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How to get the triple-monitor laptop setup of your dreams

If you're looking to up your mobile productivity, a multi-monitor laptop display could help. Jack Wallen introduces you to the FOPO S12.

Once upon a time, I depended on a multi-monitor setup. And even after migrating to a single 34" curved Dell display, I still find myself missing the flexibility and organization to be had with a multi-monitor configuration. With two or three monitors, I could move specific windows to specific monitors and work in an environment that never felt crowded. 

And many times I wished I had that same setup on my laptop, where screen real estate is at a serious premium.

Thankfully, a company named FOPO has made that wish come true. With their S12 13.3" Triple Portable Monitor, you can enjoy two extra displays for your laptop for when you need to be seriously efficient with your work.

Upon unboxing the monitor, I found it to be surprisingly user-friendly, such that anyone could attach the display to a laptop screen, plug it in, and get to work. Once up and running, the FOPO adds two 13.3" displays running at 1080p.

In the box, you'll get the FOPO S12 monitor and all the cables you need to connect to your laptop. I tested the display on two different 13" Macbook Pros (a 2015 model and a newer version with the M1 chip). The former laptop has 4 USB-C ports and the latter only 2. Although both laptops worked fine with the FOPO display, the newer Macbook Pro did suffer from much faster battery drain (more on that in a bit).

Connecting the FOPO

To connect the FOPO, you simply unfold the displays, pull them apart enough to slide it over your laptop display, and close the sides back together so they snug up to the chassis of your laptop (Figure 1). Once you've attached the display, you then must connect both screens (using the supplied cables) to your laptop. 

Figure 1

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The FOPO S12 connected to my older Macbook Pro.

With everything plugged in, you should now be able to enjoy three total monitors for serious mobile productivity (Figure 2).

Figure 2

fopo1.jpg

My Macbook Pro is now ready for even more multi-tasking goodness.

Here's where the first trick comes into play. Only one USB-C port on each monitor is a full-function port (meaning it supplies power). On the left display, it's the bottom port and on the right display, it's the top. This is important, as each display is not only separately plugged into the laptop, they are also separately powered. 

This is where I ran into problems with the newer Macbook Pro. Only one of the two USB-C ports is fully functioning, which means I also have to use the supplied power brick and another cable to power the second display. The second problem with the newer Macbook Pro is that with both displays plugged into the laptop, I have no port for power. And given the FOPO does drain extra power from the laptop, I'm looking at a much faster battery drain than usual. 

Best USB hubs: Plug it in, plug it all in Best USB hubs: Plug it in, plug it all in What is the best USB hub? Our number one pick is the Kingston Nucleum. We tested and analyzed, number of ports, type of ports, reliability, and design below.

This isn't a problem with the older Macbook, as I can plug in both monitors to the laptop and still have a USB port remaining for power. So if you're going to use the FOPO with a newer model Macbook Pro, I would suggest a USB hub to expand your ports. Even then, you're going to be carrying around a lot of kit to make this work on the road. 

However, if you like the idea of on-the-go multiple displays for your laptop, and don't mind carrying around extra equipment and your workspace being a bit more cluttered with cables, the FOPO S12 is not just a welcome addition, but fun to use.

Two tiny caveats

As someone who's used multi-monitor setups before, I know how they work. One issue I have with the FOPO is that switching from one screen to the other isn't exactly as intuitive as it should be (at least, out of the box). When you first plug in the FOPO, your desktop operating system might not place them in the correct order. When I attached the FOPO S12 to either Macbook Pro, the order of displays always came up Retina (apple display) | FOPO Right | FOPO Left (not the actual names). Because of that configuration, instead of moving my cursor off the left edge of the screen to reach the left display, I actually have to go through the right display.

To solve that problem, open Settings and go to Displays. What you must do is drag and drop the order of the displays so it looks exactly like that in Figure 3.

Figure 3

fopo3.jpg

The Apple Retina display must be in the center with both FOPO displays on either side in the same line.

Keep playing with the configuration until the layout suits your needs.

Also: How to choose the right monitor layout for working from home

The second caveat is that using this setup on your lap isn't exactly ideal. Yes, you can do so, but the slightest movement could send your display falling backward. Should that happen on the wrong laptop (and with enough force), you could wind up with a broken hinge.

The conclusion

The FOPO S12 multi-monitor display is a great addition for mobile road warriors who want to enjoy as efficient a workspace as they can get. Unfortunately, the S12 isn't cheap. You'll have to drop $469.00 on Amazon ($379 with the current coupon offer) if you want one. Is it worth the money? The answer to that question depends on how desperate you are for multiple monitors on your laptop. Personally, I found this tool a welcome addition to my mobile work.

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