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Desktop land grab: Essential tips for multimonitor productivity

Paul Mah | July 12, 2013
A single display may suffice for basic computing, but multiple monitors make a big difference for heavily graphical work, intensive multitasking--and of course, serious gaming.

Two is definitely better than one when it comes to monitors. A single display may suffice for basic computing, but multiple monitors make a big difference for heavily graphical work, intensive multitasking--and of course, serious gaming. LCD prices continue to drop, too, making multimonitor setups more affordable.

But before you go on a monitor-buying spree, make sure your computer can support more than one display. This usually isn't a problem with recent desktops, but it can be with laptops. After confirming that your system is multimonitor-ready, check out these tips for setting up those displays to maximize your productivity.

Prepare before you purchase
More monitors take up more space, so start by measuring your work area. The average-size desk is unlikely to comfortably accommodate more than three large (23- to 27-inch) monitors side by side. (If you're short on space, consider buying a single extrawide displayinstead.)

Once you've decided how many monitors you need, try to buy them all at the same time rather than piecemeal. The model you buy today may not be available in two months, and pairing different models can leave you to deal with variations in bezel thickness, screen resolution, or even screen size. The result, all too often: Monitors don't line up properly, navigating your displays becomes unnecessarily difficult, and your productivity suffers.


Choose monitors equipped with DisplayPort 2.1 so you can daisy-chain monitors easily.

In addition, you can future-proof your purchases by getting monitors equipped with DisplayPort 1.2, which supports daisy-chaining.

Arrange the monitors
When working with multiple monitors, it's important to arrange them so as to achieve the most comfortable viewing angles. Using monitor arms like those from Ergotron, and monitors with VESA mounting support, you can pan, tilt, rotate, and lift the display to the optimal position. Higher-end monitors typically have their own adjustable stands, but monitor arms are superior in most cases--especially because they can retract to the edge of the desk to maximize available desktop space.

Arranging monitors in portrait mode is one unorthodox option that permits you to squeeze in more monitors. (We recently reviewed a few monitors that can pivot into portrait mode.) Portrait mode is excellent for first-person-shooter games, but some desktop application windows may feel cramped and awkward in that orientation. Using monitor arms to stack a second row of monitors above the first row may enable you to position more monitors comfortably.

Regardless of how you decide to arrange your monitors, take time to wire everything up neatly, using either cable ties or a cable wrap.

 

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