Upgrade Your Home Office with a Second Monitor

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With more people working from home for the foreseeable future, it might be time to make some improvements to your work-from-home (WFH) setup to maximize efficiency in whatever form your new domestic office has taken. One of the easiest but most transformative changes you can make to your workspace is the addition of a second monitor or, in some cases, an upgrade to a single ultra-wide monitor. In either case, the emphasis is to give yourself more screen real estate with which to work. Much like having a larger physical desk to handle a greater amount of paperwork, increased screen space makes it easier to multitask and more effective to juggle multiple documents, tabs, windows, applications, and so on. Let’s take a look at some of the different scenarios, along with some ideas for a second or new monitor for home.

Dell U2518D UltraSharp 25" 16:9 HDR IPS Monitor

In many cases, one of the most common situations is having just a laptop as your primary computer. This computer obviously has a single screen, and it’s typically a small screen at that. A simple way to transform this setup to a more well-rounded at-home working configuration is with the addition of an external monitor, which will now let you use both the laptop’s screen in addition to the second, larger monitor. When working with two different sizes like this, I tend to treat the smaller screen like a toolbox or assign it a very specific task, like being there solely for email or messaging, while using the other monitor for more general and revolving tasks, like photo editing, video editing, browsing, writing, and spreadsheets.

Dell UltraSharp U3818DW 37.5" 21:9 Curved IPS Monitor

If you’re already up and running with a desktop and a single monitor, then adding a second monitor is equally as seamless a process as above, but you will now have the option to match the screen, or at least the screen size, for a bit more homogeneity and symmetry on your desk. If working with two similar or equal-size monitors, I still tend to mentally assign certain tasks to certain monitors but can do so in a more organic manner.

The third option, which can be used on its own or in tandem with either of the two above scenarios, is to work with an ultra-wide monitor, typically with an aspect ratio of 21:9 or wider. The benefits of working with an ultra-wide monitor, versus two monitors, is that it is a seamless viewing experience—no bezels or gaps get in the way. It seems obvious to write it out this way but working with a single wide format monitor is working with a single monitor, but with a wider range of space to work in and more room to multitask. This is unique to dual monitor setups in that working with two (or even three or more monitors, really) you have separate and distinct workspaces that don’t visually overlap. Your maximum workspace is still just as large as your largest monitor. This can have its benefits, though, as you are able to isolate aspects of your workflow while keeping the background tasks running to the side; you’ll be able to keep your Photoshop or Premiere window open, uninterrupted, and full-screen while shifting over to the secondary monitor to answer an email or two.

LG 38UC99-W 37.5" 21:9 WQHD+ Curved IPS FreeSync Monitor

Pros and Cons of a Dual Monitor Setup

Pros

Two distinct monitors; visually separated workspaces

Isolate and segregate tasks by screen

Simple upgrade from an existing single monitor setup

Beneficial if requiring a specialized monitor (production or HDR reference monitor, for instance)

Cons

Two distinct monitors; bezel or physical gap prevents wide-format seamless workspace

Larger footprint on the top of your desk

Can be costly if matching monitors or difficult to match monitors if existing monitor is older

Need to calibrate two separate monitors

Pros and Cons of a Single Ultra-Wide Format Monitor Setup

Pros

Ultra-wide seamless, uninterrupted workspace

Convenience and intuitiveness of working with just a single monitor, i.e. calibration

Suits wide-format photo and video files, as well as some office files like wide spreadsheets

Potential to work with a curved monitor if desired

Cons

Only one workspace; tasks and windows can compete with each other for prime screen space

Potentially more costly than just adding a second smaller monitor if you have an existing monitor

Wide format visually affects working with taller, more vertically formatted documents and windows

Less flexibility in how the monitor is placed or arranged on a desk

With the above in mind, here are a few examples of some ideal monitors to incorporate into either a dual monitor setup or to begin an ultra-wide format setup.

The LG UltraGear 34GK950F-B 34" 21:9 curved monitor is essentially a perfect option to get into the wide-format curved monitor game. It features 3440 x 1440 QHD resolution, a 1000:1 static contrast ratio, 400 cd/m² brightness rating, and support for 1.07 billion colors. Even though it’s marketed as a gaming monitor, which means it has a high 144 Hz refresh rate, a 5 ms (GtG) or 1 ms (MBR) response time, and support for FreeSync 2, it’s also an IPS monitor, which makes it suitable for color-critical needs.

LG UltraGear 34GK950F-B 34" 21:9 Curved 144 Hz FreeSync IPS Gaming Monitor

Similarly, the Dell UltraSharp U3417W is also a 34" ultra-wide monitor sporting a curved design for an immersive feel. It’s an IPS display, too, and has a 3440 x 1440 resolution, 1000:1 static contrast ratio, 300 cd/m² brightness rating, 10-bit color support, and an 8 ms response time.

Dell UltraSharp U3417W 34" 21:9 Curved IPS Monitor

Perfect for adding to a multi monitor setup, the HP DreamColor Z27x G2 16:9 IPS Studio Display is an example of having a monitor to use for color-specific needs. This 27" monitor covers sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color spaces and, in terms of specs, has a 2560 x 1440 WQHD resolution, a 250 cd/m² brightness rating, and a 1500:1 static contrast ratio. And beyond just having multiple monitors, this display also has a built-in KVM switch that helps it fit right in with those who also work with multiple computers.

HP DreamColor Z27x G2 16:9 IPS Studio Display

Another example of a monitor dialed-in for color-specific needs is the 32" BenQ SW321C, which supports 100% of the sRGB and Rec. 709 color gamuts, 99% of the Adobe RGB color gamut, 95% of the DCI-P3 and Display P3 color gamuts, and HDR10 and HLG. It’s an IPS panel, has a 3840 x 2160 resolution, 60 Hz refresh rate, and a static contrast ratio of 1300:1. Check out Shawn Steiner’s review for more insight into this uniquely situated monitor.

BenQ SW321C 32" 16:9 4K HDR IPS Photo and Video Editing Monitor

Also reviewed by Shawn Steiner, the NEC MultiSync PA311D is one more example of a single monitor around which you would build a multiple monitor configuration. This specialized IPS display features a native resolution of 4096 x 2160 (DCI 4K),10-bit support for 1.07 billion colors and Hybrid Log Gamma, a widescreen 17:9 aspect ratio, a static contrast ratio of 1400:1, 350 cd/m2 brightness, and supports 100% of the Adobe RGB gamut, 99.9% of the sRGB gamut, 98% of the DCI-P3 gamut, and 97.4% of the NTSC gamut.

NEC MultiSync PA311D 31.1" 17:9 Color Critical Desktop HDR IPS Display with SpectraView Engine

Finally, one more unique option to throw into the mix is the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 Creative Pen Display, which is a specialized tool for the illustrators, retouchers, and other users who frequently work with a pen and tablet for their process. Our own M. Brett Smith reviewed this display a while back, stating, “… if you’re looking for the very best creative tablet on the market, look no further.” Specs-wise, it is a 23.6" IPS display with a 3840 x 2160 resolution; it covers 99% of the Adobe RGB color space and supports 1.07 billion colors. In practical use, this monitor will likely be complemented by a second, more mainstream display, to create the perfect dual monitor setup for digital artists.

Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 Creative Pen Display

What are your thoughts on incorporating an ultra-wide monitor or second monitor into your work-from-home configuration? Which camp do you fall into? Do you like the single wide-format screen or are you more a fan of the multiple screens? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments field.

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