If there’s one thing I’ve learned right from home from a year it’s that I wouldn’t be nearly as productive without two monitors.
Having access to multiple displays makes almost every facet of my daily routine easier, whether I’m taking notes during a meeting or keeping an eye on Slack conversations and emails while pounding on a story. And when it’s time to stop working and play some games, my second monitor is invaluable for looking for passageways or interacting with my Twitch chat.
If any of these use cases apply to you, there is a lot you can do with a dual monitor setup. And luckily, there’s really no wrong way to add extra screen real estate to your workspace. Since the sheer number of monitor and accessory options can be overwhelming, we’ve rounded up a few pointers and products (including the monitors we’ve tested extensively) that you can use to create the dual-display setup of your dreams.
Whether you’re looking to boost your productivity or just check email on boring Zoom calls (we won’t tell anyone), here’s everything you need to know about building a good dual monitor setup.
PHOTO: Mike Andronico / CNN
A dual monitor setup is exactly what it sounds like. By connecting two displays to your desktop or laptop (usually via HDMI or DisplayPort connections), you can expand the screen real estate significantly for work or leisure. There is really no wrong way to put together a dual monitor setup, whether you want to mix and match screens or mount two identical displays together for a seamless ultrawide experience.
Personally, I use an asymmetrical basic setup that consists of a Dell S2417DG as the main display and an Acer KG221Q as the secondary display. The Dell monitor has a razor-sharp 24-inch (2560 x 1440) display that allows me to immerse myself in my favorite PC games or pound Google Docs with minimal eye strain. My smaller 1080p Acer monitor allows me to keep an eye on emails or emails and monitor my chat when I’m streaming on Twitch. My particular Acer monitor is hard to find these days, but this $ 93 model (Acer SB220Q) is a great alternative if you’re looking for a reliable and cheap second display.
If you want a more organized setup with two monitors, there are plenty of displays out there that are optimized to stand side by side. Our pick for the best overall computer monitor, the Lenovo L24q-30 is perfect for dual display setups thanks to thin bezels that create a nearly seamless viewing experience when placed side by side. The L24q-30 also supports VESA mounting, meaning you can mount several of these together on walls or different types of stands (more on that later).
It is also worth considering monitors that can be positioned vertically when putting together a dual monitor setup. Vertically oriented monitors are particularly useful for programmers as they can display multiple lines of code and can easily save desk space – something not everyone has a lot of in their home office. The $ 124 HP VH240a is a popular and affordable option that supports both vertical orientation and VESA mounting when you want a more elaborate dual-screen setup. And yes, you can switch between vertical and horizontal on the fly.
Daisy chaining can make setting up your dual monitor a little easier. What this essentially means is that you combine your various display outputs into a single cable that goes into your computer. To get to the heart of it all, one monitor is connected to a second monitor, with that display sending both signals to your PC with just one cable that you have to worry about. It’s a nice feature that makes your setup a little cleaner, though not all monitors support it.
You need a monitor with a DisplayPort 1.2 connection with MST (Multi-Stream Transport) technology for the daisy chain to work. The $ 229 ViewSonic VP2468 is a well-respected daisy-chain monitor if you want an affordable 1080p display, while the $ 423 Dell U2721DE is a popular option if you need a high-quality 1440p screen.
Placing two monitors on your desk is easy enough, but what if you want to tidy up something? This is where stands and wall brackets come into play. By mounting your monitors, you can save valuable desk space and gain even more freedom in setting up your displays and finding the perfect viewing angle.
For those looking to connect multiple monitors to their laptop (or just want to simplify the mess of cables), a USB-C hub for your dual monitor setup is worth it. And if you’re a real power user, you can easily use your dual displays on multiple computers with a KVM switch that allows peripherals to be connected to two computers at the same time. Here are a few accessories that you should look into to get the most out of your dual monitor setup.
