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[PCM] How Many Monitors Should You Have?

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I have been using more than one monitor on my computer for years. Once I read that Windows could indeed handle more than one video card, the light bulbs went off. I can have more than one screen? I shortly went out and purchased a second screen.

When I switched to the Mac Pro back in October, the system came with a single video card with two video outs. But, I had more than two monitors. I had visions, yet again, of being surrounded in monitors. You know, like I’m working at NASA or something.

So, I purchased a second video card for the Mac Pro. After installation, I had a total of 4 video outs. And, of course, I proceeded to hook up 4 screens. So, my Mac Pro setup had one Gateway 19″ widescreen, a Gateway 21″ widescreen, and 2 19″ standard screens (one a cheapo Mag Innovision and the other a Samsung). All screens worked fine, although it was a bit odd not having symmetry on the monitors (all the screens were essentially different sizes).

IMG_1767One of the most annoying problems I had with this setup was I would lose my mouse cursor fairly often. On Windows, you can configure it so that you hit the CTRL button and you get a little animated target around your mouse cursor to help you find it. On OS X, I’ve yet to find such a feature. So, of course, I would be forced to just move the mouse cursor around until my peripheral vision caught the location.

Yeah, a pain in the butt. I had hit the point of too many screens.

This weekend, I went ahead and picked up two Dell 24″ widescreens. I would have liked to get the 30″ screens, but they cost a fortune and really would not fit on my desk very well. Plus, the native resolution for a 24″ screen is 1920×1200. In order to get an increase, you have to jump all the way to a 30″. For any screen size between 24″ and 30″, you’re still getting the same screen resolution as the 24″. Obviously, everything just gets bigger. Not worth the money.

So, my current setup is 2 24″ Dell screens side-by-side and then my original 21″ widescreen is now a third screen. I use the 2 24-inchers as my main workspace and the 21″ for various apps that are running all the time such as instant messenger, Twhirl, etc.

So far I have not lost my mouse once. The most efficient multiple screen setup seems to be dual 24″. I only have the third screen because I can.
Multiple Monitors or Just One Big Monitor?

The answer is simple: multiple is better.

When your two monitors are identical (so you don’t have mismatched heights), a multi-monitor setup not only gives you a much larger workspace, but it is much more affordable. For about $400 less than the price of a single 30″ monitor, I was able to get two 24″ monitors. Or put another way, I could have purchased a third 24″ monitor and still came in less than a 30″ monitor. So, dollar for pixel, you get a LOT more for your money going multiple monitor.
How Many Is Too Many?

Well, as you can see above, four was too many for me. The sweet spot is two for me and I would assume that is the case for most people.

The thing to think about is how much you can visually work with. I can visually work with 2 screens at once. The others are in my peripheral vision and are thus best used for apps which just sit there and allow you to monitor things, If you actually try to WORK on more than two monitors, it gets to be too much. Your neck swings side to side and you lose your mouse cursor.
The Price Sweet Spot

24 inches is the current sweet spot. Sure, you can go larger but, again, you get no improvement in screen resolution until you hit 30″. So, from 24″ up through 28″, everything just gets larger. You’re not actually gaining any screen real estate at the native resolutions. So, what’s the point?
Preference is Personal

Others may have different opinions. Perhaps some cannot handle more than a single screen. Others may want the screen real estate but have weaker vision, in which case going larger than 24″ (so that you get larger images) may help you get the best of both worlds.

Both OS X and Windows can easily support a boatload of monitors. The question you need to answer is how many is right for you. If you are a stock day trader or have many apps open at once that you need to visually monitor but not necessarily work with, then perhaps more than two screens is necessary for you.

One thing I can tell you, though, is that multiple monitors is rather like broadband internet. Once you have had broadband, you can’t deal with dial-up. Well, once you’ve had more than one screen, going back to one makes your world seem a lot smaller.
Interesting, multiple smaller screens of the same size are better than one larger one
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post #2 of 39
Can you stretch an application to fit across two screens?
    
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post #3 of 39
I use 12 monitors at work and see no benefit for personal use. I have quite a few monitors at home, but I have zero urge to use 2 on a single computer. In my opinion and for my personal use, a single monitor is ideal. I generally run a single application, so what the heck would I do with another monitor? This is one of those things where the ideal setup will be different for everyone. I understand how multiple could be nice for someone else, but not my cup of tea.
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post #4 of 39
games+multiple monitors have always been fail. but for work that may be useful.
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post #5 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ecchi-BANZAII!!! View Post
games+multiple monitors have always been fail. but for work that may be useful.
I don't think so. Dual monitors are great for playing a game in one screen and having all your monitoring apps, internet, music, and etc on the other screen.
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post #6 of 39
I run two monitors, a 20" widescreen and a 15" standard, with the 15" being used for running background applications (iTunes, Messenger) and the 20" for any main applications that I use like a web browser. I could actually just use the widescreen by itself, but seeing as I have a spare monitor to use for extra desktop space, why not? There have been times where I would be watching a video on one screen while another person was surfing the Internet on the other. I wouldn't want to go back to a single screen, but I also don't think I would want more than two, with desk space being one factor. My ideal setup would be a 24" at 1920 x 1200 alongside a 20" standard (of same physical height) at 1600 x 1200, because I like to have both ratios.

When it comes to games I just game on one monitor, because I don't like the split.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xHassassin View Post
Can you stretch an application to fit across two screens?
Yes you can.
Edited by Jewels - 5/26/08 at 11:55am
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post #7 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by sccr64472 View Post
I use 12 monitors at work and see no benefit for personal use. I have quite a few monitors at home, but I have zero urge to use 2 on a single computer. In my opinion and for my personal use, a single monitor is ideal. I generally run a single application, so what the heck would I do with another monitor? This is one of those things where the ideal setup will be different for everyone. I understand how multiple could be nice for someone else, but not my cup of tea.
you run a data center or something? that's the only place i've seen a many-monitor setup.

i wouldn't want more than one at home (well, one per computer). especially in games, having that break in the view
post #8 of 39
Sweet awesome!


As a die-hard Flight Simulator fan, I can see this setup working EXTREMELY well.


I can picture it now..At least three, one for the ****pit, and two for right and left wing.

I'll have to expirement.

EDIT: I loled when I saw that the word c0c|< was *ed out.

Just putting that out there.
Edited by Arbiter419 - 5/26/08 at 12:10pm
    
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post #9 of 39
doesn't using two monitors decrease the fps?
    
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post #10 of 39
I have 2, highly useful when i'm programming since that consumes many monitors for research and compilers and documentations and such.

Quote:
doesn't using two monitors decrease the fps?
Essentially if they are the same size it doubles the workload.
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