Bigger is better? (Photo: ikelee)
According to University of Utah researchers, using a larger monitor could save you 2.5 hours per day.
Specifically, test subjects completed everyday tasks like editing documents and massaging spreadsheets 52% faster when using a 24-inch monitor than they did with an 18-incher.
Not sure who uses 18-inch screens (17″ and 19″ are more typical), but I’d be curious to see how productivity with a 24-inch screen without Expose compares to a 17″ Mac with Expose activated.
If they are referring to docs and spreadsheets, it would seem to be a mostly scrolling-based discrepancy, n’est-ce pas? I suspect that if we use double-finger dragging on a scratch pad to scroll vs. a mouse, this gap would narrow.
Any theories to explain the difference, and how to make a smaller screen behave like a larger screen? Top picks for afforable 20-24″ monitors? I’m planning on a 22″ Acer LCD in black and hope to quantify the difference over a 4-week period.
[Thanks to Scott Allen via Wall Street Journal for the tip.]
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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146 Replies to “Size Does Matter — Bigger Monitors Save 2.5 Hours a Day”
Whoa! That screen’s giving me monitor envy.
MAN! what I could do with that screen! so envious.
My personal productivity increases since I have to use less ALT+TAB while working will larger monitors – just by reorganizing windows. Also, with small monitors it is harder to understand, which icon should I click on the taskbar – I have to roll over the icon and read the text. So, “up to 2.5” hours per days seems to me quite possible.
Trust me, the increased productivity working online comes from using large widescreen monitors in_portrait_mode_i.e. turned 90 deg on their side – This is so that you can see much more of a website on the monitor without scrolling. I have two 24 inch dell monitors (which imho the best value) in portrait running 1200×1920 resolution. Also, a worthwhile investment is ultramon software. I cant imagine ever going back, just buy em!
i’ve used the Dell 24″ in portrait mode for a few years. but recently i went with dual 24″ portrait mode Dells. and it’s blowing my mind. it’s like swimming in details. like flying high over the problem. there are some tasks that go faster. but there are also other uses. for example, people gather for work meetings, and it’s a good collaborable environment, because we can all see the details. i’m trying to determine what tasks are remarkably accelerated or more possible with such a configuration so i can possibly shift my contracting focus to capitalize on the advantage. the 24″ is under $400 delivered on ebay.
My theory (and it’s just that) is that the larger monitor corresponds better with the way our memory works sometimes.
Rats in mazes are thought (by some psychologists) to learn by developing a cognitive “Map” of how the maze works and being able to run through it (usually they’re rewarded to encourage this behaviour) based on a gradually more sophisticated and accurate map.
On a larger monitor, maybe the larger number of contextual visual cues (being able to see rows 1 – 30 instead of 1-25 in a spread sheet for example) lets us pull things from our memory easier and quicker. Remembering things with contextual aids is significantly easier than remembering them without.
Maybe the people using the computer found it was enough space to be able to place two items more comfortably on the screen, and they didn’t have to keep hitting alt + tab or apple + fwhateverexposeis to cycle through things.
Another ideas is that the people who worked on 24″ monitors felt cooler. So they worked harder. Maybe the people who ended up dumped on the 18″ers felt a little inferior? A little jealous? Spent a little more of their attention on watching the people who had the cool stuff?
I don’t know. I think the individual users usage patterns would vary this enormously. I also think a test like this in “controlled” conditions only really effectively tests the exact circumstances tested and otherwise generalises to real world usage less well than we might imagine.
I agree – big monitors are a benefit, especially if you (or, I) are develping software. I’ve been using atleast TWO 19″ monitors for the last 6 years or so, mostly because a 24 was too expensive at the time. The extra space is well worth it.
I think two monitors make sense on windows, with maximised screens, where as one big one (24″, 30″) makes sense on a mac with expose and the general trend of none-maximised windows.
going from that to a 13.3″ panel however, thats painful 🙂
less squinting = less time spent on each item… just a thought
It’s the ability to be able to see more data at the same time without having to switch between the documents or scrolling in a document. A dual display setup will probably have a very similar effect.
You could have a spreadsheet with the data open in one area (or one display) and a presentation you are working on in another area (or on the other display). That way you can actually see the data while writing your analysis.
I often have my browser with information about a topic I’m writing about open on one display and my editor in the other one (I work with a two display setup). Being able to see the information while writing my own thoughts is very helpful.
I suspect it’s only a second or two every time you switch between documents or scroll in a document, but as with any of these tiny units they add up very quickly.
18 inches is the visible screen size on a 19” CRT monitor. On CRT’s it’s common that the visible screen is smaller than the advertised dimensions. I’m not sure if this is the case with LCD monitors.
Just had a quick look at your link to Expose. On PCs, you can use a keyboard shortcut to close all the open windows and show the desktop – it’s ‘windows key’ + ‘M’. I use it all the time.
I use a tiling window manger (Xmonad) on Linux to easily organize and switch between programs on my 12″ laptop. It also reduces the need to use the mouse.
That probably doesn’t help most people on other OSes, though. Similar ideas are virtual desktops, scrollable desktops, and smarter application switchers (like Exposé).
I think it’s simply having a bigger “desk”. It’s called a desktop for a reason… Would you consider doing desk work at a desk the size of a single manila folder? Of course not — you’d spend way too much time digging through the stack of papers to find the one you want. Same thing with a small “desktop” — how many windows can you have open at once and still see part of each? If you can’t see it, you have to go looking for it.
I generally don’t have full-screen windows because of this. My largest window (typically firefox) takes up at most 4/5ths of the screen. That leaves me a strip of open space in which I keep the edges of other windows I may want to switch to quickly, and it leaves me a little space to keep the icons for other apps I may want to start up.
