Multiple monitor use on the rise despite declining desktop PC sales

By on February 10, 2012, 12:30 PM

The act of running multiple monitors from a single computer was once reserved for diehard enthusiasts and IT professionals but a new article from The New York Times suggests that computer users are adopting multiple monitors at a quickening pace. Tech companies sold 179 million displays last year but only 130 million desktop computers which could be interpreted as “more monitors per desk”, according to Rhoda Alexander from IHS iSuppli.

The most obvious rationale for adding additional monitors is that it boosts productivity. A study by the University of Utah found that productivity among individuals working on editing tasks was higher with two monitors than with one. If nothing else, multiple monitors cut down on time spent toggling different windows on a single screen.

NEC Display noted that 30 to 40 percent of their corporate customers’ employees use more than one monitor, a figure that is up from just 1 percent four years ago.

Naturally, not everyone agrees that multiple monitor setups are a time-saver. Psychology professor David E. Meyer at the University of Michigan agrees with the logic behind toggling but points out that productivity can suffer when people are interrupted by scanning multiple displays rather than focusing on a single task in front of them.

As an advocate of multiple monitor setups, there’s never been a better time to add a second or third display to your workstation. Panel pricing and thickness continue to drop and there are more communications tools and news sites than ever. As a reviewer and news editor, I couldn’t imagine going back to a single display – it’d be like going from broadband to dial-up. For gamers, ATI and Nvidia now offer multi-monitor gaming for a more immersive experience, granted you have hardware that is powerful enough to support it.




User Comments: 23

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Guest said:

If the price of high quality computer cases would fall, I bet they would all come crawling back to their desktops.

Maybe it is time for case designers to step out of 1987 and design some delicious cases for our living rooms. Might work wonders on that crazy wife of yours.

captainawesome captainawesome said:

At work I use 2x 15" (4x3) displays and find it more comfortable than one 23" 1080P display. That's only for work though so I would much prefer 2x 23". That would rock.

nazartp said:

Mr. Meyer definitely never tried to write HIMSELF a memo referencing several sources. He's just trying to publish a paper.

Guest said:

iI just don't understand why 27 and 30 inch LCDs with high resolutions are still so expensive. When I can get 3x 30 inch LEDs for $1000 all in, I am going to upgrade for home use. For now, I'll take a larger 42 inch monitor for games + desktop and use a laptop as a 2nd screen when I dock.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

I run 4 LCD's for work.

Most people here (Hospital) run atleast two, or one 23"/24" 1920 X 1080/1200.

For gaming I still use my U3011, but Eyefinity and 3DS are starting to work a little better.

I hate the bezel splitting the screens no matter how thin it is, hopefully they find a way around this.

madboyv1, TechSpot Paladin, said:

nazartp said:

Mr. Meyer definitely never tried to write HIMSELF a memo referencing several sources. He's just trying to publish a paper.

Actually his comment is a sound one. Adding more than a second display for the sake of productivity becomes a example of diminishing returns, as the more monitors you have the longer it takes to scan through all of them, unless you know exactly what you want and where it is on the full display. Also, the larger the total amount of display space you have can become stressful to your eyes. Two to three displays tends to be the sweet spot depending on the person, and anymore really becomes more overwhelming than helpful. Again, this ultimately depends on the person.

I'm more of a two display person and honestly, I tend to favor my main display far more than my secondary display. I will attest to the usefulness of having those two montiors however, as I only use one screen at work and it pains me to do so lol.

Guest said:

I work at a tech help desk and our dual 24" monitor setup is a dream come true.

TechM633 said:

I use three 24" LED monitors...and lovin it!!!

ramonsterns said:

I use a 22" widescreen and a 17" monitor side by side. The 17" was lying around so I just hooked it up. Not much practical use besides having a program and a browser open, but better than not having the extra space.

Guest said:

2 Dell 30inch Monitors at Max Res....always have like 20 windows opened...Just wait until the retina display monitors come main stream.

Guest said:

I tried dual monitors for gaming its not worth it unless you get a 3rd monitor

with dual monitors in gaming you cant see the crosshair which is not worth it

Technochicken Technochicken, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I've been using 3 screens for a while now, although I had to hack off some pins from my second video card to get it fit in a PCIe X1 slot, and I have found it extremely helpful, especially with software like Photoshop, even though my secondary monitors are pretty small. I just need to scavenge around for a fourth screen, so I can use my last video output.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

A 30" monitor at 2560x1600 resolution is about like quad monitors if you manage your windows well. I have one of those with a secondary dedicated to displaying server logs only.

ramonsterns said:

Technochicken said:

I've been using 3 screens for a while now, although I had to hack off some pins from my second video card to get it fit in a PCIe X1 slot, and I have found it extremely helpful, especially with software like Photoshop, even though my secondary monitors are pretty small. I just need to scavenge around for a fourth screen, so I can use my last video output.

You did what now...?

topcoach said:

I've been suing 3 screens for several years, and find it hard to use any less. I have a 28 inch center monitor (landscape mode), surrounded by two 24 inch monitors in portrait mode (Dell U2410). The portrait mode monitors are awesome for reading document or websites. Windows 7 works great for multi-screen setups. I have also used OSX Lion, but OSX has a very poor implementation for multi-screen. Hopefully Apple pays attention to this trend towards multi-screen, and improves OSX. I would use OSX more, but it is so difficult to use when it comes to multi-screen.

LinkedKube LinkedKube, TechSpot Project Baby, said:

Currently using 2x27" Asus led monitors. When I move and I'm allowed to put holes in the wall they're going on a wall mount with two more.

inventix1136 said:

topcoach said:

I've been suing 3 screens for several years, and find it hard to use any less.

What have the screens done to you that you needed to sue them, and for several years no less? :-)

NTAPRO NTAPRO said:

What kind of keyboard is that in the image?

Guest said:

I rather prefer one 24" monitor with a retina display than multiple monitors. I stopped playing computer games, so the increased resolution isn't a major issue for me.

Guest said:

Looks like a logitech g510

Guest said:

As a person required to read and understand and correlate multiple reports, most with tables and maps created for A3 size format and helpfully (not) placed at the end of the reports, I find that having a screen space at least as big as half my physical desk space allows me to effectively operate a paperless desk.

The only time I need paper is when working with managers who run their offices on paper.

(6 screens, - 27in landscape, 22in portrait, 4x22in landscape (one with Goggle earth, two with 2nd PDFs, last with video/tele/presence apps running)

Steaming

Guest said:

At works I have dual monitors and find it useful when doing different tasks or working on one thing while referencing something else on the other screen. At home a single monitor is fine for me. I'd rather just have a larger single monitor at home.

mishmosh said:

Running two 24" IPS. You can get so much more done with mulitiple monitors. Microsoft should look into better native support now that Nvidia tools are gone.

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