Scott Hanselman

Review: Mimo Monitors - iMo Pivot

October 6, '09 Comments [24] Posted in Reviews | Tools
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image NOTE: This review was written using the DisplayLink 5.2.20937 Drivers on Windows 7 x64 RTM. Be sure to scroll to the bottom in their forums, as that's where the new stuff is.

I switched to three monitors over two years ago and I can't go back. I replaced those CRTs with LCDs a year later when I rebuilt my home office and added a fourth monitor. I moved that fourth monitor over to my Mame Arcade Cabinet later and have been using a 24" and two 22"s ever since.

However, then Twitter happened and darnit, I need another monitor. Maybe, hm, a tiny monitor. I could watch videos, Hulu, run Zune and all sorts of things. But is it cheap? Does it work? Can you run a monitor over USB? Let's see. 

The Big Idea

IMG_0722

The idea is that the iMo Pivot is a 7" 700x480 portable monitor that uses USB as its buss. It works on XP, Vista and Windows 7, as well as Intel-based Mac OS X. It has drivers for all including 64-bit.

There's also a touch screen version, but I bought the $129.99 Pivot version without a touch screen. It can stand horizontally or vertically (hence, iMo Pivot) or it can be removed and stand up like a picture frame with a metal support.

I put mine underneath my 24" 16:9 monitor and while it's slightly dimmer (it has a 400:1 contrast ratio and 350 cd/m2) it's not a distracting difference against my bright Dell.

It's a real monitor and shows up as an extra one (number 3 below) in your Control Panel.

image

Twitter or Email Screen

imageYou could take Outlook and fold up the folders/calendars/toolbars and have a nice tidy place for your Email. Again, you've got 800x480 to work within.

Also, you can use this as your Twitter screen, putting your timeline either on the web or using TweetDeck or bDule.

Debug Windows

Sometimes you just need a place to put your Watch Window. ;) While Visual Studio 2008 doesn't have the explicit support for Multiple Monitors like Visual Studio 2010, you CAN take your toolboxes and toolbars and move them over to your second monitor.

Music Monitor

ZuneiMoAn interesting app that this is perfect for, although there were a few visual glitches is the Zune software. This little 800x480 monitor is a great place to park the Zune software and let it entertain you while you work, without using one of your larger monitors. Unfortunately, something about the Zune visualization being so "heavy" it causes the monitor to sometimes switch into a Video Optimized view. I only saw this with the Zune software and only once or twice, but the idea appears that you can set the iMo to favor framerate over clarity, so it'll switch seamlessly to 400x240 (basically big dots) when there's a LOT of fast pixels moving. Again, don't freak out, I don't think this is a big deal and I only saw it a few times. Also, you can CHOOSE to turn this on or off with their software driver.

Video Screen

It works great for Hulu (sorry folks outside the US) and YouTube videos. There is an "optimized for video" option, but I haven't had to use it. More on that option below.

I had no problem dragging an episode of Family Guy down onto the monitor, even using Hulu Desktop, and it worked seamlessly with minimal problem. It was smooth and watchable to the IMG_0723point where I was genuinely surprised it was all happening over USB.

I could totally see using this to watch DVDs or little things in the background while writing, well, blog posts like this.

Conclusion

Frankly, this is an amazing piece of hardware. It's $130 and it works exactly as advertised. I'm looking forward to taking it with me to conferences an using it as a countdown timer for my laptop while on stage! It'll be perfect as a second monitor in Hotel Rooms when I'm away from my "command center." This is a fantastic little monitor and I'm happy I bought it.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009 12:38:25 AM UTC
Looks cool. How do you plan on using it as a countdown timer during presentations if you also have your laptop hooked up to the room's AV for projection on the screen? Do the drivers provide further graphics output options over and above the usual, clone vs. extend? Would be awesome if you could set your laptop up to clone the main display to the projector while extending to the Mimo.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 12:46:56 AM UTC
Thanks for the review! I'm thinking I might have to get one for myself!
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 12:58:53 AM UTC
USB can do some pretty amazing stuff, I can run full screen HD video on to my 1680x1050 using my DisplayLink UV Plus+ 16...great alternative to those of us who have no room for a second video card.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 1:08:36 AM UTC
I so want on of them! I was looking at the touch screen version which looks really cool.

BTW - if your looking for a timer to run on your laptop check out Dinner Timer Lite for a little app I threw together as a count down timer for when I was cooking dinner (hence it's name!), it's got some functionality you might like for using in presentations - clear display, progress bar, overrun timer, alerts when your getting close to the time, some cool sounds, twitter integration and some other stuff - and the price is good as well - it's free! Also it's written in C# naturally :-)
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 1:35:31 AM UTC
This does look cool. I'll have to try to find touchscreen reviews - with a little code, I could see this being a cheap, extensible one of these:
http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus-mini
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 1:49:34 AM UTC
Looks cool! It has the potential to enable a whole generation of home automation, especially the touchscreen version. (PS there is a typo regarding the resolution "700x480 portable" should be 800x480)
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 1:52:40 AM UTC
Does it work with aero?

I though in Vista and Win7 all your video cards (and this is really just a software video card) have to run the same driver. That is why you can't mix ATI and Nvida Cards.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 2:19:46 AM UTC
Use something like WinSplit Revolution to size Visual Studio <=2008 tool windows. Works well on mini monitors. I have the standard Mimo. The disparity between the dot pitch still gets me a little. Mimo pixels are about 55% the size of my regular, full size screens makes switching back and forth a little straining on the eyes. Otherwise a good piece of hardware. Mine is mounted upside down above a main screen. Orientation seems to have no ill effects. Need to rearrange my desk though to make it more useful for development.
Peter Lanoie
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 3:37:45 AM UTC
@TonyB - Yes, it supports Aero.

