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HomenewsUltrawide vs. dual monitors: which should you buy?

Ultrawide vs. dual monitors: which should you buy?


I’ve long advocated that everyone should have a dual monitor setup, because two screens are better than one — especially if you’re still working from home. But ever since Alienware’s ultrawide 34 Curved QD-OLED arrived at my doorstep, the two screens I’ve relied on for years have been sitting in a corner collecting dust.

Switching to an ultrawide display has allowed me to enjoy most of the same multitasking benefits as my previous two-screen setup, while being a literal game-changer when it comes to playing my favorite PC titles. And since everything’s connected to a single screen, my notoriously messy work area is now just a bit cleaner.

But while I’ll likely be team ultrawide for the foreseeable future, there are still lots of benefits to dual monitors that you simply can’t get on one giant screen. If you’re ready to add more display space to your home office, here’s how to decide between the two.

Mike Andronico/CNN

I’m almost always juggling two things at once — taking notes during a presentation, writing up a story while reading a press release, sending Slack messages while ignoring a video call…the list goes on. This type of multitasking has always been easy on my dual-monitor setup, but it’s even easier on an ultrawide screen because everything’s in my immediate line of sight all at once.

When using the Alienware QD-OLED’s wide 34-inch screen, I feel like I can see two monitors’ worth of content without having to constantly turn my head. It’s a lot more immediate and convenient than my old setup, which consisted of a 24-inch Dell Gaming Monitor in front of me and a 21-inch Acer monitor off to the side. If you’re a video editor or music producer with long timelines, an ultrawide monitor will let you see more of your project at once without having to frequently scroll side to side.

Of course, you could get two identical widescreen monitors and position them side to side for similar viewability, but then you’re dealing with a nasty border right in the middle. You’ll also benefit from true consistency across your entire screen, whereas even matching dual displays have the potential to differ slightly in terms of color and brightness.

Mike Andronico/CNN

Using an ultrawide monitor for work has been convenient; for gaming, it’s been a revelation. Many modern PC games are optimized for an ultrawide 21:9 aspect ratio, allowing for even more immersion when playing cinematic titles — and some practical advantages in competitive ones.

When playing Halo Infinite, I could suddenly see much more of the battlefield at a glance, making it easier to track enemies and teammates (an ultrawide monitor will not, however, improve your reflexes or aim, as I’ve learned firsthand). The already gorgeous racing action of Forza Horizon 5 looked even more breathtaking on my Alienware display, as I could better take in the game’s stunning Mexican vistas as I recklessly drifted around.

It’s worth noting that not every PC game out there supports ultrawide mode, and you’re still going to be playing in standard widescreen if you hook a console up to this type of display. But using an ultrawide monitor has given new life to some of my favorite PC titles, and if you’re a serious PC gamer and have the cash to spend, I can’t recommend one highly enough.

A simpler and space-saving setup

Mike Andronico/CNN

Ultrawide monitors are not small — most popular models measure 34 inches wide, and certain options like the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 take up a sprawling 49 inches horizontally. That being said, these types of displays can still save you space and hassle compared to using two screens. I’ve gained a decent amount of real estate on my desk since switching to an ultrawide, and my usual mess of cables is tidier with a few less wires to worry about. And when you’re a gadget reviewer that needs every open power outlet they can get, that last part makes a big difference.

More space for individual apps and windows

Mike Andronico/CNN

While ultrawide monitors are great for seeing lots of things at a glance, a multi-monitor setup provides more individual real estate for whatever you have open on each screen. I like to watch videos while I work, and those generally look way better in fullscreen mode on their own dedicated monitor than crammed into one half of a widescreen display.

If you want to blow up presentations, video calls or movies as big as possible while doing something else on a second screen, a two-monitor setup might work better for you. Same goes for gamers who want to be able to play on one screen and view things like YouTube tips or their Discord chat on another.

Eric Ravenscraft/CNN

If you want the sharpest viewing experience for your money, you may want to stick with a dual-screen setup. Most ultrawide monitors stretch a quad HD resolution (3440 x 1440) across a large 34-inch display, whereas two traditional widescreen 4K monitors will get you a higher overall pixel density ideal for things like photo editing or single-screen gaming.

Considering how many affordable 4K monitors are out there, you may even be able to snag two ultra-HD displays for the price of a single ultrawide model. For example, two $396.99 LG 32UN550-W 4K displays are roughly the same cost as our top big-screen monitor pick, the $699.99 Samsung CJ791. You could go with a 5K ultrawide monitor like the $1,496.99 LG 34WK95U-W, but you’ll be paying a whole lot for the added resolution.

The freedom to mix and match

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Perhaps the biggest benefit to a dual monitor setup is the flexibility to mix and match displays. You can combine monitors at different sizes and resolutions based on your needs, whether you want a big 4K display for gaming and a smaller 1080p screen for viewing your Twitch chat, or two matching quad-HD monitors for clean consistency.

You can even have one monitor in horizontal orientation and the other in vertical, the latter of which is ideal for things like coding, writing or just seeing as much of your dreaded inbox as possible. You’ll have the freedom to position your two displays at whatever viewing angles are most comfortable, and thanks to the many available monitor arms and wall mounts, will gain plenty of options for creating a clean and cool-looking setup.

There’s no one perfect monitor setup for everyone. In response to an informal Twitter poll I put out, some folks praised the seamlessness and simplicity of an ultrawide display, while others noted that they value the ability to better separate tasks and apps across two screens. It really all depends on how you work and play.

If you decide to go the ultrawide route, we love the Alienware 34 Curved QD-OLED for gaming, and the Samsung CJ791 is our favorite ultrawide display for general use. Those looking to snag two displays can check out our best monitor and best budget gaming monitor recommendations, though the Lenovo L24q makes for a good, affordable starting point to any setup. Of course, you could go all out and combine two ultrawide displays, but you have to be a special kind of mad genius for that — or just willing to spend a lot of money.





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MD Abdullah
Abdullah is a former educator, lifelong money nerd, and a Plutus Award-winning freelance writer who specializes in the scientific research behind irrational money behaviors. Her background in education allows her to make complex financial topics relatable and easily understood by the layperson. She is the author of four books, including End Financial Stress Now and The Five Years Before You Retire.
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