How to set up dual monitors for PC gaming or work

Once you get a second screen, you can’t go back. It’s a feeling that may seem silly to some, but once you get used to organizing your windows and programs across two or more screens, it’s hard to imagine gaming or using a computer without it. There are plenty of reasons to add a second screen to your setup, whether you use it to work from home, play games, stream on Twitch or YouTube, or do productions. Having a second screen helps simplify your tasks and increase productivity – or even give you a broader view of certain games.

Read more: Best 4K monitors of 2021

Before setting up two monitors, you should not buy any two monitors and throw them on a desk. There are a few important factors to consider, including your graphics card, whether you’re using a laptop, and your budget. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you figure out exactly what your dual monitor setup should look like.

Benefits of dual screens

The most obvious advantage of the dual screen setup is that you get an extra screen to do whatever you want. If you want to expand your total viewing area or even just put Netflix on your other screen while you work or play, you can. Let’s get into the details of why someone would want to add an extra screen.

Dual screens for broadcasting

If you’re looking to stream regularly on Twitch or YouTube, a second screen is almost needed. During streams, you should be able to monitor your chat to interact with viewers and access your broadcast software to ensure there are no issues. With just one screen, you’ll need a laptop, tablet, or other device to read the chat – and you won’t have easy access to Streamlabs or OBS.

Dual screens for gaming

Ultrafast screens are available, but they can be expensive. If you want a wider field of view, you can always connect two or three monitors together and get game output compatible with both. This gives you a much greater view of your game, whether you’re racing on a track, or looking to your left and right to see your opponents driving alongside you; drive a spacecraft and search around oncoming vehicles; Or pretty much any other action in a game that you can think of. It’s worth noting that the dual-screen setup works best for games that you’re quite familiar with, as the user interface and other non-game-related elements can work weirdly at ultra-high resolutions.

Of course, you can also use your second screen to monitor Discord, Netflix, YouTube, or even Spotify while you play. Using a second screen like this isn’t entirely necessary, but it’s quite convenient.

Dual screens for multitasking

Multitasking at work is where dual monitors shine. The ability to distribute your tasks, applications, and workspaces across multiple screens makes your workday more efficient. When you don’t need to keep flipping between documents, it’s easier to get right to work and finish your projects. Of course, it’s always nice to be able to stream a podcast, Netflix, or YouTube on your second screen when your day is moving slowly. I’ve been using dual monitors for work for nearly five years now, and frankly can’t go back – thankfully, you can even connect a laptop to multiple monitors as well.

Dual monitors and a laptop

How to set up two screens

Choose your screens

The monitors you use will depend on your setup. Ideally, you’ll want to stick with screens that have the same size and resolution because that will make moving apps and other things smoother – although it’s possible to use two screens with different resolutions. If you’re starting with a laptop, adding any display size is perfectly fine, but 24-inch screens will be an easier transition from the smaller screen. Borderless screens are also a good option because they make the transition between the two screens more natural.

However, you will not encounter many incompatibilities. You can combine a flat screen with a curved screen, and it will work just fine. You can even combine two screens with a larger TV if you wish. It really depends on how you use the screens, how many you want, and how much space you have to work with.

Connect your screens

You will need to make a note of the ports on your monitors before purchasing. If you’re connecting it to a computer, you’ll either need enough ports to accommodate them all or daisy chain the monitors with a DisplayPort cable – we’ll come back to this soon. And then, of course, you’ll need the correct number of cables to connect your graphics card or laptop to the monitor.

But what if you’re using a laptop (like a MacBook Pro) that doesn’t have any output cables? There are HDMI docking stations and special cables, such as USB-C to HDMI, that you can connect to one of your laptop’s interfaces, USB, etc. You need to make sure you have the proper ports to accommodate one of these docking stations, but once you have the right port, you’ll be able to start connecting your laptop to a monitor. However, if you want to use more than one external monitor with your laptop, you will need to daisy chain them using a DisplayPort cable. This means making sure your monitor has both HDMI and DisplayPort inputs.

Prepare

Setting up your dual monitor can be the hardest or easiest part of the process depending on what you want to do. You can always take the simple route and place two monitors directly on a solid desk. On the other hand, you can get a little fancier by using the stand and having two monitors hover over the workstation – this frees you up on more space on the desk itself. A good monitor installation doesn’t have to be expensive, although you do need to make a note of the size and weight of each of your monitors before choosing a stand for yourself. To mount your monitors and keep them on their stands, you’ll need to make sure your desk is sturdy enough to carry all that weight (check out our guide to the best gaming desks for some sturdy options).

Once you place your monitor in the positions that work for you, it’s as easy as holding the cable of your choice and connecting one end to your monitor and the other to your computer or laptop. You will then want to do the same with your second monitor. This is where the laptop docking station comes into play. If you don’t have a docking station and both monitors have a DisplayPort, you can connect the two monitors with a DisplayPort cable. Once everything is plugged in and your PC or laptop is turned on, both screens will display two separate desktops.

From here, you may need to make some adjustments in your settings. You can find your display settings by going to your computer’s settings section, choosing System, and then selecting the Display tab on the left of the window. A rectangle with numbered squares will appear – this is your screen. These tiles can be moved to change the position of your screen – if for some reason your right screen appears to be left, you can move it to the right to change that. From here, you can also tap on a specific numbered square, change its resolution, make it your home screen, and change the display orientation—the latter only matters if you flip the screen to portrait.

Display settings allow you to adjust the resolution and positions of your screens
Display settings allow you to adjust the resolution and positions of your screens

For those who use a second monitor for work and nothing else, you are good to go. However, for gamers, you’ll want to go to your graphics card’s settings panel. If you have an AMD graphics card, click on the desktop and then select Radeon Settings. This is where you can tweak the settings further, including enabling adaptive sync and changing the refresh rate. For Nvidia GPU owners, you will need to search your computer for the Nvidia Control Panel, where you will be able to make your changes.


The best dual screens

The fact is that almost any modern monitor will be suitable for a dual screen setup. If you’re a broadcaster and just want a second screen to chat, you don’t need to buy a hardware device as good as the primary gaming monitor – and if you’re using a 144Hz or 240Hz screen, you can still use a 60Hz screen for your second. For those unsure of what to go for, check out our recommendations below.

The following budget screens are great for those looking to get an affordable second screen for reading streaming chat, watching Netflix while gaming, or something else. Having two of these will also make an excellent workstation from home.

If you’re looking for a pair of screens that will really strip your socks off, you’ll need to spend a little more money. The following monitors are excellent yet affordable for gaming, production, and other tasks where picture quality, refresh rate, and response time are key.

Monitors can be an intimidating purchase, and it is important to understand the intricacies of these monitors before you buy. If you want to learn more, check out our guide to monitoring technologies. It covers everything from HDR in monitors to display panel types, G-Sync vs. FreeSync, and more. And if you are looking for a gaming monitor, it is worth looking at our explanation detailing the differences, advantages and disadvantages of gaming TVs versus gaming monitors.