Ultra-wide or dual screens: which one to buy?

I’ve long advocated that everyone should have a dual-screen setup 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 at my doorstep, the two screens I’ve relied on for years have been sitting in the corner gathering dust.

Switching to an ultrawide screen allowed me to enjoy many of the same multitasking benefits as my previous dual-screen setup, while being a real game-changer when it comes to playing my favorite PC titles. And since everything is connected to a single screen, my notoriously messy workspace is now a little cleaner.

But while I’ll likely be on the ultrawide team for the foreseeable future, there are still plenty of benefits to dual monitors that you just can’t get on a giant screen. If you’re ready to add more display space to your home office, here’s how to choose between the two.

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I almost always juggle two things at once: taking notes during a presentation, writing a story while reading a press release, sending Slack messages while ignoring a video call… the list goes on. This kind of multitasking has always been easy on my dual-monitor setup, but it’s even easier on an ultrawide screen because everything is in my immediate line of sight at the same time.

When using the Alienware QD-OLED’s wide 34-inch screen, I feel like I can see content from 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 to the side. If you’re a video editor or music producer with long deadlines, an ultrawide monitor will allow you to see more of your project at once without having to frequently scroll from side to side.

Sure, you can get two identical widescreens and position them side by side for similar visibility, but then you’re dealing with a bad bezel right in the middle. You’ll also experience true consistency across your entire screen, while even matching dual displays may differ slightly in color and brightness.

Mike Andronic/CNN

Using an ultrawide monitor for the job was handy; for games, it was a revelation. Many modern PC games are optimized for an ultrawide 21:9 aspect ratio, allowing for even greater immersion when playing cinematic titles – and some practical advantages in competitive titles.

While playing Halo Infinite, I could suddenly see a lot more of the battlefield at a glance, which made it easier to track enemies and teammates (an ultra-wide monitor won’t improve your reflexes or aiming though, like I learned it first hand). Forza Horizon 5’s already gorgeous racing action was even more breathtaking on my Alienware screen, as I could better admire the game’s stunning Mexican vistas as I drifted recklessly.

It should be noted that not all PC games support ultrawide mode and you will still be playing on a standard widescreen if you connect a console to this type of display. But using an ultra-wide monitor has breathed new life into some of my favorite PC titles, and if you’re a serious PC gamer and have the cash to burn, I can’t tell you enough. recommend one.

Easier, space-saving installation

Mike Andronic/CNN

Ultrawide monitors are do not small – the most popular models are 34 inches wide, and some options like the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 take up a sprawling 49 inches horizontally. That being said, these types of screens can still save you space and hassle compared to using two screens. I’ve gained a decent amount of space on my desk since upgrading to an ultrawide, and my usual mess of cables is cleaner with a few less wires to worry about. And when you’re a gadget reviewer who needs every power outlet available, that last part makes a big difference.

More space for applications and individual windows

Mike Andronic/CNN

While ultrawide monitors are great for seeing a lot at a glance, a multiple monitor setup provides more individual space for whatever you have open on each screen. I love watching videos while I work, and these are usually much better full-screen on their own dedicated monitor than crammed into half a widescreen.

If you want to stretch presentations, video calls, or movies as big as possible while doing other things on a second screen, a dual-monitor setup might work better for you. The same goes for gamers who want to be able to play on one screen and view things like YouTube tips or their Discord chat on another.

Eric Ravenscraft/CNN

If you want the sharpest viewing experience for your money, you might want to stick with a dual-screen setup. Most ultrawide monitors stretch quadruple HD (3440 x 1440) resolution onto a large 34-inch screen, while two traditional widescreen 4K monitors will give you a higher overall pixel density, ideal for things like editing photos or gaming on a single screen.

Given the number of affordable 4K monitors, you might even be able to snag two ultra-HD displays for the price of a single ultrawide model. For example, two $396.99 LG 32UN550-W 4K monitors cost about the same as our best widescreen monitor pick, the $699.99 Samsung CJ791. You can opt for a 5K ultrawide monitor like the $1,496.99 LG 34WK95U-W, but you’ll pay a lot for the extra resolution.

Freedom to mix and match

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Perhaps the biggest advantage of a dual-monitor setup is the ability to mix and match displays. You can mix and match monitors of different sizes and resolutions to suit your needs, whether you want a large 4K screen for gaming and a smaller 1080p screen for viewing your Twitch chat, or two matching quad-HD monitors for crisp consistency.

You can even have one monitor in a horizontal orientation and the other in a vertical orientation, with the latter being great for things like coding, writing, or just seeing as much of your dreaded inbox as possible. You’ll have the freedom to position your two screens at the most comfortable viewing angles, and with the many monitor arms and wall mounts available, you’ll have plenty of options for creating a clean, cool setup.

There is no perfect monitor setup for everyone. In response to a informal Twitter poll I took it out, some people praised the transparency and simplicity of an ultrawide display, while others noted they liked the ability to better separate tasks and applications across two screens. It really all depends on how you work and play.

If you decide to go ultrawide, we love the Alienware 34 Curved QD-OLED for gaming, and the Samsung CJ791 is our favorite ultrawide display for general use. Those looking to snag two screens can check out our recommendations for the best monitors and the best budget gaming monitors, though the Lenovo L24q is a good affordable starting point for any setup. Sure, you can do it all and combine two ultrawide screens, but you have to be some particular kind of mad genius for that – or just willing to spend a lot of money.

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