How many monitors? A survey

Let me try this again in a much more civil tone.

Mr Paul @thurrott is quite upset with Microsoft for saying in its marketing and promoting of the dual screen devices Duo and Neo that multiple screens allow you to be more productive. He calls BS on Microsoft. He contends multi-screens equals multi-tasking. He uses, IMHO, a very poor analogy of texting and driving as support for his case. Well I call BS on Mr. Thurrott. I think Duo and Neo are going to be very useful devices because of the dual screens. Not saying they will outsell iPhone or iPad, but I’m going to get one or both. I can envision many uses for dual screens on either form factor. For some reason though I think they got the names mixed up. The word Neo sounds smaller to me than Duo. Anyway.

I agree 100% with Mr. Thurrott that the human brain cannot multitask; very well, at high level activities. We are capable of some levels of multitasking. Thurrott talks about listening to Audible books and walking at the same time. Sorry man, that’s multitasking. Can you watch TV and eat popcorn at the same time? That’s multitasking. And besides, multiple screens do not automatically mean multitasking.

I need multiple screens for my job. If I had to go down to one monitor I would have print out information on paper and have that scattered across my desk. What’s the difference between a monitor and piece of paper? Or I’d have to switch between apps constantly. Not very productive.

SO…if you use a computer with multiple monitors (or even a very large monitor with multiple apps visible - same thing) or wish you had because you think it would make you more productive, please comment how many monitors you have or would like to have and how you use them. I’ll start:

My accounting machine (Lenovo desktop) has 3 portrait oriented and one landscape. Tax software uses two of the portrait monitors, accounting software in another, and web browser for looking up other information or instructions or an Excel spreadsheet.

My financial planning machine, a Surface Pro, has two 27" monitors connected. I have the screen on the Surface turned off most of time. Often have an Excel spreadsheet in one and trading software in the other. Data from one is input into the other. Even if I can cut-and-paste or import-export, it is much more efficient to have both visible at the same time. When building a financial plan I often have four apps open at the same time.

On my home Dell laptop at home I often have Lightroom controls open on the laptop and the photo I’m editing open on an attached monitor.

So, how about you? If y’all think I’m full of crap, tell me why, and if the majority are convincing, I’ll never bring this up again.

cc: @Leo @MaryJo

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I use 2 x 24" + the built in display (all FullHD) on my 14" ThinkPad at work.

At home I have a 34" Dell Ultra-Wide (3840x1440), curved display with multiple windows visible. I sometimes also use a 24" (1920x1200) display, although I generally use when testing or setting up servers etc.

I’m not really interested in the Duo or the Neo, at least not in the form presented so far. The devices are too small to be productive on. But I’ll hold my verdict until I’ve actually seen them.


The most multi tasking (using 2 screens at the same time) I do is to stream something on the tv directly from my chromebox/chromebook and then use the main computer screen to do other stuff. The TV becomes the 2nd monitor.

My tablet and chromebooks can even do a split screen - show 2 apps at the same time. I think my phone might even do that. I have no interest in doing that on a single screen. Especially a small screen

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At work I use 2 27 inch monitors on my main system and I have a laptop in a dock that has 1 32 inch Dell monitor on it. I constantly have multiple things open that I am switching between all day on both the main system and the laptop.

At home I have my PC hooked up to my living room TV 55 inch with multiple things open plus 3 27 inch Dell monitors on my desk (used to be 3 32 inch monitors)

Like others I’m not really into using mobile devices (phones or tablets) for productivity so I’m not really interested in the Duo or Neo either. But I do think they are interesting and usable to lots of other people that are into that sort of thing or need something mobile to take up where I would use something non mobile.

I use 3 x 22" at work, and 3 x 24" at home.
Work screens for: Screen 1: user’s request, Screen 2: Admin screen, Screen 3: admin procedure documentation. Paperless.

2 on desktop one on laptop…

Three displays for both work and personal.

