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08-26-2019, 12:30 PM   #1
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Workspace Discussion (monitors)

I'm going to build a new PC soon, and I am contemplating new monitors (question toward end).

Current: My current PC is about 8 years old and running 2 x 24-inch (1920 x 1200) monitors (that are 8 and 11 years old).

In building a new PC, the big factor will be whether I update the monitors or not because it potentially drives the GPU need, primarily because the 2 old monitors only have DVI connectors (the newer has HDMI as an option, but I only have DVI cables) and the connections on the GPU. The old PC has an 1050ti card, which has been pretty good for my needs (I don't game).

Question: Is it worth potentially switching to one 32-inch (4k) monitor with my main use being photography (casual photographer)? I have also considered getting two 27-inch (1440) monitors or one ultra-wide (1440).

I think my dilemma is that in my work/office life, I love using two monitors. For photography, I've found my needs mixed. I use 2 monitors mostly to facilitate a crowded workspace in my apps to push tool panels, and thumbnails over to a second monitor, but I don't often have things on a second screen like I do at work. With my desk setup, I am about 20-inches from my monitors.

Other issues/considerations:

1. 2 x 27 could be too wide (physically) although the dpi will be about the same as my current 2 x 24's.
2. An ultrawide could compromise for the 2 x 27, but they can be costly when compared to 32-inch 4k's, especially for photography and calibration purposes.
3. The ppi for a 32-inch and 4k may be too small and scaling may somewhat negate the added resolution (and may not work in some apps). Using a 1440 x 32-inch would be worse for ppi than my current setup.
4. Will a 32-inch feel too big anyway.
5. If I move to 32-inch or a single monitor scenario, I will not be getting rid of the old monitors (my wife will take the old desktop), I could use one of the old monitors as a portrait monitor to create a dual setup. It isn't as clean as I would like, but feasible if I really regretted it.
6. I kind of wish there were (more) 24-inch monitors in a 1440 scenario. That scenario might have been best, but it seems there are almost no monitors in that combination. I might need to look into that further, but the ppi might still be an issue.

Ultimately, have others gone through these thought processes at all? Has anyone replaced a dual monitor system with a 32-inch (or other single monitor system)? Should I stop overthinking it and just stick with what I have? I think my concern with an update later situation is the monitor connectors. DVI is no longer really a thing, and I am not sure I can adapt my older DVI monitor (it's my only wide-gamut monitor) to HDMI or DP through adapters or cables.

08-26-2019, 12:42 PM   #2
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You can get adapters for the different types if connectors, so that's not a big deal. Right now 4K is still a bit buggy on windows, so I would probably stick to a dual monitor setup.

Personally I'm not a fan of big monitors. But that is entirely up to your own preference. I don't think there is a single right answer

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08-26-2019, 12:46 PM   #3
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I personally love having two monitors. I've tried using one big monitor and just partitioning up the screen for different projects but I find that pretty cumbersome compared to just having two physical monitors. I've heard that having 1440p on a 24 inch isn't practical as you can't really see the pixels from a regular viewing distance already. But if you go up to a 27 inch with 1080p you can see the pixels which warrants the upgrade to a 1440p. Therefore, I'd go for the two 1440p at 27 inch.

I might also add that IPS panels are pretty important imo when considering a monitor for photography purposes.
08-26-2019, 01:01 PM - 1 Like   #4
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I agree with Adam and will add that I am not fond of 4K for photo editing.

QuoteOriginally posted by FozzFoster Quote
Therefore, I'd go for the two 1440p at 27 inch.
This too ^ ^ ^


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08-26-2019, 01:59 PM   #5
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If I were building a new desktop system, I'd go with two 24" QHD (2560x1440) displays - this resolution is more than ample for the size of screen, IMHO, resulting in dpi that isn't far off a fairly hi-res print. If money were no object, I'd choose two identical units with full AdobeRGB gamut coverage and built-in hardware calibration. To save some money, I'd choose one with full AdobeRGB and one with full RGB coverage. If money was tight, I'd go for two identical full RGB units. And for the real economy solution, I'd go with any inexpensive unit as a primary display for general work, one better full RGB unit for photo editing, and even consider sacrificing QHD for full HD resolution on either or both. An inexpensive dedicated colorimeter such as the Colormunki Display can be used to calibrate colour and brightness on any of these, but monitors with built in hardware calibration make the job easier.

