Big Screen Blog

Media Center, Windows Phone7 + Silverlight Goodness..

Off-Topic: My Xmas Present – Monitor #3

with 4 comments

Just after Xmas I decided to buy myself an (overdue) present – a third monitor for my development machine.
I’ve always been a multi monitor kind of guy – as I tend to run a lot of software at once – and have been using a dual monitor setup for the past 8 odd years. Before my upgrade I had 2 x 19" Benq LCD monitors (4:3) – which was great – but the lack of widescreen was always an issue for me.
I decided a while back, that my ideal setup would be to get an extra widescreen monitor to put in the middle of the two existing ones. A friend experimented for a while with 3 x widescreens side by side – but I found the distance accross-ways was an uncomfortable amount to cover (so I aborted my original idea of selling my existing ones and getting 3 x widescreens).
When I was deciding what to buy – I decided the best solution would be one where all the screens were the same physical height (not pixel res) – so via some quick maths – I worked out I needed either a 22" or 23" Widescreen to match my 19" screens. The exact spec I needed was 22.4" I think – but we were only talking about a few mm’s either way.
Thanks to the price drops in LCD screens – I was able to pick up a new Benq 22" Widescreen (1680×1050 native res) for AUD$460 (about US$365). I also needed a second PCIX graphics card – and grabbed a Leadtek 7600GT TD for AUD$200/US$160 (and I had luckily planned ahead when I bought my system a few months and grabbed a m/b which supported dual graphics cards).
So anyhow this is what my monitor ‘rig’ looks like now (I took this on a funny angle so the middle widescreen monitor looks a lot narrower then it actually is)  :

It took me a few days to find the best way to use this new environment (what should program should run on which screen) – but now that I’m settled its a major productivity improvement for me.  Probably the three biggest gains are the ability to

1) Huge amount of extra space when writing code (I always spent so much time scrolling left/right in the code or markup editors in VS2005).

2) Ability to work on graphics in native 1366×768 / 100% zoom (in the past I always had to zoom to 66% to fit it on screen which never looked the same)

3) the ability to run Media Center in Fullscreen/Widescreen mode. However – the res of the Monitor is actually 16:10 – so this screws things up quite a bit in fullscreen mode (and in MCML you lose horizontal space in this aspect ratio) – but is fine in Windowed mode (which is what I use mostly anyhow as I like to modify/update the MCML while I look at the running addin). The positive bit on this is that I now know to also optimize for this Aspect ratio for other users in the same boat (with lcd widescreens or widescreen laptops). 

Ok now that I’m right into 3 monitors – I started to think about a 4th screen. (I actually have more CRT monitors here and another spare DVI/VGA port). However I think I will wait until some widescreen tv’s come down in price – as I’d like to stack this vertically above my middle monitor (and use for MediaCenter fullscreen testing while I code in the screen underneath).

Here’s my ‘non-artists impression’ of how I’d set this up (and would need to mount it on the wall behind with a bracket).

Hopefully there’s no ‘health’ side effects of running so many screens (like some weird sort of radiation we don’t know about yet) – luckily none of my hair (or my retinas) are singed  – and no neck strain injuries have occured (well not yet at least)…




Written by mobilewares

January 4, 2007 at 2:52 am

4 Responses

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  1. Very impressive. I was lucky enough to get a Dell 24" for xmas to work in conjuction with my laptop. Both screens are 1920×1200 🙂 but it is a little awkward with such a difference in size. I understand what you mean by getting them the same physical height.
    Oh and if you want to go over board (i did once) there is some software from maxivista that allows you to run another computer as a another monitor using a virtual display driver. So why stop at 4?


    January 4, 2007 at 4:10 am

  2. Hi John
    Thats a nice looking monitor! (ok now I’m feeling bad about my measly 22 inches).. How do you find looking up/down while you’re coding as opposed to left right – does it feel any better?


    January 4, 2007 at 4:25 am

  3. I think your setup would be more productive. I really like having a single computer I can take anywhere so a desktop replacement laptop like the 9300 is the way to go. But with the high res screen of the laptop you need to up close and personal while the big 24" needs to be set back a little. Plus the laptop can only run two monitors and I can’t afford another 24"!!!!
    Anyway thought it made an interesting alternative to your setup. I’m always in search for the ultimate setup…..


    January 4, 2007 at 11:13 pm

  4. I hope Media Center will play along nicer with multimonitor setups in the future, I’ve always had focus problems.
    Maybe with microsofts new multimouse project, whatever it’s called, it will be able to assign one input device to be locked to media center, and another to your workspace and so on.


    January 6, 2007 at 1:27 am

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