Dual Monitors: 7 Good Reasons to Upgrade
An AskBob reader says: “I am considering dual monitors because my 17-inch monitor seems to be shrinking. Sometimes it seems like I spend more time scrolling and tabbing between programs than on actual work. But still not sure... should I upgrade to a big 30-inch monitor, or go with a dual monitor setup?” Here's my advice on dual monitor upgrades...
Try Dual Monitors For Increased Productivity
If you've ever wished for a bigger computer screen, here's an even better idea. Get two! Use a dual monitor (or multi monitor) setup to extend your desktop across two or more screens. Windows, Mac and Linux computers have the ability to simulate one BIG screen using a dual or multi monitor configuration. Adding a second monitor will be cheaper than upgrading to a super-size screen, and there are other advantages too.
I've used two monitors on my PC for many years. Ten years ago, I got a pair of 22-inch monitors with a new computer. When they finally died (with two days of each other) I replaced them with dual 24-inch flat-panel monitors and I love it. I set both monitors on my desk, side by side, and a bit of software magic creates the illusion of one giant screen. I can open a website on one screen, and a word processor on the other, then copy and paste from one screen to another. I can drag a window from one screen to the other, or even open a spreadsheet and stretch it A-L-L T-H-E W-A-Y across the full width of both screens if I want.
Personally, I find that all the extra desktop space makes me much more productive and greatly enhances the fun of computing. When I am forced to use a laptop or desktop computer that has a single screen, I notice the limitations right away, as the extra scrolling and alt-tabbing becomes tedious. Others have told me that after ten minutes of using a dual monitor setup, they can't imagine living without it.
Here are SEVEN good reasons to have dual monitors:
- Published studies indicate that having a dual monitor in a workplace setting can increase productivity by 20 to 50 percent. For example, if you're a computer programmer, it should be obvious that having your source code on one side and your program on the other side of a dual monitor display would be very helpful.
- Real multi-tasking requires enough screen space to keep two or more apps in full view simultaneously. If you have ever tried to size and align windows on a single monitor, you'll appreciate the ability to have several apps fully open at the same time. Customer service reps and web designers are additional examples of people that would benefit from dual monitors.
- Cutting and pasting between documents is much easier when you don't have to alt-tab between them and scroll up or down so much. If you create newsletters or PowerPoint presentations, you'll identify with this.
- Picture and video editing is a whole new experience with dual monitors. You can have all of your editing tools on one screen while you work on the project in the other. You can compare before and after views of the same work, or supersize panoramic pictures.
- Comparing products is easier when you have dual monitors. You can show two cameras' specs side by side in separate browser windows, for example.
- Video and gaming take on a whole new dimension with dual monitors. You can view much more of a virtual world and see bad guys coming from a distance. Some gamers like to have Skype or another chat app open on a second screen.
- Windows 10 offers some new multi-monitor features, such as the ability to use different backgrounds on each monitor, span multiple screens with your background image, and multiple taskbars.
Hardware Required For a Dual Monitor Configuration
That was seven reasons, and I'm sure I could list more if I rubbed a few brain cells together. Despite all that, a Microsoft study showed that less than 15 percent of all PC users have a multiple monitor configuration. But now that you know all of the benefits, let's move on to the actual nuts and bolts of adding a second screen, to make your dual monitor dreams come true.
Windows 7, 8 and 10, Mac OS and Linux all have built-in support for dual monitors. Setting up dual monitors takes about five minutes. But first, you need to make sure you have the right hardware. Almost all laptops have a VGA, DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort connector where you can plug in a secondary monitor. If you have a spare monitor, and the video cable required to connect it, that's all you'll need. If your video cable has a different connector than your laptop, you can buy an adapter to make ends meet.
On a desktop, you will need two video connectors on your computer, matching connectors on the two monitors, and of course appropriate cables. Some desktops come with two video ports, but if you have only one, you can add a second video adapter, or swap yours for a dual-port model. Adding or swapping a video adapter sounds geeky, but it's actually a pretty easy upgrade. After popping the hood on your system unit, the video adapter simply plugs into a slot on the motherboard. If you know how to use a screwdriver, you can do this.
Some computers, however, simply lack the capacity for internal hardware upgrades. In these unfortunate cases, there are ways to get around this limitation, such as the Matrox Graphics DualHead2Go, which functions almost identically to a standard video card, yet is actually an external device that makes use of your existing video out port. With DualHead2Go, you can add an additional display to your PC or Mac desktop, or another two monitors to a laptop.
How to Connect a Second Monitor
On Mac OS X and most Windows computers, your second monitor should be automatically recognized and enabled. Connect your second monitor to the computer and power it on. On Windows 10, Select Start > Settings > System > Display. Your PC should automatically detect your monitors and show your desktop. In the Multiple displays section, select an option from the list to determine how your desktop will display across your screens.
"Duplicate these displays" shows the same display on both screens. This is handy when monitoring a presentation on a laptop while it is displayed on second, larger screen. "Extend these displays" makes one big screen out of the dual monitors. You can actually drag objects across the boundaries of the two monitors. This is the setting that most people use, and the one I recommend. "Show desktop only on 1" or "Show desktop only on 2" disables one of the monitors.
Once you've selected what you see on your displays, select Keep changes. Adjust the screen resolution of the monitors as desired, and you're done.
Some Monitor Upgrade Options
Prices have dropped quite a bit since I paid about $200 each for my last set of monitors. The HP VH240a Monitor with built-in speakers is just $125. It has HDMI & VGA ports, and a thin bezel-less frame that’s great for a multi-monitor set-up. The stand has adjustable height, tilt and rotation.
If you want to start fresh with a matching set of 24-inch monitors, consider this dual pack of ViewSonic VA2452SM 1080p Monitors with DisplayPort, DVI and VGA ports. They are “head only” so you’ll need a stand to mount them. In the “Frequently bought together” section you’ll find a VIVO Dual Monitor Free-Standing Desk Stand for 2 Screens, and a set of DisplayPort cables to complete the package. Just a tad over $300 for all the pieces.
Dual monitors are not for everyone. They take up more desk space, obviously. If you are a programmer, graphic artist, website designer, author, editor, proofreader, support technician, gamer or power user, dual monitors will boost your productivity and definitely look cool on your desk. If you're just an every-day ordinary computer user, I think you'll find there are benefits you didn't expect.
Do you have something to say about dual monitors? Post your comment or question below…
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 22 Sep 2020
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Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved