There’s no need to be restricted by multitasking on a single computer monitor when you can spread the productivity (and procrastination) perks across two or more screens.
Owning multiple monitors is kind of like getting faster internet. At first you feel more is excess to requirements, then you immediately see the perks once you take the tech leap. In the case of monitors, seeing those perks is a literal experience.
Recent versions of Windows are great for splitting active applications on a single screen, but you’d be surprised at how much more efficient work and play is with a second screen. For instance, pull up a report on your main screen and delegate your emails on another. Or watch your favourite YouTube creators on one screen, and stay connected with friends and family on Facebook on another. It’s a full-screen affair for both, so it’s easier to just flick your head between whatever you’d like to do.
ONE VS MANY
Confession time. This article was written on a three-screen desktop PC setup. Three? That’s gluttonous! Except when you realise you can be banging out the words in a Word document on the main screen, glancing at notes on a second, and researching relevant titbits on a third display. That’s one use case that can easily apply to any line of work or study that requires a computer.
And what you have on that second (or third) screen can change to suit tastes. On diligent days, it could be Outlook. During peak procrastination, it can be your most frequently visited websites that have nothing to do with work.
All you need to do, initially, to see if your computer is ready for multiple monitors is take a closer look at its ports. For a desktop PC, track the cable that’s not the power lead from your monitor to the back of the case. You should see more ports flanking the connected one that allow you to connect more monitors. Now all you need is the correct cable and a spare monitor.
Connecting laptops to multiple monitors is sometimes less straightforward. Treat your laptop screen as one of your monitors, then connect to a second via HDMI, DisplayPort or even USB-C (or Thunderbolt), or add multiple external monitors and ignore the lappy display. Sometimes the ports for these cable types may be of the mini variety, so match cables accordingly.
The above is assuming your laptop has a compatible port that can be used for an external display. If not, your other option is to use an external dock like the Alogic ThunderBolt 3 Dual Display Docking Station. Designed to work with compatible Windows and Mac computers, this dock lets you connect up to two external monitors with up to 4K resolution (for both external screens).
If you’re put off by the prospect of shifting your gaze between different display heights – your laptop to one or two external monitors of different heights and sizes – chuck a Kensington Smartfit Laptop Riser or Hercules DG400BB Laptop Stand into the mix to get your laptop screen level with the others.
Now it’s time for the main-screen event. Or the secondary screen/s, as it were. A supplementary screen or two doesn’t need to match your main screen in model, brand, or even size. It just needs to have an available compatible port (via desktop graphics card or dock) to double your vision. For this reason, options like the Samsung 34-inch 100Hz Curved Thunderbolt 3 Monitor are suited to primary rather than secondary display.
You can easily get away with a budget option like the LG 22MP58VQ 21.5-inch display if you’re trying to save desk space. 24-inch screens used to be the standard, so if matching that size is important, consider the ASUS VA24EHE 23.8-inch, which is also built to be easier on the eyes. Otherwise, a reasonably priced BenQ EL2870U monitor is an easy-to-see 28 inches and even easier on the eyes at 4K resolution.
Remember, the higher the resolution and refresh rate, the better a monitor is in terms of avoiding eye fatigue. And with more monitors, you’ll also tap into the competing potentials of greater productivity and procrastination.
You may want to keep multiple gaming monitors the same model if you plan on stretching a game across multiple screens. If this sounds like you, look for monitors with tiny bezels like the Philips 271E9 27-inch screen. Be sure to match an Nvidia graphics card in your PC with a G-Sync or compatible FreeSync display, or an AMD graphics card with a FreeSync screen. All that said, if you want widescreen gaming, opt for a single-screen widescreen option like the ASUS ROG Strix XG35VQ 35-inch gaming monitor.
For newer monitors connecting to newer computers, you’ll be working with one of two cables: HDMI or DisplayPort. HDMI cables are the same ones that connect your TV to all manner of media devices, including set-top boxes like a Blaupunkt Android TV Box or Fetch Mighty, and game consoles like the Xbox One S or PlayStation 4. If you’re in a position where you need an older DVI connection on one end and HDMI on the other, pick up the XCD Essentials HDMI to DVI Adapter Cable. Otherwise, opt for HDMI to HDMI, DisplayPort to DisplayPort, or whatever cable port on one end matches what’s on your computer, and the other that pairs with what’s insertable for the screen.
If you don’t want to fork out for a new monitor and have a compatible tablet sitting around, you can use apps to cool your PC or Mac into treating the tablet as a second screen. Whether you’ve got an iPad or Android tablet, check out apps like Air Display, iDisplay, TwomonUSB or Splashtop to turn tablet into monitor. All of those apps can be found on both the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.
Out of the box, every monitor will come with a stand designed to sit on a desk or table. But it’s also common for them to support a bracket attachment on the mount that lets you save precious desk space. Pair these bracketed monitors with an XCD Gas Double Monitor Bracket to lift and rotate two screens off your desk, or an Ergovida EzyMount Gas Spring Triple Monitor Arm for three screens.