I don’t think it’s the time spent in each app that makes the difference. The difference is being able to switch back and forth a little — not too much! Multitasking doesn’t work well. But when there *are* interruptions, it’s nice to be able to pop one window to the top, do something in it, and then go right back to what you were doing before.
A 17″ (diagonal measurement) monitor is roughly 13.5″ by 10.4″. That’s 141 sq. inches. A 19″ monitor is 15.2″ by 11.7″, which is 178 square inches. 178 – 141 = 37, 37/141 = 26% bigger!
That’s right, a 19″ monitor is 26% bigger than a 17″ monitor.
By the way, Tim, I think carrying a 24″ monitor around the world will get tiring. 🙂
You just need to get yourself a 30″ Mac Display. That’ll save at least a few hours a day. 😛
I don’t think it’s just a matter of scrolling/scratching faster. The majority of the population thinks visually. Larger screens allow you to see more and therefore process more at once. So you’re not just scrolling less, you’re thinking faster 🙂
At work I have a 17″ dell pc nightmare. At home I have a 24″ iMac and I am in loooove with it.
If you are looking for a decent monitor, apple has a couple refurbished ones at 55% and 63% off. I remember you saying you had a mac.
Apple.com in the refurb section.
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• Save 63% off the original price
Original price: $1,999.00
Your price: $749.00
Within 24 hours
Refurbished Apple Cinema HD Display (30-inch flat panel w/ aluminum enclosure)
The Apple Cinema HD is a stunning, all-digital, 30-inch flat panel display with a 2560-by-1600-pixel resolution – The largest high-resolution display ever created.
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We can scroll faster than we can read. Generally people spend most of their time copying or referencing data from one document and pasting or interpreting it on another. Rarely does anyone generate totally unique content purely from the mind. The ability to display both documents in their entirety reduces time clicking between the documents and finding the place on the page they where looking at.
Also the lag time between documents increases the likelihood of forgetting what you where looking for. This has much the same effect as being interrupted by email, only more frequent. By having the document you are typing in open, it also acts as a reminder telling you what you are looking for.
A buddy I know in webdesign has two 30″ monitors, and swears that he needs a third. I get by on my 17″ iMac — but I’ll bet I’d be much faster if I didn’t have to use exposé to pop back and forth so often between CSS Edit, Transmit, Fireworks, and Camino (I develop with WordPress).
For most people reading, I doubt it’d be that big a deal; for developers, or folks with lots of windows open at once, I bet it’s a huge timesaver.
Just ask Al Gore…
Vista basically has the “expose” feature. It’s right near where the “start” button use to be.
It turns out my 22 inch was an investment ^_^
Allen, that’s not actually true. On paper, we average about 150 words per minute reading, on screen we average about 80 words per minute. Using rapid reader, I can read at about 650-700 words per minute fairly easily. The limiting factor in our speed of reading is the mechanical movements of our eyeballs as it scans the screen or a page.
I would think that the biggest advantage of a larger screen and/or multiple monitors is having multiple windows up at once, which gets into the cutting and pasting aspects. I know from a programming perspective, having the code on one window and the program running in another window makes it much easier to get my work done.
For me, more important than a big monitor is having 2 monitors. I couldn’t work without it anymore.
Many tasks on a computer involves 2 windows, so 2 monitors avoid the constant switching between windows. Think about copy-paste. Think about drag’n drop.
Also, I find very convenient to put the applications I use to work on my main screen, and all the secondary applications (e.g. music player, internet browser, email client) on my other screen. I can focus better on my work.
I want to skip a song? no problem, I still have my work under my eyes. I follow a tutorial? Perfect, I can read it on my browser, and do the actions on my main screen.
Another important thing I have noticed is that many people open too many windows, there is this “fear” of closing a window because you think “hey that is important I will have a look at it later”. At the end, they have dozains of cluttered windows and can’t find what they are looking for. Think GTD. If something can be done within 2 minutes, do it. And never keep your windows open as a reminder for later, close everything that you are not using at least once every 2 hours.
To finish I would say that the worst idea was to create those side widgets in Vista, they are just gadgets that distracts you, and add unnecessary clutter on your screen, so get rid of them if not yet done.
We find that having dual monitors are a big boost to productivity. Especially when you are doing any kind of work based on a specification. For example, you have a word document that specifies what to build on your left monitor and you are creating the item on the right monitor. This works great for creating software. I find it is easier to maximize two applications on two monitors than to position windows on a big monitor.
I’d be more likely to stress screen resolution. I believe I work much better at 1280×1024 compared to 1024×768. I would bet that a larger screen itself would make little difference. Of course in many cases larger screens mean larger resolutions but not always..
There is nothing better then having a multi monitor setup. It is in my opinion better to have 2 17″‘s then to have one 24″ . Screen realestate is so much larger (and better distributed). even If you would run in the low res mode of 1024px. Multiplied by 2 would make 2000+ . One 24″ screen (depending on your setup offcourse) would yield only aprox 1600 px.
Also having code in one screen, and ‘stuff’ on the other is so much more productive…
I used to have 3 monitors hooked up to my Mac Pro (1 Dell 30″ and then two 20″) but found the 30″ to be all I needed. The more screen space you have, the more tempted you are to leave distracting things like email and IM in them.
If your system can support it, get a single 30″ monitor and remove all distracting applications. Multi-tasking is a myth.
I think it has to do with both the visual nature of memory/thinking and a little of the speed at which things can be done.
