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Editorial The Problem With Multiple Monitors
When I first started writing tech news back in September 2011 for another site, I had just the one monitor that I used regularly, an Iiyama 26" 1920x1200 beast that happened to also be reasonable for fast FPS gaming (actually it looks pants when compared to my latest Asus 144Hz LightBoost monitor).
Thumbnail shows an example of NVIDIA multi monitor gaming
using four monitors. Click to enlarge.
The Iiyama is a great monitor for general desktop use and with that resolution giving a 16:10 aspect ratio really does give you a lot of screen real estate for regular desktop work, offering a great panoramic view. However, things get rather cramped when writing news stories and editorials like this one. That’s because I need to have two windows open side by side, one for the source material and one for my article editor window. This effectively halves the resolution to 960 pixels across and that’s too narrow for comfortable writing, due to a tiny editor window.
I then added a 23" LG W2363D 120Hz 1920x1080 monitor which fixed the squish problem, but introduced others. More recently, I got rid of the Iiyama in favour of the 27" Asus VG278HE 144Hz 1920x1080 monitor with NVIDIA LightBoost. The Asus is my primary monitor sitting directly in front of me which I'm writing this article on, with the LG sitting to the left and angled towards me.
Ok, so the significant benefit is having twice the screen real estate and display flexibility, but what are the downsides?
• Cost. Buying two or more monitors is expensive, especially ones offering higher than 1080 resolution
• Desk space. These take a significant amount of space on your desk. With today's trend towards bigger monitors, this is a significant issue
• Viewing angle will only be optimum for one monitor, with the user having to turn their head for the second one. This tends to discourage use of the second monitor due to this slight discomfort. If the second monitor is smaller and/or a lower spec than the main one that will also be a discouraging factor
• Power and heat issues. Two monitors obviously consume twice the power, but more importantly, they put a bigger load on the graphics card, making it work harder. Also, mainly due to driver issues, some graphics cards don’t enter low power mode properly when running more than one display which causes power and heat output to be kept at a significantly higher level. The user may not care so much about this, but they will care about the extra noise from a faster-spinning cooling fan on the graphics card and a potentially hot room. In fact, the Firefox web browser tends to trigger this with my GTX 580 regardless of the hardware acceleration setting and convincing it to throttle down can be futile, so poor me just lives with it
• The distraction of a screen positioned to the side: having something illuminated in your peripheral vision is distracting and potentially annoying
• Little things, such as the mouse pointer disappearing off the main screen when you don’t mean it to, because the desktop no longer ends at the left or right edge can be inconvenient. It can be especially annoying with the second monitor positioned to the right, since you can't just conveniently slam the mouse into the right hand corner and click the Close button. No, the pointer has to be consciously aimed and clicked instead, which takes more time and effort. A small thing for sure, but niggly with an action that's performed so often
• Discontinuous desktop. This is caused by the desktop being stretched across two physical screens, since the monitor bezels and different viewing angles can make moving windows between them a slightly disconcerting experience. The fact that the monitors are likely to show a different quality of picture doesn't help, either
• Potential issues with 3D games not working properly. However, I’ve not seen this problem personally, but have heard about it
• All that light shining in your face is absolutely terrible if you have a migraine!
There are probably more downsides I could think of, but I think that these are enough to get the general idea. Due to these things, I tend to switch off the extra monitor and configure the NVIDIA driver for single monitor use when I'm not using it for writing articles for techngaming.com, every tech enthusiast's favourite website.
So, what are your experiences of using two or more monitors? Let us know in the comments below!
I'd like to thank Alex for contributing to this article.