I have been using the 24″ desktop monitor I’m currently typing on for what feels like forever. It’s connected to my laptop because that screen is really small. Most of the time, it works just fine for my needs. But there are times, like today when I was hosting a Twitter chat, when I could have benefited from multiple monitors or an oversized monitor. My single monitor did not allow me to quickly scan the chat feed while making comments and responding to questions. And if I tried to hop over to Google to look something up, God help me.
On the Hunt for Evidence
I started looking into multiple monitor and oversized monitor use to see if there were documented productivity differences. In a 2012 New York Times article, Matt Richtel mentioned a study by the University of Utah, which found that productivity among people working on editing tasks was higher with two monitors than with one. Although financed by NEC Display, investigator and professor of communication James Anderson said he did not let his sponsor influence his findings. Since the NYT took his word for it, we will too.
Professor Anderson claimed that more monitors cut down on toggling time among windows on a single screen, which can save about 10 seconds for every five minutes of work. If you have more than one monitor, he told the Times, “You don’t have to toggle back and forth. You can take in everything with the sweep of an eye.”
This was exactly what I was thinking during my Twitter chat.
“I Think I Need Glasses”
On the other hand, having two or more monitors doesn’t necessarily mean the information on them is actually useful. For example, your individual displays may be very small, involving lots of scrolling, maximizing/minimizing, and squinting as you balance working with different documents, spreadsheets, and web pages. According to Lifehacker Australia, that’s where the ultrawide (oversized) monitor comes in.
Ultrawide monitors are traditionally any display that’s about 21:9 aspect ratio, designed to have a similar aspect ratio to traditional movie theatre screens. Depending on the size of the display you purchase, you’re looking at screen resolutions of around 2560 or 3440 pixels wide by 1080 or 1440 pixels high, in display sizes from 29″ to 34″ diagonally. Twenty-nine inch models are often competitively priced, but 34″ designs generally attract a premium.
For more thoughts, head over to Intuit's Fast Track blog.