Two screens or one?

by Volker Weber

At CeBIT I saw Samsung coming out with a dual screen display. One large TFT, and a small one attached to it. Lenovo is now doing the same with their upcoming W700DS:


The reasoning behind this design seems to be that Photoshop artists or CAD designers can put their toolboxes on the auxiliary screen.

But why not have a larger screen in the first place. In the case of the notebook, it would make the machine considerably larger, while this design makes it somewhat thicker. But looking at desktop computers, why would I want two displays instead of one larger, even if the screens are the same size? Why have two 19" screens instead of one 24" screen? Why not go to a 30" one? This reminds me of split windshields.


What is your preference, and why?


On a notebook I like the idea of the extra screen for toolboxes etc. - and it's much better to carry a 17 inch with an extra screen instead of an 19, 21 ...

With a desktop computer it's quite different, I got used to two screens. Even with an 24 inch screen I like to have another one (could be 19 inch) for iTunes, Quicktime, Skype, Transmit and all the helping applications that do not need the focus.

Martin Hiegl, 2008-12-30

2 23' screens. On a desk, 30' is just too close - I get neck crinks.

Generally have domino designer on one, notes on the other.

tried 3 screens for a while, but that was overkill. Was fun though, pretending to be on the deck of the U.S.S Voyager!

Andrew Magerman, 2008-12-30

Im Job wurden mir auch mit der Einführung einer neuen CAD/CAE-Anwendung zwei Bildschirme vorgesetzt - und wider Erwarten habe ich mich so daran gewöhnt, dass ich mir auch für meinen privaten Hauptrechner zwei 19"-Widescreens an die Wand gehangen habe. Neben CAD und Photoshop fällt mir daher beispielsweise noch Videobearbeitung als Anwendung ein, und sogar meine Freundin hat Gefallen daran gefunden, dass sie auf dem einen Bildschirm World of Warcraft spielen kann, während auf dem anderen Bildschrim entweder Teamspeak oder ein Firefox mit Questhilfestellungen gleichzeitig sichtbar ist.

Markus Jabs, 2008-12-30

Schon bei so trivialen Dingen wie umfangreicheren Copy-Paste sind zwei Bildschirme von Vorteil. Auch für PSD, Final Cut und selbst für Mail & Co ist das eine feine Sache.

Ich persönlich schätze wie Markus 2x19"-Widescreens.
Auf den den Spalt genau in der Mitte könnte ich allerdings gut und gerne verzichten.

Eine Menüleiste über beide Monitore wäre auch längst überfällig, Steve.

Alexander Puell, 2008-12-30

Not having used a single huge screen I don't know how I'd feel about it, but I have used twin screen layouts a lot and really like that way of working. May be this is a Windows thing, but I tend to work with most apps full screen and switch between them. I think a lot of apps are designed with that usage in mind. With different screens I can have two apps open full screen. With a large single display I'd have to adjust to working with a apps open in floating windows, and the aspect ration even on widesceen monitors may make simulating the effect of two full screen apps side by side impractical.

In one place I worked they had twin screens driven by an nvidia card that was configured to present both screens to windows as a single device. It was locked down so I couldn't change it. This was a nightmare. Maximizing a window would cover both screens and forced you to manually size and position each window to fit the screens. I'm sure this is worst of both worlds.

Utilities that help manage the screen can help here I'm sure. My Acer laptop comes with one that allows you to define regions that behave like screens for the purpose of maximising windows, making it easy to arrange windows like I'm used to. This is still a little odd feeling and I don't use it, the screen's not big enough to have two apps "full screen" side by side.

Still I'd give it a bash. I'm planning on getting a Macbook Pro and I'm curious to how that will effect my desire for having apps maximised.

If I was forced to spend cash right now I'd probably play safe and go with multiple screens. If I had the option I'd love to audition a single large one and see how it felt.

Kerr Rainey, 2008-12-30

Two screens for separation of primary and secondary apps and elements, ability to run two apps full screen, simplification of common tasks.

(I am using UltraMon to have a taskbar on each screen; configured in such a way that each taskbar shows only those apps that are on its own screen, that the start menu and the tray area shows on the secondary screen only, and that there is an extra window button to easily swap apps between screens even in full screen mode.)

Haiko Hebig, 2008-12-30

Ein sehr praktisches Tool um mehrere Monitore zu verwalten ist Ultramon.
Hier ist es zu finden: [url][/url]

Ich muss meinem Monitor ohne dieses Tool jedes mal beibringen, dass der Laptop links steht. Das Tool kann sich das merken und auch die Programme gleich richtig verteilen.