@Scott - Dude, you should thank my wife for getting me one for my birthday so I could recommend it to you on Twitter. ;)
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 3:56:28 AM UTC
Scott - I'm comparing the specs/images of your model (the iMo) versus the one that I have, the 710 (which apparently the iMo replaces). Tell me, is the height adjustable on yours? Or does the stand just have that ball and pivot thing? If it's fixed height, what's the height?

Also, is the screen glossy? Or matte?

My 710 has adjustable height and a glossy screen. I'm a bit interested in knowing if the iMo has those as well.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 4:45:22 AM UTC
Unless I'm just a raging idiot (quite possible) I couldn't find any product links. Since I love these things, too, here are some places you can buy them:

- mimomonitors.com
- nanovisionmimo.com
- thegadgeteers.com
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 6:57:03 AM UTC
Dude, I have some carbon credits you may be interested in.
dave
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 8:49:11 AM UTC
Hi Scott, Sorry if this is a stupid question but I noticed in your screen comparison picture your windows desktop has a few "groups" of icons like current projects etc. Is this a sweet windows 7 feature I don't know about or is it one of those hand made backgrounds where you keep the icons in their respective regions? I know its off thread but something like that would really help me with my out of control desktop icon addiction :P
Pete
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 1:28:02 PM UTC
I really like the look of those icons groups as well.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 3:17:49 PM UTC
All,

The icon grouping functionality is made possible from a Stardock application called Fences. You can find it here.
JK
Tuesday, October 06, 2009 3:59:47 PM UTC
Careful you don't get too giddy and buy a screen per application!

You are making a mockery of all the wonderful window management in 7 :)

You could have one mounted vertically for PDF reading...
Wednesday, October 07, 2009 7:39:00 AM UTC
I am surprised that you don't notice a significant slow-down in your overall computer performance with a software video driver. Of course, you aren't playing games on the Imo! But both the video information and the USB bus are being CPU driven.

No doubt, my problem is that my computer is 7 years old and has only one processor. My USB disk drives really make a dent in available CPU time.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009 7:43:20 AM UTC
I haven't seen any slowdown, although it has locked up a few times overnight and I've had to unplug it and plug it back in again. I suspect their driver is pretty good about not worrying about the screen when it's not doing anything. All in all, even with some instability, it's been useful. And, it's easily turned off just by unpluging.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009 3:48:26 PM UTC
Scott...I see that you're running this monitor via USB but you mention that you were up to 4 monitors at one point in the past. Was that using USB as well? Or what video card(s) R U using?
Wednesday, October 07, 2009 6:45:15 PM UTC
Alex - The other two video cards (each can run two monitors) are just cheap NVidia GeForce 8600 GTS's. You can run as many monitors as you can power. ;)
Wednesday, October 07, 2009 9:35:49 PM UTC
I am a multi-monitor user as well. I only have two but I have it at work and at home so I successfully live in my own bubble without having to go back to single screens except for when somebody corners me to fix something.

After my boss saw me swipe a spare monitor for this task he soon followed suit!

Anyway the review sounds great and I was very tempted, unfortunately I live in England and they aren't out here, nothing in Google or on eBay so I guess they just haven't made it yet....

The only bad thing about multi-monitor is the extra effort you have to go to with getting decent wallpaper! In fact thats something I never thought about - does windows 7 have per monitor wallpaper support?
Thursday, October 08, 2009 4:23:30 AM UTC
Great find! Looks like it'd be a great secondary display while traveling.

I've had great results with the UVGA DisplayLink Display Adapter at work to handle a 3rd monitor. The only downsides I've seen so far is that it doesn't play nice with undock; I always end up having to reboot when I reconnect. Not really a big deal imho but something to note if you undock and dock a lot.

At home I'm still at 2 monitors - a 24" dell and a 17" NEC that's on its last legs. Next project - the Ergotron DS100 Quad Monitor desk stand :)
Tuesday, October 13, 2009 6:59:00 PM UTC
I've been eyeing these puppies for awhile, but haven't seen a good write-up on them. They look pretty handy as a communication hub (Skype, Twitter, etc.), but the extra $30 for the Mac driver is lame. Anyhow, thanks for the review. Now I need to convince the wife that this is a necessity :)
Steven Hong
Saturday, December 19, 2009 12:00:34 AM UTC
Hi, I just received the imo touch and have had nothing but problems with it. The mac drivers didn't work and the touch function was...non-functional. I emailed tech support for help but they just referred me to the manual (to the section for Windows users although I told them I was using a Mac--the mac section of the manual is pretty sparse) and the manual is written in poor Engrish in parts. Then, I turned off the monitor over night and it never would turn back on again. I have to now pay out of my own pocket to ship it back and I am out the $30 custom fees. I dare not request a replacement because if that doesn't work, I'll be out another $30 or so in shipping. Frankly, I wouldn't recommend this product at all: the customer support is poor and you're on your own if something goes wrong. I may even get charged a 10% restocking fee! It's too bad because I was really excited about this little gadget and had some great plans for it.

Just my opinion based on my personal experience, but I would definitely stay away--at least until they work the kinks out in a later version (as this was just released on Dec 3rd).
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.