PC

Is life with multiple monitors actually better?

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I remember the days of CRT monitors—beefy, chunky behemoths that made it so all but the most dedicated of warrior monks were one and done when it came to computer monitors. Now though, I feel like you’re hard pressed to find a PC gamer who isn’t operating off at least two screens, while the new work from home paradigm means that a laptop on one of those lifted stands paired with an external monitor is a common sight even on non-gamer desks.

PCG executive editor Tyler Wilde has mentioned that he focuses better with one monitor instead of the requisite 21st century hacker cave panel of panels. I would quietly scoff at this—”I don’t get distracted, I’m built different!” I may not actually be built different. While working off my laptop recently I found I was getting stuff done way faster limited to a single 1080p screen. Without an extra 2,160 pixels of real estate to my left, I had to stay on top of how many tabs I had open and take care of tasks one at a time. When gaming, I find I often just leave my second monitor on the desktop—you have to alt tab to do anything on it, and don’t we all just Google search for guides on our phones anyway?

Is life with multiple monitors actually better? Here’s our answers, as well as some from our forum.

Lauren Morton, Associate Edior:  Life with multiple monitors probably isn’t actually better but it’s too late for me to quit now. I’m the hacker mode heathen who has a main monitor, one above it, and a vertical monitor beside them. Walking into my office is like every NCIS episode where Gibbs has to go ask Abby to match some fingerprints or whatever except I’m pretty sure she was managing to pull all that off with like two monitors, tops. So do I really need to see Discord, Slack, Tweetdeck, and my current Google Doc all at the exact same time? Probably not. Would I focus better without? Probably. But how else am I supposed to spend an evening if not playing a farm sim on my main monitor, barely paying attention to an anime on my top monitor, and watching a Discord stream of my mates yelling at Warzone on the third? 

Sarah James, Guides Writer:  Yes. I mean, I like to think it is. I can’t actually imagine myself being restricted to one screen nowadays and constantly having to tab to different windows. I did it for a while, sure, I just feel like the majority of my day would be taken up with trying to find the right window, rather than actually writing. Like Lauren, I have my main monitor reserved for my Google doc of the moment or whatever game I’m playing, then my second monitor is for Discord, TweetDeck, Slack, and another browser window (with approx. 67,000 tabs open) for whatever I’m researching at the time. Unlike Lauren, I don’t have a third monitor but if I did, I’d probably use it exclusively for Slack and Discord. Damn, that’s actually a pretty good idea.  

Chris Livingston, Features Producer:  If I had my way my desk would look like a NASA control center with a monitor in every possible direction. It’s not that I have so much going on I need every square inch to contain a screen—I don’t have a high enough brain cell count to multitask. I just lose track of things if they’re not full-screen. If I open a program and then later put a browser window on top of it and then open a folder on top of that, I’ll completely lose track of the first thing I opened. I’m constantly reshuffling what goes where and minimizing window after window after window, it would just be easier if everything on my PC could open on it’s own dedicated screen. That’s not too much to ask, is it? 

Modern workspace computer with two monitor black screen in desk home interior - stock photo, photoshopped so both monitors display geralt of rivia holding a thumbs up

(Image credit: aire images/Getty Images, CD Projekt)

Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor:  When I used to use three monitors, I looked like an alarmed parrot all the time, snapping my gaze to one display after the other in an endless sequence: Discord, email, Twitter, email, Discord, Twitter, email, Discord. So I just use one monitor now. It’s not so bad. It used to be that Alt-Tabbing out of a game was a dice roll—would it crash, would your whole system hang?—but on modern PCs it’s usually trivial. I’m not sure it’s made me better at focusing, though. I just open window on top of window on top of window, as Chris describes. 

Morgan Park, Staff Writer:  I was humbled a few months ago when my 10-year-old second monitor died and I was forced into simpler times. Some parts of my desktop life are better on a single screen—it’s slightly easier to stay on task when distractions are more clicks away—but the downsides are starting to drive me up the wall. Tabbing away from our morning meeting on my single monitor has made me look like a fool several times as I bring up a story idea that Tyler W is already displaying for everyone to see. I can’t watch my friends’ Discord streams and play my own game at the same time anymore, which sucks but has made me a more active spectator. I’m constantly contorting windows into half pages, quarter pages, or little column pages that make every website look like a phone browser. Get me out of there! I need a monitor.  

