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Multi-Monitor Tips & Tricks Guide Rev. 1.2
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LCD monitors are getting really cheap these days. That, and the fact that many graphics cards these days come with at least two DVI ports, makes it possible to easily set up a multi-monitor system... financially at least.

I created my own multi-monitor system not long ago, and I discovered that multi-monitors are not really plug-and-play. Several issues arose while I was setting the two monitors up. So, this guide will cover those issues as well as general tips and tricks on setting up your own multi-monitor setup.

I'm no multi-monitor guru, but I hope the tips & tricks covered here will be of some help to you.

Before we go into the actual tips and tricks, let's take a look at a few Q&As for those who are still skeptical about using more than one monitor.


Do we really need multi-monitors?

The main objective of creating a multi-monitor setup is, of course, to obtain a much larger display. Hooking up two or more monitors allows you to display more information, which is great no matter whether you are a graphics artist, or just someone who works on spreadsheets.

The increased workspace also allows you to better multitask. While most of us are used to using the Windows XP taskbar or the Alt-Tab combo-key to manage which application gets shown on screen, using multiple monitors allows us to actually have several of those applications opened at the same time. As you can imagine, that does wonders for one's productivity.


But why multi-monitors, instead of one BIG monitor?

Well, the largest LCD monitor you can currently buy is the behemoth 30" LCD panel from folks like Dell and Apple. Although they have a remarkable resolution of 2560x1600, they are currently very expensive and out of reach for many users. But if you can afford it, well, go ahead and buy one! It's always nice to have a really big display.

However, if price is an issue, then a multi-monitor setup allows you to enjoy the same, if not greater, amount of workspace for a lot less money. Currently, for the price of one 30" LCD monitor, you can actually buy two 24" LCD monitors or four 20" LCD monitors.

But you must note that the size and number of monitors aren't everything. What's more important is the amount of workspace, as defined by the number of pixels in a monitor. Here's a useful breakdown of resolution and workspace :

  • 30" widescreen monitors (2560x1600) - 4.096 million pixels
  • 24" widescreen monitors (1920x1200) - 2.304 million pixels
  • 20" widescreen monitors (1680x1050) - 1.764 million pixels
  • 20" monitors (1600x1200) - 1.92 million pixels

So, two 20" normal format monitors will have a total workspace of 3.84 million pixels. Two 30" widescreen monster, on the other hand, would deliver an amazing 8,192 million pixels of workspace!

As one of our readers, Assaf Rahav pointed out, it is also a good idea to check the price per pixel to determine which monitor is most cost-effective. For example, if a 30" LCD monitor goes for around $1274, this gives it a price-effectiveness of about $311 per million pixels. A 20" LCD monitor that costs $359, on the other hand, will have a cost per pixel of approximately $204 per million pixels.

Finally, multi-monitors do have one advantage over a single very large monitor. They give us a lot more horizontal workspace than is currently possible with a single monitor. It is easier to view and work horizontally, making horizontal space more important than vertical space.

For example, two 20" normal format monitors can give us a workspace that's 3200 pixels wide and 1200 pixels tall. That's a lot more horizontal workspace than a 30" monitor (only 2560 pixels wide). While the height is lower at only 1200 pixels (versus 1600 pixels), working on the wider multi-monitor screens is actually more productive.


How many monitors do I need?

That depends entirely on the type of work you do, as well as the depth of your pockets. Most users would be happy with two or three monitors, but some will never be satiated until they have their wall completely wallpapered in LCD panels!

Our advice is to go with what you are comfortable with, both visually and financially.


What do I need, other than more monitors?

It's important to remember that each LCD monitor needs to be connected to a VGA/DVI port on your graphics card. The higher-resolution monitors will require a dual-link DVI port. Be sure to check and make sure your graphics card supports the outputs that the monitors require.

In addition, most graphics cards only come with two DVI ports. If you want to hook up more than two monitors, you will need to install additional graphics cards. They needn't be anything fast or expensive though, since they will primarily be used to support the additional monitors.


Multi-Monitor Tips & Tricks

Did you know there are three display modes? Select the one that's most suitable for you!
If you are in the habit of turning off your monitors, this tip will prevent your graphics card from reverting to a single-monitor mode.
You will love this tip if you are having trouble spanning your video display across multiple monitors.
This tip teaches you how to maximize the use of your desktop space by resizing your windows the quick and easy way.
If you are not sure what multi-monitor utilities like Multimon can do for you, check this tip out!
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