Dual Monitor or One Big Monitor? Which Really Boosts Productivity

We spend almost a third of our entire life sleeping, this is why it’s always good to invest in a good-quality mattress, and give ourselves a good night sleep. The same goes with your computer monitor: if you spend most of your day in front of your computer, then you should definitely invest in good monitor to boost your productivity and take care of your eyes. Here at Dual Monitors Guide, we always emphasize on the importance of comfortable work environment and ergonomics for better work productivity and healthier workplace.

(image from Ergotron)

Traditionally, we consider extra monitor (dual monitor or triple monitor for that matter) is the most efficient way to expand computer screen real estate and boost work productivity. As a matter of fact, in February of 2012, the New York Times recommended multi-screen setup for multitaskers. However, it is important to note that the research was sponsored by vendors like Dell, Microsoft and NEC, which are all monitor vendors.

But even if selling monitors is not the main agenda of the research, there are many advantages in dual monitor and multiple-monitor setup for different work settings. An entry in May of 2014 from a popular blog Sandlgaz choose big single monitor display as a more efficient solution for work setups than multiple monitor setting, and even suggested that multitasking is bad for productivity, as it requires high cognitive cost, which can take its toll. So who should you listen? What setup really provides better ergonomics and work efficiency? Read more of this entry to learn more.

To start with, let’s make our comparison more specific with good examples:

  • Two 24-inch computer monitor with native resolution of1920x1080 pixels = 4.174m pixels.
  • A 30-inch computer monitor with 2560x1600 pixels = 4.096m pixels.

Here’s a quick comparison of the two setups:

Pros of Dual Monitor (two 24-inch monitors)

  • Slightly more screen real-estate
  • Allow users to ‘dock” Windows to both monitors, maximizing both displays and (potentially) making it more ‘functional’
  • Secondary monitor can be set to different orientation (portrait) for specific purpose
  • Secondary monitor can display complimentary important information important for users, such as documents, real-time monitoring graphs etc. while use the primary display actively for main work
  • Secondary monitor becomes point of reference for primary monitor

Pros of Single (30-inch) monitor

  • Requires much lesser desk space
  • Less scrolling with better pixel-height
  • Mouse-cursor is easy to find
  • Minimized risk of neck-strain as users won’t need to move their head side-to-side as much
  • No screen gaps
  • Many new big gaming monitors today now come with greater frame-rates and better 3D gaming compatibility


Practical Applications: Office Work Setting

On Using Spreadsheets

(image from Ergotron)

If you maximize a windowed program such as Excel in either setups, you will get the following scenarios:

  • For the dual monitor (two 24-inch monitors) setting, Window Excel will only occupy either one of your monitors, which would be at 1920x1080p resolution.
  • For the single big monitor (one 30-inch monitor) setting, the Excel spreadsheet will occupy entire screen for 2560x1600p resolution.

It is easy to say that the single display wins this setup, as users will get to view more of their spreadsheet in bigger screen (more information is displayed), saving you from dragging and scrolling a lot. However, if you are the type of computer user who use spreadsheet along with other applications, website, etc., and work with multiple apps and windows simultaneously, then you don’t want the whole Excel spreadsheet to occupy your entire screen.


On Data Entry Tasks/Copy-Pasting

If you are copy-pasting information from one window to another, such as doing data entry tasks, then you will get the following scenarios:

  • On the dual 24-inch monitor, you have to be more active with the mouse, as you have to run it across the both screens. You also have to move your head from side to side to see both screens.
  • On the 30-inch single monitor, you have to press Alt+Tab a lot to switch from one window to another. You don’t need to move your mouse as much and move your head side to side often.

It is hard to pick a winner in this category, as each user has its own preference: some don’t mind moving the mouse often, while some find pressing Alt+Tab and toggling between windows taxing.


On Gaming

(image from Amazon)

Great sense of immersion and 3D gaming, these are the two most important aspects of gaming. Here are the different scenarios:

  • On dual 24-inch monitor setup, gamers get split viewport right at the middle of their vision, while the fascia for each monitor will break the viewport. In terms of 3G gaming, the middle of the viewport is usually the most important part of the screen, which will be divided by bezels of monitors for around 1-2 inches.
  • On single 30-inch display, gaming looks great, with potentially higher frame-rates, as newer models today now offer better gaming capabilities (faster refresh rates and input lag).

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to gaming: some prefer multiple screens for more immersive gaming experience, some even put three monitors side-by-side for triple monitor setup, which is actually works great for certain types of games, such as racing games and FPS games. Also, newer gaming monitors (example product) now come with very thin, almost borderless bezel, perfect for multi-monitor gaming setup. Big monitors can also provide immersive experience, and newer models now are better equipped with 3D capability.


On Movies

Same goes with movies, the dual monitor setup will cut the screen in half (if you set it to stretch across both monitors). In this case, having a bigger monitor can be better.


Software Upgrades

For Dual Monitor and Multiple-Monitors Setup

(image from DisplayFusion)

Using multiple monitors with different styles and sizes can be difficult. In this sense, you can use DisplayFusion to make your life easier. This program will make multiple monitor management easy with multi-monitor taskbars, precise monitor controls, window management, incredible desktop wallpaper, powerful functions, remote control (control your computer screen through your smartphone), make use of Windows 8 tweaks, and a lot more.


