Dark or Light
logo
Logo

GMK Xpanel 2 4K Portable Monitor Review

4K on the Go

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

Looking for a portable monitor that will do your new console justice? Or maybe just looking for something to get some editing done on your laptop with good color accuracy? The GMK Xpanel 2 may just be what you’ve been waiting for. Find out in our review!

Specifications

Current Price:

GMK XPanel 2 - Overview

GMK Tec may not be a brand you’ve heard of before but they’re certainly one to take a closer look at if you’re in the market for a portable monitor or Mini PC. The company is fairly new, having been founded in 2019, but has come out with a splash. To date, its released two versions of its tiny NucBox Mini PC, a 4K-capable computer that measures only 5 x 4 inches, and three portable monitors in its Xpanel line. 

I’ve spent the last two weeks with the Xpanel 2, GMK’s premiere 4K portable display. It features a 10-bit 15.6-inch 3840 x 2160 IPS display. It brings more than resolution to the table, however, also featuring 600-nits peak brightness, a 10-bit panel, HDR10 compatibility, Delta E < 2, and 100% of the Adobe sRGB color spectrum. The display is also touch-sensitive, so you can control it with taps, and has a gyroscope for automatic orientation switching. It also features a built-in stand that houses the IO, which keeps the panel thin and offers a much more sturdy support than the usual magnetic cover included with many portable displays. 

The Xpanel 2 doesn’t stop there. It features several gaming features, such as FreeSync support and built-in overdrive settings to reduce ghosting. There are several picture presets, including those for FPS, RTS, and “Game” that adjust brightness and contrast. In addition, the monitor also features built-in speakers and a headphone jack, so you can receive audio directly from the device (though I would still advise using a headset for the best gaming experience). 

For creators, the biggest concern will be color accuracy. When connected to a PC, it will function as any other monitor and can be calibrated for improved color accuracy. Out of the box, however, I was impressed to find that it was one of the best calibrated portable monitors I’ve yet encountered. The viewing angles are also outstanding, which makes sharing your screen easy. Of course, if you’re doing any kind of professional work, you’ll want to calibrate it manually using a colorimeter, but for hobbyist creative work, like cutting together gameplay clips for your YouTube channel, you’ll be good to go out of the box.

In terms of build quality and overall construction, the Xpanel 2 is a winner. It features a metal chassis that feels robust. The panel itself is thin at only 5mm and has almost non-existent bezels. The screen does have a black border under the glass. It’s thin and unobtrusive on the top and sides, but there is a chin measuring roughly an inch so you can more easily hold it without activating the touch screen.

GMK XPanel 2 - Who Is It For?

At $499 ($409 with our discount code), the Xpanel 2 is a clear step up from the average portable monitor available on Amazon. This is a display for users who need ultra HD resolution and improved color accuracy and brightness. Because of those things, this is a display for users that don’t mind paying a bit extra for a much-improved experience. 

  • Gamers: If you’re running a new console, the last thing you want to do is step down to 1080p resolution. This monitor will allow you to play at full 4K resolution and offer improved colors and brightness than lower-cost monitors. Likewise, built-in overdrive effectively reduces ghosting and, on PC, FreeSync eliminates screen tearing. 
  • Content creators: The color accuracy and brightness of this monitor make it a good fit for creators who need more portability. Have a laptop or desktop workstation that has horsepower but lacks color accuracy? This is a good solution to add a second display for creating on the go. 
  • Productivity users (who also fall in another category): As an external monitor, the Xpanel 2 connects easily to your phone, PC, or laptop using the including cabling. If you need extra screen real estate for working on spreadsheets or other work docs, this will do the trick. If that’s all you’re using it for, it would make more sense to go with the standard Xpanel to save some money; however, if you fall into another of the camps being described here, the Xpanel 2 is still a good value.
  • Users who want to use their phone as a PC: If you’re running a Samsung device that supports Dex, the Xpanel 2 will effectively allow you to turn your phone into a computer. Simply connect it over USB-C with Dex mode enabled and it will automatically display a Windows-like desktop with full access to all of your apps, photos, and documents. What I like about this is that you won’t be forced to sacrifice resolution. The Xpanel 2 shifted seamlessly into 1440p with my Note 20 Ultra, so there was no quality loss from being artificially enlarged.
  • Photographers/Videographers: Thanks to its Mini-HDMI input, the Xpanel 2 can take inputs from most cameras and act as a large monitor. It will not offer advanced features, like focus peaking, found on dedicated photography equipment, but works very well as a focus monitor for a camera on a tripod. 

GMK XPanel 2 - What I Like/Dislike

The Xpanel 2 has a lot going for it. Preceding this review, the only other portable displays I had used were mid-to-entry level 1080p options from Lepow and Vissles. The Z1 Gamut was honestly pretty darn good for the money, but the experience here was almost night and day for gaming.

