Last year, we took a look at C-Force's C-Air portable monitor, a 4K panel which was light and thin enough to carry around in your rucksack. While there were a lot of things we really liked about the screen, it suffered from some unfortunate issues, such as being tethered to a dongle the entire time and image ghosting problems. Also, considering the Switch can't output 4K, the display – which was still at the prototype stage – felt like overkill, and the actual quality of the panel left a little to be desired.
C-Force has listened to these concerns and has decided to end development on the C-Air and instead focus on other gaming screens. The cheapest is the $200 CF011X, a small portable panel aimed at low-end users. However, we've been given the chance to look at the more impressive (and, at $290, more expensive) CF016XT, which is a self-contained 15.6-inch 1080p monitor that, in many respects, is a much better option than the C-Air ever was.
The biggest change between the C-Air and the CF016XT is its size; because all of the video scaling hardware is now contained within the unit itself, it's slightly larger than the C-Air – but before you get too concerned, it's worth noting that this is still a very svelte and lightweight monitor. At 4.8mm, it's thinner than the MacBook Air we're writing these words on, and has a footprint that is only a little bigger. It's also only 990g, so is easy enough to carry around in a bag.
The 1920 x 1080 screen has a nippy 144Hz refresh rate and HDR support and avoids the ghosting the blurring issues that plagued the C-Air. Brightness is excellent and colours really pop – and it also has touch support, which obviously doesn't apply in the case of the Switch. It's a truly handsome screen which is great for gaming, although we did notice that there are some lighter areas at the bottom of the display, a sign that internal parts are pushing against the panel (a common issue with small, portable screens). Flexing the screen gently makes these areas more noticeable, but that's not something you're likely to do all that often.
To hook the CF016XT to your Switch, you can either use the bundled HDMI-to-Mini HDMI cable or connect via the console's USB-C port (for the second option, you don't even need the dock, as the image and audio data are carried along the USB-C cable). Power is provided via a second USB-C port, and – if you've got one that can output the required level of juice – you can use a portable battery pack, making this a truly portable solution. The screen comes with a plastic stand which can be set in a range of positions, but it also has a removable magnetic screen cover which doubles as a kick-stand, rather like one you'd fine on a tablet-style smart device. Using a single button, you can alter the screen's settings using your finger, via an on-screen display.
Gaming on the CF016XT is a joy, but one of the most obvious advantages it offers is the effortless ability to turn the screen 90-degrees and play games in 'TATE' mode – titles such as Ikaruga, Downwell, ESP Ra. De. Psi, Demon's Tilt and Psyvariar Delta all run brilliantly on the display, so if you're a fan of any of those titles, this is a solid purchase.
Of course, running the screen on Switch is merely one side of the CF016XT – you can hook up any HDMI device to the panel, which includes any HDMI-ready console (or, using the OSSC, retro consoles) and even your laptop. We've actually been using the demo unit as a second monitor for work, which makes the CF016XT even more attractive if productivity is a concern. You can also use it with your smartphone (assuming it supports data over USB-C) for things like watching movies and so on.
On the downside, the speakers are pretty weedy; they do the job, but they lack power and bass. There's a 3.5mm headphone socket so you can, if you so wish, listen via a set of cans or even hook the display up to your audio system for a more impressive experience.
Another stumbling point for many buyers is the price; at $290, this isn't an impulse purchase by any stretch of the imagination, and if you're only looking for a portable display option to use with your Switch, you might want to look at cheaper alternatives (like the aforementioned CF011X, for example). However, if you have multiple uses for this kind of super-portable panel – such as using it as a second PC display or a mobile screen you can take away on holiday for watching Netflix and the like – then the high cost becomes a little easier to justify.
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