The Value of Big Monitors?

By Deane Barker on October 12, 2006

Could a 30-in. monitor help you do your job faster?: We’ve discussed this theory before. I don’t know if it’s true, but I do know that I really want that 30” monitor.

Providing employees with 30-in. computer monitors can boost worker productivity at companies where 17-in. or 19-in. monitors are typically used, according to a French consultant hired for a study sponsored by Apple.

The study, which evaluated Apple’s 30-inch Apple Cinema Display, concluded that large screens can offer gains of up to 50 percent to 65 percent in productivity on a variety of specific office tasks and can earn back their extra costs in time savings over several years.

There’s apparently some controversy, because Apple sponsored an “independent” report that nicely coincides with a big moneymaker for them, but they’re certainly not the first to do that.

Are dual monitors just as good? On the surface, I’d rather just have one big one, but perhaps there’s some benefit in having separately manipulate-able screens?

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  1. I don’t know about one big screen, like a 30″, but i will say that when they set me up at work with two 19″ LCDs my efficiency increased by leaps and bounds.

    I go home to my 20″ CRT, and marvel at how difficult everything is. Constant task-swithing and moving windows around. It’s crazy. With the two monitors at work, i can have tons of stuff going on, and keep it all organized on my desktop.

    The studies result showing 50-65% gains with a large monitor like that does not surprise me at all.


  2. I find that with two monitors (I have 20″ panels at home) it’s much easier to divide different tasks. Coding on one panel and running the app on the other (in a browser), chat and email on one panel and actual work on the other, a Word document on one and supporting research on the other. With a 30″ it might be more difficult to organize all of the windows in such a vast space, and you might waste some time just shuffling things around because there’s no easy divide.

  3. I actually run a third 17″ panel alongside the 20s, powered by my last Windows machine and linked to my powermac using Synergy. It doesn’t fully count, though, considering the only thing I use my PC for these days is Winamp. Late on the iTunes uptake? Perhaps.

    I know Bill Gates uses 3 panels at Microsoft. But it seems like that might be a bit excessive — how often do you need three separate tasks up front at one time?

  4. Is there anyway to use dual monitors with a laptop/docking station? Since moving from a workstation to a laptop, I have really missed the ability to organize my work on two monitors.

  5. Is there anyway to use dual monitors with a laptop/docking station?

    Sure, with an Apple anyway. The PowerBooks & MacBook Pro laptops can do screen spanning no problem, and the iBooks/MacBooks can do it with a hack. (It works in OS X, but not sure about XP on Apple laptops…)

    I’m using a 15″ PowerBook right now with a 19″ external flat panel alongside the internal screen. I run my main apps on the large screen, and the ones I want to keep an eye on on the laptop screen. Everything snaps back to the main monitor when I disconnect the external. Very slick.

    I get a kick out of some of the PC users around here; they’ve got nice big flat panel monitors — 17 – 19″ — yet some insist on having the resolution set at an unnaturally low rate. One lady has her’s at 640 x 480. All fuzzy & crappy looking, but anything higher than that & she says she can’t see what’s there very well. Makes me wonder how many users worldwide use big flat panels at a resolution lower than the monitor’s native res…

  6. As soon as bigger screens become affordable, they immediately become populair. To me that is enough proof of their advantage above smaller screens.

    Larger desktop estate makes it easier to take more distance from your screen. Even if this means it’s using the monitor at a low resolution, this can be an important solution for some.

  7. Taylor says: “it might be more difficult to organize all of the windows in such a vast space, and you might waste some time just shuffling things around because there’s no easy divide.” yes it would be true. But I have a neaty application from ATI, which makes a customizable grid. with —- and | lines in whatever way you like. later it needs just to attach a window and it fills that area. From today on I have also a 26 monitor from asus (which is 2ms speed, compared to 30′ apple with perhaps 12-16ms I just remember that its bigger lag than 8 on it). So I enjoy it, and theres no trouble. I still have my extra lcd on the left 17′. Theres many ways to use aditional display… as I watched movie on 26screen, and some stats and apps on the smaller at the same time. In all it fells now like having three monitors. I encourage having a bigger monitor. Adjiu.

  8. Personally, I prefer dual monitors. I like to use one for active documents and the other for reference. It really does help when you don’t have to flick between windows.

    But dual monitors aren’t for everyone and it very much depends on the individual. One person may need a larger monitor than someone else. And if the person’s job means that they need two monitors, it’s a better idea to give them the monitors and the appropriate multi screen support system. If you have them make do with just the one monitor, their productivity will be taking a hit.

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