Computer Monitors 1 or 2

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At Mad Rocket Basement
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Jan 17, 2009
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Toronto, ON Canada
I know this is going to start something, so could everyone please calm down.

My old (used) gigantic 10 year old 21" CRT monitor finally is done. Brightness at maximum and the letters were starting to get real hard to read.

Time for a new one.

CRT's are almost no where to be found. I am sure they are at specialty graphics shops, but no retail outlet seem to carry them.

Now the question becomes. Do I get 2 small ones or 1 big one? Tough question. Doing some research on the tubes tends to give the 2 monitors the advantage. Not for today.

I settled on a Samsung 24" after it went on sale overnight. I have had it 2 days and happy. The only bad part is the brightness. It hurts the eyes! The eyes! I can't say I found the colours bad or the clarity lacking from the CRT. I lowered the contrast and it a lot better.

I have been on it half the time (doing website and graphics work) and a few conclusions:

  • 24" is big. Really big.
  • unless you need LOTS of screen space, it is big enough
  • 2 monitors are worse than one big one
  • I have more desk space
  • when shopping, looking at the screen resolution and not the size of the screen

Having two smaller monitors does take up more space. There is also a problem of the where to put them. If you really need the screen space, ( such as system monitor or a specific application) I would actually place one on top of the other and tilt it down. Having them side by side means having no complete screen in front of you.

Be prepared to upgrade the graphics card if needed for speed and DVI connections. And when shopping, check to see if the unit includes the DVI cable as they are expensive. I don't recommend using the VGA connectors as they are not up to the task.

As for HDMI, I found it is nothing more than DVI with the sound in the same cable.
I am an avid 2 display user. I use a 24" and a 19". This is my case both at work and in the man-cave. This works better in my situation as I do my primary work in the larger display and keep reference work in the smaller one.

Currently I use a graphics card that supports both monitors in single link DVI mode. I do not see the advantage of HDMI or other home entertainment type interfaces on a computer that is not used for entertainment functions. I am awaiting the full implementation of DisplayPort technology as I think it will be the USB of video.

As to desk space. I gave up the footprint of the printer for the additional monitor, which I get far more utility out of.

One thing I will not do -> buy a display with price as a primary criteria. That almost always leads to heartbreak.

However you can avoid a new video card for this application. Matrox makes a really nice external display multiplexor called DualHead2Go. We use these quite a bit on mid grade analog systems to avoid cracking the case or having to mess with riser cards.
I gave up CRTs a long time ago, just not enough resolution. As for 1 or 2 monitors, I use 2 (20 ") at work where I really need the real estate and I have more space to spread out. One is used for reference such as reading specs. and the other is where I do my serious work. At home, I just use 1 22" where my space is more limited.
I prefer 2 monitors as well. I like to keep my programming up on one screen and testing software on the other. I also like to keep my phone monitor on the secondary to keep an eye on our tech support team. Like HRocket said, primary work on big monitor, reference on secondary smaller.
Now the question becomes: Do I get 2 small ones or 1 big one? Tough question. Doing some research on the tubes tends to give the 2 monitors the advantage.

I've found that two monitors are great where you have one that's going to be dedicated to relatively static information that you need constant access to: I teach multimedia in a 30-computer lab. I've got a separate machine for doing my demos on - it's connected to the dual projector system. I've also got an admin computer with two 21" CRT monitors - the left screen keeps the dynamic stuff I'm using at the time: email, gradebook, attendance, web browser, etc. On the right monitor, we keep the lab surveillance system that allows me to watch what the individual students are doing online, and manage access to resources (open and close virtual drives for a student/students/class, block or enable access to the web, individual apps, or whatever). My other prep is in the engineering lab, an 18-computer lab, in which I have a single-monitor admin computer and I really miss the ability to keep the surveillance program up all of the time. I almost never can switch apps fast enough to suit my need.

At home, my new HP Pavilion has a dual-monitor card and as soon as I can get an DVI adapter, I've got another ViewSonic that's already on the desktop ready to go.

You can easily grow accustomed to having that second monitor, believe me. And, if you ever start working with on, you won't want to quit.

BTW - you can still find CRT's, though they're mostly the larger ones (21" was the smallest we found when we looked last year) and mostly the high end models used by photogs and graphics artists, etc. that have to have excellent color fidelity.
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Can you comfortably have two things open side-by-side on your 24" monitor? I have a 22" (1680x1050) in the mail, and I'll see how it works out. I bought it to use with my desktop, but I can use it as a second display for my laptop. I might just need to build a little stand to put the laptop at the same height.

At work I am working on a VBA application in Excel, and I need to be able to read numbers from the spreadsheet and enter them into VBA. The little 1280x800 laptop they gave me is much too small to do that comfortabley, but I won't be there long enough before I go back to school to get any kind of monitor. I'll be lucky to even get a USB mouse!

I though about getting a big 19" or 21" CRT, but for the price an LCD is so much more practical. The CRTs themselves were cheap enough, but shipping was killer! With an LCD, the extra desk space is good, I won't need a construction crane to lift it, and it won't heat the room (These things have a BTU rating! "426 BTU/hour Typical") or dim the lights when I turn it on. (The inrush current of a 21" Dell CRT is 50A at 120V! Can't they limit that a little?)
Only 2 monitors?
Most of ours are 3 screen, with one machine being 4 screen.

