Sunday, September 5, 2021

Multi-monitor setup - combining different screen sizes

I've been a big fan of multiple monitor setups, ever since NVidia put two or more video outputs on their cards. In fact, I did have a multi monitor setup before that using two video cards (which wasn't great, to be honest).

This post shows different sizes and combinations, to make it easier to find your path to multi-monitor minerva 😄


Let's start with a bunch of examples (click to enlarge):


With increasing monitor sizes (and decreasing eye sight) nothing is better than having a couple of screens facing you. Obviously, it's best if you have multiple screens of the same size, but sometimes you just have a spare screen laying around, or the boss is unwilling to give you yet another screen (the cheapskate).

Office workers typically have a laptop, in combination with a 22" or 27" screen. By keeping the laptop open they have an extra screen to park less important applications. (It's worth it.)

Some may have 2x 22" or 2x 27" screens. You lucky bastards 😁 You could keep your laptop open as well, but that might not increase your comfort, that's something you have to decide for yourself.


At home you might have an old spare monitor. How would that combine with another screen?

An old 17" 5:4 screen works well with a 22" 16:10 screen, but both are getting dated. You could reuse the 17" screens by turning them on their side, and combining them with a 27" 16:9 screen.

Actually, you could combine any size and orientation, but not all combinations are esthetically pleasing 😁 Still, better two different screens than only one...

Connectors and cables

All those monitors have different connectors. As a rule of thumb you should get yourself a new screen with as many different ports as possbible. Some cconnections require a (simple) adapter.

DVI / Display Port / HDMI

You can pretty much combine DVI / Display Port / HDMI in any combination, with the right cable and / or adapter. Sometimes DVI connectors / connections can cause problems.

Note that DVI is pretty much limited to 1920x1080, and that not all DVI connectors are created equal. For example on my old Cintiq 21UX the DVI connector has some odd pins, making it impossible to fit it in my NVidia 1060 with DVI ports.




Some DVI cables / connectors / monitors support VGA, some don't. In most cases it's not worth the effort trying to get this to work.


It's old but it works.


You can use to calculate the different dimensions.

Note that different manufactures have a different idea about the size of an inch (I've seen enough monitors that are up to half an inch smaller than claimed, or have slightly different dimensions / aspect rations because their pixels aren't square) so I advise to measure everything in real life before actually going out and buying something (bring your tape measure 😇).

Click the image below for some additional combinations and the screen dimensions (click to enlarge).

Color representation and viewing angles

Some monitors need to be rotated in a specific direction to keep the image clear. The only way to find out is to try.

Colors differ between models and brands. Don't expect any combinations to match perfectly. Period. But it's always better than a single screen 😇 

Re-arranging screens (in Windows)

In windows, click on the desktop with the right mouse button, to go Display Settings. Use Identify to identify each screen, then drag that screen to a position where it reflects its real place. This is also where you can rotate the screen, and change its resolution.

Using different resolutions

Monitors have different resolutions (the number of pixels in total in vertical and horizontal direction) but also a different density (pixels per inch).

A typical example is a 17" laptop with a 27" monitor. Both have a resolution of 1920x1080, but the letters and windows on the laptop will look much smaller than on the monitor. Some people prefer it that way.

If you like the windows / letters on the laptop to match your main screen in size, then click the right mouse button on the desktop, then go to Display Settings, select the screen you want to adjust, and change the option Change the size of text, apps and other items. Now you can enlarge everything on the smaller screen.

Keeping track of your icons

Working at different locations, screen resolutions etc. can seriously mess up your desktop, and all your carefully placed icons. Windows isn't very helpful in this particular aspect. What you need is a little tool called ReIcon.

I've used other tools in the past, and though ReIcon isn't perfect, it does the job and does not affect Windows in any other way.

Wallpaper managers

There are quite a few nice wallpaper managers out there, but I use WallX, something of my own making, which handles certain combinations other tools did not, though it has its own limitations as well. 



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