In the office I have a single 29" 16x9 that I use primarily, then two 24" 16x9 that are portrait oriented. One is usually for documentation or note taking, and the other one is dedicated to communication software - email and chat client.

For my personal setup I have a 32" 1440p 16x9 144hz for primary use, usually gaming. Then I have a pair of 29" 21x9 displays stacked on top of each other. Top is for media playback, bottom is split between communication programs (Discord/Vent/etc) and misc., usually the Twitter client or mRemoteNG.

I get where Paul is coming from, nobody is using both displays simultaneously. However there’s a definite benefit to having multiple displays. I’ve always compared my multi-tasking ability to the way CPUs multi-task. Sure they can only execute one instruction at a time but they’re able to switch between tasks quickly enough that it appears that they’re accomplishing multiple things at once. Having multiple displays is like enabling hyperthreading for my workflow.

What remains to be seen is whether or not app developers take advantage of the multiple displays. It’s not like a desktop OS where I can easily take advantage of multiple displays. Developers will need to make considerable UX changes to really take advantage of this form factore. I’m pretty pessimistic on that front; I’m guessing multiple displays will be a super niche market and won’t get attention from developers.

p.s how are you gonna make a survey post with no survey :laughing:

I am going to disclaim that I haven’t read most of the above posts, but something I did read sparked me to write something before I forgot what I was thinking.

I don’t think multiple screens are an especially good aid to multi-tasking, and I speak as someone who was provided a multi-screen setup by a couple of employers. I can argue that if the user interface were properly designed to support it, that it might make a difference. The unfortunate reality is that modern operating systems are designed for a single screen, and then people go and tack on another (or multiple) of them, and they get very little additional benefit of them without making a very significant effort at retraining themselves and/or retraining the OS (with add-on utilities.)

All that is of course my own opinion, based on my own experience.

That said, I DO believe that multiple screens are an aide to SERIAL TASKING. (Or sequential tasking if you will.) I still think the OS could use better support for it… imagine if we ever reach the level of OS support where it’s smart enough to bring up assistive content and context on “the other” screen while we work. For a programmer (like myself) it would be helpful to have an IDE smart enough to bring up details of the code I am working on, and the API’s it uses, WHILE I am working on it. That doesn’t mean that I am multi-tasking… it means the OS is, and it would be spending its time trying to surface the things that I might next need to focus on.

I have very sincere doubts that this will be something that will be a benefit to most people on a mobile phone sized device… but I am willing to wait to be amazed (if I am ever to be.)

Someone mentioned expecting a poll… so here goes:

First question, your experience (or interest) in multiple display setups:

  • I have used a multi-display desktop setup
  • I have wanted to use a multi-display desktop setup
  • I have never used a a multi-display desktop setup
  • I have never wanted to use a multi-display desktop setup

0 voters

If you’ve used one, how did you enjoy it?

  • It was for gaming
  • It was nice, but I felt I wasn’t making best advantage of it
  • It was great, it made me feel so much more productive that I wouldn’t ever want to be without it
  • It was useful because my requirements have me needing to see so much information at once, more room was helpful
  • It was detriment because it make my work more confusing (content being in the wrong place, or apps not working right, etc)
  • Meh, I didn’t care either way
  • It was good for some other reason (noted in the discussion)
  • It was bad for some other reason (noted in the discussion)

0 voters


Dell U3014 main display
3 x U2415 for all the rest. Security cameras, steaming audio, TWIT live, chatroom, email client, Gminder, & Scansnap .

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Thinking of a recent work setup, I would have one 24 inch screen with two Word documents being edited side by side, because although they had different structures, there were areas of text that that had to be identical in both. Then another 24 inch screen with a program for creating flowcharts that were being added to the documents, plus a browser window for the corporate SharePoint where document libraries were held and a different browser window for research and sources. The laptop driving this would have Outlook, and sometimes Teams, on its display for keeping track of messages from the globally dispersed people I was working with. I could honestly have used a third large display to avoid having windows stacked in front of each other in the second display, but it all depended on what hardware the client provided for the work.