I’ve seen a few (seems like Ars had one posted, 5 years ago or so) on how multiple monitors helped. As a result most big engineering companies (Intel, Lockhead Martin, etc) give all their engineers multiple monitors (I’ve even seen three). A lot of jobs could not do without a big monitor or two of them. Like my profession, chip circuit design, where you look at the schematic on one and then the physical layout (or simulation data) on another.If I had to cmd-tab back and forth or squish the windows I’d be much less effective. A lot of people have a 3rd monitor just for email! Talk about a distraction.
The main advantage of a bigger monitor is the ablity to have multiple documents open at a readable size without overlapping.
I was doing some accounts the other day where I was referencing information from 4 different sources, I must admit my head started to spin from flicking back and forwards between these different apps.
Counterpose this to an old school method where you have the physical documents sitting in front of you i.e bank statement etc, it’s actually a lot easier just to look back and forwards at the different items that need your attention.
I am a big fan of your book. I am currently using your workout and diet. I know in your book you have written about different tricks you used in college to be more efficient. It would be very cool if you could write something to college students.
Another factor not mentioned here, or in Calacainis’ recent post on 17 money saving tips for startups (where he talks about multiple, large monitors) is the concept of having multiple applications open and “at the ready”. Realizing that having your email up and running is not the best, if you have it up, you don’t wait for the browser to open. Same with whatever applications you use regularly. My belief is the added screen real estate (along with plenty of RAM to handle a lot of stuff running simultaneously) allows you to have your multi-tabbed browser window going, word processing, etc. I tend to usually need a graphics program regularly, access to my server to develop code (along with two or three note pad 2 docs open for editing). Other times, I may have Windows Movie Maker open on one monitor and Audacity sound editing up on the other.
So, it’s not just the screen real estate that makes you “save more time”, but again, I believe the fact that you aren’t constantly opening and waiting for applications to start up!
Personally I regret getting rid of my 30″ (2560×1600) Dell. I sold it and went with a 24″ (1920×1200) and am really missing the extra resolution. It does help a lot when working with digital photos, spreadsheets and databases.
I also agree with Tim in regards to expose. I couldn’t live without it.. whenever I’m forced to use a windows machine I always need to install an expose equivalent.
Get a 30″ Apple Cinema screen. You’ve got cash, you may as well get a killer monitor. You can have all of your main applications open with no windows hiding. Plus almost no scrolling necessary.
I have a 17″ macbook pro with the high def screen that has the same number of pixels as a 24″.
The brain is a spatial processor. That’s why the palace of memory works as a mnemonic device. The more space the brain perceives, the more information it can process. Up to a point (there are diminishing returns) adding more computer screen real estate is similar to adding RAM to a computer.
In my past career as a management consultant, I found that having two large monitors was the way to go. I was able to scan a full page quickly without scrolling and jump over to the other monitor to update a spreadsheet or powerpoint easily.
I’ve found that working on my laptop, although mobile, it takes me quite some time to review the same type of material.
Big screens are helpful, but dual monitors are even more helpful. It’s helpful to have applications launch in separate screens this way you don’t have to resize them to make them easier to read on the same monitor or have to alt-tab between the two. I didn’t believe it until I saw it in a production environment.
I just saw your last tweet about wanting to rent a pig. That is hilarious..
Regarding displays, I know Microsoft has been doing research in large, curved displays. The effect of the added periphery supposedly increases productivity by [insert some phony statistic here]. Their project was called dsharp at the time that I listened to the presentation.
As someone who uses two 22″ monitors, for a long time I’ve suggested to people that the first step toward greater productivity is increasing the resolution on your monitor and/or getting a bigger one and/or getting a second one. It’s great that this idea is spreading more since productivity on the computer isn’t just for geeks.
One thing that’s important to note though–if you do get a bigger monitor, use its native resolution. Don’t make the text/pictures bigger. A lot of people make that mistake and lose the potential productivity gains (and they hurt their eyes)
As a side, Lifehacker discussed this study in depth earlier this week here . One of the points that was brought up was that the study was funded by a monitor manufacturer. Nonetheless, multiple or giant monitors are definitely the way to go (especially based on the points of Allen and Blaine).
I disagree that a dedicated monitor for email is a distraction. When I worked in an office processing internet orders that came in to me by email, the ability to copy and paste information between monitors from the customer’s email to the drop shipper’s website (to name just one use case) way much more fluid than toggling between documents.
For me, having a secondary application in peripheral vision is less disruptive than switching to it in my primary visual field.
From a women’s perspective size matters. But it’s also how you use your monitor. 😉 I am a graphic production artist by trade and my experience says bigger, as well as, two monitors at the same time is better. Two at once baby! All of your menus, overflow & extras that you may need for a project are on the other screen while you stretch out on your main screen. I have to say I have a problem with both screens when it takes an extra second to toggle between programs but c’est la vie.
Are you becoming George Clooney, bachelor with a pig? Kiss piggy for me!
I can testify to this research even though I am not affiliated with it in any way. I recently got a 22″ black Viewsonic for Christmas courtesy of my fiancee and I have to say that it helps tremendously in getting greater amounts of data on one screen at one time…
I think dual (or more) monitors are much more relevant to productivity than monitor size. I would take two smaller monitors over one huge one any day. The ability to have a “reference” and “work” visual area at any moment is invaluable, and while one can argue that a wide, large monitor can easily replicate the function of two smaller ones this is simply not true; it’s a lot easier to move/maximize a window on its own monitor.
That being said–I have a 24″ widescreen monitor at work and every evening when I return home to my measly 19″ standard I feel something is missing. I think it does indeed have to do with being able to visualize more information at once. In my particular case as a programmer I use many software applications that have multiple horizontal areas–3 most of the time, a “menu” area on the left, a large work area in the middle, and a “navigation” area on the right. In this situation a high resolution widescreen makes a huge difference and has an undeniable impact on productivity.
