Are Dual Monitors Worth It?

Most techies will quickly preach about the increased productivity one will experience as a result of dual (or multiple) monitor setups. About a year ago, I went to my local Apple Store and purchased a brand-new 20" Apple Cinema Display to pair with my 20" iMac. The price had just been reduced another $100, so it seemed like a pretty good deal to snatch up. Of course, dual-monitor setups are really cool and the expanded screen space can often come in handy.

Primarily, dual-monitors came in handy when designing webpages, when I had Opera, TextMate, Photoshop, etc. all open at the same time. It allowed me to see all the windows without having to thumb through them. Writing papers for school was nice too, where I could have a few websites open at the same time on the secondary monitor, with iWorks open in the primary monitor. However, for normal, everyday tasks (web browsing, writing articles, listening to music, etc.), dual-monitors was a waste. Plus, when I did something as simple as coding, I tended to spend too much time looking around on the screen or arranging windows.

Last week, I decided to pack up my Cinema Display and to store it in the closet. It took me about a month finally to settle on trying a single-monitor setup, but I finally concluded it was best. I am back to a one-monitor setup and I like it a lot better actually. I find I only have one place to look and thumbing through windows is such a minor annoyance. In reality, the only area I miss the dual monitors is during web development, but I seem to be doing that less and less nowadays. Overall, I have also been more productive with one monitor, with the overall reduced distraction: blog entries are going up on time, emails are getting written, code fixes are being made, and much more.

Sure, I will admit that for some people dual monitors will be worth it. However, for others, you should evaluate your actual needs. I discovered personally that I do not need two monitors for my computing tasks, whilst others may discover that they do. So, before you shell out any money to buy a second monitor, just think about the actual benefits it will give you first. Perhaps you should just buy a bigger monitor instead of a secondary monitor?


  • When I "need" a dual monitor setup (like for research, or for writing things while having reference at hand), I have experimented with having my laptop over next to my computer display, but that didn't really work because it kind of failed control wise for me, even with Synergy. Two monitors attached to my main desktop computer would've functioned better. Most of the time that would probably be fairly useless, but on the other hand nowadays I always have a chat window with my girlfriend open and I wouldn't mind a few other things either which results in me browsing at a significantly reduced effective browsing resolution. On the other hand, I'm not sure if it'd be equally useful if it'd be much further away from my "main" stuff.

    A purchase I've made about half a year ago that I do consider a true neccesity however, is a monitor arm. I have an Ergotron LX Desk Mount LCD Arm and it freed up a lot of space on my desk and gave me a shitload of flexibility in how I use my computer. With my computer below my desk and my mouse and keyboard wireless, it's a solution that doesn't only look elegant, but is also something that I can't understand I've gone a decade without it. This is useful because you can put your paper with corrected text next to the monitor easier and such. Anyway, it's not entirely related, but it's about monitors. wink

    Posted by Frans (external link) on Wed 25 Jun 2008 at 15:33

  • Yeah, a monitor arm would be pretty cool I think. With the right one, I can attach my entire iMac to it, lol, so it would be sweet.

    Posted by Ethan Poole (external link) on Wed 25 Jun 2008 at 15:57

  • I find dual monitors very useful. At home I have multiple workspaces but not dual monitor, which works fine for me at the moment as I try not to do too much work at home. Where I do research however I have dual screen with Visual studios open in one window any websites etc. open in the other. I find it very useful if I am looking something up in an API etc. to have dual monitors.

    On a day to day basis however it probably is a bit of a waste

    Posted by Tom (external link) on Wed 25 Jun 2008 at 18:47

  • That is the dilemma I ran into. Really, for my normal tasks, I never needed to use the second monitor. I don't design much anymore, so there is not much need for lots of screen space. I do more programming and writing, which is easily done for me on one screen (considering PHP is not really complex). Of course, it isn't like I have a small screen either, lol.

    Posted by Ethan Poole (external link) on Wed 25 Jun 2008 at 23:23