Multiple Monitors – Pros and Cons

Multiple Monitors – Pros and Cons

Having multiple monitors can greatly boost productivity, efficiency and even fun while using your computer.  Who doesn’t want to be able to view all their important documents on screen when writing a report or read/view multiple websites at the same time? So, should you buy into the multi-monitor mantra?  The answer is… maybe.

Why?

I’m sure you have seen it before, the wall of screens on someones desk. Be it in a movie or in use in places such as a financial institution, office space or even on the nightly news.  It is more and more common to see a desktop PC or even a laptop with two or more screens connected to it.  If you have only ever used a single screen, you may wonder why anyone would need it and how anyone could ever actually make good use of it.  The truth is, with some training, multi-monitor set-ups become invaluable tools to those who need quick visual access to a large amount of digital data.  As your computer desktop is analogous to a physical work space, you can imagine some jobs are just easier to do when you have more space to work in.

Pros

What’s so great about having extra screen real estate?  A number of things:

  • More Virtual Desk Space – Increased space to hold windows and documents for reference.
  • Saved Time – You’ll spend less time switching between windows/programs as you can keep application open and waiting for input.
  • Increased Focus –  More of your work can be shown at once so there is less opportunity for you to lose track of what you are working on while switching windows/applications.
  • Large Screen Gaming – Play PC games?  If your machine has a powerful enough graphics card(or two) inside you will be able to change your settings to allow many titles to make use of the extra space.  This can create more immersion and even advantage as you can have a larger field of view.
  • Multitasking – Take multitasking to a new level by using a screen for a specific purpose or task.  Keep email/instant messages going in one screen while working on another.  Keep notes, lists and running processes(file transfers, downloads etc) available so you can act sooner when they are complete.

Cons

  • Cost – Purchasing a second monitor is usually rather costly at $100+ USD a piece.  Also, it is usually best to buy a matching screen to what you already own.  This saves the headache of large color output differences and the clash of different designs on your desk.
  • Space – A second screen means you need a desk at least twice as wide as needed for your single screen.  Triple monitors?  Better have an entire wall to devote to your workspace.
  • Required Graphics Power –  Multiple monitors and high resolution monitors require a powerful machine to fill all those pixels.  Although modern integrated graphics are capable of such setups, you may find your machine running slower or unable to handle your work with twice screen space.  You may need to upgrade your PC’s graphics card(GPU) to get an enjoyable experience.  Especially if you already do some GPU intensive tasks. (Although that usually requires unique hobbies such as intense video/photo editing or working in 3D graphics)
  • More Cables – Adding another power and video cable to a mess of cables at your desk may not be something you want.  Especially if you have a very clean work space.  If you do though, be sure you to have a power strip available with the number of outlets you need as outlets are usually hard enough to find near your desk.

Should You Invest?

As I stated in the beginning of the article, this is a firm maybe.  If you are considering it, you should carefully considered your workload and the pros and cons listed above.  Unless you are invested in your technology, you will want to skip out.  The cost of purchasing another monitor is a huge barrier to entry and generally you only see benefits if you regularly find yourself rotating through open applications or short on screen space.  You will also either need to be tech savvy enough to understand if your PC is capable using multiple monitors or get a local geek to help review/upgrade your machine to enable it.

However with that said, if your workload is borderline it may pay off to take the leap.  I have come to find dual screens a necessity for the tasks that I do.  Also, as a side note I would like to let you know that it will take a while to get used to the extra space.   So don’t be surprised if you invest and find yourself only using a single screen most of the time.  I find that when introduced to such a drastic change most people will need some time to adjust and find a workflow that works for them with the new set up.

What do you think of using multiple monitors?  Have any questions that you wish I would have answered?  Please let me know in the comments below!

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