For Single Monitor Setup

It is easy to re-size windows in Windows 7, simply click “Restore Down” and click and drag then corner of the window to the size you want. You can also reposition the window by clicking and dragging the top of window to the spot you want on your screen. You can also use SplitView, a GUI interface built-in for Windows. It adds buttons to each window you open to give you the controls you need for opening and moving windows from left to right.

(Image from SplitScreen)


You can also use Split Screen, a Google Chrome extension that lets you view two sites simultaneously (side-by-side), or open a website and a word processor at once on your screen. It’s quite a handy tool and very easy to use as well.

Some monitors even have their own split screen software, like the Screen+ software from AOC e2752Vh.

(image from Amazon)

Ergonomic Upgrades

Some people dislike having dual monitor setup as it feels unnatural for their head to move side-to-side while working. Indeed, using two monitors side-by-side requires head and neck movements; however, with the right ergonomic products and a few workstation upgrades, one can significantly improve workstation comfort and make good use of dual monitor setup minus the neck strain.


Tips for Dual Monitor and Multiple Monitor Users

Here at Dual Monitors Guide, we don’t just advocate the use of multiple monitors, but more importantly, we emphasize the importance of choosing the right monitors along with the right aftermarket ergonomic solutions to suit your preference and workstation comfort needs. You can check our previous post about choosing the monitors for multiple display.

There are tons of aftermarket ergonomic solutions out there, but for this entry, we will just talk about the highly rated ones.

(image from Ergotron)

The Ergotron LX Dual Stacking Arm is one of the best-selling dual monitor arms in the market today. It’s an innovative product that offers great flexibility and versatility for any workstation. It’s made up of the brand's trademark polished aluminum construction and solid and stable base, and equipped with their patented Constant Force (CF) technology, which holds the display securely in place, and allow smooth and smooth adjustment. The small footprint gives users the precious desk space they need for neat and comfortable workstation.

(image from Amazon)

The great thing about this dual LCD arm is it allows dual stacking and works perfectly well with laptops too. For the laptop setup, simply get the LX notebook tray and add the accessory to the arm of your choice.


If you want something that offers sit-stand alternative for your existing desk, then you can opt for the Ergotron WorkFit-A. This workstation is designed to provide quick and easy height adjustments, allowing users to adjust their monitors and keyboard in a single simple motion. This means users can switch their workstation from a sitting to standing position, and vice versa whenever they want.


(image from Amazon)

The AmazonBasics dual side-by-side monitor arm is Amazon’s flagship product in the monitor arm market, and it indeed made a splash. It can hold two 27-inch monitors in each arm, and allow both displays to adjust anyway you want. You can set your monitors at any height, tilt, swivel and turn your displays from landscape to portrait mode, and vice versa. The best part about this product aside from its nice and sturdy build quality is its affordable price tag.

(image from Amazon)

If you’re using a particular brand of monitor, then check if they offer a monitor stand that suits best to their display. Dell for example, offers Dell MDS14 Dual Monitor Stand, which provides dual monitor support for mid-sized Dell displays. It comes equipped with multi-adjustment features that improve your viewing comfort: it can customize the alignment and position of two monitors, so you can get your preferred setup for optimal comfort. It has a slim U-shaped base that provides stable support without taking too much desk space.

(image from Amazon)

For totally immersive triple monitor gaming setup, there’s the LX Triple Display Lift Stand from Ergotron. Like other products in its brand, this model is well-built with high quality components, solid base and attractive finish while also being very functional and easy to use. It’s a great solution for people looking to manage their work space and free up their desk while still have a nice 2 or 3 monitor setup and move multiple displays in unison. It can hold two large displays of up to 30-inch in each side, or three 21-inch monitors for triple monitor setup.

(image from Amazon)

For single monitor users using 30-inch (or bigger) monitors, there are also lots of great aftermarket ergonomic solutions that provides great workstation comfort. One good example is the Ergotron MX Desk Mount LCD Arm. It offers the same great adjustability and quality, tailor-made for single mid-sized display, especially all-in-one desktop computers. It combines the trademark polished aluminum finish of Ergotron with premium features, slim profile, and variety of adjustments for superior comfort. It can hold monitor of up to 30-inch of size, which is the size of our example in this article.

(image from Ergotron)

If you want to go beyond 30-inch, then you should go for the more reliable option designed to lift and hold bigger displays, such as Ergotron LX HD Sit-Stand Wall Mount LCD Arm. This LCD arm is equipped with everything you would expect from a premium Ergotron wall mount arm – solid and stable construction, smooth adjustments, ergonomic configuration, and a quality that lasts a lifetime.

(image from Ergotron)

If you are contented with your factory-supplied monitor stand, and are looking for way to maximize your big monitor screen, then you can use split-screen software like


Bottom Line

Having a huge screen space is really comfortable to work at. However, too much space can also lead to distractions. Having your email, social media accounts, IMs running in your secondary monitor while you work on your primary monitor can be distracting. Also, putting your to-do list on your other monitor will simply distract you with a reminder rather than getting you focused with the task at hand. However, if you’re the kind of person who really uses and works on a lot of apps and opens a lot of windows at the same time, then dual monitor or multiple monitor setups is for you.

At the end of the day, it is your experience and preferences on the kind of work you do and comfort you want to have that matters. There will be trade-offs either way.

For more tips like this, check out Dual Monitors Guide today!

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