Finally, I think we are mostly visual beings, and the more screen area the better. I would speculate that the relative lack of success of mobile devices (and success of the iPhone?) can be attributed to screen size. I don’t want to read news, stock quotes, watch videos, or do anything else on 2″ screen. I’ll wait until I get home or can pull a laptop out.
Very interesting topic and conversation starter, but from a pure “research” aspect there are so many pieces missing from the WSJ article that the funny headline doesn’t compensate. First of all, who were the “people”? Students? Hung-over students? Government employees? Hung-over government employees? Zing! Secondly, were these “people” proficient in “editing a document and copying numbers between spreadsheets” as the article doesn’t state? Come on! The conclusion was that they would save 2.5 hours a day with a bigger monitor? And the kicker is “then productivity dropped when “people” used a 26-inch monitor!” Very funny, indeed!
Truly, productivity comes from within. Saving time comes from within. What do you have inside of you that causes you to use a tool (monitor or otherwise) to your benefit? Tim, you have an excellent book – better said – you have a book that can change lives. The caveat being – ACTION. I just bought a 20″ Acer and love it. (Up from a 19″ CRT). Am I more productive because of the new, bigger monitor? Maybe. Maybe not. Do I have more space on my desk? You bet!
Lastly, I would venture to guess that an entrepreneurial minded/NR would save time and the run-of-the-mill employee would not, regardless of monitor size.
My first post on your blog. I really liked 4HWW and dig the blog quite a bit. Although I have been known to peruse blogs that have multiple posts per day, I like your format and lower frequency and feel that it helps me scale back on my information overload, as you say.
Regarding multiple monitor, I am a big fan. To me, multiple monitors feel a little like working in a room with a 10 or 12 foot ceiling as opposed to 7 or 8 feet. You don’t necessarily use all the extra space above you but it makes your work environment feel more open.
What I would highly suggest is looking at an Apple Cinema Display. Your mention of Expose leads me to think you may use a Mac and an Apple display is really the only thing that does the sharpness and colours of the user interface justice. And they work with PC’s too, of course.
I have a 20″ Acer since I first balked at Apple’s perceived increased cost when compared to other monitor of the same size. Hell, Apple displays can be twice the price of some models on the market that “seem” to have the same resolution, refresh rate etc, but you just have to use one to see the difference. I just ran a 23″ Apple Display beside my 20″ Acer (same specs as the 22″ Acer you mentioned) for a week and I couldn’t believe the difference in brightness, contrast and sharpness (which means less squinting and work for your eyes).
If you have the chance, check ’em out. I won’t use anything else anymore.
Keep up the good work with the website.
Friendly greetings! Dual monitors have been a big boon for me, simply because if I can see more at once, I don’t have to flip back and forth — that in itself lightens the load on my memory and saves time manually using the keyboard and mouse to switch between applications.
Tim, in terms of an affordable 24″ monitor, I REALLY recommend the Dell E248WFP. Vibrant color and crispness, and usable for long stretches (I’ve owned mine for several months). If you don’t need some of the fanciness of higher-priced models, this is a good one to get. I have a more detailed review @ http://torley.com/plodding-through-shore-fires-to-get-a-dell-e248wfp-monitor AND OH, PRICE? Shouldn’t be more than US$350-375, and sometimes Dell themselves has sales that drop it even lower.
I know it’s more expensive than the Acer, but it’s noticeably bigger, AND higher resolution — don’t get a 1680×1050, get at least a 1920×1200 so your productivity is boosted even further.
My husband purchased the Acer monitor you mention for himself at his (law) office. He found it made such a difference that we then purchased one for home. The critical factor — and why those few inches over the 18″ make such a difference — is that you can have two complete documents or applications open and navigate back and forth seamlessly, not hunting around for the window or tab you can’t find amidst all of the other clutter open on a computer at once. It seems like a minor issue, but with as much cutting and pasting, linking, researching, citing, etc., that the typical user might do, it does increase efficiency a great deal. And the price of monitors has come down so much that the couple of hundred dollars at issue is well worth it. (Full disclosure: no affiliation with any of these monitor companies.)
I used to work with 2 19″ set up as 1 desktop, and I never want to go back again, it makes looking at several screens at once a lot easier.
fe, if you have to look at a graph and then draw results from that or type a report about it (ok maybe not the best example), you’d have to switch screens all the time, which takes time. setting up things next to eachother (like you can do on a 24″, but not comfortably on an 18″) you’d really save tons of time.
I’m conviced that with less screen space my work output per hour would drop.
PS I’m actually upgrading to 2 22″ right now.
Oh and I can definatly recommend you the Samsung SyncMaster 223BW 🙂 Excellent quality.
I’m a software engineer and usually need 10 or more windows open for all of my tools. Having that many tools readily accessible is not particularly unusual in most industries.
I use 2 x 19″ monitors and that seems to work pretty well. I also have a program called Synergy that allows me to share my keyboard and mouse between my Mac and PC, which sit next to each other.
I also have a laptop, and when I’m on the road there is only one thing that keeps me productive: the new Mac Spaces feature (http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/spaces.html). The trick is to organize your applications into groups based on what you do with them. You can even assign certain applications to ALWAYS open in a certain space. It takes a few days getting comfortable with using your keyboard to switch between spaces, but it’s a huge time saver.
It could be that work is novel and interesting again. Getting a new monitor, for a while at least, will generate new interest. It sparks up attention again. Work suddenly has a new novelty factor. Just a theory but would not surprise me. As dullness at work is a key issue, been there done that. Working less hours and when you feel like it creates quality work, Parkinson’s style. Less is more.
I would suggest trying this for a longer period and seeing if the productivity tails off. If so – it would end up supporting 4ww.
