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Things to consider when buying a desktop PC monitor The monitor is the most important item in your designer toolkit, so you need to consider your choice of model carefully. Here are six things to think about… The best long-term investment you can make in your design career is a decent monitor. But how do you define ‘decent’? What kind of questions should you be asking about a potential choice before you decide to purchase? Here we take a look at the six most important things to consider before buying the most important item in the designer’s toolkit…

01. Type of monitor

There are many types of monitors out there, ranging from gaming monitors to business monitors, so look carefully at the features that suit your needs before purchasing.

If you’re looking for a monitor that offers a broad selection of features, a multimedia monitor may be more suitable. These are handy because they offer a variety of ports such as a HDMI input, allowing the monitor to be used for entertainment purposes as well as design. Life isn’t all about work, remember.

Game on

Gaming monitors require faster response times to display motion graphics and can often be hooked up directly with a game console. This is where Pixel Response Rate comes into the picture. Measured in milliseconds, Pixel Response Rate is the amount of time it takes for a pixel to change from black to white.

Lastly, consider eco-friendly monitors. They often offer fewer features in exchange for low power usage, which is better for the environment and can help save you money.

02. Resolution

Resolution describes the number of pixels a monitor can display. Basically it’s the number of dots you get horizontally and vertically, so 1024 x 768 is 1024 horizontal and 768 vertical. The higher the resolution, the better the picture, because more information can be displayed. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is 2880 x 1800, nearly 5 million more pixels than an HDTV – pretty impressive.

03. Features

Monitors may look alike but the additional features some models come with can raise them above the competition. You may find it worthwhile, for example, to compare gloss and matte screens: each offers a different viewing experience, but it mainly comes down to personal preference.

Monitors with a swivel base make life easier if you are apt to rotating your screen towards colleagues to show off your process (or share YouTube videos of kittens). Some monitors come with adjustable height – which solve neck aches and pains if you currently slouch to see your current screen.


04. Budget

If you are looking for a monitor for viewing emails, websites, basic application usage, and possibly the odd Skype session, then there’s no point paying a fortune for a model worthy of a professional photographer. However, if you normally work with high resolution images, and are constantly switching between tools in the Adobe Suite, you are probably looking for the best picture possible to enhance the colour reproduction.

One of the biggest factors that can affect the price is down to the size of the monitor itself. Cutting back on a few inches could be a considerable saving.

05. Size

Large screens are ideal for graphic designers, digital illustrators and photographers. Monitors generally range anywhere from 15in up to 30in – the size of the monitor being measured diagonally across.

If you’ll be using your monitor for gaming and movies as well, then search for something larger: there are 27in models at reasonable prices if you look hard enough. Just make sure you have enough room on your desk before handing over your credit card!

06. A second monitor

More and more designers, illustrators and photographers are turning to dual monitors for increased day-to-day productivity. Over time, the extra work you’ll get done by being more productive will cover the cost of the extra hardware and then some.

Benefits include the ability to have multiple applications running simultaneously without constantly minimizing files. For example your dual monitor setup could comprise of an HTML editor on one screen, and the internet browser on the other.

What is Dual monitor?

Some computers allow for a dual monitor setup, which is where two monitors are connected to the same computer simultaneously. The ability to connect two monitors requires a video card with two ports for video out, such as VGA, HDMI, DVI or DisplayPort, on it.

Having dual monitors allows for split screen, which is typical in an office setting where users need to have multiple windows displayed at the same time. For example, a web designer may need to have Dreamweaver and Photoshop open at the same time.


Two characteristics that represent most web designers are a need for productivity and a love for technology.

This desire for increased efficiency and productivity leads many designers to look to technology for methods that will improve their work flow.
One common approach for designers (and others who want to improve productivity) is to use multiple monitors. Using two or more monitors can bring a number of significant advantages to designers.

In this article we’ll present some basic pros and cons of using multiple monitors, general instructions for setting them up, as well as a showcase of workstations that feature multiple monitors.

Advantages of Having Multiple Screens:

With so many designers using multiple screens, there must be some pretty significant advantages. Of course, everyone works differently, so the key is finding the setup that works best for you.


The biggest advantage for anyone, designers and those in other professions, is an increase in productivity.

There have been a number of studies performed over the years that have attempted to calculate the change in productivity from using multiple monitors. According to a study done by the Jon Peddie Research, productivity increases an average of 42% when using multiple displays.

The Pfeiffer Report from 2005 (testing the impact of large monitors and/or multiple monitors) found that improved productivity could result in an ROI of several thousand dollars per year.

