Computer monitors are the link between computer functionality and a person’s ability to interpret and interact with what is displayed. ‘More is better’ has been popular sentiment over the last few years, with an increase in popularity for dual monitor, triple monitor and even higher-monitor Battlestations. This seems to be the natural progression of monitor usage and efficiency, since increased screen real-estate will inherently provide you the opportunity to be more productive when performing various tasks.
Who wouldn’t want to browse their favorite website on one screen, while perhaps having a Twitch.tv live stream on the other? Or your favorite video game on one monitor, while the other has quest guides you can view at a glance so you don’t need to alt+tab between the two? There are endless arrangements of what you can be doing over various monitors, and that solely depends on your own preferences and uses. In this article I will do my best to help you make an informed decision on how many monitors might be optimal for you, using a combination of my own experiences and other factors I believe to be important.
The Role of your Computer Usage and Activities
A simple question you should ask yourself before determining the amount of monitors, or area of screen real-estate you want, is ‘What do I currently use my computer for, and will additional space be of use to me?’. I understand that additional monitors tend to add a ‘Wow!’ factor to anybody’s gaming setup, but if that additional space isn’t used, why bother spending your hard earned money on it in the first place?
I use my monitors for various activities. This includes gaming, internet browsing, Youtube, Netflix, Spotify, writing Blog posts, and watching Twitch streamers among other things. This is a lot of activities for a single monitor. While you can split a few activities within one monitor by dragging the tab to one side of your monitor and automatically have it resize to half your screen, they are often resized too small to efficiently work with and end up causing more harm than good. The novelty of splitting activities on one monitor might seem useful, but the decreased screen space used for each activity might result in lost productivity, depending on what you are doing. On the contrary if you are using your computer to take notes from an online textbook, the side-by-side setup on one monitor is usually practical enough, provided you otherwise use the computer for simple internet browsing and things like Netflix.
Dual Monitor + Setups
About five years ago I fell in love with my newly formed dual-monitor setup, which I purchased alongside my custom-build PC. Being accustomed to a single monitor for all my life, it took some adjusting to figure out how I would justify having purchased a second monitor. This didn’t take very long, as I quickly realized how much enjoyment and efficiency I gained from it. I would often have a Twitch.tv live stream up on the right, and was perhaps working on homework on the left. The fact that I was able to passively enjoy a hobby of mine (watching/listening to live streams) while still being able to work on homework with reasonable efficiency (YMMV) blew my mind. I never had this option before, and found myself enjoying the engagement of my setup much more than before. As I mentioned, the amount of screen real-estate one needs is dependent on themselves and what they use their PC for. While a second monitor worked for me, it may be a waste of pixels for somebody who does not engage in many different activities on their computer.
Two years ago, I purchased my third monitor. From an aesthetic standpoint I had no complaints. My setup has three 24″ BenQ GL2460 monitors which have been serving me well. The additional monitor is certainly nice to have, but I found it provides diminished returns over the first two. I usually use it for a second screen to browse the internet on, or have a live stream open, but it certainly isn’t necessary for my purposes.
Power users more often than not will need lots of screen space. I am referring to those heavily involved with graphic design, programming, coding and video editing. If you are a user like this, I’m sure you can imagine the sorts of things you would use extra monitor(s) for. I’m thinking along the lines of a primary monitor for coding or editing, one that has web resources displayed, another with (social) media such as Spotify and Twitter, etc. I have seen colossal set ups with three side-by-side monitors in addition to a large TV mounted above them. You can see the setup below, where /u/ItsKeros might have a Netflix movie running while he is keeping tabs on discord and browsing the internet.
What about Screen Size and Shape?
If you haven’t noticed already, I’ve been discussing mostly in terms of screen area instead of the amount of monitors one should consider having. While you might think of a monitor as being a standard 18″ to 24″ rectangle, there are monitors of many shapes and sizes out there which can be combined to form a set-up with your ideal dimensions.
The Ultra Wide Warrior
Instead of combining two or three monitors side by side, some people may elect to go with an ultra wide monitor. From a practical standpoint, it may be a little more difficult to get the arrangement of clients and activities spaced out evenly, but it is easier to place on a desk or mount and may take up less space depending on the monitors you would have gotten otherwise. In terms of aesthetics, I find that they look more elegant and clean. They also require less cable management which is certainly a plus!
Go Big or Go Home
Some people might find they would rather set up a television to their computer instead of traditional monitors. Similar to the ultra-wide setup above, the primary compromise to this is that dividing up the separate activities you do can be cumbersome. It might be difficult to game on the television while having other applications open, unlike a dual-monitor setup where it is rather intuitive to be able to play a game on one monitor and do something else on the other. Third party applications might be needed to get this to work properly depending on what you’re doing.
Another consideration is that monitors are meant to be viewed close up, whereas televisions are meant to be viewed from a few feet away. To make up for this it could be worth while to purchase a 4K television instead of 1080p, to help reduce strain on your eyes. If your TV is too big relative to where you sit, you will also be looking all over the place which your neck might not appreciate, so this should be considered as well.
Regardless, the setup can look very clean, and can be very practical depending on how you would use it.
Arrange it your way
There are lot’s of power users out there who arrange the monitors in their setup for the specific way they use their computer. I often see productivity setups for coders with their monitors in portrait mode since being able to view large amounts of vertical space is very useful for their work.
Where to go from here?
While this wasn’t by any means a buyers guide for monitors, I have done my best to equip you with the information you need to determine how many monitors, or how much screen real-estate you will need when building your own Battlestation. Now that you have the power to create a more informed decision regarding this topic, I hope that you will be able purchase your next monitor(s) with confidence that they will be put to good use!
If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to email me at YourBattlestationBlog@gmail.com.