I no longer run a desktop PC, relying instead on a fast laptop plus external monitor. My laptop (the newer one, at least) has a 15.6" 4K UHD display covering full AdobeRGB, with built-in hardware calibration. The 4K capability is cool in theory, but in practice it provides zero benefit for my own use cases - in fact, some operating systems and photo editing software don't get on well with 4K, especially on smaller screens, and it requires more processing power from the graphics card and/or CPU. As a result, by default I have my laptop display adapter set full HD resolution (ample for a 15.6" screen). I have profiles set up for both full AdobeRGB and full RGB, but generally have it set to the full RGB profile which suits my personal use cases best. My external monitor is a relatively-inexpensive BenQ BL2420PT 24" QHD res unit with full RGB gamut, factory calibrated for colour accuracy. It's superb, and amazing value for the price. I use a Colormunki Display colorimeter that I've owned for several years to calibrate profiles for it as necessary.

When I'm editing photos at my desk, I always use the external display. I find the 24" size and QHD resolution to be ideal for editing. In hindsight, I wish I'd spent more and gone for the 27" BenQ SW2700PT with 99% AdobeRGB gamut and built-in hardware calibration... but it's bigger, three times the price, and in reality I haven't yet been limited by the model I bought (so maybe I made the right choice for me). If I was editing for professional printing purposes, though, the SW2700PT (or an equivalent) would have been a better choice. That said, in my particular case, I can use my laptop in full AdobeRGB profile for final adjustment if absolutely necessary...

Something that you might have noticed I've mentioned repeatedly above is colour gamut and calibration. For the purposes of amateur photography editing, I think gamut coverage and accurate colour reproduction are far more important than resolution. Some screens can only display around 50% of the full RGB spectrum (older screens and some low-end modern laptops display even less). If you edit your photos on these, they could (probably will) be less than optimal when viewed on other people's displays, and can result in way less than ideal results when printed. So, if your budget allows, I'd recommend that at least one of your two displays has either full RGB or AdobeRGB gamut coverage, and that you use either the built-in (if available) or a discrete calibration tool to profile it.

Last edited by BigMackCam; 08-26-2019 at 03:38 PM.
08-26-2019, 02:03 PM   #6
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I had 2x 24” 16:9 monitors for years, and recently shifted to a single 29” 21:9 1080p dell, I get the same vertical height (approximately). I still use 2 monitors at work but I found that I didn’t use both to good effect for photo editing which is the main role of my home PC. Having an ultrawide is great because the photos fit on the editing screen better, I can utilise the full height available without toolbars getting in the way. If you want to go any taller than 30cm (height), you really need to be looking at 1440p or higher
08-26-2019, 02:03 PM - 1 Like   #7
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Last year I updated my home desktop photo workstation to a dual monitor setup - a 27" (2560x1440 Benq SW2700PT) and a 24" (1920x1200 Dell U2415).

I went with the SW2700PT as the DPI of the 27" monitor isn't too different from that of the 24" monitor. The similar DPIs means the size of text and icons are not jarringly different on the two monitors. And like you I have a limited budget and only so much desktop space.

And when I was looking at monitors, I kept encountered a number of articles that made a strong case on holding off on attempting to do photo editing on 4K monitors. The points they made seemed valid, so I decided to not jump into 4K at the time.

The 27" monitor is my sole photo editing monitor and I really like it. The 27" monitor also works well for viewing things like maps and it's also great for displaying two pages of PDFs side by side.

However, I don't really like viewing typical web pages on my 27" monitor - at my typical photo editing distance the 27" monitor is larger than I like for viewing web pages. Maybe it's because the typical web page FULL SCREEN on a 2540 wide monitor often ends up with big white borders on either side of the content, and this large area of pure white is too much for my eyes. Ok, so can resize windows. I guess I'm just used to displaying web pages full screen.

I prefer to do my web browsing and any document work on the 24" monitor where the borders are much smaller.

...This isn't how I thought it would go. Originally I just had a cheap 24" monitor on my desktop. I bought the 27" thinking it would replace the 24". However, since I found myself still using the 24" monitor I kept it connected alongside the 27" monitor. However, my old 24" monitor was a TN monitor that displayed colors that were nowhere near accurate and over time the color inaccuracy really started to get irritating.

I eventually could no longer stand how inaccurate the displayed colors were on the old TN monitor and just bit the bullet and replaced my old 24" TN monitor with a U2415. I couldn't be happier. My photo work lives on the 27" monitor but most other things I do 'live' on the 24". However, both of my current monitors are now IPS so photos look good on both.