Likewise, a study conducted by the University of Utah and NEC found 10% increases in productivity and 20% reduction in errors (plus reduced stress) for test workers that were using multiple monitors.

Their test company also experienced over 600% ROI. From the report, “Both the 24-inch widescreen and the 20-inch dual screens were significantly more productive than the 20 inch single monitor… Overall in spreadsheet task, the dual 20-inch monitors performed the best with a slight lead over the 24-inch widescreeen” . This study has been reported by the Wall Street Journal and many others. However, the report also found that productivity gains max out and eventually decline when size becomes too big.


Most designers have some type of workflow that involves using multiple programs at any given time.

Maybe you’re flipping back and forth between Photoshop and Illustrator, or maybe it’s an HTML editor, Internet browser and FTP application.
Whatever the case may be, it’s very rare that a designer would only have one program open and would not be moving around at least periodically. Since using multiple programs is such a frequent occurrence for designers, having a second screen can make this juggling act much less painful and more productive.


If you’re interested in being more connected and accessible to clients or to other professionals in your network, you may find that a second screen can make this much more feasible.

While you may be using the primary screen for the bulk of your work, you could have your email or Twitter open all the time in a second browser. While this practice is normally associated with reduced productivity, using a second screen for this purpose can help you to still stay focused on your work while allowing you to quickly scan what is coming through (and respond promptly) with a minor impact on your work.


Many designers are working from laptops and not staying at one desk all day every day. Setting up an additional monitor is easy with most laptops now.

This allows the designer to have a home office with a dual screen set up, but still allows for flexibly as it is easy to disconnect the second monitor and take the laptop wherever you need to go. Setting it up is simple, and taking the laptop somewhere else only takes a minute.


Not only do most designers work with multiple programs at once, but sharing data is also very common, for example copying code from one application to another, or opening an image in Dreamweaver that was created in Photoshop. All these things can be streamlined with the help of a second screen. Moving from one screen to the next is often easier than using multiple applications on one screen.


Some designers use Skype for video conferencing with clients or colleagues.

If this is the case for you, a second screen can make it easier to have a video conference and still have normal access to your screen to look at other things during the conference.

Most video conferences will involve looking at websites, mockups, or something else that will need to be seen at some point during the conference.


There are a lot of aspects of a designer’s job that involve attention to detail.

Some of these areas require comparison, such as comparing different versions of a design, testing in multiple browsers, and working from one image or design to another.

In these situations it’s easier, quicker, and generally more effective to compare side-by-side using two screens rather than flipping back and forth constantly.


Extending your computer to a second screen is actually very easy, although to many people it sounds like it would be more difficult or involved than it really is. If you’ve been wanting to try a dual screen set up but have been putting it off, there’s really no reason not to give it a shot.

More advanced set ups can obviously get more complicated, but a second screen is not difficult in most situations.

Disadvantages of Having Multiple Screens:

With all the advantages of having multiple screens, it’s only fair to also look at the potential disadvantages of having more than one screen. Although there are not many of them, they should be considered.


Probably the biggest disadvantage to having more than one screen is the added risk of distractions.
It’s easy enough to get distracted when you’re working with just one screen, and even more so when you add to it. I mentioned the possibility of using the second screen to keep your email or Twitter open all the time.

While this is potentially a good thing for communication purposes, without some resistance to distraction it could also be a productivity killer. It really depends on your workflow and your own personal preferences.


From a technical perspective, a disadvantage is that the resources of the video card are divided between each display. Depending on your system and what programs you are running, you may notice a difference in performance.


Unfortunately, the amount of available space of a desk can easily be a hindrance when it comes to getting set up for maximum efficiency.

Fortunately, flat panel and LCD monitors take up only a fraction of the space required by monitors of the past. If space is your primary concern, see if you can rearrange your desk to make it feasible, or you could even purchase a larger desk if that is within your control.


If you currently only have a traditional set up, you’ll need to get an additional monitor.
While the cost has come down considerably, it is still a barrier in some situations, especially for those who are uncertain if they would even prefer working with a second screen.


Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror calls it The Large Display Paradox. When using very large monitors you may wind up spending too much time resizing and arranging windows.

This is an issue that you won’t encounter on smaller displays where you tend to work with one maximized window at a time.

What You’ll Need:

Adding a second monitor is pretty straightforward, and we’ll provide some instructions here.
Adding a third (and more) gets a little more tricky and will depend on your setup (see the resources section towards the end of this post).
For adding a second monitor, if you’re working from a desktop computer, you will need a video card that provides ports for two monitors (or you’ll need to buy a second video card). For laptops you will need one port for a monitor (and the laptop screen is the other), which is included on almost all laptops from the past several years.