Should a Secondary Monitor Be The Same as My Primary?
September 18, 2006 7:51 AM   Subscribe

2nd Monitor question: I am about to embark on a distance-learning MBA program and will be spending a lot of time in front of my computer typing up notes, researching and so forth. You will find a little bit

I will be manually writing notes using part of the Cornell system and implementing the rest using Microsoft's OneNote software. As you can imagine, there is also a lot of reading to be done so I am thinking that a monitor to display research, notes etc and another to create new/edit notes, write assignments etc will be sensible.

My question, is this: Should I buy a second monitor exactly the same as my existing one (LG 1915S), which I am very happy with, and ensure refresh rates, resolutions, screen real-estate all match, or should I max out the specs for my budget (~£300) and go with one kick-ass main display and my older 19" LCD as secondary? I am unaware of any ergonomic / HCI guidance regarding this and so am hoping the hive mind will assist.
posted by mooders to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you can afford significantly more screen real estate, I'd say go for utility over aesthetics. You can certainly get a 20" display which will have more pixels for your price, and possibly even a 21" display -- which won't have more pixels than the 20", but which might match the pixel pitch of the 19" better (i.e. things will be closer to the same size on both monitors).
posted by kindall at 8:34 AM on September 18, 2006

So, are you really asking if there are monitors out there that are optimized for working with text?

And whether looking quickly from one monitor to another, and back again, would be made more uncomfortable if the monitors were different from each other?
posted by amtho at 8:45 AM on September 18, 2006

Response by poster: amtho: Your second question is right - I'm worried that prolongued usage of two different monitors (size, brand, cd/m, contrast ratios, dot pitch etc) will be somehow unhealthful or even counter-productive.
posted by mooders at 9:14 AM on September 18, 2006

I've worked on both kinds of setups and had no problems either way. Aesthetically, it looks nicer on your desk when they match. There's no functional reason to do it that way, though.

It's sometimes nice to keep one monitor widescreen and turn the other vertical. Vertical lets you see a whole lot more text at once and is great for coding or working on papers. The widescreen fits videos and some other apps better.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:18 AM on September 18, 2006

Best answer: At work, I have two 19" CRT monitors that are the same brand and almost the same model. At home, I have a 19" LCD and a 17" CRT. Using my two monitors at home is harder on my eyes and head than the two at work. At home, I do most of my work on the LCD and use the CRT to hold things I need to refer to. At work, I use both pretty much an equal amount.

I would suggest getting monitors that are close to the same size, even the same model if you can. I like having my monitors right next to each other, and having them being the same model means they sit at the same height so it seems much more like one large monitor. It means that as my mouse moves from one screen to the other, it stays where my eye is tracking and doesn't jump up or down. Also, unless you get a very crappy monitor, most monitors display text very well (a few exceptions are out there).

So my advice, get the same or something close to the same as what you currently have.
posted by chrisroberts at 9:23 AM on September 18, 2006

I have a cheapo 19" LCD attached to my 12" laptop screen.

Loving the extra real-estate.

Some problems, though - different (native) resolutions on the different monitors. Wallpapers won't re-size according to the screen and sometimes something like VLC won't play on the second screen if the resolutions don't match. It's totally not a big problem, though.

I use the 19"er as basically my primary and the laptop display for browser/notes/&c.
posted by porpoise at 11:20 AM on September 18, 2006

I'm posting from two identical 17" LCD monitors. I would say you'll do fine with two 19" monitors. No need to go with a "kickass" new 20-21".

I find it's easier to deal with two monitors that are the exact same size and resolution. I used to have a setup with one 19" CRT and one 17" CRT and one was 1600x1200 and the other was running 1024x768. The thing that threw me off was where I'd expect to see the mouse crossing over to the other monitor. Depending on how you arrange them in Windows, you can line up the bottoms or the tops (as the height of the pixels is slightly different).

Aesthetically, you'll probably find it most easy to get an identical monitor to the one you already have. This makes it easy to line them up in the same manner.
posted by PWA_BadBoy at 12:47 PM on September 18, 2006

Jeez, I love my triple LCDs. But I used to have dual CRTs, and they were nearly identical models.

Whatever you do, I recommend LCDs (far less eyestrain), and a good Ergotron stand to hold them. That way, you only have one monitor base on your desk.

My setup is one (Viewsonic) 20" widescreen in the middle flanked by two identical (Princeton) 17" regular format monitors, all on one happy Ergotron stand.

The right monitor gets a full-screened firefox window, the middle monitor gets two Windows Explorer windows, BitComet, Task Manager and Google Talk, and the left monitor gets two more Windows Explorer windows.

I do a lot of file management.

So anyway, buy the best LCD you can afford, and don't worry too much about monitors being the same model, as long as you can view them comfortably.
posted by SlyBevel at 1:16 PM on September 19, 2006

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