The use of dual monitors has become pretty standard these days. Modern operating systems have also done a lot to make it easy to switch through multiple windows and programs. Even on laptops, it’s pretty easy to create a good work flow. But more space is generally better.
Running my own marketing/web design business, I spend a lot of time on the computer. When I upgraded my computer, I knew I also wanted to upgrade the size of my screen. I considered two options. The first option was to go with an ultra-wide PC monitor, the second was to purchase a 4k TV. They both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Ultrawide vs 4k
The ultra-wides had a great refresh rate and were designed for PC use. At the larger sizes, they were quite expensive and still had less usable space than the 4k TVs. The 4k TVs were larger, had good resolutions, and were cheaper. Unfortunately, they lacked the high refresh rate and some of the features you might get with a PC monitor.
I chose the 4k TV
I will admit that it hasn’t been the smoothest transition. Its size means that it won’t fit on any small desk. I had to play with the settings to remove some major lag I had when I first purchased it. The biggest issue is that my computer refuses to run the refresh rate any higher than 30 frames per second. This is quite low, as most PC monitors run at 120 or higher. The low refresh rate is noticeable at times.
However, there have also been benefits. The screen resolution is clear and the overall space is incredible. I have room for four 1920×1080 screens that are all bigger than my 17″ laptop screen. Combined with my laptop, I have five full HD workspaces. The screen itself only cost about $350 (I purchased it from Costco). Figuring out the best way to use it has taken a little bit of time.
At first, I used it like I would any other screen. I placed windows wherever they would fit and resized them accordingly. It worked, but I didn’t have much structure. Placing the windows in various locations meant that I was spending time searching for them. I needed more structure.
Then I remembered that Windows 10 has an automatic snapping tool. It allows you to divide your screen into two or four sections. This was the key. It made it easy to arrange my windows and gave me four set spots.
Setting up my work fliw
I chose a specific location for each type of work that I was doing. My laptop, which sits to the left, is for email and my CRM (customer relationship management). I don’t use it constantly so having to turn a little is fine. My “to do” lists, project management, and calendar sit on the upper left-hand corner. It’s a little high for constant use but works perfectly for checking my list to keep on track and update project progress. The upper right-hand corner goes to social media. Another area I don’t use constantly, but is there if I need to make an update. The bottom of the screen is where most of my work happens. On the left side, I have documents I am working on or using for reference. On the right side of the screen, I have the website(s) I am working on.
If I will be working on a document for an extended time, like writing this blog, I drag the window to the center of the screen. This is more comfortable and limits my head movement. It also keeps my focus.
Some notable disadvantages
I should say there are a couple of other disadvantages besides the technical specs.
- Too much screen real estate can be distracting if you aren’t careful. I wrote an article several years ago discussing how having too many tabs open can lower productivity. You can find that article here. Now imagine the same thing with five screens. If you aren’t careful it can get overwhelming and you will be spending more time searching for work rather than working.
- Ergonomics can be an issue. Because the screen is so big, it can be difficult to find the right positioning. Too far away and the letters become difficult to read. Too close and you have to move your head too much.
- Desk space and office space aren’t as clean. I know this is small, but the large screen takes up a lot of desk space and isn’t aesthetically pleasing. It’s hard to hide a 40″ screen.
Would I recommend using a 4k TV as a second monitor? Yes. Though, it may not be for everyone.
Overall though, I have been pretty happy with the setup. Now that I have my system in place, I am able to to be more effective. Being able to look at my “to do” list all the time is very helpful. I recently started using Trello, and so far, I love it. I will be writing more about this in an upcoming post.
If you are in the market for a second monitor, I would at least give a 4k screen a serious thought. It is hard to beat the cost/screen real estate space.