None of this was multitasking, just a workflow of sequential actions, but all these windows needed to be kept open to allow me to continually move between them, and multiple screens allowed me to easily keep track of the state of each part of my workflow.

When I’m at home, it’ll typically be a closed laptop attached to a docking station with a single 24 inch 16:10 screen, as that’s usually enough real estate for what I need to do on personal stuff. Sometimes that’s a little tight if I’m working from home, but I’d be more likely to look at getting a single 32 inch screen rather than a second monitor, as it would be a better fit with the space available than adding a second 24-incher.

Yeah, this is just one of those times when Paul gets something in his craw and won’t let go. Did Panos oversell the productivity angle? Sure. But it is just silly to say that the entire idea of multiple monitors is pointless.


For personal use, a single monitor is more than fine for what I do at home.

For work however my team need at least 2 monitors as they are managing/interacting with multiple windows during an incident.

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At work I would frequently give virtual presentations. One screen for the PowerPoint and another for Skype, the message window, cameras, etc.

At home I have a software defined radio. One screen to show the radio band with enough detail to see the whole spectrum I am working on (like 40 Meters) and another for logging and spotting programs.

Could I do both of those things on one screen? Yes. Do I want to? No.

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I use two monitors at work and two monitors at home. It gives me the real-estate to see things side by side, which is important with what I do. A coworker of mine has 7 monitors at his desk.

I remember arguing with a PC user when Win95 came out about multitasking.
He was raging that it was a waste of time as you can only do 1 thing at a time.
As an Amiga user I was used to nothing less than multitasking all the way down to the hardware.

My answer is similar to @Clayton, as it depends what the need is.
I am sat at a laptop with an extra screen of the same size. The extra screen is used for web browsing and tasks that want lots of real estate, and the laptop display has my sensor monitors, chat and email, notifications and anything small.
As I look over the top of my laptop there is another with a large screen attached which is used for my media and games. Most of the time that laptop has its own display closed.

On a phone go to youtube and start watching a video, perhaps an important live stream.
Now decide you need to do something else more important and open another app.
No you see (or rather don’t) the problem.

Perhaps you are in the middle of a video chat and need to access your email, chat or a browser.

All phone apps take over the whole screen even if they don’t need to, so you have to deal with a stack of tasks.
This is how we dealt with multitasking in the DOS days.
Even basic copy and paste actions are more of a chore than needs be.

Considering how small the screen area is on hand held devices, I would say they need 2 screens more than a PC user who can just buy 1 massive screen.

I also use Mouse Without Borders, so all the screens in this room can be used from any mouse or keyboard I sit at


When I was working full time I always had two monitors; three would have been nice. One monitor was always running Outlook which was the email and meeting management platform at Boeing. Keeping email open always was pretty much a necessity. The other monitor was for my current work task. Since I was often working with Excel, Word and PowerPoint all open concurrently that third monitor would have been helpful. BTW the two monitors were the laptop screen and an external monitor.

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At work, I have four 24" monitors, and could use about two more. I keep my email and Slack on one monitor, my Remote Desktop Connections Manager on another (I maintain almost 40 servers through RDP), my Remote Server Administrative Tool Console and System Center Configuration Manager on another, and my web browser on my primary, usually with several spreadsheets open and have to toggle back and forth between them all.

At home, I have 3 randomly sized monitors that I have accumulated, and they are usually sufficient for my purposes, I usually have a YouTube video open on one monitor, WhatsApp and messenger on another, and my web browser in the middle.

I don’t think I would know how to function without several monitors in front of me!


In the not too distant future you will probably be able to switch to something like Samsung’s microLED The Wall system.

No bezels, just one massive space for al the open windows.

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I’m very interested to see how this technology advances. I love the idea.
I have also looked at LG’s extra-large monitor with 4 inputs, basically the same idea as you mentioned. Only problem is the price is a little steep, and my employer doesn’t like spending money. Lol