Make sense. Just like it’s much faster to skim a newspaper than to read it on-line.
at my old desk job i ran dual dell 24’s… and could really crank. I’m now working from my 17-inch laptop… and can’t quite crank.
subjective, i know, and the variable of environment (old: office, new: coffee shop on oahu) likely plays a huge part, but: damn.
regardless… i wouldn’t change the new ‘office’ for anything.
Size = More Pixels!
22″ (1680×1050) = ~$250 for el cheapo, ~$350 for a nicer one.
24″ (1920×1200) = ~$400-$700
27″ (1920×1200) = ~$1000
30″ (2560×1600) = ~$1200-$2000 * Requires DVI-D video card (aka Dual Link) which adds to cost if you don’t already have it.
the 24″ & 27″ are the same resolution which is no gain in real estate. Bigger is not necessarily better in the 27″, only bigger. 27″ not recommended unless you have bad eyes.
Never run a monitor at a resolution other than it’s true resolution… looks like crap, will be fuzzy pixels.
If you want to be happy with your purchase… answer these 3 things:
1. What do you want? Make sure you get the specs you want. Otherwise you won’t be happy with your purchase.
2. #1 is base on what you can afford. You don’t want what you can’t afford. Get it?
3. Don’t get what you don’t need. For example, in cars, power seats can cost an extra $1000. Is it worth the cost for something you rarely use? Think about it!
Based what I know about you and what I’ve read that’s important to you (blog, book). You’re a guy who wants to be satisfied in life. You’re efficient. Economy is important… but only based on satisfaction.
Get the 24″. You get the most space for the cost. the 22″ is cheaper, BUT, the extra resolution will matter to you. We all know you can afford whichever monitor you want. That’s not an issue. Though the 30″ is cool and you’ll like it. It’s more than you need… especially for the costs. It’s not in sweet-spot for cost vs. performance.
So which brand? Other people have already done the work (reviews, these comments) Trust them with your 80/20 rule. 80%, you’ll experience the same satisfaction as the rest of the reviewers. Which it worth it base on the time you’ll save in research.
Remember there are two kinds of reviewers, Pro and Consumer. 1st, find the editors choice from tech mags (PCMag, PCWorld, CNET). Take their top 24″ picks, then look at user reviews. Base great ratings, and if the price is right, buy it.
Want to save more, buy a refurbished from the manufacture if they have them… it’s been fixed, checked, and still has the warranty. It might not be brand spanking new, but once you take a brand spanking new one out of the box, it ain’t new anymore from that moment on.
Don’t waste time. Get what you want. Get a good deal. Done.
The editors choice from the top 3 mags I listed above for a 24″ is the Dell 24″ UltraSharp 2408WFP (2405 & 2407 are older versions) includes built in USB hub and flash card reader. If color gamut and image quality are important, this is a well spent $700. I own this and love it!
If not, go for their 24″ Dell E248WFP. No USB ports or card reader, and people say the picture isn’t as sharp. But for $379, you can’t beat the size for the price.
– Sly 🙂
If you won’t want to spend $700, for for the other 24″ they have for
Here’s my theory: Productivity naturally favors a relaxed and happy mind. The larger monitor creates a more enjoyable work experience and, therefore, higher productivity.
My dream scenario is and has been for some time to use a projector as my monitor and to work 15 or so feet away from the wall being projected on sitting in a very comfortable chair. Another good idea would be to have a large monitor mounted on the ceiling above your bed so you could work (or read or whatever) while lying down.
I wish I was SuperGeek enough to be able to contribute to this. Alas, I am content with my 20″ iMac running Leopard and Spaces for now.
Tim, I have something I want you to read before anyone else does. I’ll send you an email. Please keep an eye out for it.
I frequently find myself working back and forth between two documents — whatever I’m researching and then whatever I’m creating from it. That’s the nature of a lot of knowledge/information work. Having the screen large is good, but having it wide, so you can view two documents side-by-side in portrait view, is even more important.
Hey just wanted to let you know I’m off to my first mini retirement. Your book has changed my life. I bought it in November. Since then, here’s what happened:
1. Hired two people to work at my studio (I’m a wedding photographer): a studio manager and a wedding album designer. They work together now so I don’t have to be the bottleneck.
2. Hired a worker from India to make an online referral system for me. Now when I have a photo shoot, I just send a link to the referral system and the word gets spread faster than a wildfire. It has generated lots of new business. I can tell you all about it, but for now that would take more time than I have.
3. Filled my Entourage with “signatures”. They are email messages that answer common questions I get, so I spend less time on email. I just hit reply, select the appropriate signature, and send.
4. Started a new online business and declared it my “experiment in lateral thinking”. It payed for itself within 3 weeks of going online.
5. I’m leaving tomorrow for a short escapade to the Swiss Alps. I’m leaving my laptop at home and going solo.
6. I created an account at http://www.couchsurfing.net and found a place in Lucerne. The guy who lives there is a ski instructor. He made last minute plans to ski Zermatt and is no longer going to be in town. So he is leaving the key to his apartment in the mailbox for me. He told me sorry for not being there and told me to make myself at home.
Total cost of the round trip flight and lodging: $565
I have no agenda. I’m going to do whatever I feel like doing each day I am there, but I look forward to every second of it. I’ll be documenting the entire trip with photos. Let me know if you want to see them when I get back.
My future is looking much better since reading your book. Thanks for telling me how to live life to it’s fullest potential, it’s truly the greatest gift any book could ever give.
P.S. I watched your 3 minute slow carb bfast video and have been doing that every morning since. Like this morning for example. Two tupperware containers. In one I put quinoa (leftovers from dinner last night) some tomato paste, a little olive oil. In the other, egg whites. It was actually very good, and the tomato paste (licopene) is awesome for you.
