Multi-Monitors: Maximizing Multitasking


Whether you’re trading stocks, playing games, or using the computer for everyday tasks, you must have felt the constraints of having only one monitor. There’s nothing wrong with using only one, and you’ve probably earned a degree in “alt-tabbing” by now, but once you get more, there’s no going back. With additional monitors, the gate to more efficient multitasking opens and that’s something we’re all doing more of nowadays, so why not make life easier? If you’re planning to set up your own, here are a few pointers to help you along the way.

Connectivity and Quantity

The first thing you need to do is check how many video-out ports your system or video card has. Most common ones include VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, and Thunderbolt 3. The number of monitors depends on you, but most people are satisfied with two for typical use.

Bonus Tip: Thunderbolt 3 supports daisy-chaining, so you can connect multiple displays with a single cable; however, the number of displays depends on their resolution.

Take an office workplace, for example. As I’m typing this article on one display, my other has Outlook open so I can keep an eye out for incoming mail. (You can easily find sub-$100 Full HD monitors with multiple inputs such as the 21.5" HP 22uh if you’re interested in productivity.)

HP 22uh 21.5" LED Backlit Monitor

However, at home I might have a game or show open on one side and a VoIP service, Chrome, and Spotify on the other. With a quick glance, I can check messages, see what song is playing, and much more without having to constantly alt-tab. Additionally, with games that support borderless full-screen mode, I can move my mouse freely from one screen to the other. You can also play games across three monitors for the AMD Eyefinity / NVIDIA Surround experience. I’m not saying you won’t ever have to alt-tab again, but it’s much more convenient to access everything you’re doing all at once.

Size and Resolution

Are you keeping your current monitor and, if so, what size and resolution is it? Some users don’t mind if one is smaller or larger than the other but, again, that depends on you. For a more balanced experience, use same-sized monitors, or better yet, use the same model. If you’re starting fresh, I’d suggest monitors with ultra-slim bezels to reduce the unpleasant black bar in between them. I use Dell Ultrasharp monitors at home, and would recommend them, though in some situations, a noticeable bezel can be useful as a break from one screen to the next.

Dell U3818DW 37.5" 21:9 Curved IPS Monitor

Adjustments and Mounting

Will you be using the monitors as is, or are you interested in an alternate stand, mount, or arm? If so, how much adjustability do you need (height, tilt, swivel, pivot, rotate, fixed)? Furthermore, what’s your preferred mounting method (clamp, stand, wall)? Be sure to check for monitor size and VESA mounting compatibility. Also, more monitors mean more cables, so don’t forget to tidy up.

Ergotron LX Dual Desk Mount Side-by-Side Arm

OS and Software Settings

After setting everything up, you’ll want to right click your desktop and head toward the screen resolution settings. From there, you can assign your main monitor and reorder them as needed. You’ll also want to select each one and make sure they’re at the highest resolution possible. Most importantly, check the “Multiple displays” option to extend, duplicate, or show your desktop on select monitors. If you happen to be using a 1440p or 4K display, you also can scale text and other items for better viewing.

While not super important, there are a few other things you can consider. If you’re using a multi-monitor setup with more than one system, you can get a KVM switch for an easier time managing everything. And with some help from third-party software, you can set individual wallpapers, screensavers, taskbars, and manage your system’s health with on-screen graphics.

IOGEAR IOGCS1724 4 Port VGA KVM Switch

Is there anything you wish you knew before setting up? How are you using your monitors? Let us know in the Comments section, below.