Poll: Do you use multiple monitors?

It appears that we really struck a chord with our recent editorial on the Microsoft Surface Dock. Our main complaint stemmed around the fact that, unlike traditional docking stations from companies like Dell, the Surface Pro Dock has only a single DisplayPort output and no VGA/DVI/HDMI outputs. While many of you agreed with our assessment, another segment of you believe that most people have no need for multiple monitors and instead think that mastering the power of alt-tab is more efficient than having multiple screens.

Indeed, former Microsoft employee Steven Sinofsky wrote an article last year where he stated that, according to the Windows Feedback Program, only 14.67% of Windows users utilize multiple displays. Unfortunately, that statistic covers all PCs, so it's unknown what the breakdown is between enterprise and home users.

On the flip side, research shows that people who use multiple monitors are much more productive. An article by Wired states that, "The dual monitor configuration was found to be 29 percent more effective, 24 percent more comfortable, and 39 percent easier when performing tasks that involved moving information around."

So what do you use? Do you generally prefer to work with one large monitor, or do you find yourself more efficient with two, three, or more? Let us know your preference in the poll, and explain how you use your setup in the comments.

Only registered readers can vote, but you can sign up for a free account here and make your vote count!

Multiple monitor image coutesy of Shutterstock


How many monitors do you usually use?

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I have 3 23" monitors at work, and both my spouse and I have dual monitor setups at home. That's not too shocking, however, for a software developer and a systems engineer. What I find more interesting is that dual monitors are now the normal workstation setup at both my current and former employer (an enterprise-scale energy company and a small manufacturer, respectively). What users "need" is a complicated question, but their preference is clear, and in many cases management seems to agree since they're willing to buy the extra monitors.

Also, I think that conversations about the needs of "power users" (read: IT) vs. those of "normal users" get oversimplified. There are other kinds of complex work besides IT, and not everyone outside of the IT department spends their days just on email and spreadsheets. In my current workplace, mechanical and civil engineers, pipeline controllers, and traders all absolutely require multiple monitors (the traders all have 4). At home, I am a "normal user" of Photoshop and Lightroom. Could I survive with a single monitor? Of course. Having two just makes my photo processing workflow a lot more pleasant.

FWIW, Microsoft Research looked into this a while back and had some interesting findings: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/news/features/vibe.aspx


I have dual at home and work.

At work, 2 19" Planar LCD's.

At home, My laptop which obviously has a screen (15"), and then my main screen, a HP2311xi.

I could use another one at work, at home. Not yet.

I've been having major stress waiting for a replacement video card and only able to get one monitor working with the Intel GMA. But just now (after two days of trying everything I can think of), it started working as expected during a reboot. Having only one monitor is kind of like having a toothache - even when you're not in front of the PC, there's pain and annoyance.

I used to, 2x23". I gave it up. One 23-27" is better. Learn full-screen-switch (alt-tab) and tile window management keyboard shortcuts (snap on Windows 7, or BetterSnapTool on OS X.) You can hit keys faster than you can turn your head and move mouse across screens. It also makes transitions to single-screen devices easier as the behaviors you've learned apply. (Background: been a programmer for 10 years, and have done graphic design and page layout.)

I have 2 at work but wouldn't say 2 is best, i'd prolly take 3. I'd love a nice 24" (wide) in the middle with 2 vertical 18.5/21" on the sides.

Monitors keep going wider but sometimes you just need that vertical space!

I have a 30 inch Dell in the middle, 1 Dell 24 inch on either side and a 19 inch in the top right. So 4. Then I also have a 19 inch on the top left which is for my server.

Dual 21" monitors at work - SQL Management Studio on the left, Visual Studio on the right typically.

At home I used to run a dual monitor setup but once I hooked up my 42" tv to my computer for movies and such, there wasn't any room for the other monitor so I reverted back to single display at home.

Yup, dual 24" here. There's n way could go back to a single monitor again. I had to for a bit when i was building a new machine for the office and having to ALT-TAB all the time was a pain in the arse, especially without being able to see what's on the second monitor at a quick glance.

I have 3 27" touchscreen HD monitors. I work in the VFX industry and when designing I need to have more than 2 windows open. Same just browsing the net, one for web, the other for email and a spare. I'd say as a rule, one screen is usually enough for the general home internet user. 2 screens for most business users and 3 or more for creatives/I.T pros.