Ich könnt wohl auch nicht mehr ohne 2 Monitore arbeiten, gerade bei Internetseitenpflege oder allgemein Administrationsaufgaben ist es schon sehr praktisch.

Patrick Bohr, 2008-12-30

Two 19" screens at work - usually eclipse/toad in one, browser outlook on the other, Ultramon to manage the taskbar.

One 24" at home for games/movies etc.

Kieren Johnson, 2008-12-30

Auf der Arbeit zwei, den vom Laptop und einen 24" Dell.

Daheim einen. Allerdings kommt da demnächst noch ein zweiter dazu. Warum? Einfach deswegen weil ich mich daran gewöhnt habe. Und gerade mit VM Ware Maschinen oder Eclipse Entwicklungsumgebungen macht das wirklich Sinn.

Ich kenne jemand, der arbeitet schon seit langem mit drei Monitoren. Mittlerweile mit LCD's aber früher mit 24" Röhren.

Thomas Schulte, 2008-12-30

Or go the whole hog


Ben Rose, 2008-12-30

Zu Hause benutze ich ebenfalls 2 Displays (22" wide + 19" 5:4) - wie weiter oben bereits begründet habe ich auf dem "Nebenschirm" Applicationen wie ICQ, iTunes, FTP, Editor oder ähnliches offen. Also Sachen mit denen man häufiger interagiert, aber nicht immer im Fokus hat.
Alexander erwähnte auch C&P - gerade da arbeite ich effizienter, wenn ich die Fenster nicht ständig mit Alt-Tab wechseln muss.

@work habe ich das Laptop-Display für's ERP und andere Kleinigkeiten genutzt und im großen Display rumgeexcelt ;-)

Sascha Westphal, 2008-12-30

I gotta say, its really a productivity thing ... as a application and web designer, using notes & domino, along with any application in the adobe suite (or more than one at a time, ie fireworks, dreamweaver, flash), you end up with the NEED for multiple monitors ... I admit, i might be abit addicted, i run 4 displays on 2 high-end nvidia's ... BUT I usually have [ domino designer, dreamweaver, fireworks, flash ] open in the one right in front of me, with all their assorted tool windows in the monitor to the left, and notes open in another, web browser open in the fourth, along with IM, iTunes, and whatever else i'm using at the moment ... and the ability to reference back and forth without alt-tab'ing is huge ... and the adobe products toolboxes really do need a whole monitor to themselves, they are just rather unruly. if I had my choice between a computer with 1 30" or two 24", I'd pick the 2 24" hands down ... Its the difference of one workspace versus two, not just the square-inchage ... i hate using a computer for productive work with only one monitor ... traveling for work and taking the macbook with only 1 monitor is a drag ... i feel soooo inefficient. Spaces helps to save me there ....

Jeremy G Hodge, 2008-12-30

The primary reason for going with two monitors instead of one larger one has usually been price: two smaller monitors are less expensive than one larger one. Of course, monitor prices are far more reasonable now than ever before, so the savings is far less important, but buying that 24" or 30" monitor is still something of a luxury when you consider that you probably already have one 19" monitor and can upgrade to a 2x19" configuration for not much more than $100.00.

Richard Schwartz, 2008-12-30

2 Screens at a miminum, if you are doing web development -- one for your code, the other for your UI. Or other such functional splits.

I could also see adding a 3rd for email, messaging, etc. Heck, I could even see using a 4th for some purposes, but that might be overkill.

David Armstrong, 2008-12-30

If there is a price difference, 2 x 19" offers about 25% more real estate than a single 24".

But more importantly, like someone else pointed out actually working with Windows is easier on two separate screens. Apps "snap" into a full screen, there's no such thing as apps "snapping" to a half screen.

Craig Boudreaux, 2008-12-30

This is a matter of cost. A 19" TFT with color profiling possibilities is about 900 EUR. Photoshop pallettes reside happily on a 180 EUR no name TFT.

Helmut Weiss, 2008-12-30

1 Screen. 13". And a big brain for all the shortcuts ;-)

Frank Mueller, 2008-12-30

30" does it all. Video, Mail, Wordprocessor, browser.

(Had Apple only put an explanation in the box that the mini DisplayAdapter to dual DVI cable absolutely needs the USB to be also connected.....That would have saved me a trip to the store and a lot of head-scratching.)

Armin Roth, 2008-12-30

I can't afford a preference ;)

At work where budgets are tight, I have a 22" widescreen as my main screen and then my Lenovo T61 is on a stand next to it so I get 2 x wide screen goodness. Its cheap and reaps huge benefits for development, admin & photoshop tasks -- eg, Notes on the T61, Designer on the 22". I don't think I'd have so much useful screen real estate with a single large monitor. Two also tend to better segment the focus of my work (I run my windows maxed as I get distracted by overlayed windows). If I could wing it (I'm trying!), I'd ditch the T61 screen and have 2 x 22" wides.

