Following my recent screed on keyboards, let me tell you about the monitors I have been using for the past few years.
When I moved out of the office and started working full-time from home, I quickly realised how much I missed the extra screen estate from an external monitor. At work, I used a basic 1080p Samsung screen. The company I worked for at the time wasn’t interested in getting developers expensive peripherals, so we just carried on with whatever was given to us.
For my home office, however, I was now in charge of my own equipment, so I could get whatever I wanted. A brief online search revealed a few 4K options with brilliant reviews. All these screens were 27 inches and above and I didn’t exactly have the space in my tiny London room. I knew I wanted a high density display and pretty much the only option at the time was a 22" LG UltraFine with a whopping 4096 x 2304 resolution and a pixel density of 219ppi - that’s almost as high concentration of pixels as in my 15" MacBook but on a much bigger screen.
Fast-forward 4 years. I have now left London and moved into a bigger house. Most importantly - I have a single bedroom to myself! After sorting out an ergonomic keyboard (The Moonlander), next on the list was a bigger screen. Initially I expected that computer monitors have now moved into the 5K resolution realm and have even higher pixel densities, but I was clearly wrong. Even the following iteration of the LG had its pixel count reduced to 3840x2160 and its screen extended to 24 inches. It seemed that the norm is now 3.8K and larger displays with lower PPI. OK, fine, I’ll keep the old LG, turn it 90 degrees and add a larger screen to the side. I got the Dell U2720Q.
I got really used to the dual screen setup. My terminal screen sat on the portrait display, allowing me to look at mountains of logs uninterrupted. On cmd+tab I had the messenger apps stacked vertically. The landscape display hosted the current application I was using - a browser mostly, or a code editor. Having two screens I found was an excellent way to debug applications with the app running on one screen and the debugger on the other.
The Dell screen wasn’t the one with the best colours, but the reason I bought it was because it had exceptional IO and full support for control over DDC. Couple that with a cheap USB KVM and I could switch between my laptop and my Linux machine with a keyboard shortcut. Productivity monster.
A few years went by like this and newer screens started appearing on the market. I also got a permanent job and a company laptop, but kept working from home. My requirements had now changed to accommodate a third computer into my workflow. How do we solve this? With another monitor of course!
To be completely fair, I initially purchased the LG equivalent 40WP95C-W but had to return it back because of poor IO and its implementation of DDC or lack there of.
It’s a bit strange as both monitors use the exact same panel, but the LG beat the Dell in terms of colour reproduction, contrast, HDR and overall design. Its inability to switch input sources via software, though, was a dealbreaker for me, so back to the shop it went.
I now have the Dell as my only external screen, but because its ultrawide, I still get all the benefits of having two monitors. The extra features I gain is that my desk feels a little less cluttered, the Dell has a built-in KVM and I can switch between my work computer and my own laptop with just a keyboard shortcut (also between my Linux box on the HDMI with the additional press of a button on my hardware KVM)
I wish this screen had a bit higher pixel density. There is a significant drop from 219ppi all the way down to 140 although the size of the panel compensates since I’m sitting a bit further away from it. It would also have been nice if I could connect a third source to the built-in KVM just so I can ditch the external one. Or perhaps they could have pushed another TB port in there instead of one of the HDMIs? Wishful thinking I guess.