My office does look kind of futuristic and people are always wowed then they see 3 monitors swapping windows between them.

With USB to HDMI/DVI/VGA makes it so simple to have up to 50+ monitors on a single PC. Very cheap these days.

I currently use dual monitor setups exclusively. That said, it is all about the resolution rather than the number of separate screens. If I could afford to ditch my dual screens for single 30" monstrosities with comparable or greater resolution, I'd do that.

I used to run two and then three monitors however after switching to a laptop as my main machine I have found ways to work within the single screen and while a second monitor is nice I prefer having a simpler setup now.

Interestingly, and perhaps this is more due to experience, but I find myself more productive on my laptop with a single screen these days than I did with two or three screens. Being forced to have to work within a smaller area made me more efficient. Also a tiling window manager and multiple virtual desktops works great when working on a single screen

At work I have 2 - 1x 19" and 1x 21". Monitor 2 (21") is for stuff that is running for a while - converting a lot of images, OCR'ing through Acrobat, copying/moving files around the network.

Monitor 1(19") is my working monitor.

At home I have 1x 17" monitor - can't think of any reason for me to have a 2nd one.

I have a 24" (1080p) as my main, with a 19" (1440x900) as my secondary. The only reason I have two is that my 19" is my old one, since I don't have enough disposable income to afford two larger displays.

I use dual monitors at work, one 20" screen and one 17" screen, making my workflow so much better and easier.
At home I only have 2 laptops for the moment without any external monitor.

I use 2 19" 1280X1024 screens at work, could really use another one

Technically using 2 at home, one is a 27" 2560X1440 on my main Desktop, and most of my secondary use has been moved to a 21" 1920X1080 iMac, miss the seamless transition and less clutter on my desk, might get another screen and dual it up and use the iMac somewhere else

I have two twenty-something inch screens. One screen in portrait orientation for programming. Sometimes I add my laptop to the mix using Synergy but I'm not sure my productivity really increases all that much unless I have to keep an eye out for urgent email.

3 at work -
12.5" laptop screen @ 1366x768 + 24" @ 1920x1200 & 19" @1280x1024 desktop screens

1 at home-
27" 2560x1440

Will upgrade the 1 at home to 3 of the same, when money and desk space permits

Since I don't watch TV anymore (Air/Cable or Satellite) I hooked up a Samsung 42" HDTV to my Desktop PC! In the future i would like to add another one.

Five monitor for me.

Three 30" 2560x1600 Dell Ultrasharps in the center with a laptop's monitor checking email on the far left and a 24" portrait mode monitor for imagery work on the far right.

I use 7 screens at work and 4 screens at home.

At work, I have 1. Surface pro, and then above it I have 3 monitors and above them I have an additional 3 monitors. Other than the surface pro they are all somewhere around 22".

At home, I have 1. Surface pro and then above it I have 3 monitors. The center on is 25" and the others are 21".

I used to have two but scaled down to one 24" LED monitor. Mainly because I am working with 3 monitors in work and I don't want to look at two when I am at home. Although I might get another BenQ 24" monitor and a stand although I am pushed for space.

Two at work, one at home. I used to have two at home, but since flat monitors reached about the 24" range, I've found one sufficient when at home. At work, I typically have many more applications open at once, with much greater need to copy information between them.

I don't think I could program with any less than three monitors. One for Visual Studio, One for Sql Server Management Studio, and one for Stack Overflow.

Work - 5 23" screens
Home - 3 27" screens for my main setup; 2 23" along with my 17" Alienware which is for gaming, surfing and stuff

Does it count that I use my Surface as a bottom screen, extended to a bigger, external monitor? I use Modern UI (mainly for Messaging or Twitter) on the Surface, and do everything else on the external monitor. Works great!

1920*1080 and 1280*1024 at work, 1920*1200 at home. I will get a 2nd one for home when I can (deskspace being the main factor).
Never used two monitors until work and it's nice. Email, FTP, Cygwin and an XP VM on the right. Code/Chrome on the left and the dev window on the right.

Shame you need to get software like Actual Multiple Monitors to really make it work on 7.


@Office: 3 - 17" Dell Studio laptop screen + 2x23" Asus matte finish screens (I HATE gloss finish)

@Home : 2x24" Dell Ultrasharps - i turn off the laptop screen at home... cant stand the color difference between the UltraSharps and the Studio's screen...

My Surface Pro is hooked up to 3 external 24" 1920x1200 monitors via the Surface's mini-DisplayPort-to-VGA cable, a USB 3 dock's own DVI port, and through a VGA-to-USB adapter hooked up to the dock.

Two of the monitors are set up in portrait mode and the third one in landscape. I normally have Outlook, Visual Studio, SQL Server Management Studio, countless browser and remote desktop windows opened.

I've been using at least two monitors since the feature was introduced with Windows 98. I feel terribly constrained whenever I'm stuck using a single monitor and wasting a tremendous amount of time alt-tabbing between windows.


Personally I have found Windows 8 makes my dependence on multi-monitor setups far less of 'need' in general use when not debugging or needing to do real time monitoring. This has allowed me to spend more time with tablets and even this older notebook. (Checked Started Screen, got weather, twitter info, messaging info, mail info, news updates - and back, that took a WinKey tap and 2 seconds.)

It is strange to see some of the multi-monitor users that are dedicating one screen to either 'media' or 'notification services' like twitter, messaging, etc. Especially when some of these people complain about Windows 8.

If you used Windows 8 (properly), a WinKey tap gives you a quick look at all the notification services, and for media, you could be sending it to your Xbox or Miracast device (if you have 8.1).

I like multi-monitors, but I like a large seamless displays better. I got spoiled with 300" projection screens in the 90s, and even today several projectors properly aligned can provide your own IMAX experience. This works even in a home office, just localize your light and have a 200" screen above a desk.

For gamers if you think 3 monitors is immersive, throw even a 1080p projector on a screen (or slightly curved sheet). I'll even bet that like myself, the next time you try to game with 3 monitors the borders of the screens will be distracting in comparison. (And if you have the money, three 1080p projectors aligned is simply stunning for games, and if you REALLY have money, three 4k projectors aligned is jaw dropping.)

Mine is way overkill but I love it. It's probably good Display Link only has a max of 6 for Windows 7, little monitors are addictive.

---------24 (a)
24 (b) | 24 (c) | 24 (d)
9 (e) | 9 (f) | 9 (g) | 7 (h)

a) Visual Studio Windows
b) Browser
c) Visual Studio
d) Outlook
e) Browser developer tools
f) More Visual Studio windows
g) Music
h) Lync

I only use one 24" monitor for my desktop. Dual monitors is a bit dorky. If I am doing something that requires a second screen, I whip out my iPad, Nexus 7, Chromebook or my laptop.

Home office

24 (1) | 24 (2)
24 (3) | 27 (4)

1 = Skype, Trillian, RSS feed, Twitter
2 = Thunderbird, Chrome
3 = Firefox, Boinc
4 = Windows 7 in VM

I see absolutely no reason for dual screens at all. I used to work with 2 and couldn't stand it! Confusing as heck, if you're actually doing any work. I mean, how many sets of eyes do you have?

Same with having 64 tabs open at once. Never have seen any sense in that either.

Outlook lives on a 24, multiple browser Windows on the 25, and Quicken, multiple IM conversations on the other 24, and I use the 17" for when I need to monitor something like a rendering, or recording of audio or video, or anything that takes time to complete.

Two is fine, three makes me happy, 4 because I have the space and the video cards to handle it.

My boss bought me a new Mac all-in-one thingy. I wasn't too impressed so I hooked up a second monitor, installed VirtualBox. So now I have 4 desktops (admittedly a nice feature on the Mac), one of which has Windows 7 on it.
I love this setup. However, I also used to use dual screens just with a Windows 7 PC. I find two screens much more productive. It's a lot easier to manage multiple windows and work with several documents at the same time.

Three monitors, 24" centre (1920x1200), with 17" each side (1280x1024). Main stuff in the centre, email and ongoing stuff to each side. I've been using multiple monitors since the first beta of Windows 98, so 15 years now. Hate it when I have to do anything vaguely serious and only have a single monitor.

A 2008 Fujitsu Convertible permanently hooked up as a all-in-one setup.
Occasionally hooked up to a 10" netbook through Mouse without borders.

Main 21" - 1400x1050
Secondary 12" 1024x768

Used to, until Apple totally f**ked up their implementation in OSX Lion. I did however start to use virtual desktops (Mission Control) at that point.

I have a 22", I thought about doing dual monitors but I think in the end, for my needs, I'll just get a bigger one, 27", at some point.

Unless I'm being thick, the docking station with a monitor effectively makes a duel screen setup which would be more then adequate for most users (email on one, work on the other).

Single screen on my 13.3" laptop, making good use of WIN+NUM to switch between apps. I find two screens really slows down my workflow by causing window clutter/confusion.

Using WIN+NUM I know exactly where my browser, IDE, explorer, music, etc are and now I'm starting to phase out using a mouse (in favour of hotkeys and trackpad).

3x generic 19" 4:3 monitors at work. Been using that set-up for six years, almost seven.
Left monitor is dedicated to RDP/VNC for workstation and server administration. The other two are for my day-to-day work (emails, programming, ALFAK\ALCIM, crystal reports, server studio, VMs, etc)

I once tried a single larger monitor to replace two of them, but I found a single widescreen monitor is just not as useful, even with Windows 7. If I were to go large again, I'd try and find a "cheap" rotatable monitor to replace the centre monitor.

At home, I have 3x Asus VG278 27" monitors. Gaming is good, when the game supports it, spanning all three monitors, but the 3D is gimmicky.

Love my multi monitors. Currently running three of the korean 30" 2560x1600. When you have lots of Virtual Servers to look after, they are a godsend.

Plus., I think anyone running Windows 8 greatly improves their productivity with extra screens. It's great having win8 apps on one monitor, and the desktop on another.

Dual setup here:
Main is 22" @ 1920x1080 for Gaming mostly
Secondary is 19" @ 1440x900 for TV, YouTube, Email and Neowin Forum Spy

It's brilliant, never wanna go back to single monitor.

"...think that mastering the power of alt-tab is more efficient than having multiple screens".

...word it so 'productive' users might feel less savvy with ancient hotkeys all you like mush, it's just plain not.

3x 28" (+1 800p laptop screen) 1080 displays @work (im a sys/network admin) and 2x 23" 1080ps @home (gaming rig)

Dropping back to a single screen is sooo hard after using multiples.

Osiris said,
I think people who think 1 is enough have not used 2.

Once you go dual you never go back

I used 3 for 4 years. Now loving my one VP2770 @ 2560x1440.

Does using the Aero Snap feature in Windows count as two monitors? :-)

I have a 27" monitor and there's enough space to have two programs open side-by-side without them being too small.

Ace said,
Does using the Aero Snap feature in Windows count as two monitors? :-)

I have a 27" monitor and there's enough space to have two programs open side-by-side without them being too small.

That is exactly the way I work. I have a 27" Touch Screen Monitor, and I snap items to the left and right when using to different products and it works perfectly for me.

Funny thing is there are people in our company that uses two monitors and have the display in extended mode, which is basically like have one large monitor.

I use three screens at work. 2 x 27" which I use for my day to day work and the third screen is my Think Pad display which is only used for Outlook.

One of the 27" is attached via a Pluggable USB3 adapter.

At work I dual screen with a 24" monitor with my 15" laptop.
At home I have a 15" MacBook Pro. If I want to watch a movie/play games I have my 50" HDTV.

I think its just plain restrictive only having one monitor. I thought one day though why not hook up that old 15" HP SVGA monitor to accompany the 17* LCD and like others never looked back.

Now using my 20" TV (1600x900) as my 2nd Monitor to go along with my 23" 1080p IPS monitor. I can surf while I watch tv and when I'm done with tv, just switch the input to HDMI and use my tv speakers for computer sound.

i may be working at the body and soul of consumer electronics industries. but i have been trying hard to keep my computing life fairly simply for mobility. one moderate size monitor. and alt-tab all the way.

Reading this, it's like boys waving their penises around the shower rooms, trying to demonstrate their impressive sizes. Bless...

TheDogsBed said,
Reading this, it's like boys waving their penises around the shower rooms, trying to demonstrate their impressive sizes. Bless...
LOL! That analogy.......eww.

TheDogsBed said,
Reading this, it's like boys waving their penises around the shower rooms, trying to demonstrate their impressive sizes. Bless...

Normally would agree but the article did ask!

TheDogsBed said,
Reading this, it's like boys waving their penises around the shower rooms, trying to demonstrate their impressive sizes. Bless...

Isn't that the point of the article though?

Three monitors, would really be hard to go back to using a single display as multiple monitors are just that much more productive/convenient.


At work I have three 22" monitors running at WSXGA+ (1680×1050) resolution. At home, one 27" running at WQHD (2560×1440) resolution.


Aryeh Goretsky

I use dual monitor one 19inch and another 22 inch. Both on 1680x1050 res. It helps me a lot when doing work such as referencing for essay.
Ctrl C on Screen 1 and Ctrl V on Screen 2. ^^

I'd like to use dual monitors but due to my current working situation (2 jobs, long hours, moving around) it's just not possible since they aren't very mobile.

I work on my 15" retina display and i manage, if i desperately need more space i can bump up the resolution.

I have 2 full HD 22 inch Iiyama monitors. Then one more 15 inch 1024x768 Iiyama monitor and a 7 inch USB monitor (800x480).

It's nice...

I have a centre 27" 2560x1440, and 2x24" 1920x1080 either side. Anything I'm working on that requires most of my attention keep on the main screen, then demote any background tasks to one of the side screens so they can still be monitored or worked on. I also use each side screen for IM, WinAMP and other such tasks.

I used to scoff at the idea of having 2 screens instead of 1, then I took a second monitor in the eye. The extra screen estate is really helpful.

I was the same, used to think people dualing screens were a little bit poncy/wanna be awesome.

Then I hooked up a dell 14" LCD and even with that crappy 2nd monitor, mind = blown, Never looked back since. Now running much nicer screens I'm happy to say!

MFH said,

There are 26" 2560x1600 Screens?

ASUS PB Series PB278Q ( I have 3 of them ) 2560 x 1440 WQHD, not 2560x1600, I don't think those exist.

DBrandUSA said,

ASUS PB Series PB278Q ( I have 3 of them ) 2560 x 1440 WQHD, not 2560x1600, I don't think those exist.

Well that's not quite 1600p…

27" (2560x1440) in the middle.
23" (1920x1080) to the left of the 27".
24" (1920x1200) to the right of the 27".

27" is for what I'm currently working on, 23" is for MS Lync, Skype, any other messengers, iTunes, desktop gadgets, etc., 24" is for Outlook and anything else email related.

Pupik said,
I got two, but rarely use the second one.

Have two, and used two for the longest time I can remember. Windows 8 with it's seemingly random start screen placement and awkward hot corners made it so much of a pain, I actually gave up using two monitors... and I've not even realized until now... I've been on Windows 7 again for a week now. fml.

Just install start menu 8 and disable all of the useless metro features.

I couldn't work without 2 monitors but i agree windows 8 and multiple monitors is a pain the arse.

shimmyshakes said,
Just install start menu 8 and disable all of the useless metro features.

I did, and that's one of the reasons I'm back on Windows 7 now.

I had to format and reinstall for 8.1 release, but since I'm running it pretty much like Windows 7 now, I thought I'd try Windows 7 again and not have to mess around with start 8 and the little annoyances that still show through. Since I'm going to be formatting anyway, I put Windows 7 on.
Windows 8 for sure, blows windows 7 out of the water when it comes to pure speed, and I really want to go back to 8 just for the speed... but honestly, the start screen is really starting to annoy me now, I liked it, and I wanted to use it, but it just gets in the way of what I want (it) to do, that along with the rest windows 8's issues.

It's honestly a shame, if they had just given us a way to disable metro and the start screen from the outset (and a way to disable the desktop too!) Windows 8 would have been the best OS Microsoft released to date. Instead, it's something I'm starting to hate.. and the 8.1 update doesn't seem to be helping matters.

Just in case you don't know, with dual monitors, if you use the app bar to click and active Modern app or the start page, the monitor you click on the app bar in will be the new monitor for Modern UI apps. Knowing that, you can use this behavior to switch monitors for ModernUI which is handy on occasion. You can also use Win+PgUp to move Modern apps to the other monitor.