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Ultrawide VS multiple monitor set-up: Your thoughts?

madza profile image Madza ・1 min read

I'm currently using 17.3 laptop screen (MSI G70) and def planning to upgrade in the future. Based on DEV community set-up pics, I've seen a lot of variation, so I would love to ask you for help! 🤔

Would you recommend single utrawide:
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over three monitor set-up?

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And what would be the reason behind your recommendation, considering web development as a main purpose for it?

Discussion

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Hey!

I've gone from having 3x 24" monitors to a single ultrawide and now I'm running 3x 4K 27" monitors. In my honest opinion, for productivity, the 3x monitors I'm now running has been the best, and I most likely will never change going forward.

The ultrawide looked absolutely stunning on my desk, but I definitely don't miss it.

Ps. I don't game :)

 

Hahah, yeah. For gaming it's completely different story, I guess... :)

 

There are surely more aspects to the decision, but one I get in mind is:

If you use auto-tiling features of your OS, the single wide-screen may prove annoying. In Windows e.g., you can tell an application to use half of the screen with a keyboard shortcut. I mostly use this to have word documents, file explorers and alike on left and right side of the screen. But if you have one huge screen and not 3 normal ones, you can't easily place 6 applications side by side this way anymore.

 

Actually that's my main concern about ultrawide screens.. normally I use OS shortcuts to organize my view layout of apps (Win+sidekeys) all the time, comes in pretty handy to split the views of code editor and browser, for example. I'm sure there are tons of ways to split like 6 programs in ultrawide too, tho I'm not sure how efficient they are.

 

Microsoft itself created "PowerToys", that allows you to create full customizable desktop layouts, its a must use for me.
github.com/microsoft/PowerToys

I second PowerToys, I was a big fan of the 3 monitor setup but PowerToys makes one ultrawide usable.

for some reasons I can't reply to @dandantas , but(I apparently did) Thx! I didn't know about PowerToys before. First thing (right after a few month's worth of updates) I will install when back in office!

@dandantas , checked out all the features it comes with, I have to say FancyZones and Run would be the only ones I would consider (currently use Keypirinha as app launcher) :)

 

Over tools to split up your screen in 2 or 3 there is a small thing that is important to keep in mind :
if the ultrawide breaks down you'll have to change the whole thing and you probably will have to live without any screen for a little while.
Instead of multi-screen...

In an other side multi-screen is a pain with all those wires...
It could be fun to compare energy consumption between both solutions.

In my own setup I took a "semi wide" screen completed with my MBP 13" and I feel very comfortable with it.

 

Keeping just one monitor around (any width) would be too risky if you are busy dev. Regardless of your set-up there should always be a back-up plan, otherwise you might end-up coding from your phone screen for a week or so xdd

 

I do agree, but the main reason of the only external screen is "budget" haha

 

I almost done setting up 3. My requirements include switching the monitors (at least two), at least 2 PC's .. it's actually 3 now (2 via USB C, one gaming PC), switchable web cam/mic that is separate from keyboard switch that is separate from the 2 (separate) monitor switches for the three monitors (no joke)

I've been developing this over the years, it's based on my experiences, it's not cheap ( e.g. one of the switches needs to support at least 120mhz refresh @1080p ....delivered today) and requires 4 switches and a lot of creative cable management to make it look professional. you can't even see the switches unless you get under the desk :-)

anyway, I wouldn't go anywhere near one of those silly looking super big curved things for a lot of reasons

 

Sounds pretty sick :) I guess the more experience and expertise you get, the more requirements on proper tech comes along with it! You learn and upgrade as you go! :)

 

TIL you can't get a switch that goes with a 144mhz monitor without spending $500 (and then maybe not). The one I ordered was for a TV and it didn't work (and cost $25). Video cards always send a full frame signal (it seems) and Windows does the scaling to 1080p or whatever (like for a game) and no switch can cope with over 60mhz at over 1080p native resolution .. lots do 4k@60mhz though. Oh well, I'll revert to using the input selector on the monitor itself. I like using FreeSync

 

I currently use an asimmetric setup: 1 27' 2k for coding, a smaller (recycled) 17' for docs an the so. I mostly like the central (main) monitor big and hi res because IDE tend to eat space a lot and the editor itself tends to disappear...

 

Oh, I see, you configured your set-up based on specific purposes you had in mind for each of them. Might be crucial if limited in space and do not want to overkill stuff and save money, also.

 

Hi! This is my first comment ever here. I've dealt with this dilemma for a while. I ended up buying an ultra wide because it was cheaper. I had one cheap monitor so with my budget I wanted something premium around 500$ so ended up buying a 1440p 34" Samsung Ultra wide running at 75hz. 2 Monitors with similar setups here in my country costed about 30% more, and since I do some light gaming, I felt this was going to be the best call. And it ended up being true, with Microsoft power toys you can divide your screen as you'd like and quickly switch stuff over. On this monitor I have Vscode, chrome and Slack on screen at the same time in that order. And when gaming it's an entirely different experience.

Some stuff to keep in mind based on my experience.

  1. If you don't game at all, go for multiple monitors, at the end, you'll be more productive (slightly, like 1-2%)
  2. Don't buy ultrawide 1080p - for programming with need high dpi to get the most out of the space we have available. So keep that in mind.
  3. Go curved. Mine is flat and I like it a lot but sometimes I struggle when I need to look at stuff in the borders. Curved will give you a whole different experience, especially on ultra wide.
  4. Be aware that you'll be dependant on some external tools to get the most out of your ultra wide. If you're not ok with it, then go for multiple monitors. Powertoys is a Microsoft tool but it has bugs (once a day I had to restart it because I lose the drag and drop functionality) there are some tools out there available at one time purchase for around 25-30$ that are far more reliable than PT Fancy Zones but I didn't want to spend on those.

I think that's all I can mention, hope it helps.

 

Thanks for the insight in ultra-wide, as well :)

 

I have an ultra-wide monitor and I love it. I've had it for about a month and so far it's been super convenient for multi-tasking. I connect it to my MacBook Pro and use an app called "magnet" which is a window manager and that helps me separate the screen a little bit more when I am working.

 
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