Monintor Upgrades: A $10,000 Return On A $300 Investment.

  Studies show that larger monitors increase computing productivity by up to 45% and reduce errors by almost 25%. That means a productivity increase of at least $2,500 per employee per year, or a $10,000 return over the 4 years. Not bad for a $300 investment. The studies recommend 2-20" monitors or 1-24" montior for maximum efficiency.

How Much Can You Really Save?

According to a University of Utah study, employees were up to 45% more efficient with optimal monitor setups. Monitor manufacturer NEC suggests that optimal monitor setups incerase efficiency by 45% across the board - which is, of course, not true: few employees spend 40 hours per week at their computers, and a 45% increase was the maximum reported - not the average.


We calculated potential savings for 40-hour employees who spend just 10 hours per week (or 25% of their time) at their computers. The table below displays potential savings for people who compute 10 hours per week and realixe a productivity gain of either 10%, 25% or 45%. The savings are still impressive.

The study measured task completion time for a series of Word and Excel tasks on standard monitors, wide-screen monitors and dual standard monitors of varying sizes.

Breaking Down The Studies

Productivity results were published in 2003 and 2007 studies conducted by the University of Utah and funded by NEC. The study assigned Word and Excel tasks to groups of people with similar computing abilities. It benchmarked time- to-completion for beginner, intermediate and expert users on single 18" 4:3 LCD monitor. It then compared benchmarks to times generated using single wide-screen (16:9) monitors and dual 4:3 monitors of different sizes. In general, bigger was better. 24" 16:9 wide-screen monitors or dual 20" 4:3 monitors produced the best results; a 45% increase over the benchmarks. Beginners tended to do slightly better with a single wide monitor. Others saw no difference. Still larger monitors tended to produce diminishing returns.


Hundreds of internet posts have picked up this story including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Most of these stories lead back to one of 3 studies. We use multiple monitors at Productive Practices, and we strongly encourage our clients to do the same.

What Kind of Monitor Should You Buy?

Study data says the a single 24" wide-screen monitor (16:9 aspect ratio) or two 20" standard monitors (4:3 aspect ratio) produce the highest level of productivity. Buy LCD monitors. Check our Peripherals and Gadgets section for more buying tips.

Do Electricity Costs Matter?

No. A 19" LCD costs about 24 dollars / year running 50 hours per week ... in Connecticut, at a very pricey $0.18/kWh. The national average is $0.11/kWh. Don't worry about it! (Source).

Tip:  Rob Peter to Pay Paul

If possible, dual Monitors should be the same size, color and height. Differences make it more difficult for the eye to adjust. If you have several employees who use the same monitor, and if you can't get more of the same model, combine like monitors for half of your employees and buy new monitors for the others. If you want to follow the study results, buy 24" monitors for your less skilled users.

Tip:  Dealing with Laptops

Laptops present a special problem: Most allow you to add one monitor. You can use your laptop screen as a second monitor if you have Windows XP, Vista, or late versions of Ubuntu Linux AND your laptop's internal graphic card supports multiple monitors ... but you're stuck with 2 different monitors at 2 heights.


One Solution is a single 24" screen. Another solution is the Matrox DualHead2Go ($149 and up) or TrippleHead2Go ($279 and up), a small external box which allows you to connect up to three monitors to your laptop. They're not cheap, but they work beautifully: we use them here. They're also MAC compatible.


Links to Studies
The Multiple Display Market & Consumer Attitudes by Jon Peddie Research

Monitor Size and Aspect Ration Productivity Research: A Comparison of Single and Dual Traditional Aspect Displays wit a Wide screen Display over Productivity. by the University of Utah, Funded By NEC. The U of Utah is well summarized here by this Gregg Kizer article.

Study Name Unknown; by the Microsoft Vibe Research Group.


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