Andy Chalk, News Lead:  I’ve been rolling with three monitors for a few years now and at this point I basically can’t function with any fewer than that. It’s essential for my job because I never have to take eyes off my Twitter feeds, Discord, or Slack, all vital tools for staying on top of everything that’s happening. And it’s essential for my after-hours personal life, because I never have to take eyes off my Twitter feeds, Discord, or Slack, so I’m always on top of everything that’s happening. Is it essential to my psychological well-being? Probably not! But “concentration” isn’t really my thing anyway, so from a purely functional standpoint, having lots of stuff to flick my eyes through works pretty well for me. I wouldn’t go back. 

infamous stretched

(Image credit: Dobri Dobrev, Getty Images, CD Projekt, Votislav on Nexusmods)

Lauren Aitken, Guides Editor:  Life with two monitors is undoubtedly the best life, to the point I am considering adding a third vertical screen. My brain and screens have 40+ tabs open at any given time, with one screen for reading and one for writing on—including having Slack etc open on it—because my neurodivergent ass needs that level of structure to function. I do have a TV just to the right of my screens that I’ll sometimes watch YT or have Spotify running from, so I guess I’m heading into fourth screen territory. Maybe I need more eyes? 

Jody Macgregor, Weekend/AU Editor:  I only have one monitor, but when I finally went from 1080p up to 1440 and had room to comfortably keep two windows open side by side it changed my life. Taking notes while in a video call used to be a hassle, now it’s a breeze. I can keep an eye on Slack while I work in a giant spreadsheet, or transfer stuff back and forth between two documents without a bunch of alt-tabbing. The temptation to get a second monitor and make things even easier is definitely there, but where does it stop? Will I end up like Adrian Veidt in Watchmen, divining the future by staring at a wall of screens? 

Ozymandias from Watchmen observing a wall of monitors

(Image credit: DC Comics)

Mollie Taylor, Features Producer:  I am a needy little dual monitor baby and I refuse to go back. Every time I have to use a laptop, I have a proper moan because I hate constantly minimising and maximising windows. It’s a small problem, I know, but for work it makes a huge difference for me. It’s great being able to have notes and Slack open on one screen while I write away on the other. Even when I’m hanging out with pals and gaming, being able to have both Discord and my game visible at all times is a blessing. We’re that friend group that streams everything we’re doing, so I always enjoy glancing over to see what everyone else is up to while I tinker away in my own game. Even if I’m not in a voice call, it’s great being able to quickly peep messages or have a YouTube video on the go while I’m grinding. Besides, my endless ream of Chrome tabs have to go somewhere. 

Frindis: I’d say it is much better. I can have a spreadsheet open while playing ARPGs or multiple smaller windows while playing games where I don’t need to be too focused. I actually won three PUBG matches while watching the Eurovision final, so I found that to be quite funny since I rarely don’t win that much in the same timespan when I am just focused on one screen. I often watch streams/podcasts while I play semi-afk games, like Runescape, so having another screen with multiple windows open makes the entertainment value higher.

Rolfil: I’ve used a second monitor for over twenty years. Firstly when I did software development with a laptop. Having a larger second monitor then made coding and debugging a lot easier.

For gaming my second monitor is always smaller and usually has Opera open on it. Good for looking up hints for games if I get stuck, running the built in Spotify app or browsing the PC gamer forums. 

Recently I bought a 1440p, 31.5 inch MSI 1:1000 curved monitor which is fantastic as a primary monitor as it’s much more immersive.

Alm: I don’t game on multiple monitors but for work, having two monitors is more than 2x better. Also I can have WhatsApp and Halo running at the same time which is very handy.

