Ultra-wide versus dual monitors: what to buy?

I’ve long argued that everyone should have two monitors because two screens are better than one – especially if you’re still working from home. But ever since Alienware’s ultra-wide 34 Curved QD-OLED arrived on my doorstep, the two screens I’ve been hoping for for years have been sitting in the corner collecting dust.

Switching to ultra-wide display has allowed me to enjoy most of the same multitasking benefits as in my previous dual-screen setup, while being literally changeable when it comes to playing my favorite PC games. And since everything is connected to one screen, my obviously messy work area has become a little cleaner.

But while in the foreseeable future I will most likely be an ultra-wide team, dual monitors still have many benefits that you just can’t get on one giant screen. If you’re ready to increase the display space in your home office, here’s how to choose between them.

Mike Andronicus / CNN

I almost always juggle two things at once – taking notes during a presentation, writing a story, reading a press release, sending Slack messages, ignoring a video call… the list goes on. This type of multitasking has always been easy in my setup with dual monitors, but it’s even easier on the ultra-wide screen because everything is immediately in my field of vision.

When using the Alienware QD-OLED wide 34-inch screen it seems to me that I can see the contents of two monitors without having to constantly turn my head. It’s much 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 on the side. Whether you’re a video editor or a music producer with a long lead, the ultra-wide monitor will allow you to see more of your project at once without having to scroll side by side often.

Sure, you can get two identical widescreen monitors and place them side by side for similar visibility, but then you’re dealing with an awkward frame right in the middle. You’ll also benefit from true full-screen consistency, while even matching dual displays may vary slightly in color and brightness.

Mike Andronicus / CNN

Using an ultra-wide monitor for work was convenient; for games it was a revelation. Many modern computer games are optimized for an ultra-wide 21: 9 aspect ratio, allowing you to delve even deeper into cinematic games – and gain some practical competitive advantage.

While playing Halo Infinite, I could suddenly see much more battlefields at a glance, making it easier to track enemies and teammates (however an ultra-wide monitor won’t improve your reflexes or aiming, as I learned firsthand). And the already gorgeous racing action in Forza Horizon 5 looked even more exciting on my Alienware display, as I could better view the stunning Mexican horizons of the game when I drifted recklessly.

It should be noted that not every computer game supports ultra-wide mode, and you will still play in standard widescreen mode if you connect the console to this type of display. But using an ultra-wide monitor has given new life to some of my favorite PC games, and if you’re a serious PC gamer and have money that can be spent, I can’t recommend them high enough.

Easier and space saving installation

Mike Andronicus / CNN

Ultra-wide monitors no small – the most popular models are 34 inches wide, and some options, such as the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9, occupy 49 inches horizontally. However, these types of displays can save space and hassle compared to using two screens. I’ve acquired a decent amount of real estate on my desk since moving to ultra-wide, and my usual clutter with cables is tidier with a few smaller wires to worry about. And if you’re a gadget browser who needs every open outlet, the latter part matters a lot.

More space for individual apps and windows

Mike Andronicus / CNN

While ultra-wide monitors are great for seeing many things at a glance, a multi-monitor setting provides more individual real estate for what you open on each screen. I love watching videos while working and they usually look much better in full screen on my own special monitor than in one half of the widescreen display.

If you want to blow up presentations, video calls or movies as much as possible by doing anything else on the second screen, a dual monitor setting is better for you. The same goes for gamers who want to play on one screen and view things like YouTube tips or their Discord chat on another.

Eric Ravencraft / CNN

If you want to get the most sharp view for your money, you can follow the dual screen settings. Most ultra-wide monitors run with Quad HD (3440 x 1440) resolution on a large 34-inch display, while two traditional 4K widescreen monitors will give you a higher overall pixel density, perfect for things like photo editing or single-player gaming screen.

Given how many 4K monitors are available, you can even get two ultra-HD displays for the price of one ultra-wide model. For example, two LG 32UN550-W 4K displays for $ 396.99 cost about the same as our best choice of large screen monitor, the Samsung CJ791 for $ 699.99. You can use an ultra-wide 5K monitor, such as the LG 34WK95U-W for $ 1,496.99, but you’ll pay a lot for the extra resolution.

Freedom to mix and match

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Perhaps the biggest advantage of installing dual monitors is the flexibility of the display combination. You can combine monitors of different sizes and partitions depending on your needs, whether you want a large 4K display for gaming and a smaller 1080p screen for viewing your Twitch chat or two matching quad-HD monitors for pure consistency.

You can even have one monitor in landscape orientation and another in portrait orientation, the latter being perfect for things like encoding, recording or just viewing your scary postcard as much as possible. You will have the freedom to place your two displays at any most convenient viewing angle, and thanks to the many available monitor points and wall mounts, you will get many options to create a clean and beautiful installation.

There is no perfect monitor setting for everyone. In response to an informal poll on Twitter I said some people praised the seamlessness and simplicity of the ultra-wide display, while others noted that they appreciated the ability to better share tasks and programs on two screens. In fact it all depends on how you work and play.

If you decide to go the ultra-wide path, we love the Alienware 34 Curved QD-OLED for gaming, and the Samsung CJ791 is our favorite ultra-wide display for general use. Those who want to get two displays can read our recommendations for the best monitor and the best budget gaming monitor, although the Lenovo L24q is a good and affordable starting point for any setting. Sure, you can put in the effort and combine the two ultra-wide displays, but you have to be a special crazy genius – or just willing to spend a lot of money.

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