13 Apr 2016

The new norm for desktop monitors

I was recently asked by a customer looking at a desktop refresh what the new ‘norm’ for monitors is in the enterprise. Should they provide a 27” monitor or perhaps a dual 2×24” set-up for staff?

It’s an interesting question on a number of different levels.

Firstly, there has been a lot of argument – and even academic study – in the past decade trying to resolve whether a single large monitor or dual monitor setup is better for productivity.

There are a couple of particularly influential studies. One conducted by the University of Utah found a dual setup made people doing text editing 44 percent more productive than single screen users – mostly because they didn’t have to toggle windows much.

However, the same study also found a decent sized single screen could also boost productivity – although there was a tipping point where it became too big.

That study is getting a bit old, but there is a whole body of other work that also finds productivity improvements on both sides of the fence.

But productivity is a tricky measure. As a New York Times writer pointed out in 2014, he switched off his second monitor after five years of using it – and found his productivity improved because he was less distracted.

So on productivity at least, it looks like a bit of a case of horses for courses.

But there are a few more important things to consider when determining the best screen size for your monitor refresh.

Occupational health and safety is a key thing to consider. To put it simply, you don’t want to sit too close to a large monitor. As Lifehacker points out, sitting too close to a large screen could strain your eyes and neck “as you’re moving it around constantly to focus on the edges of the display.”

The optimal monitor setup will also largely depend on the desk size and shape.

The most popular format of monitors that we supply to customer is dual 24” monitors with or without monitor stands.

In cases where we supply one 27” monitor is after we know it satisfies desk and OH&S restrictions. It’s also worth considering that a single 27” monitor can require some staff re-training to use split screen in the new Windows operating system.

Where we are seeing some emerging growth is in curved monitors.

We typically see demand from C-Level clients – and other customers that can afford them – for 34” and larger curved displays.   But we are also seeing curved display ending up in the 27” format especially around unusual desk shapes.

Because curved displays wrap around you, they are easier to use so you don’t get anywhere as much neck fatigue as with flat screen displays. Part of the beauty of the curved monitor is the way our eyes adjust to the bend, we have curved eyes so the curve helps . You can see an interesting analysis of this space here.

Our own Executive Chairman, Dave Stevens, just recently switched to a large curved monitor and says has not looked back since. “Windows 10 intuitively splits the screen so you have the functionality of dual windows but the ease of one expansive monitor. The beauty really shines through when I am working on large reports or spreadsheets, more real estate on the screen allows for less scrolling and switching which really impacts my productivity.”

If you’re looking at your next desktop refresh, talk to your account manager about what option is likely to be the best for your business.