In the majority of workplaces, we use external monitors on our desktop. There are several different setups available. Some users combine the laptop’s built-in screen with an external monitor. Advanced workers use two external screens with the laptop lid closed – and some even prefer to have even more screens.
The current trend among suppliers is to offer larger and larger screens – but does larger screens really improve our productivity? After all – what is the optimal size for an office monitor?
The general purpose of using multiple screens is to enable multitasking. That is, we want to keep a tab on several things simultaneously without switching between different tabs. The size of the laptop screen is generally small, which can be challenging in terms of reading text. Hence, we prefer using multiple screens because we want to enhance our productivity.
When choosing monitors, it’s important to consider certain parameters, including resolution and size. It’s also important to consider which display interface we want to use, since different interfaces and cables bring different specifications. Using DisplayPort instead of HDMI improves the image quality a lot. However, DisplayPort requires more computing power. Also, if you want to use the monitor attached speakers, that functionality is not included in the DisplayPort interface. Nevertheless, there are still computers and docking stations that do not support DisplayPort. Thus, it’s important to ensure that the screen is compatible with the interfaces supported by the computer or docking station.
Higher resolution does not equal a better monitor
Resolution and the size of the office monitor usually correlates. Generally, a larger screen offers higher resolution. Theoretically, this sounds like a good thing – but practically, it can also be a drawback if you don’t do your math beforehand.
All screens consists of a lot of pixels, providing graphics to your screen. To calculate the size of a pixel, you take the screen’s width and divide it by the number of pixels. A screen that is 54 cm wide and has a width of 1080 pixels, has a calculated pixel width of 0.5 mm. This implies that if we pick a font size of 12 in Microsoft Word, each character becomes 12 pixels high – or 6 mm. Numerically this value appears small, but practically it is large enough for our eyes to interpret the text.
In the next step, it’s important to understand the consequences of buying an HD, 4K, or even 8K screen. For example, a 4K resolution monitor (3840×2160 pixels) has four times as many pixels as an HD monitor(1920×1080 pixels). If we compare two 24-inch monitors, where one has a 4K resolution and the other has an HD resolution, we notice that text ratio is 1:2. That is, the size of the text in one monitor is half the size of the text on the other monitor. The difference between HD and 4K resolution is depicted in the image below.
Larger screen size – but reduced text size
A typical dilemma when deciding on a office monitor is choosing between a size of 24 inch or 27 inch. We assume that the 24 inch monitor comes with an HD resolution, while the 27 inch monitor possesses a 4K resolution. This means that the size of the larger monitor is 12% larger, but at the same time, the number of pixels are doubled. By doing some calculations, we can derive the text size difference between the monitors:
On the 27 inch monitor, all characters become 44 percent smaller, which is quite a significant difference. Most screens can be “scaled up” to enlarge text or other elements. However, enlarging text only works well in certain apps and is usually not applicable in most programs. When scaling up the text size, the program may be behaving differently than intended. Moreover, scaling up requires more computing power in order to handle the higher resolution. Thus, using a screen higher resolution can become counterproductive.
What is the optimal size of the office monitor?
Above, we have described the consequence of choosing the wrong combination of resolution and screen size for office screens. Many manufacturers want to sell monitors by using trendy phrases such as “Ultra HD,” “4K,” and “240Hz.” If not acting carefully, you might purchase a screen that, while good, isn’t suitable for your intended purpose.
However, there are cases where a larger screen and higher resolution offer many positive effects. For example, if you work extensively with marketing materials in Photoshop or create drawings in CAD programs, larger screens and higher resolutions are often necessary. On the other hand, if you primarily work with Microsoft Excel, a larger screen may not improve your productivity. Instead, you might benefit from using other screen dimensions, such as WUXGA resolution. WUXGA uses a 16:10 aspect ratio instead of the conventional 16:9, making the screen “taller,” which is advantageous when scrolling through tables in Excel.
When choosing a monitor for your office work, there are, of course, other parameters to consider besides size. Monitor refresh rate, color space, and luminance are also important aspects. Additionally, it’s crucial to have a computer that is capable to take full advantage of the screen’s benefits.
If you need assistance in selecting monitors and building an ergonomic workspace – both in the office and at home (SOHO) – contact Straznet today, and we’ll help you set up the perfect workspace!