Opinions please. Better multitasking setup: 21.5" with 2nd monitor or 27"?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by theRick119, Jun 2, 2011.

  1. theRick119 macrumors member

    Apr 27, 2008
    Opinions please. Better multitasking setup: 21.5" with 2nd monitor or 27"?

    Please refrain from the obvious 27 with second monitor reply! That just won't work on my desk. I wish it would.

    I do web development and graphic work and frequently require multiple windows and/or virtual machines running and accessible.

    I've been running dual 1680x1050 displays for years and it has positively affected my productivity.

    I absolutely love the 27" iMac but I'm scared to death of giving up ~1000ish pixels of horizontal screen space.

    Has anyone gone from dual monitors to a single 27 and been successful? Or found that they couldn't live without the extra pixels? Or even stuck to the 21.5 for this very reason?

    Looking for experienced opinions to guide me. Thanks!
  2. elithrar macrumors 6502


    May 31, 2007
    This is a really hard question to answer, but if you are already partial to multiple-monitor setups, then I'd suggest going down the 21.5" path—especially if you don't need the GPU grunt from the 27".

    I say this because, if you're a front-end guy, comparing different browsers in different VM's across two screens is likely more useful than squeezing them up (tiling them) on a 27".
  3. bpeeps macrumors 68030


    May 6, 2011
    I agree, go with what you're comfortable with.
  4. Database macrumors member

    Jan 22, 2009
    I too much prefer multi-monitor setups... I went with the 21.5" and got a HP ZR22W IPS monitor to go along with it. I don't regret it. I prefer 2 screens and didn't have room for 2x 27's either.
  5. mrfoof82 macrumors 6502a

    May 26, 2010
    Lawton, OK
    The question is what are you looking for in terms of spatial organization. For some people, they want width. For some, they want height. For some, they want an actual physical divider, so a full screen app only consumes one display while they have a second display available. Some people hate manually tiling windows.

    Once you figure out what you "need", the answer will be obvious. In terms of pixel count a single 27" display has 78% more pixels than the 21.5" -- but how you use that space is what matters (see above points).


    Not sure how small your desk is, but I'm currently on a custom 46" x 20" (6 1/2 sqft) surface and that accommodates a 27" Cinema Display fine, and will accommodate a 27" iMac paired off with it once it shows up -- and by most measures, my desk is TINY (it's built into a 4 foot x 2 foot closet), but it won't look goofy with the dual 27s.
  6. fhall1 macrumors 68040


    Dec 18, 2007
    (Central) NY State of mind
    Without knowing what you're trying to do or your workflow, I'll shoot from the hip and say dual monitors. I have them at work and home and think they're much better than one large screen.
  7. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    I have used both multiple displays and a setup with a single large display. And the answer I found is that it depends on what you're doing.

    So with what you said, it sounds like dual displays is the way you want to go.

    The one place I found the larger (higher resolution) screen really helps is with editing photos so you can see more of the image on the screen without zooming out. For the type of graphics work you're probably doing, this won't matter.
  8. theRick119 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 27, 2008
    I appreciate the replies so far.

    A bit more info is that I was originally going to jump into the base 21.5 but I'd really like a 1TB HD. +$300 for essentially 200ghz and 500mb upgrade seems silly so that is what even got me thinking about the 27".

    So basically I've narrowed it down to either the base 21.5 or the base 27.

    My other hesitation with the 21.5 is that I already know I'm going to occupy the thunderbolt port with a second monitor and I am therefore assuming that I will not be able to take advantage of external thunderbolt storage. Is that a correct assumption?

    I don't really want to pull much other than backups over USB.

    So there are other factors I'm considering.

    As far as workflows are concerned, I generally have two programs open full screen - one on each monitor. Either code on the left and browsers on the right or replace code with photoshop or illustrator. I don't mind tiling, but I don't know if 1250 pixels of width per window will be sufficient.

    I'm leaning dual monitors but I just have concerns about the port and HD limitations on the 21.5

    Thanks again for the help so far.
  9. Gilj macrumors member

    Jul 13, 2010

    You can connect the hard disk to the Mac through Thunderbolt and then the display to the hard disk through Thunderbolt too, and then they both are connected.
  10. Sirmausalot macrumors 6502a


    Sep 1, 2007
    Like most here, I love a dual monitor set up. It's perfect for film editing, rather than resizing windows all the time. If you are running graphic intensive tasks, and potentially video in the future, pony up for the i7 upgrade. Also, if you go dual monitor setup, it is then cheaper/easier to upgrade in the future
  11. DrChack macrumors newbie

    Apr 24, 2010
    I don't like dual monitors on mac, since the menubar does not get replicated to the 2nd screen. It gets really annoying sometimes to move the mouse back to the other screen to use something from the menu bar. I guess it depends on what kind of programs you will be using.

    I know there is SecondBar but there is always a delay when using it even on top hardware with SSDs.

    If you opt for a 2nd display focus more on equal pixel density then equal display size, it's far more important.

Share This Page