Recommended # pixels when shopping for computer monitors?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by playethic, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. playethic macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2007
    Vancouver, Canada
    Hi there

    I've been starting to research whether the evidence really shows that two monitors make you more productive, and there's something in the articles - about pixels - that I don't understand. Hoping maybe someone can explain.
    First, here's the studies/evidence I've found information about:

    - Overview of Four Studies:

    - Kind of For:
    Feb 2012 NY Times ‘In Data Deluge, Multitaskers Go to Multiscreens’

    - Kind of Against:
    We'd almost always read that multiple monitors were a nice productivity kick in the pants, too (we've even offered some tips for making the most of your multiple monitors), so to answer your question, we thought it was only appropriate to ask the person who mentioned the second monitor myth you're referring to. So we asked technologist Clay Johnson from InfoVegan: What's the deal with this multi-monitor myth? Here's what he said:p
    Manage Pixels, not MonitorsP
    My How to Focus article got a lot of people thinking about attention fitness and how they could use interval training to increase their attention spans. One thing I mentioned was quite controversial—that I got rid of a second monitor. A lot of people disagreed—People love their multiple monitors, and we've been told over and over again that multiple monitors "boosts productivity."P
    Let's shine some light here on the multi-monitor setup. Just where do these productivity claims come from?P
    The first report I could find is a report from the University of Utah in 2003 followed up by a new one in 2008. If you follow the money, you can likely predict the results—the study was commissioned by monitor manufacturer NEC. And surprise, the results of the study are: buy bigger, more expensive monitors!P
    What's surprising is that the media crooned over the multiple monitor part of the study, when the study came to the conclusion that it was pixels, not monitors that increased productivity. What's also surprising is that while the report mentioned that there were productivity gains in certain tasks with more screen real estate, those gains begin to taper between 26 and 30 inches, or at monitors where the native resolution is 2560x1440 or greater.P
    My take: there's an optimal number of pixels you need to complete the tasks you need to complete. Worry about that number, not the number of monitors you have. That optimal number, for the vast majority of people is about 2500x1400. In 2003—before widescreen became commonplace—it was the case that 2 17-20"(2560 pixels wide) LCDs was the only affordable way to acquire an optimal number of pixels. Today, you can pick up a 27 inch display with 2560x1440 pixels along with a computer attached to it for under $1500. This number of pixels allows you to accomplish most tasks—whether it's writing code and debugging, writing a blog post and reading primary sources, or editing one spreadsheet with data from another.P

    So my question is, can someone explain why the number of pixels makes a difference if you're not doing graphics/photography work, and why it would make you more productive? I don't really get the whole pixels-on-a-monitor thing?

  2. InTheMist macrumors member


    Jun 22, 2013
    On a large monitor, I don't really think it makes a difference. For me, important is that the monitors are two of the same. It's annoying when one monitor is smaller than the other, or has different colors, contrast and brightness.

    I do photography. For me, the 27" iMac is enough.

    At my day job, on windows, two (identical) HP 21" monitors provided by the company get the job done.

    21" is that size where I'm glad I have two. At home, the 27" is big enough that I can barely make out the pixels, and I feel like I have enough real-estate.

    On the other hand, I do a lot of single-tasking at home. Usually, I only have Chrome, Twitter and my imaging editor open at once.

    Not really the answer to your question, directly, but maybe helpful nonetheless.
  3. playethic thread starter macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2007
    Vancouver, Canada
  4. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    For me, it's all about text -- characters. I really dislike working with text where I'm aware of the pixels. For example, 24" with 1920 x 1080 is only barely workable for me, and I can't put in a long day writing at one.

    I use a Dell 27" U2711, which is 2540 x 1440 and it's good enough for me.

    I also do book design and photography, and the 27" is just fine for that.

    If there ever is a retina 27", I'll find a way to buy one, even if it means a new Mac Pro.
  5. 9947273 Suspended

    Oct 28, 2012
    With more pixels, you can have more on the screen. Some people prefer to have a single monitor with a high pixel density to dual monitors, it can allow better focus depending on how you work. You may also want to consider an ultra wide screen monitor, like the 29" aoc q2963pm ips ultra-wide monitor. It's basically two 4:3 monitors out together.
  6. Unami macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    i second that. a retina display on a 13" mbp peobably won't do you nothing in this regard, but obviously you can fit more information on a 27" 2550x1440 than on two 50 inch 1024x768 screens.
  7. OLDCODGER macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2011
    Lucky Country
    Bear in mind that your eyes will determine the highest resolution that you can comfortably work with.
  8. m98custom1212 macrumors 6502

    Jul 20, 2013
    Toledo, Ohio
    I use 27inch 1440p (cad work, multitasking) and two 1080p screens ( one screen for pdf's, email and the other for videos netflix, youtube pandora)

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