This post is slightly off-topic: Usually this site is dealing with C++ topics only. However, since changing my monitor setup my productivity has improved. An efficient hardware setup in your work environment can make a big difference, so I figured I’d blog about this.
Recently at work it was time to replace some old monitors. My previous dual-monitor setup featured one main screen (24″ wide) and one small screen (pretty old Samsung). I was using the main screen centered in front of my head, with the other as “tilt-your-head-to-look-at-it”-display for moving windows with background jobs or monitoring tools to.
For the new screens we had these choices:
- Two 24″ (e.g. Eizo EV2456 (1920 x 1200)) or 27″ (e.g. Eizo EV2750 (2560 x 1440)) screens
- Eizo 32″ 4k (3840 x 2160)
- Dell 34″ Curved (3440 x 1440)
- Dell 38″ Curved (3840 x 1600)
My day job involves coding, reading/browsing documentation and the usual email tasks. So for me the most important aspects are good readability, good ergonomics (height adjustable), and last not least, screen real estate!
I had never used a curved monitor nor TV before, but after some deliberation I went for the Dell 38″ Curved. My reasoning was as follows:
- When ordering two screens of the same size, even two “small” 24″, you end up with a large horizontal area. While that’s great for screen estate, it is actually hard to see everything without tilting your head (my eyesight is not that good…) There are two kinds of setups for this: Placing one monitor centered in front of your head (as I did with my old setup) and the monitor to either side of it. Result: You have to tilt your head quite a bit to see everything on the secondary. At least for me that strains my neck and feels painful after a while. Alternatively you can place the monitors so that they are equally as much in your viewpoint, but that means their bezels are right where your nose is – basically the sweet spot of your viewpoint. Not desirable at all.
- Then I briefly considered the Eizo 32″ 4k. Above problem goes away, you can put the whole thing centered in front of your nose. The drawbacks: Due to the 4k resolution fonts are much smaller, so you usually end up scaling them up in the OS to e.g. 125%. That means losing some of the width. Also, the height at ~44 cm is a bit too tall for my taste. I wanted to see some improvement over my 24″ widescreen, but I did not want to tilt my head when reading from top-to-bottom.
- I had already seen the Dell 34″ Curved at a colleagues’ desk. The width was good, just the height was a bit less than my old 24″ screen. I would have liked to have just a bit more screen estate in that direction. The curvature did not bother my colleague, so I figured I could get used to it as well. When the Dell 38″ Curved became available, that looked like the perfect solution and I went for it.
When that monitor was delivered it looked really huge. Be prepared for some jokes by your colleagues 🙂 However, you get used to it pretty fast. It’s interesting, after a few weeks, 22″ or 24″ screens will look tiny to you and you become surprised how you ever got work done on them. It’s a bit like looking at those old 15″ CRT’s.
After a few months of daily work with this monitor here is the verdict:
- As you can probably tell by now, I like working with this monitor very much. Most expectations have been met or exceeded and I feel it is a notable improvement over my previous setup.
- For my daily work the screen quality as well as the build quality is fine and I have not seen anything at all that bothers me. I cannot judge the screen from the point of view of a professional designer, please check reviews for that. I am also not a screen expert, it’s just a tool for me, I did not spent much time setting this thing up or exploring the menus apart from the basics.
- One advantage of multiple screens is that window managers naturally work better with them when moving or rescaling windows. I’m using Windows 10 where you can resize windows to the left/right half of the screen by pressing Win+Cursor Left/Right. You can also move a window to another physical screen when using this hotkey multiple times. This means you can quickly put four windows next to each across two physical monitors. That’s not possible with a single screen, and I was a bit worried about that. Fortunately there is software that lets you divide your single screen into multiple virtual monitors so that you can work in the same way. I’m currently using DisplayFusion Pro for this. I have divided my screen into three virtual monitors: One in the middle, taking up 50% of the physical width, and two virtual monitors to the left and the right. I can now easily move or maximize windows to these virtual monitors. My common coding setup: IDE in the middle, git terminal to the left, build terminal to the right. On Linux there are other ways to solve such issues, but you get the idea.
- On top of that virtual monitor setup you can still use Window 10’s Task Views, so you can have multiple of these workspaces. Just don’t get lost 🙂
- Like many, the on-screen menu is cumbersome to operate, e.g. when quickly adjusting brightness. Unfortunately the screen does not have a light sensor for automatically adjusting brightness. I should probably figure out how to control the brightness via software and just use that.
- Full-screen applications look great on such a huge/wide screen, especially pictures, videos, or Google Maps/Earth.
After writing the initial post I have also installed the Dell Display Manager. This software allows setting brightness and contrast without fiddling with the on-screen menu:
You can also define virtual monitors as with DisplayFusion. I have not tried that out yet, though.
Just for reference, some reviews:
What is your favorite screen setup for coding? Any tips for working with curved screens? Do tell me in the comments!