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How to build a modern multi-monitor workstation

Paul Mah | Oct. 7, 2016
Many of today's PCs and laptops can easily power two or more external monitors, and a multi-monitor setup can help you get more done in less time. Here's how to find the best configuration for you.


Dell's 43-inch P4317Q is a 4K monitor designed for use with PCs.

 In general, it's not a good idea to use an LCD TV as a PC monitor, even though they have HDMI input ports. The image-processing engines in LCD TVs are heavily optimized for video, and they have larger pixel pitches that are not visible when viewed from far away. These factors could make them uncomfortable, or even unusable, when you're working up close with one of these displays.

Planning for a multi-monitor workspace

How should you get started with a new multi-monitor rig? First, identify the number displays and the size of the monitors you want to use, as well as their display resolutions.  Cost is an important factor here, of course.


Dell's 27-inch U2717D has a thin, 7.3-mm bezel at the top and sides and an 8.4mm bezel at its bottom.

The traditional approach to using multiple monitors is to put two or three displays side by side. Some professionals, such as programmers, may choose to position one or more monitors in vertical "landscape" mode, to review more code without having to constantly scroll. You could also "stack" monitors on top of each other using "monitor arms." (More on these arms coming soon.)

Monitors with small bezels are good for use in multi-monitor setups. Monitor makers have not yet eliminated bezels completely, though some models, such as Dell's 27-inch U2717D monitor, come close.

Glossy displays look great, but matte screens are generally easier on the eye over long periods. Many consumer-centric displays are thin and sleek looking, but those stylish looks often come at the expense of support for the VESA mount interface, and they sometimes require external power bricks. The lack of VESA support means you can't use external monitor arms, and clunky power bricks make tidying up multiple monitor cables more challenging.

Using multiple external monitors with a laptop or desktop


The Matrox C420 video card supports as many as four 2560 x 1600 monitors via a single, fan-less adapter.

Laptops are generally more limiting when used along with multiple displays, though notebooks such as Apple's MacBook Pro support up to two displays directly. Docking stations from companies including DisplayLink make it easy to hook up new displays via USB 3.0 ports. These software-based options aren't well suited for gaming or intensive CAD work, but they do support UHD 4K displays.

Desktop PCs offer the most flexibility for serious multi-monitor users, and they typically have more than one display port and are easily upgraded with additional graphic cards. You can also buy specialized expansion cards, such as the Matrox C420 video card, which supports up to four 2560 x 1600 displays with a single card.


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