Advancements in screen technology allow companies to make ultrawide monitors. You can now buy large 21:9 or 32:9 monitors that resemble car windshields due to their size.
But are they really worth the hype? Should you settle for a multi-monitor setup instead?
Dual Monitors vs. Ultrawide: Pros and Cons
At first glance, ultrawide displays look superior over dual and triple monitor configurations. Their sleek looks, clean setup, and ultra-wide display do look pretty. It goes well with modern, minimalist workstation designs.
But monitors aren’t there to look pretty. Their function is to let you do whatever you’re doing efficiently. So, let’s see how multi-monitor setups stack up against ultrawide displays.
1. Screen Real Estate
If you’re after the raw resolution, you may be forgiven to think ultrawide monitors are better than other setups. Currently, LG offers a 38-inch ultrawide screen with a resolution of 3840 x 1600. That provides a full resolution of 6,144,000 pixels.
But if you use three 24″ monitors with Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolutions, you’ll get a full resolution of 6,220,800 pixels. And those three monitors come at half the price of the ultrawide display.
2. Workspace Management
One of the reasons users opt for ultrawide or multiple displays is to run apps simultaneously. See how both setups manage running various programs.
Windows 10 Snap Feature
Windows 10 lets you divide easily by snapping apps to your display’s left, right, or corner edges. So, if you have two monitors, you can easily divide your screens into eight sections.
But if you only have one ultrawide display, you can only divide it into four sections. Although each area is considerably larger, it might not be enough for you to see all your apps.
FancyZones and Similar Apps
One solution to this issue is the PowerToys FancyZones app. This program allows you to divide your screen into usable sections virtually.
This is actually a more flexible setup, considering you can create custom sections. You can choose to divide your screen to fit your apps just the way you use them.
However, it can also be a bit tedious to program, especially for those who are not power users. There may be instances that apps will misbehave if you place them in your custom sections.
Multi-tasking With Full-Screen Apps
If you run multiple full-screen apps simultaneously, you might have no choice but to have a dual-screen setup. This is especially true for photo editors, video editors, and even game streamers.
3. Physical Arrangement
The physical characteristics of ultrawide monitors are generally better than multi-monitor setups. For one, they have a smaller footprint. One ultrawide display only needs one power and one signal cable.
On the other hand, dual or triple screens need twice or thrice as many cables. You also have to deal with one base for each display unless you have a dual or triple monitor mount.
One thing that the ultrawide screen will always have an advantage over multiple screens is bezels. The ultrawide does not have any bezels blocking your view. But dual screens will have one right at the center.
Triple monitor setups do have one advantage over an ultrawide. They can increase your immersion by setting up the secondary monitors at just the right angle. Currently, the most immersive curved ultrawide screens are rated at 1000R. But with a triple monitor, you could set up your display to have an effective rating of 500R or less.
As mentioned earlier, ultrawide displays tend to be pricier than the typical 16:9 screen. If you already have an existing monitor, it’s more affordable to buy an extra display. But if you’re building a system from scratch, ultrawide screens have a competitive price over two monitors.
Dual Monitors vs. Ultrawide: Use Cases
Although many prefer the cleaner view of an ultrawide display, there’s still no clear winner between the two. The utility of each format will still depend on its primary use.
If you’re running multiple apps simultaneously, a dual or triple monitor setup might be more favorable for you. Some programs, like Lightroom and Premiere, let you use a secondary monitor for a full-screen preview of your work in real-time. You can also use another display to view your folders or references. All while working on your primary display.
If you’re a gamer, you would most likely prefer an ultrawide monitor over dual-screen displays. That’s because you get a more expansive view without the distracting bezel right at your face. This is especially true if you’re playing first-person shooters or top view games.
But if you’re running a simulation game, like a flight simulator, a triple monitor setup could benefit you. Since the bezels are off to the side and not at the center of your view, it would seem part of the landscape. The secondary monitors would look like your side windows. And the bezels would look like a part of the windscreen.
If you’re a game streamer, it’s also better to have multiple screens. Although apps like OBS Studio can divide your monitor to show a specific section, most games require the full display to run.
If you only have one monitor, you’ll have to multitask. You’ll have to constantly switch your screen between your game, communication, and streaming. Or you’ll have to have ugly overlays on your game, taking away from the immersion.
Multiple displays don’t have this problem. You can monitor both your streaming and comms while playing at the same time.
You’ll also have fewer problems with old games not supporting the ultrawide format. That’s because you can set it to run at your primary display only—not spanning across your screens.
If you’re a movie buff, then ultrawide monitors hands-down win over ultrawide displays. No amount of trickery will hide your screen’s bezel. So, if your primary purpose is to watch movies, you should go for an ultrawide display.
Ultrawide, Dual, or Triple?
There was a time that 4:3 monitors were the standard displays, and 16:9 were the premium widescreen options. Today, 16:9 screens are the norm, and 21:9 or 32:9 monitors are the “premium” displays.
In the future, you can expect the 21:9 format to take over as the standard. But for now, price and software constraints can make multiple 16:9 displays an attractive option.
But if you can afford and have space for it, why not get the best of both worlds? Install a triple ultrawide display set up and be absorbed in both your work and entertainment.
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