Creating a multi-monitor setup seems easy enough. All you need to do is get your monitor, plug it in your PC, and you're good to go. But what if you wanted to use three or more monitors? You would eventually run into resource constraints and need multiple computers or operating systems to optimize your performance.
This article explains the benefits of using multiple operating systems with multiple displays and covers some best practices to consider. Whether you're a software developer or a technical manager, these tips will help to ensure you get the best results from your setup.
Chances are that your desktop setup already consists of multiple computers and/or operating systems with multiple displays. Maybe you’re a developer needing to run multiple applications or someone working in the financial industry where having several displays is the norm.
The problem is that there’s often a practical limit to how many displays your operating system can handle. These resource limitations become evident when using more than 3 monitors, but they can be minimized by distributing your displays across multiple operating systems. For example, rather than trying to run 5 displays on a single computer, you could have two screens connected to your PC workstation, two on your Linux machine, and one to your macOS, or some other similar setup. That would enable you to create sophisticated display setups like in the image below while maintaining high application performance.
Of course, one of the challenges of having multiple operating systems is that you’ll also have to manage multiple peripherals on your desk. This not only creates desk clutter, but it can also impact your productivity and user experience.
A solution to this problem is to use one keyboard and mouse to control all your devices. The conventional way of doing this is with a KVM switch, which requires special hardware to switch between operating systems. A more cost-effective solution would be to use a software like Synergy instead.
By adding an extra computer to your multi-monitor setup, you'll also make it easier to offload resource-intensive applications to a secondary computer. For example, suppose you're a video editor that primarily works on a laptop. You could offload CPU intensive tasks like video encoding to a desktop computer with dedicated graphics to speed things up.
As a developer or technical manager, you could offload distracting apps to a secondary computer, so you only have one dedicated computer for work-related tasks. Things like your instant messaging app, email clients, and discord servers could all be moved to a separate computer you don't use all the time. That will help you reduce notification distractions and increase your productivity.
Also, with one keyboard and mouse as your main peripheral, you will have the experience of using a single computer with the power of multiple operating systems. By using Synergy's software, for example, you would be able to share one mouse and keyboard across all your operating systems and displays just like you would if you have multiple displays connected to one laptop or desktop computer.
Keep in mind that most laptops will have a very limited amount of resources available for handling multiple monitors. So if you plan on creating a setup with more than 3 external monitors, consider pairing your laptop with a more powerful desktop computer to avoid performance bottlenecks.
Thunderbolt 3 displays will be your best option. They support the latest USB Type-C connector standard, which only requires a single cable to manage video, audio, data transmission, and power supply. This allows for higher video bandwidth and support for up to two 4K displays carrying both video and audio signals or a single 5K display on a single laptop.
The number of external displays you can connect to your desktop PC will vary depending on your graphics card. A standard graphics card will be able to support up to three monitors through VGA (D-Sub), DVI, and HDMI ports.
Higher-end PCI express graphic cards can drive up to 8 displays simultaneously, each with their own color controls and resolutions. These graphic cards usually come with multiple DisplayPort outputs and adapter cables. However, from a cost-benefit perspective, they are not as economical as distributing your displays across multiple operating systems.
If you had a graphics card capable of running 8 displays, for example, the cost of extra performance would be a diminishing return. You would essentially be paying double for 20% extra performance, whereas two PCs, each running 4 screens, is more economical because double the investment results in double the resources.
Using Synergy to connect multiple displays and multiple operating systems would also result in cost-savings in the long run. Our software works as an alternative to a KVM switch, which means you don't have to spend money on any special hardware to get it to work. It's compatible with macOS, Windows, Linux, and Raspberry Pi, and can be used to share one keyboard and mouse across multiple displays and operating systems.
Additionally, with Synergy Business, you can extend our software's functionality to your workplace or academic institution. Our business license comes with priority technical support to ensure you can get the support you need and volume for multiple users or multiple years. Contact us today to learn more about how Synergy can benefit your organization.