Provides: USB powered external display
Developer: MIMO Monitors
Minimum Requirements: 2 USB ports
MIMO is well known for their USB monitors. I took their 720-S for a spin to see how well the Mobile Slider line of USB monitors performs and compares to other available USB monitors.
For this review, I specifically tested the MIMO 720-S, but there are actually a number of models of MIMO USB monitors. The 710-S is exactly the same as the 720-S, except it doesn’t support touch functionality. Then there’s the iMo Pivot and iMo Pivot Touch. This is what’s going to replace the 710 and 720, though I hope they don’t stop making the Mobile Slider line. The iMo line is much more like a desktop monitor, very similar to the DoubleSight monitor I reviewed in the past. The 700 models are designed to be taken with you in a laptop bag. I’m biased towards the design of the 700 models better because of the added protection for travel. Now, on to the good stuff.
The MIMO 720-S simply comes with a CD and special USB cable. The CD is actually useless if you’re running Snow Leopard, as I am, so the only thing I concerned myself with was the hardware. There’s a spring loaded arm that shifts the screen from folded mode to viewing mode. The screen can be rotated 90 degrees for portrait or landscape viewing. On the side of the screen are three buttons: On/Off, Increase and Decrease Brightness. You’ll rarely touch these buttons as you’ll probably want it on at all times at full brightness. Lastly, the back of the monitor is where the USB cord plugs in, behind a rubber flap.
If you remember my review of the DoubleSight USB monitor, then you’ll remember that the Snow Leopard drivers aren’t actually the easiest installation ever, and this is the same thing. The drivers are unfortunately still in beta (at the time of this writing). Some quick tips on the installation. First, reboot your machine in 32 bit mode, as the installation will not complete in 64 bit Snow Leopard (yet?). Download the latest driver from this website. Install the driver, and reboot. If everything went as planned, your monitor should work after reboot as it did for me, though I’ve heard that it’s not that simple for everyone. Also, the touch screen doesn’t function without an extra driver. It works under Snow Leopard, but it will cost an extra $30. This likely will influence your model choice.
The extra driver is available from this website. It’s not completely MIMO monitors’ fault for the extra $30 charge here, it’s a licensing thing. But honestly, it really doesn’t matter who’s to blame; it sucks either way. Now, if you do decide to buy this combo despite the extra $80 for the 720-S and the extra $30 for the driver, it works quite nicely. The driver is easier than the Snow Leopard driver is to install. It allows you to tap anything on the screen with a very light touch. You can click, drag, do all those nice things a touch screen should do. Well, it doesn’t do multitouch, or varying levels of pressure, but hey, what do you want for $110? Actually, you could buy two iMo Pivot monitors for the same price as one fully functional 720-S. Well, I think it’s obvious that I’m not a huge fan of the touch functionality. While I love it in theory, and it actually was the most responsive pressure based touch sensitive screen I’ve ever used, it’s just too expensive, and doesn’t do a whole lot. A mouse will serve you much better than the touch functionality available here.
What’s cool about the Mobile Sliders is that they fold up. There’s a spring action arm that holds the screen in the viewing position, or the base over the screen for screen protection while in transit or storage. When I first set it up, I really got the feeling that this product was well designed just by the way the base functions. I really love the way this works. The only problem I really have with the design of the monitor is the rubber flap that covers the USB port on the back. It’s completely unnecessary since it’s always just hanging around while the monitor is plugged in, and does little to protect anything on the back unless you like throwing your monitor in sand or mud.
All in all, the 720-S really is a great USB monitor. I love nearly everything about it except its lofty price tag for full functionality. But compared to other USB monitors, the 710-S model is priced much more appropriately. Sure, the viewing angle isn’t the best on any of these, and the screen size is small compared to regular monitors, but we’re back to the fundamental dilemma of the USB monitor. You have to decide whether you like the idea. It’s superb for displaying constantly-accessed information. That could be a buddy list, a twitter feed, a photo feed, maybe a tool pallet or who knows what. The possibilities are endless, to use a clichéd phrase. If you don’t like this idea, then you won’t like this monitor. But I’ll assume that since you’ve read this far, you like the idea, as do I.
So with that said, I think it’s safe to say that the MIMO 720-S Mobile Slider monitor is among the best USB monitors available today. Well, maybe I should say the 710-S, since right now the 720-S costs $110 more simply for touch functionality. Perhaps the touch functionality is important to you, but honestly, are you going to use it? Enough to justify $110 more? You’d probably get the most enjoyment out of a 710-S and an Apple Magic Mouse. Now that sounds like a gift combo for the holidays, doesn’t it?