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Want to maximize your desktop space? You have two options: an ultra-wide monitor or a dual monitor setup. Either choice will greatly expand the screen space at your command. But ultra-wide and dual-monitor setups aren’t the same. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.
Here’s how to decide if an ultra-wide monitor or two monitors is right for you.
What is the width?
Anyone looking to buy an ultra-wide monitor or two monitors wants more usable display space. But how much do you earn in each scenario?
A 34-inch ultra-wide monitor, the most common size, isn’t as big as you might think. This ultra-large size is almost the same as a 27-inch tall widescreen monitor and about 8 inches wider.
Buying a second 27 inch monitor will of course get you a second monitor that is as large as the first. A second 27-inch monitor adds 23.5 inches to the width of your setup. That’s about 15.5 inches wider than a 34-inch ultra-wide monitor.
To achieve the equivalent of two 27-inch monitors on a single screen, you have to go all out with a 49-inch super-ultra-wide with 32: 9 aspect ratio, like Samsung’s SHG90. It’s almost exactly as tall and wide as two 27-inch monitors side-by-side, but much more expensive.
Switching to dual has another advantage that no ultra-wide can ever match: flexibility.
You can use either of your two monitors in portrait orientation, adding vertical space instead of horizontal space. This is perfect if you need to view documents on a second screen or want to open multiple social media and chat apps while working on your primary monitor. You can even mix and match monitors in different sizes to fit your desk perfectly.
The flexibility of a dual monitor setup has advantages for multitasking, as you can change the shape of your setup to suit your needs. However, that’s not the only way dual monitors beat ultra-wide productivity.
Windows Snap, a feature built into Windows that can quickly resize and move windows for better multitasking, works best on two monitors. Using Snap on an ultra-wide leaves you with wide and short windows that are difficult to use. A dual monitor setup also provides more places to place windows.
The aspect ratio of an ultra-wide monitor is an issue even when you’re not using Windows Snap. Most applications are programmed for use with a 16: 9 widescreen aspect ratio and have a user interface designed for this aspect ratio. Resizing an application to 21: 9 often leaves large empty areas or forces parts of the interface to one side.
Ultrawide owners end up manually resizing windows to an aspect ratio of around 16: 9. It’s like playing a game of Tetris with pieces that don’t match. You’ll be hard pressed to find a window arrangement that doesn’t waste space.
Both monitors are on a winning streak, thanks to another reason two are better than one: resolution.
4K monitors aren’t hard to find. You can buy the Dell S2721QS, my recommendation among affordable 4K monitors, for just $ 370, or you can buy of them for double the price. That’s an effective resolution of 7680 × 2160, putting over 16 million pixels at your disposal.
Ultrawide doesn’t come close. LG 34WK95U-W, the most pixel-dense ultra-wide monitor, has a resolution of 5120 × 2160. That’s impressive, but that’s just over 11 million pixels and costs about 30% more than a pair of monitors. 4K from Dell.
Not everyone needs 16 million pixels, of course, but it does have a use. The two 4K monitors are great for editing Ultra HD videos. You can preview full screen on a second monitor while editing on the first. Photographers and creative artists can also find a similar use for this setup.
The players, however, should stay away. Dual 4K might look appealing at a glance, but like a bug zapper, the allure can only end in pain.
Ultra-wide monitors have taken their beating so far, but gamers can ignore the whip I lavished. Ultrawide is the king of PC games.
A dual monitor setup has one obvious problem: the bezel that drops down the middle of the screen. Even the thinnest and tiniest monitor frames are obviously evident when using two monitors side by side. Playing a game on two monitors at the same time is technically possible, but it’s a bad idea.
Ultra-wide monitors not only offer more usable space for gaming, but a more immersive aspect ratio. A wider aspect ratio means that in most games you can see more at once. Landscapes and objects that stay out of your field of vision on a 16: 9 wide screen become visible on a 21: 9 ultra wide screen.
A wider aspect ratio is especially useful in some games. Land a plane in Microsoft Flight Simulator is easier on a 21: 9 monitor thanks to the improved sense of perspective offered by a wide field of view. The players immersed in Civilization IV Where Humanity can see more map for a full view of their empire. MMO fans can use the space to customize the UI or load add-ons (in games where this is allowed, of course).
Most gamers with two monitors play on one monitor and use the second for Discord, a game walkthrough, or catch up on a reality TV while waiting to play Final Fantasy XIV. It’s better than having a single monitor, of course, but can’t beat the transparent feel of an ultra-wide.
This point may seem obvious to seasoned gamers, but it bears repeating for those new to using a game console with a computer screen.
Game consoles do not support ultra-wide monitors.
You’ll see an image if you connect a game console to an ultra-wide monitor, but it will have a 16: 9 widescreen aspect ratio with a letterbox on either side. Resolution is also a problem. The most common ultra-wide resolution is 3440 × 1440, which translates to 2560 × 1440 when connected to a 16: 9 source. The PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch do not support this resolution and instead revert to 1080p.
Don’t buy an ultra-wide monitor if you plan to use a monitor with a game console.
Ultrawide can claim another important advantage over dual monitors. It’s just a monitor.
A monitor means a display connection and a power cord. You don’t have to worry about the arrangement of monitors in Windows display settings. You don’t have to worry about the differences in image quality between monitors or calibrate monitors to fix them. A third-party monitor stand or arm will not be required.
Simplicity has value. More monitors means more space and pixels, but can also mean more headaches. A dual monitor setup is not uncommon and supported by modern operating systems, but you can still run into extreme cases where a laptop, desktop video card, or application does not perform as it should. . Uncommon problems become likely as your setup becomes more complex.
A single ultra-wide monitor is a plug-and-play experience that requires no configuration. This is useful if you don’t want to waste time changing settings or changing computers frequently.
Two instructors to win
The verdict is clear. In general, the two monitors win out over the ultra-wide ones. The Dual gives you a more flexible setup that’s better for multitasking and, if you buy high-end 4K monitors, contains more pixels than any existing ultra-wide.
This doesn’t mean that a dual monitor setup is better for everyone. Personally, I prefer an ultra-wide monitor. Simulation, strategy, and MMO games are my favorite genres, so the super-deep immersion is really perfect. I’m also running out of space to use a pair of 27-inch monitors, while a 34-inch ultra-wide fits my desk perfectly.
Your choice must of course correspond to your needs. Ultrawide is my preference as it best suits my niche needs. Still, it’s clear that both monitors win in most situations. Readers on the fence should stop worrying and buy that second monitor.