Lepow was established in 2011 in Hong Kong as a high-end mobile accessory manufacturer with an ethos to bring joy to consumers worldwide. Today they stand as a manufacturer of electronics, accessories and smart technology that actively advocates changing people’s lives, establishing interpersonal relationships with innovation and creativity, while leading the sustainable development of creative industries in China. As a consumer in the western hemisphere, I have to admit that I have very rarely come in contact with a Lepow branded product and as a result, I was very keen to take this review item for a test drive.
The item I received was the Lepow Z1 Gamut portable monitor, and straight off the bat, I was impressed by the care and attention taken to ensure this item reaches its customers perfectly. In the box layers of foam and plastic wrap perfectly segregates and compartmentalises each piece within its protective cocoon. Opening the box up we find the 15.6" screen in a magnetic flip case, a 15.6" plastic screen protector, a wall socket plug, a USB-C to USB-C cable, a USB-A to USB-C cable, and a Micro HDMI to HDMI cable for connectivity.
The flip case is magnetic and foldable so you can have the monitor in a variety of positions from almost upright to a nicely relaxed 178 degrees. The case magnetises to the rear of the monitor and can be adjusted any which way you can envisage to stand it up securely and easily. There was one point where I could not comprehend how to get the thing to stand up, but it was just my lack of experience with magnetic cases kicking in, and after a few seconds of head-scratching I had it sussed.
- Model: Z1-Gamut (2020)
- Net Weight: 1.7 lbs.
- Visual Area: 344.16*194.59mm
- Screen Size: 15.6 inch
- Panel Type: IPS
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9/ 4:3
- Resolution: 1920*1080
- Display Color: 16.7M
- Color Temperature: 6800K
- Visual Angle: H：85°/85°MinV：85°/85°Min
- Contrast Ratio:1000：1
- Brightness: 320cd/m²
- Color Gamut: NTSC=85%, SRGB=100%, AdobeRGB=90%
- Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
- Input Interface: Mini HD (Video signal), Type C full function (Video data, Power supply ISDN), Type C power supply
- Output Interface: 3.5 mm headphone interface
- Speaker: Dual stereo speaker (1 W*2)
- System Requirement: Devices with an HD output interface, computers with full Type C video output capability
The monitor itself is amazingly thin and at just 76mm thick and with an incredibly light 1.76lb weight this is an item that easily fits in your bag to take with you on the go. The form factor reminded me a lot of the Windows Surface Tablets or yore, but with less bezel, and the wide aspect of the 13.5" x 7.6" visible screen would make for some excellent 16:9 widescreen viewing. Down the left-hand side of the unit you have the USB type C connector and the HDMI mini socket, which effectively lets you connect any device to this, with one caveat, the device needs to have a female HDMI socket. The only way around this is to purchase a Female HDMI to micro HDMI adaptor and all of your woes will be gone. It would have been nice to see a more varied selection of cables and connectors, such as an HDMI mini to HDMI mini, come bundled with this device, but it is relatively inexpensive to buy the parts you need to get everything going smoothly. Down the right-hand side you have your power in via USB-C, a power/return button, a power indicator LED, and a roll switch that controls volume primarily, but when held it displays all manner of adjustment options. Connectivity is exceptionally easy, with just the power connected the unit starts itself up and auto-detects anything that is attached to it and powered on. I was looking forward to connecting this to my laptop and seeing what else I could get out of this product during my review experience.
Extending my monitor was as simple as plugging it in and selecting the screen share settings in my GFX card. With easy to configure options available on today's GFX cards, such as extending the desktop, cloning it or running a dual-screen setup, it was a sinch to get up and running and a pleasure to use. My Laptop outputs at a rather bizarre 1366 x 768 by default, though the Lepow Z1 allows for 1920 x 1080 @ 60hz, the output was clean, crisp and the colour tone actually matched my current settings. I found myself very intuitively multi-tasking, chucking Note Pad++ on to that screen as a dedicated space to write code and test without disturbing my main monitor, where I could watch videos, use social media and not have to switch tabs or applications anywhere near as frequently as I have become am used to. It was great. The versatility this brings is ultimately up to the consumer, its a blank slate, its a window full of opportunity and its a really good budget option to extend your laptop or desktop very, very easily.
I wanted to try to push this little $199 monitor to its limits, and give it something to really chew on. I started by plugging in my Nintendo Switch, and honestly, as a low input display, I was pleasantly surprised by how good it looked and felt to play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on. Pugging in my Playstation 4 Pro, set up to 1080p supersampling, I also noticed that the low latency input was a pretty nice feature to have for games such as Fall Guys where timing is everything! The use of HDR also comes into its own, pushing the darker tones back into the image and bringing highlights to the foreground giving the monitor a punchier image and superb colour range. Going one step further I wanted to plug my Firestick 4K into the Z1 in order to have a portable media player of sorts. As I mentioned before, I needed a Female HDMI to male HMDI mini in order to plug it in, which adds a little bulk to the left-hand side of the unit but it's not going to be in use in any mobile capacity, setting this up on a shelf or surface it shouldn't get bumped or knocked and broken off if you're sensible. Using the roll wheel to select AUTO HDR the colour saturation ramps up to the expected levels for movies and game, conversely turning this to 2048 hammers the red into the screen and this was not a mode I enjoyed for gaming or media, but for PC output (Media and general use) it was nicer than the darker tones of HDR.
