, I could write their ad-copy for them! If they were to include a dock which in turn could accept keyboard/mouse input via wireless USB with HDMI out to your front-room telly then your full song with choruses stack in your home office could be your working pc, your tablet and your front room "from-your-armchair" pc. Indeed if you ran a sort of Windows or Linux server setup (with some reasonably heavy-lifting hardware) you could in principle have a completely flexible home computing network (with separate accounts for all family members + guest account) all run around one install. Now that would simplify things at home for me as our domestic sys-admin!
FrederickL - Monday, April 16, 2012 - linkYet another thought. How about it having enough grunt to accept both touch and stylus input plus being equipped with a microphone. You install some proper voice recognition software (the latest version of Dragon Naturally Speaking perhaps) on your home-office rig and voila you have a tablet that is "the state of the bad-ass art" (if I may be permitted to recycle a favorite quote) with touch, stylus and voice input without it having to be anything other than a remote monitor. Hell, that would be a package I would be willing to pay some serious money for when we next upgrade our home-office.
dicobalt - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - linkNot to mention the fact that such a device would be cheap because it doesn't need so much hardware jam packed into it. You could have one waiting to be used in every room of your home and office with no need to carry something around with you.