Vivo Dual LCD Monitor Desk Mount ($ 39.95; amazon.com)
Vivo Dual LCD Monitor Desk Mount
One of the most popular stands on the internet, the Vivo Dual LCD Monitor Desk Stand allows for the mounting of two monitors, 13-27 inches in size, weighing up to 22 pounds each. Each arm of this stand is highly flexible and allows you to swivel your displays up to 180 degrees or rotate 360 degrees if you need a portrait action. The stand’s clamp fits securely on any desk up to 4 inches thick and includes detachable cable clips that help you organize all of the wires.
Wali Dual LCD Monitor Wall Mount ($ 59.99; amazon.com)
Wali Dual LCD Monitor Wall Mount
If you’d rather mount your monitors on a wall, Wali’s dual display mount is a popular and relatively inexpensive way to do it. This wall mount will fit any monitor up to 27 inches with a 75 x 75 millimeter or 100 x 100 millimeter VESA mount with a variety of pivot points including a 90 degree swivel and 360 degree rotation to position your monitors vertical. The Wali Dual LCD Monitor Mount also features an adjustable gas spring that allows the mount to provide increased or decreased tension depending on the severity of your monitor.
Aukey USB-C Hub 12-in-1 Type-C Adapter ($ 69.99; amazon.com)
Aukey USB-C Hub 12-in-1 Type-C adapter
Many modern laptops have limited ports, which can make connecting external monitors difficult. USB-C hubs like this 12-in-1 model from Aukey solve this problem with ease. This adapter has two HDMI ports and one VGA port and gives you a lot of flexibility to mirror your laptop screen on up to three displays or use them all as separate screens in enhanced mode. You also get a ton of extra ports for your peripherals, including two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet port, and an SD card reader.
Steetek 2-Port Dual-Monitor KVM Switch ($ 109, originally $ 115; amazon.com)
Steetek 2 port dual monitor KVM switch
For power users or Twitch streamers who use multiple computers with their dual monitor setups, a KVM switch is worthwhile. These switches give you a single connection point for your monitors, as well as your mouse and keyboard, so you can switch from one computer to another with the push of a button. This well-rated Steetek switch supports both Full HD and 4K monitors and has two additional USB ports for sharing accessories such as printers or external drives on multiple PCs.
Before investing in a dual monitor setup, you should also consider whether an ultrawide monitor is a better fit for your needs. As the name suggests, ultrawide displays typically have an aspect ratio of 21: 9 (compared to 16: 9 on traditional displays), so you have plenty of horizontal screen space for extensive multitasking. Just check out the $ 699 Samsung CJ791, our best large display computer monitor right now that offers a generous 34-inch-wide (3440 x 1440) screen that you can use to juggle multiple apps or more into your favorite games or games -movies immersed.
Ultrawide monitors offer several advantages over dual monitor setups. For one thing, these monitors require less setup and can potentially save you money because you only need to buy and set up a single display for your workspace. You also benefit from a truly seamless screen that allows you to enjoy games, movies and shows optimized for a 21: 9 aspect ratio. Many ultrawide monitors are curved, which allows for better immersion while also preventing your eyes from straining your eyes when moving from side to side.
However, dual-monitor setups give you a level of versatility that is hard to beat. With the freedom to mix and match displays, you can invest in a high-end 4K monitor as your main screen while choosing a cheaper 1080p model for web browsing and business calls. And you literally have more flexibility in positioning, whether you have a screen vertical or want to adjust the height and angle of your two monitors independently on a wall bracket.
If money and space are not an issue, you can of course enjoy the best of both worlds and pick up multiple ultrawide displays. For most people, an ultrawide monitor offers simplicity and immersion, while a dual-screen setup allows more flexibility.
Whether you’re looking to upgrade your home office or game room, a dual monitor setup can make a huge difference. You have more screen space to easily switch between email, Slack chats, and video conferencing, and you can better monitor your broadcasts on your way to Twitch or YouTube.
It’s worth considering a stand or wall mount if you want a cleaner, more flexible setup, as well as an ultrawide monitor as an easier alternative to two displays. Regardless of how you go about it, adding more screen space on your desk will increase your productivity and help you have more fun.