Tim, it’s not the size of the screen that counts, it’s the way you use it!
I have a 17″ Macbook Pro Laptop with Expose and keep coming back to it no matter what. I have two PC laptops with a 24″ and 19″ monitor on them and can’t get as much done, as seamlessly, as with my 17″ laptop and expose! Rock on!
Bigger monitor is no doubt a time saver – here’s another whopper that I have tested:
Use a pressure sensitive pad from wacom instead of a mouse! You don’t have to be an artist – a lot of newspaper guys use them to save time – if you test it you’ll be sold by three different things
1. using a pen saves the necessity to push the mouse to move the cursor – you can move your hand as fast as you like and you don’t need the friction – I tested it and came up with around twice as fast after I had mastered the finger flick to type*
2. using the pen keeps your wrist in a better position and it is a lot less likely to develop fatigue and carpel tunnel from excessive clicking.
3. you can start using signature software to sign your name and or more precision in most tasks – at it’s best – drawing with the mouse is like using a bar of soap to make a picture…
*the finger flick is where you snap the pen back in-between your index and third fingers and then pop it back to immediately use the tablet again. – I don’t think that you would have a problem with this move Tim… 🙂
About a year ago I started using a 24″ Dell (2407WFP) attached to my 13″ MacBook.
Wild horses couldn’t tear me away. I can have so many things open side-by-side. It’s not just about size, it’s about widescreen.
Oh, and the built in USB hub is way handier than I would have thought. And the built-in card reader is the fastest I’ve ever used. This is the only Dell product I’ve ever owned; I’m a diehard Mac fan, but I love it!
I will invest in a bigger monitor per your post.
In the meantime, you’re busy, so I don’t expect a reply, but perhaps other folks may be able to bless me with their opinions.
I’m experimenting with an information product type business. I’d like to question the reason that your experimental site http://www.pxmethod.com was designed in a way that was a bit different from the typical “lure me in step-by-step type” information product web sites, e.g. – http://www.howtogainmass.com
Was there any particular reason that you went with a more professional-looking approach for pxmethod.com?
What are your thoughts on styles similar to [the above]? Do you think these styles have a disadvantage over pxmethod.com’s style with regard to effectiveness and conversion rates?
Appreciate your comments.
P.S. – thinking of going back to Times Square and performing your “Time Out” exercise again, laying on the ground for 15 seconds. I’ve been taking myself way too seriously lately.
There are a few reasons. First, the long copy, yellow highlight, “free, free, free!” bonus format is aesthetically unappealing to me. I just find the hard-sell infomercial format somewhat insulting. I know that sounds harsh, but I don’t need high-maintenance customers and don’t want to associate myself with the typical direct response format, even if I sacrifice a few % of conversion.
Tons would call me stupid for this, but I care about how I feel at the end of the day, and using this format would make me feel like a huckster, which I don’t want. There are plenty of ways to sell product without going that route.
Hope that helps 🙂
2.5 hours! I reckon you’ll find a bigger screen will just encourage multi-tasking. What is ‘massaging’ spreadsheets’ all about? Also I recall a comment you made once about being able to close a laptop to get that literal and mental closure when you’ve finished work which I totally agree with.
For more desktop space on a smaller screen try using a desktop manager like Microsoft;s Virtual Desktop Manager for XP. YOu get multiple desktops to switch between, I find it creates 4x the headspace. Yom’d/Deskspace looks a little nicer and perhaps better for visual based thinkers.
What a popular post!
I have a Mac 24″ cinema display, and one 19″ monitor on each side of it for three monitors. IT ROCKS!!!
The biggest productivity increase is that when I’m doing something in photoshop, I have room to have my photoshop working window showing in full on my main window and I can have my palettes open on the side monitors and I don’t need to keep resizing my window to or using shortcut keys to go to palettes. They’re all there.
When building web sites, I can have my development IDE (Eclipse) open in my 24″ monitor with a terminal on the left and a browser on the right. I can see all three without having to go back and forth using alt tab.
Using this with expose and spaces has increased my productivity well over 2.5 hours a day – but that’s with 3 monitors.
Next time someone asks you how to upgrade their computer to increase productivity, don’t say RAM, say a new bigger monitor!
I like having 2 monitors rather than 1 big one. I can have separate applications open and visible without the distraction of having more than one on a screen.
One thing that I’ve found very helpful is having multiple computers, each connected to a monitor and then controlled by a single keyboard/mouse using synergy. For example, you can have a Mac as your main computer, then a PC as the supplemental one off to the side. Synergy lets you fling your mouse back and forth, even copy and paste text between the two computers. This can be invaluable if you have programs that are Mac-only or PC-only, or if you run across annoying websites that require Internet Explorer on the PC.
I agree 100%. I came to the same conclusion several years ago, and spun it off into a slightly different direction. Having a sort attention span, or wanting to reference many things at one, I moved from a 24″ monitor to two 19″ monitors on the same system. I found that it further increased my effectiveness, and saved still more time. Great post!
I have always been an advocate of increased monitor size, but not only monitor size but also monitor quantity as well!
You don’t necessarily need to go out and buy an expensive 24 inch monitor to increase productivity. You can also go out and buy a couple of 17 or 19 inch monitors with a cheap second video card in your desktop computer to get the same productivity increase. If you already have a monitor then buying a cheap second monitor is much more cost effective than spending upwards of $350 for a 24 inch monitor.
It helps with editing documents, or chatting with friends while working. You dont have to constantly minimize documents to move to another task. I believe that Minimizing and maximizing take a lot of time over an 8 hour day. This is not exactly solved just by getting a 24 inch monitor.
I have 3 19 inch monitors at home and a 24 inch monitor at work and prefer 2 or 3 monitors over 1 larger monitor any time.
