Australian-based hardware startup Espresso Displays has taken a category with a lot of relatively unremarkable, but functional entrants, and added features, design and quality improvements to set itself apart from the crowd. The Espresso Display offers a portable form factor for easy packing, magnetic mounting, single cable operation via USB-C with a compatible modern Mac, built-in speakers and 2.5mm audio out, and optional touch functionality.
Espresso’s display comes in two different sizes – a 13.3 inch or a 15.6-inch model. The display itself is very thin and light, at just under 0.2 inches thick, and under 2 lbs. The display panel features touch sensitivity, which works in tandem with a driver that you install on your Mac to enable touch features.
The display is made of glass and aluminum, and feels very high quality to match your MacBook. There are two USB-C and a mini HDMI port on the side, and a 2.5mm mini stereo jack for audio out. One of the USB-C ports is dedicated to power only, and the other is for connecting a display, with power delivery supported as well for a single-cable connection to modern Macs.
Espresso offers 4K resolution, and provides a unique mounting system that uses magnets to secure it to the optional folding display stand. The company also offers a VESA mouth adapter for attaching it to more traditional stand or mounting arm. There’s also a soft case included to protect the display during transit.
The company is currently funding the display’s production via Indiegogo, but is nearing mass production, and the unit they sent me to test out definitely felt like a finished product. The 13-inch version is $249 USD but will retail for $320, and the Display 15 will retail for $350 when generally available.
Design and performance
The Espresso Display is a cut above the competition when it comes to both build quality and materials, as well as actual panel image quality and color. I’ve actually been using a 15.6-inch portable display purchased from Amazon recently, and while that has been a satisfactory solution for extending my desktop when I want to work from a few different locations, it’s definitely sub-par with its color rendering and all plastic build.
Espresso’s glass and metal composition feels much more at home with my MacBook Pro, and while I can’t quite tune its colors to match my Apple’s output, the built-in profile is generally pleasing and fairly color accurate. It’s bright enough, and renders crisp text and graphics at 4K resolution, with excellent contrast.
Also unlike my generic Amazon display, Espresso Display actually works with just a single cable with my MacBook Pro. The other doesn’t draw enough power through just a USB-C connection, and so requires an adapter to be plugged in. Espresso works flawlessly in this regard, using the includes USB-C cable for true on-the-go one cable connectivity.
Espresso also offers touch capability, which comes in handy for things like graphics work. It ships with a small stylus, but don’t think of this as a Wacom alternative – it’s more for multi-touch interactions than pen input, and lacks pressure sensitivity. The touch features are further helped by the flexibility of the magnetic stand, which can flip around for a more low-angled mode that facilitates hands-on work. It’s easy to then flip it up for a more iMac-like stand orientation, or turn it to portrait orientation for working on documents or code.
The stand is actually a big part of Espresso Display’s appeal, since it makes it very flexible for working anywhere. I’ve yet to find a great stand solution for other portable displays that match their portability, and this one definitely does, folding into a square no larger than a thin slice of toast.
At 4K and 60Hz, the performance of the display panel itself is excellent, and provides a great way to gain a whole lot more screen real estate than is possible with your built-in screen alone.
The portable display market is increasingly crowded, but the Espresso Display manages to stand out thanks to its use of high-quality materials and unique magnetic mounting solution. Many existing options out there require some kind of compromise or trade-off, of varying degrees of severity, but the Espresso Display is thin, light, durable and provides a great image, with easy, flexible mounting options and true single-cable connectivity.