Ultrawide vs. dual monitors: which should you buy?

I’ve long advocated that everyone should have a dual-monitor setup, because two screens are better than one, especially if you’re still working from home. But ever since the Alienware Curved 34 Ultra Wide QD-OLED arrived on my doorstep, the two displays I’ve relied on for years have been sitting in a corner gathering dust.

Switching to an ultrawide screen has allowed me to enjoy most of the same multitasking benefits as my previous two-screen setup, while literally being a game changer when it comes to playing my favorite PC titles. And since everything is connected to a single screen, my notoriously cluttered workspace is now a bit cleaner.

But while it’s likely to be part of the ultrawide team for the foreseeable future, dual monitors still offer plenty of benefits that you simply can’t get on a giant screen. If you’re ready to add more display space to your home office, here’s how to decide 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, all at once.

When using Alienware’s expansive 34-inch QD-OLED display, I feel like I can view content on two monitors without constantly turning my head. It’s much more immediate and convenient than my previous 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 timelines, an ultrawide monitor will allow you to see more of your project at once without having to frequently scroll back and forth.

Sure, you could get two identical widescreen monitors and place them side by side for similar visibility, but then you’re faced with a nasty border right down the middle. You’ll also benefit from true consistency across the screen, while even matching dual screens have the potential to differ slightly in terms of color and brightness.

Mike Andronicus/CNN

Using an ultrawide monitor for work has been convenient; for gaming, it’s been a revelation. Many modern PC games are optimized for an ultrawide 21:9 aspect ratio, allowing for even more immersion when playing cinematic titles and some practical advantages in competitive ones.

When playing Halo Infinite, I was suddenly able to see much more of the battlefield at a glance, making it easier to keep track of enemies and teammates (however, an ultrawide monitor won’t improve your reflexes or aim, as I’ve learned from first hand). The already beautiful racing action of Forza Horizon 5 looked even more impressive on my Alienware display, as I was better able to take in the game’s stunning Mexican vistas while recklessly wandering around.

It’s worth noting that not all PC games support ultrawide mode, and you’ll still be playing in standard widescreen if you connect a console to this type of screen. But using an ultrawide monitor has breathed new life into some of my favorite PC titles, and if you’re a serious PC gamer with money to burn, I can’t recommend one highly enough.

A simpler, space-saving setup

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Ultrawide monitors are no Small: The most popular models are 34 inches wide, with select options like the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 taking up 49 inches horizontally. That 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 switching to an ultrawide, and my usual cable clutter is neater with a few fewer cables to worry about. And when you’re a device reviewer who needs every open outlet you can get, that last bit makes a world of difference.

More space for individual apps and windows

Mike Andronicus/CNN

While ultrawide monitors are great for seeing a lot of things at a glance, a multi-monitor setup provides more individual space for what you have open on each screen. I like to watch videos while I work, and they generally look much better in full-screen mode on their own dedicated monitor than in half a widescreen.

If you want to stretch presentations, video calls, or movies as big as possible while doing something else 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 see things like YouTube tips or their Discord chat on another.

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

Considering how many affordable 4K monitors are out there, you might even be able to get two ultra HD displays for the price of a single ultrawide model. For example, two $396.99 LG 32UN550-W 4K displays cost about the same as our top pick for big-screen monitors, the $699.99 Samsung CJ791. You could go for a 5K ultrawide monitor like the $1,496.99 LG 34WK95U-W, but you’ll pay a lot for the extra resolution.

The freedom to mix and match

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

You can even have one monitor in landscape orientation and the other in portrait, the latter of which is great for things like coding, typing, or just seeing as much of your dreaded inbox as possible. You’ll have the freedom to position your two displays at whatever viewing angle is most comfortable for you, and with the many available monitor arms and wall mounts, you’ll have plenty of options to create a clean, attractive setup.

There is no one perfect monitor setup for everyone. In response to a informal twitter poll Turned off, some people praised the fluidity and simplicity of an ultrawide screen, while others noted that they appreciated the ability to better separate tasks and apps across two screens. It really all depends on how you work and play.

If you decide to go the ultrawide route, we love the Alienware 34 Curved QD-OLED for gaming, and the Samsung CJ791 is our favorite ultrawide screen for general use. Those looking to snag two screens can check out our best monitor and best budget gaming monitor recommendations, though the Lenovo L24q is a good affordable starting point for any setup. Of course, you could go all out and combine two ultrawide screens, but you have to be a special kind of crazy genius for that, or just willing to spend a lot of money.

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