Stacked Dual Screen on a Laptop

Once I tasted the sweet goodness of a multiple screen workstation, having a single screen seems almost unusable. Sure, that is a bit of a hyperbole but single screen workstations are far less productive for me and I wanted to improve my mobile laptop set up. This is something I had been thinking about for quite some time and finally decided to do it.

Here is how I solved my yearning for a dual screen mobile workstation.

The Solution

The laptop I take with me for mobile work is my HP EliteBook 840 G7. It is very capable, good on battery life and I ended up liking this machine a lot more than I expected. It’s light and the perfect form factor. It has a 14″ 1080p screen which, for this size is perfect. A nice match would have been an HP 14″ EliteDisplay but I couldn’t find any within my very cheap price range that was 1080p. I have been looking, on and off, for a portable screen for a while that was specifically 14″ with 1080p and as fortune would have it, I stumbled upon this monitor from Arzopa. It has 2 USB-C ports, and mini-HDMI. Some bonus items, it comes equipped with a real life headphone jack, has some controls for brightness and volume for the built in speaker and weighs only 1.1 lbs.

According to the KDE Plasma System Settings it is using some Dell components, which gives me some confidence as I find Dell has done a great job over the years with its displays, at least, they have for me. What I find particularly exciting about this display is not only is it the same resolution but also the same (or very, very near) the same size and therefore there isn’t any weirdness required for scaling or adjusting the resolution to make things feel right between the screens.

The trouble with putting the monitor beside the laptop is the additional room it takes on the kitchen table or in my front room. I don’t want to take more space, horizontally. I also like being able to scan my eyes up and down between the screens which also means that my neck stays in a neutral position. I am not looking left or right for anything for an extended period of time. This has been a setup that has been far more ergonomic for me.

I wasn’t going to buy a stand to elevate it nor was I going to rig up another mess with cardboard boxes and some scrap wood to hold it, instead, I decided I was going to design and 3D print some brackets to hold the portable monitor above the laptop screen.

It took two revisions, to make it to my liking but the final result is working well for my mobile, temporary, station setup. The top screen is tilted 15° from the lower screen so as I sit at the table, the viewing angle is perfect for both screens to my eyes.

I have uploaded the files to Thingiverse.com for anyone that might be interested in taking what I have and modifying it for their particular machines. I modeled it in FreeCAD so anyone can take and edit the files to their content.

One little note on the design of the bracket for the top monitor. There are little ribs inside so that I could force the top monitor to be centered when I push the brackets inward so that they are tight against the sides of the monitors. I have to stress that every laptop and portable monitor will have slightly different thicknesses and bezel sizes so you will have to adjust it for your particular system.

What I Like

This makes for a great portable, ah-hoc, dual screen setup. I like not having my monitors side by side when I can help it but I’ll take side by side over not at all. Having the monitors stacked will keep my head and neck in a neutral position to my torso therefore reducing neck strain by using this machine.

The brightness of the Arzopa is fantastic. The USB-C display input is also fantastic. The fact it has two, fully functional, USB-C ports is absolutely fantastic. I truly couldn’t be much happier with this screen choice.

For as long as this listing is good. Here is the eBay listing. There are five available at the time of publication (23 Sep 2022).

What I Don’t Like

I can’t use this setup sitting on the couch or in bed, anything unstable. The hinges for the laptop screen is just not designed for that and I don’t expect many would be. If the hinges were “tighter” it would make normal operation less enjoyable to use and I still do use the laptop like a regular laptop.

Tilting the laptop to it’s left or right side more than 45° or so, the monitor could come sliding off sideways but that is going to take some doing. A hard bump could also cause the top screen to slide off as well. There are some inherent dangers with this setup so care must be taken.

I think this design could be improved some more. It suits me now but it might actually be better if the brackets were somehow made to be just one or if they were fastened to the top, portable, monitor in some way as to reduce the various risks. Another improvement could potentially be some kind of kickstand for the laptop lid so that it cannot fall backward too far accidentally. I haven’t fully thought those modifications through, so this is my first release of my silly, stacked, dual screen, ad-hoc setup for my 14″ laptop.

Final Thoughts

The point of most things I do is to make myself more productive so that I have more time for entertainment. By stacking my screens on my laptop, I have made my various temporary work spaces setups more productive. Just as having an ultra-wide screen on my C64 Impostor makes work on that machine far more productive, essentially two screens in one bezel, this stacked display gives me similar productivity but in a smaller footprint arrangement. This really is great and having used my computer like this for about a week or so, I can say there has been an increase in productivity with various tasks. No more am I shrinking my work and splitting it side-by-side, straining my middle-aged eyes. I am working quite comfortably and quite happily. I am using it right now to finish up this little blathering.

References

HP EliteBook 840 G7
HP E14 G4 Portable Monitor
Arzopa A1 Gamut-14” FHD Portable Monitor
files to Thingiverse.com
FreeCAD
Commodore 64 Impostor | My Retro Computer mini-ITX Computer

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