What I Like: The Bright, HDR-enabled screen is great for gaming

The Xpanel 2 features a peak brightness of 600-nits. That’s brighter than many full-size monitors at this price. Playing Red Dead Redemption 2 on my Xbox Series X, the console immediately picked up on its HDR capabilities. The difference coming from one of those cheaper monitors is absolutely huge. I was able to see every detail I would usually see on my big, HDR TV. Streetlights shone in the dark. Details didn’t just disappear into the shadows. 

I also spent some time playing on PlayStation 5 and on the Nintendo Switch. God of War never looked so good. Likewise, I was very impressed by the richness of the colors in Fall Guys. The viewing angles also allowed me to play side by side with my son when playing Super Mario 3D World with my son. The brightness and color-richness of the screen really is excellent for gaming on the go.

Colors on the screen were also very good! I created a custom color profile to increase brightness and add some additional richness when gaming and it looked great with minimal effort.

What I Like: 4K resolution

Along with color quality and brightness, the Xbox instantly recognized the Xpanel 2 as a 4K display and output that resolution. Even at 15.6 inches, you can see the improved crispness and detail on offer here (at least if you’re sitting within a few feet of the display).

What I Like: Easy setup

Getting up and running with the monitor was as easy as can be. You plug in power, plug in your source, and that’s it. You’re good to go. That also includes Samsung Dex. 

What I Like: It turns my phone into a laptop (mostly)

I don’t like using my work computer for personal tasks, but with this display and my Samsung phone, I don’t have to. Add a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, and Samsung Dex all but replaces a standard productivity laptop. The monitor also trickle charges the connected device, so it won’t drain your battery to stay connected. 

What I Like:  Solid gaming performance!

I was surprised to find the Xpanel 2 worked quite well for gaming. Without overdrive, there is a minor amount of ghosting but turning OD on in the OSD reduces it to levels you’ll rarely if ever notice when not pixel peeping. When connected to a PC, FreeSync also becomes an option to eliminate screen tearing for an even more smooth gaming experience. 

What I Like: It was easy to add to my content creation workflow

Given the color accuracy, I ran it through a quick calibration with my SpyderX Elite colorimeter and was good to go. Within 15 minutes, I was able to add the Xpanel 2 to my Adobe workflow and have an effective, as-needed, second screen.

What I Like: Plentiful IO

The Xpanel 2 supports plentiful connectivity options. On the left side of the tilt stand are two USB Type-C connections that can be used for inputs or power. Below these is a Mini HDMI port. On the right side is another USB-C (made for OTG connections to improve smartphone compatibility), the power/OSD button and a combo audio jack. 

What I Don’t Like: No built-in battery

The big missing feature here is a built-in battery. No matter where you go, you’ll need to connect to external power. Unlike some external monitors, the Xpanel 2 can’t draw enough power to function purely from a smart device. You’ll need to plug in an AC adapter. That means you’ll always have at least two cables coming from the device. Connected over USB-C on both my laptop and desktop, the Xpanel 2 receives some level of power (enough to be detected by the host machine) but not enough to power on its display.

What I Don’t Like: On PC, you’ll need to step down to 4-2-2 to enabled 10-bit color

While the monitor supports up to 12-bit color within in the Nvidia Control Panel (on PC), 10-bit color is not a selectable option until you step down to 4-2-2 chroma subsampling. The Xbox Series X auto-navigates this.

What I Don’t Like: Custom color settings need to be re-selected

I did encounter one glitch in my testing: RGB settings would restore to default with the input reset. I prefer higher peak brightness more frequently when gaming, so set a custom RGB mix to achieve that. When moving between the Xbox menu and Red Dead Redemption 2, the monitor would briefly blank out as the game re-initialized its HDR settings (which is normal). When it would re-load, I had to manually reselect the “custom” RGB balance option to restore my settings. This is something that can likely be solved with a firmware update and is a minor inconvenience, but if you menu-hop, you should be prepared to re-select this setting for the time being.

What I Don’t Like: The screen is so reflective!

The Xpanel 2 features a glossy, reflective screen. If you're in an area with a lot of light or distracting movement behind you, you'll definitely notice it while you work or play. This would be a case where a matte screen protector will come in handy.

Final Thoughts - Should You Buy It?

The Xpanel 2 from GMK Tec is a great choice if you need a 4K portable display. Even though I wish it had a built-in battery, the actual viewing and gaming experiences were excellent. Not everyone needs 4K resolution, nor can justify paying so much for a 15.6-inch external display, but if you need a small footprint monitor for gaming or editing on the go, this is a very good choice. 

The Xpanel 2 typically retails for $499, but right now you can use our code $90OFF-mmorpg-KD2monitor to pick it up for $90 off ($409). This is not an affiliate commission but a pure discount to benefit you, the reader. This product is also available at Amazon for the same price with a recently applied coupon promotion for users who prefer to shop there. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.
 
8.0Great
Pros
  • High peak brightness
  • Slim, easily portable design
  • Great color accuracy for creative work
  • Easy setup, especially with Xbox Series X
  • 4K resolution and HDR support
Cons
  • Still fairly expensive
  • No built-in battery
  • Chroma subsampling required on PC for 10-bit color
  • Very glossy screen


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight