Trying to boost your productivity with an extra screen? Want more immersive gaming sessions? Multiple monitors can help. Dual monitors are great for multitasking and are easy to set up, but there are a few things to consider before entering a multi-monitor world – whether you’re on Windows or Mac.
Be sure to check out our tips on how to use a different monitor or monitor with your laptop, and you can find recommendations for monitors, monitor arms, and desktops in our Home Office Gear Guide.
How many screens can you add?
Most computers can run two monitors. However, if you want to add a third monitor or use two 4K monitors, first check that your device is suitable.
Windows: The presence of multiple ports on your graphics card indicates that it is likely to handle multiple monitors. However, you should check the maximum number of supported screens and resolutions. (You can see which graphics card you have by typing Device management into the search bar, opens it and expands it Display adapters.) Visit the manufacturer’s website to find the specifications for your graphics card and look for a section titled Display Support or something similar that displays this information.
Mac: If you’re adding screens to a Mac, click Apple Icon> About This Mac and double-click your serial number, then press Command-C on your keyboard to copy it, go to the Apple website and paste it into the search. click on Support to find Technical specifications and search for Video support.
What size screen should you get?
You can mix and match the types of monitors you have on your workstation, though you probably want some consistency. The most common screen size is 24 inches, but 27 inch screens are still more popular. Having the same size screens will be nice for symmetry. Just keep an eye on the resolution when you buy. A 1080p screen on a 27-inch screen may look too blurry.
We dive into orientation and events below, but consider different types of screen events. My current preference is a 34-inch ultra-wide screen paired with a 27-inch screen in portrait orientation. As the name suggests, ultrawides are really wide and can deliver the experience of two screens, minus the edge of the screen in between. Pairing it with a screen in portrait mode means you get enough space on the ultrawide to run two full-size browser windows side by side, plus a vertical screen on the side for apps that benefit from it, like Slack and e- mail.
Stand and VESA fittings
Displays come with a wide range of stand designs. If you go with the stand that comes in the box, check the dimensions on the product page to make sure it fits well on your desk.
Alternatively, you can mount your monitor on your desk and get rid of the stand, freeing up a lot of space. (You can also move your monitor freely to different angles and positions.) Many monitors support the VESA mounting system. There are different sizes and screen arms have a screen size range and maximum weight they can support. Always check if the product page on the screen mentions VESA support and note the VESA mount size. When buying an arm bracket, make sure that it supports the screen size and weight of your new monitor.
Ports and cables
To get the most out of your computer and monitors, think about which ports and cables to use. For Windows PCs, your choice is often HDMI vs. DisplayPort. Unfortunately, this is not as straightforward as you might expect. There are several versions of each connection type, each with different options. For example, HDMI 2.1 supports up to 8K resolution at 120 Hz, DisplayPort 1.4 can deliver 8K at 60 Hz, and HDMI 2.0 is limited to 4K at 60 Hz.
For laptops, you might be looking at Thunderbolt, Mini DisplayPort or even USB-C. Sometimes you need an adapter or USB hub to connect an external monitor.
Check the technical specifications of your graphics card and monitor to find the best solution for you. Remember that the card, monitor, and cable (and any adapters) you use must support the same technology and version. Advanced monitors usually come with a selection of cables in the box, but some manufacturers annoyingly provide a single option that may not match the monitor’s top capacity.