Dual External Monitors on a laptop
February 25, 2010 7:04 PM   Subscribe

I want to hook up two external monitors to my laptop and have them span / act as a typical dual monitor configuration. I just want the laptop to serve as a workstation. I don't need the laptop's display. If I could have all three work that would be great but only as a bonus. What is the easiest way to acheive this. Laptop will be running Windows 7 and have a vga port, a hdmi port, and 3 usb ports. Can I simply hook one monitor up via the VGA port, and then buy on of these usb / vga thingies? I am not sure if Windows will be smart enough to span the display across the two monitors. Help me get two external monitors on my laptop.
posted by trinigirl to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm looking at that exact setup on my Mac right now, and yes, Windows 7 and OSX are completely smart enough to do that. Things to be aware of are:

First, VGA is legacy stuff at this point. I see your link is for a USB/DVI thing, not USB/VGA, and it comes with a DVI->VGA adapter in the box. I know that a USB/VGA model exists; don't buy that one.

Second, if you don't get that particular adapter, make certain you get one that says "DisplayLink" on it. There are other, similar widgets that do this trick, and they are simply not as good, particularly on larger screens.

This widget comes up in Dell's accessory sales periodically too, so if you don't have an urgent need for it you might want to wait a little while to see if it comes around again.
posted by mhoye at 7:23 PM on February 25, 2010

I have used these on a desktop and they very easily turn a second monitor into a dual display. I think you can add up to 8. The only problem was playing video fullscreen if the primary VGA memory was not sufficient. With a laptop you should be able to switch the display to the VGA port without problems.
posted by Yorrick at 7:25 PM on February 25, 2010

I am not sure entirely what you have will work well. I believe you need an adapter that splits your monitor signal from the laptop.
It's available and costs a little bit.
This is what you are looking for.

Do let me know how it works out for you.
posted by iNfo.Pump at 7:53 PM on February 25, 2010

First thing to try is using VGA and HDMI outputs at the same time. If your graphics card can handle it, you're all set. Some can, some can't. When you have both monitors plugged in, open the Display Properties control panel and try to get them both to work. This may require disabling the laptop's screen.

The USB display adapters will work great for web browsing or word processing, but not for fullscreen hi-res animation or 3D games. DisplayLink's FAQ claims to support fullscreen DVD playback, but I doubt anything higher-bandwidth than that would work.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:11 PM on February 25, 2010

I have this set up at work. My Dell laptop pops onto a docking station which has dual monitors attached to it. Windows Vista. The only problem is that sometimes after undocking and redocking the laptop, I have to fiddle with the settings to get it to extend and to designate which monitor is the main one.
posted by tamitang at 8:58 PM on February 25, 2010

USB doesn't have the bandwidth to support decent monitor performance.

The Matrox output splitters linked by iNfo.Pump work awesome. Windows sees the monitor as one double width (or height I suppose) monitor and the splitter divides the output. I used one for quite a while for AutoCAD. The only caveat is your video card has to have enough juice to push the total number of pixels you want to display.
posted by Mitheral at 9:10 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

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