Colin Williams, 2008-12-30

This is an interesting discussion - I'm on a single 20" screen, and have scarcely used a double-screen setup since some complicated arrangement with my Mac Quadra in around 1995 - I think you are far more likely to get a crick in the neck with monitors splayed out widely.

I was very recently talking to someone who has two 19" screens, identical models but for the fact that one has a black surround, and the other silver. He found it so aesthetically displeasing that he was trying to arrange a replacement for one or the other.... perfect symmetry was essential!

Nick Daisley, 2008-12-30

Und, Volker? Schon überzeugt worden? :-)))

Markus Jabs, 2008-12-30

At work with 12"-Widescreen-Laptop and 19"-LCD: Domino Designer R7 on LCD, Notes-Client on Laptop-Screen and all Notes-Dialog-Boxes on the smaller Laptop-Screen.

At home with 13"-Macbook or 8,9"-Netbook as single Screen.

I prefer two Screens on one Computer: One as Preview and one for coding. Maybe in the future, when budget allows: 2x30"

Uwe Fritz, 2008-12-30

That device will win at 2009's least appealing gear.

Roland Leißl, 2008-12-30

At least with MS-Windows two screens are better because you can drag an app into one screen/monitor and maximize it with a double click on the apps top bar . Although both screens form a common desktop, the app will only fill out ONE monitor.

With one large screen it will obviously maximize across the whole monitor and you have to fiddle around with your mouse to adjust the apps.

We have tested two and three screen set ups and for us three screens clearly works best. a) it removes the split wind shield effect because you have a clear center screen b) it fits best to nowadays work style. As long as you have a setup like Notes+Designer or Photoshop+Tools two screens are acceptable but as soon as you are running all the rest such as email, twitter, browser, chat ... the third screen makes a big difference.

MS run studies on this issue and the result was: Three screens provide a significant improvement in productivity (~20% if I remember correctly) and six screens is even a bit better ;)

Lucius Bobikiewicz, 2008-12-30

Markus, ich habe schon ein paar Jahre mit mehreren Screens gearbeitet. Die meisten hier genannten Vorteile sind auf Windows beschränkt. "Full screen" funktioniert auf einem Mac ganz anders. Und dann hat ein Mac auch noch virtuelle Screens und Expose. Ich habe definitiv lieber einen großen Screen als viele kleine. Sind viele große noch besser? Kann sein, aber ich will ab und zu auch noch aus dem Fenster schauen. :-)

Volker Weber, 2008-12-30

Roland, you mean the Lenovo machine? I don't think they plan to sell that many of them.

Volker Weber, 2008-12-30

Volker, I live in 2 monitors, but that's not why I posted.

Doesn't the fold-out monitor seem awfully similar to a fold-out laptop keyboard ? I'm guessing that it will be a smash success, equal to the Thinkpad 701. Oh, wait . . .

Jack Dausman, 2008-12-30

No. The butterfly keyboard was a great piece of engineering? This foldout screen is rather clunky.

The 701 went from gold to junk in just three months here. First you could not buy it anywhere, then it was sold off cheaply. It never had a chance. Why? No idea. People are still fond of it.

Volker Weber, 2008-12-31

One screen, on a laptop I prefer a 15'' version (currently Samsung X65 pro) and at home I attach a 24'' wide screen, which I like very much.

Maybe "extendable" screen will be more interesting when OLEDs will bekome widly available.

By the way, happy new year and all the best for 2009.

Frank Stangenberg, 2008-12-31

For my video editing setup I use 2 /24" wide LCD screens and 1 /42" 1080p plasma for the preview before the final render. Different editing software will cope with this differently, not all support 3 screens, but the workflow is improved. Working with large quanaties of photos in Photoshop while using Adobe Bridge also works well with 3 screens.

Mark Holtrop, 2008-12-31

I mix between a single laptop screen and a dual set-up, where one of the screens is still the laptop. I like dual screen. I tend to turn Exposé off when working with 2 monitors, and have the Mac as a … Mac, with any running VMs on the other screen. Works really well.

Similarly, when coding web stuff, I like Coda / Aptana on one screen, and a browser window in the other.