Dont be scared about opening your desktop to install a second video card, Ask your kids and most laptops have a monitor output for a second monitor for multi tasking.
This is completely true, i used to use a HUGE monitor (23″) to edit document, but had to switch to laptop screen. it takes me much longer to read and edit documents now.
I LIVE on my Macbook pro with BootCamp and windows. I travel a lot with her (my laptop).
When I am at home I hook up a second external monitor to where I can scroll my mouse back and forth between them.
With my second monitor I find that I am a LOT faster on the following types of tasks.
* XL spread sheet work 1.7 times faster.
* HTML coding for my web site ideas 2.4 times faster.
* Research (Opening several web sites and comparing) 2 times faster.
* Creative writing. Only about 50% as fast.
(So if I am writing a LOT I unplug monitor 2.)
(I also find creative writing goes even BETTER in coffee shops.)
* Business structure type planning. (Same speed 1 or 2 monitors)
* Anything with a LOT of cutting and pasting. (many times faster 2 monitors)
I think that multiple monitors is faster then just a larger one because you can then go full screen in each application.
as an extension to what Expose offers I found a site via Unclutter.com that allows you to bundle several links in one. LinkBun.ch gives you a simple text field to place a list of links in and then generates a custom link for you that when opened can give you access to all of the links listed. This could be very useful if you have a standard set of sites that you regularly visit that you wish to recommend to a friend e.g. 4HWW, ZenHabits.net and Unclutter.com
Keep up the good work.
Purchased a 22″ Benq LCD for AUS$286. Works fantasically and extra space is used while using 3 or 4 windows.
There have been a bunch of studies on how larger screen sizes increase productivity. I’ve linked to a few of them at:
I just picked up a 22″ Widescreen LG which I love for $300 about a month ago.
It’s probably been mentioned but the two key factors i’ve seen are MS Response time (you want something that has a 2MS time) and contrast ratio. 1:3000 is what you will want. The 22″ acer I have (run dual 22s) was a bargain purchase but has a 1:750 ratio which sucks. Colors are off, the monitor only has a 160 degree viewable instead of a 180 so it’s like an old laptop monitor, and the crispness just isn’t there.
Most of your Samsungs and LGs run in the 1:3000 range and should not cost you more than $250-$350. The site I usually use to find great electronics deals is http://www.slickdeals.net but you’re probably safe going with Newegg etc. if you don’t want to deal with the hassle.
On the issue of productivity, my main tip would be to up your monitors screen refresh rate to 75. A lot default to 60 which I find leads to increased eyestrain and an increased number of breaks etc.
I use a 42 inch samsung HDTV (I converted into a monitor). Love every second.
I have been using multiple monitors since the days of shared machines and VT100 terminals. I’d have two or three VT100s running the vi editor.
Closing one program to open another is quite time consuming. Microsoft Windows has an airplance seat metaphor, not a desktop metaphor. For many years (going back to pre 1.0) linux had X window managers with a true desktop metaphor. FVWM had a virtual desktop that was 9 times the size of the screen. You could stretch an x terminal across several screen sized panes — good for looking at 256 char wide data dumps. Your monitor was like a window looking at a virtual desktop that was three times the size in each dimension.
With such a virtual desktop, a larger monitor is not that critical. With old fashioned xterms and bitmap fonts 1024×768 is plenty of resolution. You could fit four reasonable sized terminals on one screen.
With Microsoft Windows, even a pair of 21″ monitors is cramped. Windows is a screen hog.
I hear the latest Mac OS has finally implemented a virtual desktop. Haven’t seen it yet.
Even better is multiple large monitors. I use 2 22″ Acers. Typically I use one for active work (spread sheets, word processor, etc) and one for reference stuff (whatever I’m reading.comparing/etc.). Being able to interact with multiple applications without having to move/resize/click/etc not only saves me time but keeps me from having to break my train of thought (I can just glance at what I need as opposed to looking for it, bringing it up, and then interacting with it).
Simple trial: Set your monitor to 640 by 480, and see if you can last more than a day or two. Then go back to your 1024×768 or whatever is normal. This is the same difference as going from a normal monitor to two (or more) large monitors. Once you go dual you won’t want to go back.
In a similar vein; I study Mathematics at university and when I’m trying to solve a hard problem prefer to use a blackboard rather than paper. You still have room to write down all your details but when you get stuck you can walk back two meters and see the entire problem dissected before you. Sometimes being able to see and connect all the little hints your work has unearthed so far lets you see how to finally get the solution out.
Additional time saver: use a Firefox addon (mouse gestures) or a mouse with more than 2 buttons to go back / forward while using the internet and not scroll up to click the button.
Also, the “magnify” text feature in Windows (hold Ctrl and scroll with the mouse wheel) has saved my eyes loads of stress. I use this often with my dual 19″ monitors.
I am looking into that Wacom tablet the fellow above posted, it sounds very exciting to get rid of the mouse!
I’ve been using a 24″ monitor since late 06. it’s great to spread everything out. Edward Tufte has the theory that if we treat monitors the way we treat our actual desks, with our work spread before us we’ll have a more calm and logical workplace. It has less to do with scrolling and more to do with not constantly switching between windows.
I’m rebuilding my machine with the idea that I’m going to work with 2 24″ monitors side by side. This will allow me to have reference materials open on a consistent basis without flipping through windows and having to reorient my eye to a new layout each time I need info.
Interesting insight. Thanks for sharing this as this has given me something to think about.
I would not recommend the Acer. I came form a company that had purchase Acer LCDs for their workstations and they quickly lost thier luminosity and the screens became very cloudy. I switched them over to the syncmaster line from samsung and they have performed much better.
