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.

Performance and Screen Quality
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  • pensive69 - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    i like the idea of having something system connected in each room that is minimal and 'on'.
  • Samus - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    thats the dumbest thing i've ever heard. last thing we need is another battery in our mobile devices.

    i use a doublesight 9" usb screen that runs off a single USB port and works great. It's only 1024x800, but being 9", serves its job quite well holding widgets, vento, other misc tools, and occasionally a calculator/calendar when i'm typing up invoices.

    by the way, I use it on a desktop, not a laptop. i prefer the low power consumption, small size, and not driving off my videocard which would impact in-game performance using an ordinary monitor. the usb monitor uses no resources when running just widgets during gameplay.
  • FrederickL - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Suggest you bother to read related postings before you post yourself. If you had taken a look at what Cobalt and I were discussing you would have realised that this product had prompted an exchange concerning a related but somewhat different concept - the wireless thin client touch screen. The user case scenarios for such a device are tolerably obvious are and the thought is, IMHO, very far from "dumb".
  • FrederickL - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    Apologies Dicobalt - spelling fail on my part. -:)
  • dicobalt - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - link

    Maybe even use WiDi and put a touch screen on it?
  • pensive69 - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - link

    well, you might use this as a 2nd monitor
    you could use it as a small form server or desktop
    monitor if they offer VGA/HDMI outputs.
    we will order a few to set in security video server
    cabinets for our warehouses. power thru USB seems
    do-able now and the small form of these displays
    is very welcomed in a cabinet which is space
    constrained in most locations.

    a USB 2.0-powered monitor that still runs off of the GPU.
    interesting product.
    perhaps they intend to do 1080p.
  • ImSpartacus - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - link

    Poor Dustin, he writes a fair and concise review of a fledglingly niche product and then we just apply the wrong standards for our brash snap judgments.

    It's a tough position for a reviewer to be in. Perhaps future articles could quickly review the fundamental limitations of this kind of product?
  • captcanuck - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - link
  • ImSpartacus - Sunday, April 15, 2012 - link

    A larger display with a constant pixel count would increase power consumption, right?

    I feel like 13" is the sweet spot for a 768p display. Hell, a 12.5" display would be passable if the power consumption is better.
  • vegemeister - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - link

    The sweet spot for 1366x768, if one exists, is 6".

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