Ben Poole, 2008-12-31

@Volker: Also ich *kann* auf meinem großen Mac mit Expose arbeiten. Aber lieber ist mir für die Arbeit schon die Ubuntu-Kiste mit 2 x 24" bei 1920x1200 dran. Was unter anderem daran liegt, dass ich Änderungen mache und deren Auswirkungen idealerweise gleich in "Echtzeit" auf dem anderen Monitor sehen "muss". Oder eben weil es praktischer ist, Designänderungen auf der Website gleich per Refresh zu sehen und einfach per Maus schubsen zwischen Editor und Browser zu wechseln, anstatt sich immer wieder durch Expose zu werkeln. Ganz abgesehen davon, dass es weder Microsoft noch Apple bisher geschafft haben, etwas Vergleichbares zu "zwei separate X-Server mit jeweils acht Arbeitsflächen" zu produzieren.
Trotzdem hat auch jedes meiner Macbooks noch seinen privaten "Docking-Monitor" rumstehen - einfach weil ich mir damit bei der Arbeit deutlich leichter tue, auch wenn's da keine virtuellen Arbeitsflächen je Monitor gibt (leider).
Schlußendlich denke ich, dass sich die Frage immer nur persönlich beantworten lässt und es vor allem auf die eigenen Präferenzen ankommt. Ich könnte mir auch drei von den Monitoren gut auf dem Schreibtisch vorstellen. Aber das muss warten bis der nächste Mac und das Spielzeug von Matrox kommt ;)

Stefan Rubner, 2008-12-31

Volker, yes the machine. Like in "Manbearpig is very real"!

Roland Leißl, 2008-12-31

i use 2*24 inch as workplace but though about 3*19 instead but for now im happy with it

laptop is 12" though so quite a difference

Flemming Riis, 2008-12-31

I am a big fan of 2 x 19" screens. Tried a 24" single screen but missed the physical separation that comes from having two screens - I tend t have the designer in one and the client on the other - sometimes an admin client on the laptop screen as well

There must be some software that allows you to separate up a large screen so that applications don't float about so much

I use usb to dvi convertors

blog entry on usb convertors


Sean cull, 2008-12-31

Seit vielen, vielen Jahre arbeite ich mit zwei Monitoren. Schon einige Male dachte ich nach der Anschaffung des nächstgrößeren Monitors, dass von nun an ein Monitor reichen würde. Ich täuschte mich jedes Mal. Nach kurzem Probieren wurde der vormals sekundäre Schirm (wie geplant) ausgemustert, aber der vormals primäre Schirm mutierte immer zum neuen sekundären. Nur beim letzten Wechsel blieb das sekundäre Display (22" Samsung TFT) am Platz als ich ein 24" Dell TFT gegen ein 30" Cinema Display tauschte.

Virtuelle Screens sind für mich kein echter Ersatz für physikalisch vorhandene Anzeigeflächen. Beides ergänzt sich. Abgesehen davon finde ich unter OS X 10.5 die Situation bzgl. virtueller Bildschirme sehr unbefriedigend. Die "Spaces" halte ich für eine mittelschwere Katastrophe und die "guten, alten" Varianten wie z.B. VirtueDesktops wurden wegen der Spaces-Konkurrenz nicht mehr weiterentwickelt bzw. auch nur an 10.5.x angepasst. Das ist der Hauptgrund dafür, dass ich an meinem primären Arbeitsplatz immer noch 10.4 habe ...


Andreas Braukmann, 2009-01-01

I had been using 2 screens a while back (when I got my first 15" TFT, the 17" CRT stayed as a secondary screen) and liked it a lot. Then I moved and didn't take the CRT with me. That worked also, though 1024*768 is quite small as the only screen. For a couple of years now I have used laptops (first 15" with 1400x1050, then 15" and 1440x900) as my primary computer and always had a secondary screen to attach them to. Initially the 15" TFT was that secondary screen, now it's a 22" at home and a 20" at work - and those then turned into the primary screen with the laptop screen being used for Skype, Adium and other stuff I want to see but not interact with regularly.

This is actually why I prefer two screens to one: I use the secondary screen more as a status screen, not really for my work. I have stuff to watch there and don't interact with it much. Having this separated from my main work is quite nice, because it helps staying focussed. But still I can immediatly see what's going on there without having to switch the foreground application.

What I would really like to try is a three-screen-setup. Two main screens for work and a third one for the status stuff. This is a price-thing - two 24" cost around 600 EUR, a 30" is still more than twice as much. Unfortunately I don't yet know of a cheap and really usable way to attach two screens to my MacBook Pro.

Thomas Lötzer, 2009-01-02

Zwei. Weil ein einzelner in ausreichender Breite dann zu hoch wäre, und an den Rändern zu weit weg vom Gesichtsfeld.

Mit einem 32:9-Format mit konkaver Wölbung würde ich es allerdings auch mit einem aushalten.

Sven Scholz, 2009-01-03

Two screens here... one for active work and one for "passive" stuff - twitter, IM, occasionally file viewer (jpg, txt)

David M Taylor, 2009-01-04

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