Gamut, by definition, means the "complete range or scope of something", and the Z1 Gamut puts itself out there in name at least; as a monitor that can display the full range of colours viewable by the human eye's visible colour spectrum. It also identifies itself as having an innate ability to convey a true representation of the colours provided to it from its source. This generation of Z1 Gamut promises to cover the full 100% sRGB range, which has been popularised by the fact that it is capable of extremely low colour inconsistency during its input or output, and from what I observed there is an extremely good representation of colour and clarity with zero washout across all mediums (using my 1080p and 4k televisions and both my laptop's displays for comparison). This 2020 model also clearly improves over its predecessor model by accomodating improved colour spacing, brightness and luminosity levels and even providing improving built-in speakers and their orientation to make it really pop.
The Z1 Gamut has dual speakers for stereo sound, which are positioned on the left and right sides of the display, rather than traditionally at the front underneath. While the sound isn't anything too stunning being a 2 x 1w stereo output, it never crackled or popped even at high volume, which was actually decent for watching TV series and playing games on. Tapping down on the roll button activates the volume slider, but tapping upwards to activate the roll button brings up the brightness. This roll wheel is excellent for what it does, however, I couldn't help but feel that it was going to bend or snap under pressure sometimes. It feet like I wasn't pushing the button down squarely all the time, and as a result, I was less than confident to use the button blindly and had to peer around the side every time I wanted to use it. The obvious fix for this is a far more solid button or even some sort of remote, but that would conflict with the Z1's portability, so I understand why this is not an option, it is, after all, a monitor and not a TV.
Giving a few episodes of Spartacus a watch, I found that the action was fluent, the blood and gore was sharp and incredibly watchable, but again the sound wasn't overly amazing, but it worked well enough to watch and enjoy for an hour or two. This could definitely be useful on holidays where you're stuck inside a cabin or caravan, with no TV or aerial, so you could hotspot your firestick, use a movie app or a subscription service, perhaps Freeview apps too for television, and potentially you could even go full Macguyver and plug in the Twelve South Airfly Pro into the 3.5mm jack to get Bluetooth stereo output for two viewers. I thought it would have been a massive overkill for this simple media experimentation, and I already had a few different things going on without creating a swiss-army knife look and overcomplicate this setup. As a side note, the power for the Firestick also could have been harnessed from the left-hand side USB-C socket, but I couldn't test this as I didn't have a USB-C to USB micro cable available at the time of testing. The included USB-C to USB-C connector means you can also connect to an iPad Pro, android or any device with display out via USB-C natively, giving you 15.6" movies and games rather than the average 5-7" displays of your pocket-sized mobile phone.
The built-in OSD has a plethora of display tweaks you can adjust to your liking, including low blue light modes for night time use, and black contrast for really getting the most out of your display. Customisation of colour balance, colour temperature, sharpness, eco and dynamic contrast ratio means you can fiddle to your heart's content or simply use one of the built-in colour temperature profiles. I opted to fiddle to get the vibrance I liked with the darkness and coolness I personally preferred. Adjusting the OSD is great, but the positioning of it cannot be moved from the centre, even though the icon suggests you may be able to reposition it.
Example of HDR 2048 on the left as opposed to off on the right.
For my last test, looking at the form factor and the things available around me, I wanted to see if I could set this thing up as a bartop arcade! The way it stands up lends itself perfectly for countertop play, and what better than to gun for some retro gaming, as well as current generation games, and as it happened, I had Raspberry Pi 3B+ to hand, fully loaded, and two fight sticks ready for action. Knowing the power requirements of the Pi I opted to plug it in via mains, and then into the Z1 with the supplied HDMI to HDMI mini cable, I inserted my pre-flashed image micro SD card and powered it on. The screen came on bright and vibrant, and after a brief loading period and configuration of the two sticks: my wife and I were able to pull up two chairs and huddle around a superb ghetto bartop set up. I could tidy this up further by cable tying the cables and cords behind the screen inside the folded magnetic stand, and with a couple of velcro dots, I could definitely attach the Pi to the rear making it incredibly neat and tidy with just the controllers and the screen visible.
Every game tested on it (and there were quite a few that caused me to procrastinate writing up this part) worked superbly, with no ghosting, sharpness and fidelity I wasn't expecting, and a fantastic vibrance and colour tone without HDR enabled. The sound was ideal with the volume only on 30 or so, whereas for watching movies and TV I had it all the way up to 85 to share the sound around the room, hunkering down next to it, the Lepow Z1 was loud and proud for our incredibly enjoyable retro gaming/reviewing session. My only quibble for easier ease of use would be a wish for wireless audio connectivity. I could then use a soundbar or speakers, even wireless headset with this unit, without having to use a 3.5mm audio cable to chain them all together.
I can definitely see myself using this both as an option to extend my already cluttered desktop and also as an entertainment portal. Plugging in a Raspberry Pi or Firestick to utilise this universal screen to its fullest away from your PC makes for an incredibly fun alternative use. If I had any quibbles it would purely be that perhaps the sockets could all have been around the back, but given the svelt thin form-factor of the device: perhaps had right-angled adaptors supplied to facilitate that, as it would have immediately looked tidier and more appealing to have set up for longer periods of time. Overall I found the Lepow Z1 Gamut a superb device for gaming, movies and productivity with an amazingly rich display that didn't disappoint over a range of media. Perhaps if they could slightly improve the sound quality this would be an exemplary review, but for what it is and what it does: I cannot fail to recommend this as an option for you to consider if you need this type of device any time soon!
|What We Liked . . . Amazing IPS display across all mediums with rich colour and great contrast Superb adjustment options to suit any device even with HDR Connects to virtually any HDMI or USB-C enabled device imaginable||What We Didn't Like . . . Sound quality is decent, but not astounding The supplied screen protector is way too flimsy The roller button is cheap feeling|
out of 10
As my first monitor review, I can safely say that this was a corker. It lived up to and exceeded my expectations, giving me options for productivity and gaming/media with an incredibly vibrant and sharp display. There are a few small things I think could be improved, but overall the Z1 Gamut is a solid purchase and highly recommended!