Monday, March 5, 2012


It seems that dual monitors has finally hit the mainstream. Article after article comments on research that people are more productive with dual monitors than with one monitor. I really dislike dual monitors. Sure, it's more productive, but nobody ever mentions the whiplash one can get from using the off center monitor too often. No, I prefer one big monitor with a high resolution for most tasks. 24", 27" or 30". I think if they went back and did their research with everyone running a 30" monitor they'd find people are even more productive than with dual monitors. The advantage is price. Small monitors can be picked up for a few hundred bucks while a very large high resolution display is considerably more. But once you factor in the chiropractic bill I'm sure the savings would more than justify the large monitor.

Note: I am in no way benefiting from you buying a large display from the likes of Dell, Viewsonic, Samsug, LG, etc.


Harri Vartiainen said...

Adding monitor to laptop is easier than replacing it with bigger.

Chris Bensen said...

A laptop is a special case. Portability is usually the primary concern which directly affects monitor size. If you have a workstation or a main location (dock) for a lappy and any choice in the matter then having a large display is optimal in my opinion.

Jarrod said...

If you only use a single app or are happy to alt-tab then a single large monitor is better. If you want to have two apps displayed simultaneously then dual monitors are better.

Other than price, dual monitors have two other distinct advantages over a single large monitor:
1. More pixels (typically).
2. Screen angle.

For maximum comfort both of my monitors point directly toward me, creating a slight "V" in the center. I use my left monitor as primary, positioned such that I only have to turn my head slightly to the left to view it. I need to turn my head slightly more to view the right secondary monitor. I've never been annoyed at having to turn my head more than with a single monitor (no whip-lash).

One problem with a single large monitor is that the eyes have to do more work at the left and right edges due to the different accommodation (focus) required in each eye (we typically use our eyes to do a lot of the finer left/right movement, not our head). With dual monitors it is necessary to angle the screens to avoid this due to the wider physical size.

And if you need to display two apps simultaneously there are two additional advantages to dual monitors:
3. Better aspect ratio.
4. Easily maximise windows to full screen(somewhat negated by layout features such as screen snap in Windows 7).

With one large monitor the two apps would be tall and thin which is often undesirable.

I use the "extend desktop" option in Windows and usually have at least two full screen apps running on each monitor. Managing them and other temporary apps is much easier with dual monitors.

Some other disadvantages to dual monitors are:
a) The centre "break". This is ok when working with two apps side by side but extremely annoying if you want one app maximized to the desktop across both monitors.
b) Requires more physical space.

I've worked from two physical locations daily (well three if you count laptop between locations) for 6 years: a large single monitor at one location and smaller dual monitors at another. I much prefer the latter.

Chris Bensen said...

@Jarrod All good points. That is why there is choice. No two situations are the same. If I had a company I would allow my employees the choice of hardware. 30" monitors would be the suggested hardware, but I would let them choose smaller monitors if they wanted.

Very large monitors are especially useful for creative work such as video or photography editing.

Warren said...

I have a very simple workflow that suits two monitors. Delphi itself (the IDE) is on monitor 1.

Monitor 2 is where the app being debugged appears. It's also where I keep a web browser open. That web browser might be looking at MSDN, stack overflow, or our web-based bug-tracking and web-based version control pages.

I don't like flipping back and forth between apps, so I just keep my main app (Delphi) on one screen, and everything else on screen2. Even if I had a 30" monitor, I don't think I'd get the ability to debug paint issues on a window as nicely done (including in the maximized state) as I do with two monitors.


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