How to Set Up a Multiple-Monitor Workstation

Having two or more monitors makes it easier for an employee to multitask, but many companies deem multi-monitor workstations too expensive or too difficult to set up. This guide will walk you through common issues, considerations and tips related to deploying multiple monitors.

By Paul Mah
Wed, May 08, 2013

CIO — Using more than one monitor with your computer offers productivity advantages. Despite the benefits, dual or multi-monitor workstations are not widely deployed in businesses. This is often attributed to uncertainty about how to do it, as well as the historically high cost of external monitors.

Now, though, you can purchase a good LCD monitor for less than $100, and setup isn't as difficult as you might think. With that in mind, here are some common issues and considerations for businesses looking into multi-monitor workstations.

Multiple Monitor Display
(Photo courtesy of VizWorld.)

Laptops and Desktops Require Different Configurations

This is one of the first questions that businesses face when setting up a multi-monitor workstation. Wiring up additional monitors is generally easy on a desktop and involves installing graphics adapters to increase the number of video outputs. Some desktops already ship with two video outputs that can be used to simultaneously drive two separate monitors. However, the Mac Mini and other small form factor machines, including those based on the Pico ITX motherboard, don't support installation of additional video cards.

Laptops, though, are more popular desktop PCs. Luckily, since almost all laptops come with a built-in VGA output, setting up a dual-screen workstation is a trivial matter—and some laptop models, including the new MacBook Pro with Retina display, even come with onboard support for two external monitors.

Keep in mind that complexity does increase as you throw additional external monitors nto the mix. Read 6 Ways to Use Multiple Displays With Your Laptop to find out how.

Power Consumption Adds Up

Most people don't give power consumption much thought these days, given the popularity of energy-efficient laptops and the availability of ultra-low-powered processors. But start deploying two, three or even four monitors to a few dozen workers and the increase becomes clearly noticeable on the utility bill.

Fortunately, modern LCD monitors uses significantly less energy than the CRT monitors of yesteryear, though they still consume anywhere from 40 watts for a 24-inch monitor to more than 100 watts for a 27-inch or larger display.

Related: Belkin Unveils Tools to Slay 'Vampire' Power

You can take steps to limit the impact of so many new monitors. For one, you should configure computers so monitors go into standby mode when the computer is inactive. This takes advantage of the 1- to 2-watt energy saving mode of LCD monitors to save electricity. It's crucial, too, considering that most users aren't in front of their computers for more than 10 hours a day.

One alternative is to make use of a motion sensor, such as the Belkin WeMo Switch + Motion, to completely cut power to the monitors when no motion is detected near them. At $99, though, the sensors aren't cheap.

Finally, of course, there's the option of encouraging users diligently switch off unused monitors manually.

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