One of my favorite products of 2013 just went on sale. Finally! (I've been waiting on this.)
For a limited time, and while supplies last, Woot has the refurbished AOC E1659FWU 16-inch LED monitor for $79.99, plus $5 for shipping.
Update: Alas, it's already sold out. Sorry, folks! This tends to happen with especially sweet deals.
Wait -- what's the big deal about that? It was just the other day that I was telling you about 23- and 24-inch monitors for around the same price.
So here's the big deal: The E1659FWU requires only a USB connection -- no VGA, no HDMI, and, perhaps best of all, no AC. That means it's not only portable (AOC supplies a soft carrying case), but also extremely versatile: You can use it with your laptop even if there's no power outlet available.
I've long been a fan of the second monitor, one of the all-time great computing conveniences. Web browser here, word processor there. E-mail client here, spreadsheet there. You get the idea.
What's especially awesome about this one is that it supports both portrait and landscape orientation. (The ingenious built-in kickstand props it up either way, and a built-in pivot sensor automatically switches the view!) I like to put it alongside my laptop for viewing documents and Web pages in portrait view, the way nature intended.
Downsides? I suspect some users will balk at the monitor's 1,366 x 768 resolution, especially if your primary screen runs higher. Also, in my experience, not all laptops produce sufficient power from a single USB port, meaning you might need to draft a second one. This was problematic on my Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook, which has only two of them -- on opposite sides of the machine. AOC's Y-style USB cable requires side-by-side ports.
That obstacle aside, this is a great second screen for laptop users and a steal at $80. There's just something incredibly liberating about a monitor that doesn't have to be plugged into a wall. CNET hasn't reviewed it, but here's some PCMag coverage if you want more deets. (You can also check out the mostly positive user reviews on Amazon.)
Bonus deal: Want to vastly improve the sound coming from your flat-panel TV? Plug an inexpensive pair of computer speakers into the headphone jack. Like this one: Walmart has the Logitech S120 powered stereo speakers for $6.99 (plus tax). Shipping adds about $5 unless you pick them up in your local store. These are a great size for a smaller TV, like the one in your den or bedroom. And, seriously, audio upgrades don't come cheaper than this.