Razer prototype

(Image credit: Razer)

Slasken: Definitely better. I have two ultrawides. Depending on the game I play, and I play a few laid back games, like in example Football Manager or Cities Skylines, I can have a video playing on one monitor, and the game on the other. Sometimes I have a guide up on one screen if I am playing an RPG/open world game. I don’t think I can ever go back to one monitor.

Zloth: I don’t have a second monitor for gaming. Windows-right-arrow and another desktop shows up if I really need to look something up. If I need to continuously look at something, the new Steam beta has that pin-a-note thing.

A second monitor for work is pretty handy but, for gaming, I just want to play my game – nothing else.

P.S. Careful opening up multiple tabs on your browser! You know where that ends up!

Brian Boru: Hugely better, similar to how color monitor is better than monochrome. I’ve had 2 for ~20 years, plus a brief spell with 3 which proved too much.

When gaming, I have mostly comms apps open on 2nd monitor so I’m aware if someone needs something. I work on the same PC, so of course for that 2 monitors is way more productive than just double one monitor.

I also like my little always-visible panel of gadgets on the 2nd monitor, like those we had on Windows 7—I’m on Win10. With main monitor on right, I have the Windows Taskbar vertical on its left side, so it’s in between the 2 monitors. Little QoL things

Colif: I don’t have space for 2 monitors. It took me long enough to adjust from a 28inch to 32inch screen, for a while my top left corner was ignored… I still mostly use the right side of screen. Never run browsers in full screen. Unless watching a video.

Two would be nice but I don’t have anywhere to put the second one… and would be invented reasons to use it.

Caucasian businessman looking at technology on monitors - stock photo

(Image credit: Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd., Getty Images)

Pifanjr: Personally, I hardly use a second monitor if I have one. There are times where it’s convenient, but those are pretty rare.

At work we have a wide, curved monitor that easily fits two windows next to each other if necessary, so I stopped using my laptop screen as a secondary screen. At home it’s not worth the money to purchase a second monitor for the few times it would come in handy.

DXCHASE: This is a “depends on what you do” situation for me. For streamers and people who work at a PC? Absolutely it is, I see dual monitors being used by people who don’t even know anything about computers because its easier to get work done.

As for me? No, 1 ultrawide (OLED) monitor is all I need for what I do, If I were to get into streaming I might run a second monitor, but right now my “second monitor” is my tv in which if I want to play from the couch, or watch a movie from the pc for family movie night etc. I’ll plug it in and use it, but other than that I have no need for a 2nd monitor.

mainer: I’ve never used more than one monitor with my home PC, as I like a large, detailed screen, even if I have to sacrifice speed. My current monitor being 43″, 4K, 60Hz takes up most of my desk; so even if I wanted to add a 2nd monitor, I just don’t have the desk space. I’ve seen pictures of multiple monitor setups, and they look really impressive, but it’s just not for me.

Productivity-wise, I can see the advantage in having a multiple monitor setup if you need to have several windows open at once, but I’m retired now so I’m not very productive. I do mod a lot of games, and often have a mod manager, various modding utilities, file explorer, and my browser open at once. In that situation I could see an advantage, but with a large screen I can maneuver around almost as well.

Gaming-wise, I think I would find it too distracting from my immersion in a game. I don’t need to have any other app open and visible while I’m gaming. With a one big screen I’m in the game world, without twitching my eyes to another screen.

Sarafan: I use two monitors regularly. Actually it’s essential in my work. I’m a news writer and columnist on one of the technology sites in my country. It sometimes requires to have dozens of web browser tabs open simultaneously while writing a text. I can’t imagine switching windows every time I need to check something. Having two monitors makes it possible to have text editor open on one screen and a web browser or something else on the second. It’s pure convenience and I’m so used to it that it’s almost impossible for me to work on a laptop with a single screen.

On the other hand, I rarely use second monitor outside work. When playing games, informally browsing internet or watching streams I don’t even turn the second screen on. I don’t need it in these cases. Sometimes it can get useful when I need to consult something with the internet while playing a game, but I usually check it on the phone or very rarely use Alt+Tab. So in work it’s essential, for entertainment quite unnecessary, but in general… yeah, life is better with a second monitor.

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