With a significant increase in the number of people working from home, a lot of questions have come up regarding dual monitors. People tend to have one monitor at home, and are looking to pick up a second one to match their work setup and increase productivity.
Should the second monitor be the same size as the first? Yes, if you care about your desk aesthetic, seamless transition between monitors without cursor jumping, ease of use and work productivity, then dual monitors should be the same size. If you plan on using the second monitor in the vertical orientation or not placed adjacent to the first one, then it’s ok for the dual monitors to be different sizes.
That’s just the short form answer. In reality, there’s a few more considerations, and I have summarized them for you below. Furthermore, you may wonder if you should get the exact same brand and model of monitor, or what size and make of monitor to get? I’ve got answers to all these questions below.
Should My Second Monitor Be The Same Size?
So you are in the market for an additional monitor? Or, you may be purchasing two monitors at the same time.
Most of the time, you want monitors that are the same size, but it may be better for you to get two different size monitors. Here’s everything you need to consider from a size point of view.
|Criteria||Why Get Same Sizes||Why Get Different Sizes|
|Size of existing monitor||– Existing monitor is a good size for the foreseeable future||– Existing monitor is too small or too big|
– Get the ideal size for new monitor (see below)
– Replace existing monitor with ideal size in the future
|Will you use applications that span both screens?||– Application stays the same on both monitors|
– Mouse position will not jump across the monitor transition
|– No good reason for this criteria|
|Desk and Setup Aesthetic||– Symmetry|
– Aesthetically pleasing and clean
|– If monitors will not strictly be side by side|
– Personal preference (aesthetic is subjective)
– Limited desk space
– You need a vertical orientation
|Convenience and Ease of Use||– Do not have to resize applications when moving them to other monitor|
– Mouse position lines up pixel to pixel when moving between screens
– More dual monitor wall paper options
|– Vertical orientation or specialized size can make some tasks more productive|
|Eye Health||– Easy and smooth transition for eyes, prevent fatigue and headaches||– No good reason for this criteria|
As you can see from the table above, it is generally better to have both monitors of the same size. Later in the article, I also discuss whether you should get the exact same brand and model for both monitors.
Do Dual Monitors Have To Be The Same Resolution?
I am currently using a dual monitor setup with two different resolutions. The monitor that I use for media, like watching YouTube, movies, and playing games is 1440p resolution and my secondary monitor is 1080p.
As long as you are not using applications that use both monitors at the same time, having different resolutions is fine and up to your preference. If you do use applications that span both monitors, use the same size of monitor and the same resolution across both monitors.
The downsides of using two different resolutions include:
- Can look odd aesthetically
- Can’t have continuous desktop wallpaper
- Depending on how often you change the screen you are looking at, the changes can fatigue your eyes and tire you out faster, decreasing your productivity
So Why do I use two different resolutions then? It’s mainly for cost savings. I would like to experience the higher quality media on the 1440p resolution and play games on a higher frame rate (144hz vs. the typical 60hz of standard monitors). Both of these bring the monitor cost up significantly. However, since I am only watching videos or gaming on one screen, my second monitor does not have to be as expensive.
Do Dual Monitors Have To Be The Same?
In this section, I am assuming both monitors will be the same size. The question now is whether they should be the exact same brand and model as well.
There is absolutely no software limitation of having different monitors in the dual or multi monitor setup. The computer’s Operating System does not care if the monitors are the same brand, size, resolution or frame rate.
Still, there are reasons why the exact same monitors may be desired and vice versa. Here is a summary that will help you decide what will work best for you.
|Benefits of Exact Same Second Monitor||Benefits of Different Second Monitor|
|Same Color Profile – Different brands can have their own color profiles. Too much difference can be annoying and unpleasant||Cost Saving – Does not have to be as capable as primary monitor. For example, you may want a 144 Hz monitor for gaming, but a cheaper 60 Hz monitor for the second screen|
|Same Display Panel – Different display panel technologies look visually different and can have different viewing characteristics.||Convenience – You may already own a second monitor, or you may not be able to find the same monitor on the market anymore|
|Same capabilities – Completely interchangeable in what you do on which screen||Try A New Product – You may want to give a new brand or technology a try|
Keep in mind that the graphic card must support multiple monitors and have the appropriate ports to connect to the monitors. Often times an adapter such as a DisplayPort to HDMI converter may be needed if the computer and monitor ports are different.
You may very well run into the same issue even if you get the same monitors. It is very important to know what ports your monitors will need before buying them to avoid spending additional money on adapters and special cables.
When Is It Ok To Get Dual Monitors Of Different Sizes?
It’s generally ok get dual monitors with different sizes in the following scenarios.
- You will be using the second monitor in the vertical orientation. By the way, if you want to know some of the benefits of using a vertical orientation, I wrote an article here.
- Your monitors will not be placed side by side
- You will be using your monitor for a niche application that requires a non standard size
- Your first monitor is old or non standard and you plan on replacing it down the line
What Size Monitor Is The Best For A Dual Monitor Setup?
For general purpose use the best size for a 1080p monitor is 24″ or 27″. Do not use sizes larger than 27″ for a 1080p monitor because the pixel size becomes too large and image quality suffers.
I recommend two 24″ monitors or two 27″ monitors. If you plan on getting a 1440p (2K) or 4K monitor, I recommend a 27″ size in most cases, but you can go larger.
Do keep in mind that very large monitors can be undesirable for some applications like competitive gaming where its difficult to see everything going on the large screen at the same time. Another consideration is the amount of space you have on your desk.
Which Monitor is The Best For Dual Setup?
Which Side Should You Place The Second Monitor On?
Many newcomers to the dual monitor setup have this question. The idea is that you sit directly in front of your primary monitor and want to know which side your second monitor should be on.
This is entirely your preference. One tip is consider your natural reading flow. If you are working on one screen, and glancing at the other from time to time, it can be more natural for the secondary screen to be placed on the right side as this is also how you read a book.
Another tip is to consider your handedness. If you are right handed, it can make sense to put the secondary monitor on the right, as your keyboard and mouse usage will be in the direction of your monitors.
If you place the monitor on the left, then your output action is occurring on the right side of the desk and your input action is coming from the left. Keeping everything well centered is better ergonomically and will reduce fatigue, allowing you to work longer.
All in all, if you don’t switch between screens very rapidly, the monitor position does not really matter.
If you are wondering which side you should place your vertical monitor on? The answer is the same as if it was horizontal. I recommend right side, if you are right handed and left side if you are left handed.
Do Both Monitors Have To Have The Same Display Cable Type?
No. Graphics cards support multiple output ports include VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort. It’s best for the monitor port and the graphic card port to match as the cheapest solution is to run one cable in between.
However, if they do not match, there are a slew of adapters available to convert between the port types. Keep in mind that some conversions are not possible because of different bandwidths and data rates of the respective types, but as long as you ensure compatibility you will be fine.
Do You Need A Powerful Graphics Card To Use Two Monitors?
Nowadays, even a low end graphics card can support dual monitors. However, it is best to verify the specifications of you computer or laptop.
Hamid Tahir is a Mechatronics Engineer and founder of WFH Overload. He is currently working from home and is dedicated to the continuous improvement of his home office setup. Hamid has extensive experience setting up workspaces and dealing with the related tech. He hopes to share his knowledge to help you create the most productive and comfortable work from home setup. Read More