Capsule Review: GeChic's On-Lap 1302 Laptop Monitorby Dustin Sklavos on April 15, 2012 12:00 AM EST
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.