For home use, I'd rather go for single Widescreen monitor, but then I use virtual desktop to swap between various activities. Would only go for 2 or more screens in the office, where 1 is used interactively for 80% of the work and the other(s) remain mostly static or for monitoring (no pun intended) purposes.

Saying that... saw a 2.35:1 screen the other day, which is only a few pixels short of being 2x 4:3 so you can have the equivalent of dual head but without the mismatched colour/contrast and without the gap in the middle.
One 24 inch monitor is plenty big enough unless you really do need the screen space. CAD work or maybe graphics design i could understand it but if you are just doing basic work, 24 is more than enough.

Plus, you gain a lot of desk space with using just one so its worth it, IMO.
I'm clearly in the minority here but I'm a 1-at-a-time kind of guy. it's always been important to have as big a screen and resolution as you can get. but for me, shifting my gaze & refocusing across more than one monitor is just tiring & disorienting. oh yeah, MS Natural keyboard & logitech marble mouse forever! I was a CRT-only guy for a long time but the latest LCDs are really terrific.
I have been using two 19" Dell's for years, my video card will run four. I am spoiled already I don't think I could do with out two monitors now. It takes awhile to get used to them but once you do it's much more productive for a lot of tasks. I first had dual CRT's, that will use up some space. Then I went to 17" flat panels. I am watching a movie on one while making this post :D If you always have multiple windows open an have to switch back and forth you will love it :D

I got an old entertainment unit just a little wider than my printer, took the glass doors off of it took the bottom and a shelf off of it. Works great my extra monitor fits in the bottom angled to me and the printer fits on the top shelf, looks like it was made for it. I would take a picture but it has crap stuffed everywhere around it lol. Especially if you tinker with things all the time lol.

It could be in a contest for who has the most crap piled around there computer =D
My current setup: I switched from a nice 19" CRT (ViewSonic Pro Graphics) to a very nice 19" Samsung SyncMaster 192n in 2004.

The CRT was really good (it was the specified monitor for developers at Priceline when I worked there, so I bought one for home) but it was REALLY BIG and heavy. The picture was also hard to stretch to use the entire surface.

The LCD was perfect from the start. With Windows XP it does have to be calibrated (a little tricky when I had three computers on a KVM switch) but Vista and Win7 apparently do that automatically. If you use Cleartype font smoothing and/or Apple Safari smoothing, you'll have to do a separate calibration for that.

My Samsung does 1280x1024, and the screen is just less than 12" high. Brightness and contrast are spot-on, but that can vary of course with different video cards/inputs.

Since I'm a developer, I've toyed with adding a second monitor. However, to match the same dimensions on screen as the current monitor, I'd probably have to get a 24" widescreen.
I just got my Dell 2209WA. Only problem is it has a dead pixel:( I'm going to call Dell, and they should replace it because it has the "premium panel guarantee" (though it says they will only replace it for stuck or bright pixels, not dark ones like I have. I'm just going to call it a defective pixel, though, and keep complaining if they don't replace it. I didn't pay double what a similar TN monitor costs for nothing--I want good image quality!) I'm going to run a stuck pixel fixer on it until I can call Dell, but I doubt it will help. I tried putting pressure on it, but I don't want to break a brand new LCD.

Other than the pixel, it's great. Colors look more colorful than on my laptop's LCT (TN), though pure blue looks a little purple. A better calibration profile will hopefully fix that. Viewing angle is perfect. I like the fact that cables were included. Printer manufacturers take note! It took me a while to find the serial number, and Dell's site wasn't helpful. No, I didn't read the manual. It turns out it is on a little pull-out card behind the USB ports, so I don'e even have to stick my head behind the monitor to read it. Very cool.

Right now I have it in vertical mode. I can view all but one of the stories on Digg without scrolling! This will definitely be useful for writing or coding anything. This wouldn't work well with a TN panel since the vertical viewing angle would become the horizontal viewing angle, causing a significant color shift if I move my head. With this monitor there is no color shift.

I just noticed that text is a little fuzzy in vertical mode because my computer isn't smart enough to change the sub-pixel font smoothing when the display is rotated. Maybe there is a setting I can change.
I have 3 x 24 inch monitors. The added real estate is worth the cost.
I just noticed that if I scroll quickly with my monitor vertical, the image skews a little. I guess the vertical (now horizontal) scan is a lot slower than the horizontal (now vertical) scan. Not a big deal, though.
For my work machine I have a laptop with a 12" screen which I normally just use for reference data etc. and a main monitor of an HP2065 20" rotated into portrait mode. For me as a mainframe software developer this is brilliant as I have 2 sessions open on the main monotor at the same time. Additionally portrait makes word processing and e-mail very easy to work on.

My only real regret is not being able to have 2 protrait monitors as well as the laptop - then I could split e-mail etc. onto the third monitor. It wouldn't take up much more real estate and would be a very good work environment for me.