They are little more expensive than the Acer but well worth it.
Samsung 226BW (22″ Widescreen) is my recommendation, the Acer is not that great. If you have the budget get the Dell Ultrasharp 24″.
Many people buy the Apple Cinema Displays with the impression they will outperform any monitor. I’ve found Apple monitors are great for those who do graphics, photos, and video. If you don’t do these things buy a less expensive monitor, because the average Tim wouldn’t know the difference.
Lee Rodrigues, M.Ed.
Technology Coach, Comic
“The less we know, the longer our explanations.”
Sorry if this is redundant (don’t really have time right now to read all the comments):
I used to have a dual monitor setup at my office, and one of these days I’ll get around to setting that and/or one large monitor up in my home office as well. It definitely saved me time in a variety of ways. It’s tough to concisely explain how–basically it was a combination of being able to have more information simultaneously accesible, and to work in several windows at once, cutting and pasting from one to another.
WOW! This is incredible.
I’m so happy someone suggested I read this blog because in a few months I’ll be upgrading my computer and I was going to buy a 19′ … my … I’ll have to start looking at a larger monitor … because 2.5 hours over one year is 912.5 hours of your life over one year that you will NEVER get back … that’s like loosing 38 days (if my calculations are correct over 12 months) … bottom line … that’s a LOT of time wasted.
Miss Gisele B.
I’ve always used multiple desktops in Linux, which allow me to create the illusion of more space because I can run every application with the window maximized, and I don’t ever have to use the mouse (I am virtually mouse-free!)
I’ve found 5 desktops is optimal (basically one for each application I use regularly). My desktops are:
1 – console
2 – browsers
3 – mail
4 – programming
5 – chat
Replace programming and chat with whatever you use.
use a projector, i do and my screens currently 2metres by 1
It’s true – it does save time and increas productivity – I got a 24 inch Acer monitor on sale for $200 and I’ve been about 20-30% more productive ever since
I must absolutely agree. BIGGER IS BETTER. I have a huge monitor and everyone is envious at work. They dont believe me when I say that I save time with the larger monitor as I don’t have to scroll and scroll and scroll to see stuff… pow there it is on my biggie monitor.
I love it.
I am not prejudice as I love my small-one when I travel. Its to big to lug the monster monitor when I travel so I bring the laptop and use the little guy and it works well for quick projects that dont take a lot of work.
But my regular monitor is the one that makes me feel the most comfortable.
I have thought about getting a larger screened laptop and would appreciate any suggestions about the best places to find a larger monitored laptop.
If you haven’t bought a monitor yet then I’d recommend upping it to a 23″ or 24″. Most 22″ monitors I’ve seen are pretty much the same resolution as 20″ (1680×1050) so I’d either just go for the 20″ monitor and save a bit, or up it to 23/24″ which has a resolution of 1920×1200 which is a pretty good chunk of screen real estate.
I invested in a relatively high end Samsung 24″ monitor over a year ago. As someone who travels extensively, I can easily see a 25% decrease in productivity when I shrink down to my Thinkpad’s 15″ widescreen. The single 24″, combined with the extra ‘parking lot space’ of the attached 15″ laptop is an absolute productivity booster!
I’m with the ‘more than one monitor’ crowd here. Two is great, three is optimal, as Bill Gates can attest.
Makes me hate using the laptop, with it’s piddly screen, outside the office — but maybe that’s a good thing!
I use dual 19″ at the office (still 9-5++) and single 24″ at home
15″ laptop or 17″ laptop when I travel
But my must have application is winsplit http://reptils.free.fr/
This allows me to do tileing as well as move screens between computers if I am in dual monitors.
Completely changed the way I work things are much cleaner.
I am thinking of ditching the dual monitor setup as I do not feel it is needed. I pretty much only use it as a reference/reading screen. Less multi-tasking lets me concentrate better on the task on hand, the way I can keep my windows nice and clean with Winsplit also helps me stay focused.
This is probably too late, but the best way to improve productivity w/ screens is to minimize context switching. Minimize the amount of time you have to switch your attention back and forth visually on a monitor to view something. Add a reduction in productivity when you actually have to click to move something into view. Something like expose or the program bar makes this switching time shorter since it’s a better method than what we used back then. Another thing that people do is get a screen that has a higher resolution, but is still the same size.
Also dont get a monitor that’s too big that you have to move your head around to see all of it. See this post:
I recently bought a 13-inch MacBook. I also recently became a full-time freelance writer. I found myself feeling a bit cramped by the small screen. I came across this post and instantly started looking for a second monitor on Craigslist. I found a brand new (still in the box) Dell 20″ widescreen for $50 bucks less than retail price. I called the guy immediately and told him I wanted it. He even delivered it for free.
I’m here to say that my productivity level has gone through the roof. I keep all my research/notes on the small screen and move all the writing over to the larger screen. Literally, I went from writing, editing and publishing one page per 1.5 days to about three in the same amount of time.
Great post Tim. Thanks for the info!
Picking up a 24″ Soyo from Office Max was the best $300 I’ve ever spent. My productivity went up, not just from the monitor size but also because it forced me to move my TV out of my room (space limitations). Now, my big monitor helps me get things done quicker and better and I watch way less TV (and even when I get the urge for video I just watch on my big nice monitor).
Win-win right there.
As outlined here. I use/recommend 24″ LCD’s, as they have the lowest cost per pixel, and currently have 4 of them running with my laptop+dock. I made it a goal to not scroll or swap windows at all, and even 4 of them isn’t enough.
I use the Gateway 30″ Quad HD side by side with a Gateway 22″ running Multimon off of my Gateway 17″ laptop for work and the Gateway 24″ at Home. Apparently I am making up for a small monitor somewhere in my past.