A while ago, I saw Stefano's portable monitor, and thought it was very useful. Personally, I rent a desk at an office space where I have a 27" Dell monitor; but I do sometimes use my laptop away from that desk, and then I do sometimes miss the external monitor.

So a few weeks before DebConf, I bought me one myself. The one I got is about a mid-range model; there are models that are less than half the price of the one that I bought, and there are models that are more than double its price, too. ASUS has a very wide range of these monitors; the cheapest model that I could find locally is a 720p monitor that only does USB-C and requires power from the connected device, which presumably if I were to connect it to my laptop with no power connected would half its battery life. More expensive models have features such as wifi connectivity and miracast support, builtin batteries, more connection options, and touchscreen fancyness.

While I think some of these features are not worth the money, I do think that a builtin battery has its uses, and that I would want a decent resolution, so I got a FullHD model with builtin battery.


The device comes with a number of useful accessories: a USB-C to USB-C cable for the USB-C connectivity as well as to charge the battery; an HDMI-to-microHDMI cable for HDMI connectivity; a magnetic sleeve that doubles as a back stand; a beefy USB-A charger and USB-A-to-USB-C convertor (yes, I know); and a... pen.

No, really, a pen. You can write with it. Yes, on paper. No, not a stylus. It's really a pen.

Sigh, OK. This one:


OK, believe me now?


Don't worry, I was as confused about this as you just were when I first found that pen. Why would anyone do that, I thought. So I read the manual. Not something I usually do with new hardware, but here you go.

It turns out that the pen doubles as a kickstand. If you look closely at the picture of the laptop and the monitor above, you may see a little hole at the bottom right of the monitor, just to the right of the power button/LED. The pen fits right there.

Now I don't know what the exact thought process was here, but I imagine it went something like this:

  • ASUS wants to make money through selling monitors, but they don't want to spend too much money making them.
  • A kickstand is expensive.
  • So they choose not to make one, and add a little hole instead where you can put any little stick and make that function as a kickstand.
  • They explain in the manual that you can use a pen with the hole as a kickstand. Problem solved, and money saved.
  • Some paper pusher up the chain decides that if you mention a pen in the manual, you can't not ship a pen

    • Or perhaps some lawyer tells them that this is illegal to do in some jurisdictions
    • Or perhaps some large customer with a lot of clout is very annoying
  • So in a meeting, it is decided that the monitor will have a pen going along with it

  • So someone in ASUS then goes through the trouble of either designing and manufacturing a whole set of pens that use the same color scheme as the monitor itself, or just sourcing them from somewhere; and those pens are then branded (cheaply) and shipped with the monitors.

It's an interesting concept, especially given the fact that the magnetic sleeve works very well as a stand. But hey.

Anyway, the monitor is very nice; the battery lives longer than the battery of my laptop usually does, so that's good, and it allows me to have a dual-monitor setup when I'm on the road.

And when I'm at the office? Well, now I have a triple-monitor setup. That works well, too.