Dual monitors - working independent - on a laptop. (more inside)
February 22, 2007 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Dual monitors - working independent - on a laptop. (more inside)

( I am asking for a patron where I work - a public library.)

The Laptop is a Toshiba MX 151, about 3 years old.... 340 M Celeron, 512 RAM, and an ATI video card.
Here's what I want to do... I want to, say, surf the internet on one monitor, while working with Word or surf a different site on another. Is this possible? What kind of equipment do I need?
posted by bradth27 to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
All you need is a monitor to plug into the output at the back of the laptop. Set the desktop to extend onto the second monitor in the display properties (assuming the laptop is running windows) and then you can drag windows onto the second monitor.
posted by ssg at 1:47 PM on February 22, 2007

In addition to what ssg said, a tool like ultramon (free trial) will give you the ability to maximize on each monitor independently.
posted by null terminated at 2:00 PM on February 22, 2007

XP should have some basic ability for dual monitors, the rest of it depends on the video card and drivers. Over and above that, I wouldn't even bother without Ultramon, it's an excellent app for managing dual displays. Also, if there is no video plug on the back of the laptop, a docking station would solve that problem.
posted by tdischino at 2:13 PM on February 22, 2007

You probably have a VGA video output in the back of your laptop, or if you have one, your docking station. In case you don't, you can try the following solutions, in order of highest to lowest expense (and quality):

- PCMCIA VTBook DVI/VGA output ~$250
Great quality, fits purpose exactly, supports most resolutions, supposedly is fast.

- PCMCIA Mobility EasiDock 1000EV ~$150
PCMCIA docking station that happens to have a crucial video output. Not compatible with all PC card controllers (Ricoh).

- USB 2.0 Tritton VGA adapter ~$80
Dedicated USB --> VGA adapter, slow speeds, limited resolution, choppy performance. Cannot play back video. Is ok for word processing/text web surfing/file exploring.
posted by sonicbloom at 2:19 PM on February 22, 2007

You don't need UltraMon to maximize to a secondary display, since... Windows 98?
posted by disillusioned at 4:17 PM on February 22, 2007

Ultramon can do the opposite of what null stated. You can maximize across both monitors. It does give you a taskbar on the secondary monitor however.

Either way, I don't find it very useful (and I use dual monitors at work and home).
posted by mphuie at 4:44 PM on February 22, 2007

Should be very easy to do, though you may need to download a new video driver from the ATI website. I have a similar setup in my office where I have one desktop on my monitor and another projected onto one of my walls. It works very well for small meetings...
posted by grateful at 5:10 PM on February 22, 2007

A couple of things in the original request don't make perfect sense, so while most things have been covered, I'll just throw one more thing into the mix:

Matrox DualHead2Go

If the laptop supports it (and there's a free test utility on the page) then the DualHead2Go allows you to run two monitors from one laptop, in addition to the built-in screen.

Their independence is murky: The laptop will see them as one monitor, but the bundled software will let you maximise windows neatly to each monitor if that's what's wanted. However, since Windows is all about windows, you can always just position one window on one monitor and one window on another without maximising them.
posted by krisjohn at 6:47 PM on February 22, 2007

You might find that the brightness levels/position of the monitors are so different that you give up in frustration. Also, the geometry (wide vs. square) and resolution might be different, making one of the two displays look weird.

I had an external on my laptop but never got used to using both at the same time. I ended up buying a big monitor and turning off the laptop display.
posted by mrbugsentry at 4:00 AM on February 23, 2007

You can actually do it for free with a little software tool called Synergy. In the few months that I've been using it at work, I have become very dependent on it. I have my keyboard and mouse connected to my desktop machine where I do software development, and I have my laptop running email, web browser, etc...

By moving my mouse off the side of my desktop monitor, I can then take control of the laptop with the keyboard and mouse. Clipboard is also shared among the machines.

I found this solution especially great given that I am running very processor intensive tasks on my desktop that I don't want to be slowed down by the applications I always have open on my laptop.
posted by gregchttm at 6:48 AM on February 23, 2007

Used to run with an LCD sitting above my laptop screen; it was a bit brighter than the laptop and a different shape (laptop is widescreen, LCD was standard, lower resolution to boot) but it didn't make a difference. It was quite handy when working on multiple documents. Only reason I don't do it now is that the LCD belonged to my work, and I had to leave it when changing jobs.

It doesn't work as well with a CRT monitor, unless you can independently set the refresh rate for the CRT. I think you usually can but I don't recall.

Also, if you need updated drivers and have no luck from Toshiba, try the Omega drivers for ATI cards. Some older ATI cards are no longer supported by the official drivers, but the Omega drivers should work fine. I use them myself.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:46 AM on February 23, 2007

Ultramon is awesome, IMO, but it's only really useful if you either a) like having the taskbar on both screens, b) like having a button to easily move windows between screens, or c) often switch between single monitor and multimonitor

I like all of those things, and I find it tedious to "unmaximize" a window, drag it to the other screen, then maximize it again. The Ultramon button just does it, and even accounts for resolution differences.
posted by wierdo at 12:15 PM on February 23, 2007

« Older Who proposed this novel proportional tax idea?   |   Learn-to-read serial in Chicago paper. I think. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.