Multiple or Single Monitor Workstations: What’s Right for You?
Here at Sagiss we’ve recently decided to switch from multiple monitor workstations to single large monitor setups. Several office visitors have inquired why we made the shift, so we wanted to explain our rationale and explore some of the pros and cons of a multiple vs. single monitor desktop configuration.
First consider the cost: if you can get a good 43 inch 4K TV off Amazon for under $300, it's certainly less expensive than running two 27-inch monitors, at around $200 each. Also remember that for most technology, the longer something is on the market the cheaper it gets. This now applies to 4K TV's of any size. In 2014 the base price of a 50-inch 4K TV was around $1000. Today you’ll typically spend no more than $200-400 for a 40-inch TV. Although computer monitors tend to be more expensive, nothing says you can’t run a 4K TV instead of a monitor. With better technology in TVs, the more their specifications have begun overlap with computer monitors.
Laptop vs. Desktop
Another reason to consider switching (or not) is the type of computer you’re running. At the office we have a high ratio of desktop computers to laptops. However for reasons of mobility, we’ve been slowly trending towards laptop computers because they have some benefits for our techs. Being on a service call gets exponentially easier when they can troubleshoot a problem with a device if their computer and the problematic device are right in front of them. Because of this, laptops are just easier to take with them into the field, but with a laptop comes some downsides. One of the biggies is the lack of HDMI ports that equates to less viable places to connect a monitor. Even with an external dock you are still limited and, in some cases, even first party docks (like the Microsoft Surface Docks) don’t handle multiple monitors very well.
Upgrading from one small screen to a handful of them can be a game-changer in terms of efficiency. As long as your workstation has the specs to support one large or several small screens, you'll have a bird's eye view of every app you're running. That said, one significant downside of multiple monitors occurs when the user distracts themselves with too many windows at once. Use that screen real-estate for the programs you're working on, and minimize that movie trailer video in the corner for later.
The ability to run several different programs on a single monitor saves the computing power for more important things and enables you to be laser focused on a single task at a time. Of course, this should make you more efficient when working on an important project. Might you still miss things working on a single monitor? Yes, but it’s not as likely.
Ease of Setup
The final factor to consider when choosing multiple vs. single monitors is the pain of initial setup. Both single and multiple screen configurations can be a pain to setup for different reasons. This will all depend on what kind of computer you are running (the laptop vs. desktop argument again).
Multiple monitor setups for desktops can be fairly problem free once they are set up properly. On the other hand, laptops using a dock can be a hassle to set up unless they are left on the dock and not moved. When you use multiple monitors on a dock, you find yourself having to set up your windows over and over again each time you plug your laptop into your dock. That can quickly become a hassle instead of a benefit. When you use a single monitor, the laptop does a better job of leaving your windows where you put them, especially when you use a 3rd party program that is designed to remember their placement on the monitor.
As you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches. If you decide to take advantage of a single large monitor setup a final piece of advice would be size matters. Don’t go too big. “Too big” will depend on your viewing distance and what programs you’ll be running on the monitor. Also consider how much you want to turn your head; a very large monitor will have you “panning and scanning” across a big area. That might hurt your neck after a while.
PPI or Pixels Per Inch are important as well, no matter the size of monitor. The higher the PPI the sharper the image, which is especially important if you work with graphics, pictures or text. A 100 PPI is considered low while 300 PPI is considered very high (the new Apple XDR display is 218 PPI). Always go with a monitor with a high PPI as this will reduce any eyestrain and hopefully save you from getting a migraine.
If you’re still debating which configuration is best for your situation, please reach out to us. We’d love to help design the ideal computing environment for you.