Last edited by wm_brant; 08-26-2019 at 02:13 PM.
08-26-2019, 02:34 PM - 1 Like   #8
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If your nose is 20 inches from your monitors, I would think a 32" monitor would not be ideal IMO. Personally I would rather have two 27s. But that's just me. Whatever you choose, the more total screen space you have, the more video RAM you'll want for fast response. You can use shared system RAM, but if you are doing RAW processing and running other apps, I think it's better to rely on the RAM on a separate video card for photography. With two monitors, the GPU will only have to refresh one at a time.


QuoteOriginally posted by FozzFoster Quote
I might also add that IPS panels are pretty important imo when considering a monitor for photography purposes.
You mentioned that you had one wide gamut monitor. I would say IPS (or VA) monitors are essential for photography. The monitor is the lens through which you see your work. Buy the best that your budget will allow.

08-26-2019, 03:04 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Apet-Sure Quote
Whatever you choose, the more total screen space you have, the more video RAM you'll want for fast response. You can use shared system RAM, but if you are doing RAW processing and running other apps, I think it's better to rely on the RAM on a separate video card for photography. With two monitors, the GPU will only have to refresh one at a time.
This is a good point. Whilst it's not necessary to have the very latest and greatest graphics card, a decent one - ideally, any common model from the last few years, with a reasonable amount of on-board RAM - will improve image editing and final export performance considerably. The benefit realised varies depending on the software used, but most raw image software (Lightroom, Darktable etc.) perform certain functions significantly quicker when a dedicated graphics card is used.

In the same vein, when choosing a CPU specification for a new system, I'd generally recommend more cores over outright speed. That's a fairly sweeping statement and not always justifiable, but as a simple example, I would typically choose a previous-generation quad-core processor over a more recent dual-core model. The additional parallel processing capability of a quad-core unit is typically utilised to far greater benefit by both operating system and applications than any increase in speed offered by the newer dual-core processor. And I'd go with a good chunk of system RAM too - 8GB as an absolute minimum, but preferably 12 or ideally 16GB (some folks go for more still, but I find 16GB to be sufficient).

Finally, since we've drifted from the OP's specific question regarding monitors, I'd also recommend what many will consider to be obvious, and that is to use a fast, reliable SSD for the operating system, applications and - ideally - library files for any digital asset management tools (e.g. Lightroom "Library"). My newer laptop is the first serious machine I've owned with an SSD as the primary drive, and it makes such a huge difference. Even the little base-spec Dell notebook I picked up a few months ago for travel use runs much quicker than I'd expected, because it uses a 128GB SSD rather than an optical drive.
08-27-2019, 12:50 AM   #10
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I went with 4k 32" and it made a big difference editing full frames from the K-1.

At FullHD 1:1 only 1/8 of the photo is visible, which was really painful to work with. With such extremely down scaled images I also had issues telling sharpness. It's been easier with 4k now.
08-27-2019, 07:30 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
If I were building a new desktop system, I'd go with two 24" QHD (2560x1440) displays
Same here. Currently using using twin 1920x1200s that are about 8 years old. Main double monitor use with photos is being able to compare multiple images for consistency, and for doing research on one monitor (What was the name of that statue?) while updating/editing website gallery on the other. But once you go dual monitor, I can't imagine ever being happy going back to a single one. Generally, the more screen real estate, the better and more productive.

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08-28-2019, 06:48 AM   #12
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I'm going to raise you one more level. Go for a high resolution (3440x1440) curved 34" monitor, and this is the time of year to start looking, as this year's models will get huge discounts from places like B&H as we go into fall and cyber sales etc. Look for "$1000" monitors under $500 and even down towards $400. A friend who does professional video editing pushed me in this direction, despite my protests that it was awfully big. I would never have anything smaller now. And I have now worked with flat and curved ones, and the curve really increases the comfort and usability in ways you wouldn't realize until you've gotten used to it. With the flat ones, I feel I almost have to slide side to side, and it's not comfortable. The side areas loose their value, but with the curved, it feels right no matter where you look.

Last edited by clickclick; 08-28-2019 at 09:00 AM.
08-28-2019, 09:19 AM   #13
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Thanks for all the feedback. I recognize this is subjective, and I obviously there are pros and cons to the situations.

I recognize the importance of calibration and panel type. That's why I had the Dell 2408wfp in the first place (a good wide gamut monitor at the time, albeit with a VA panel). That monitor did (and still does me well). The second monitor is an IPS panel with a limited color space; it is by ASUS, but it was cheap and difficult to calibrate, so I use it more for thumbnail browsing. Both monitors are 24-inch and 16:10. I also recognize the GPU and System memory will be important. That's why I am trying to figure out the monitor situation first. I can buy the appropriate GPU once I know my monitor situation.

Part of the reason I like the idea of 27-inch at 1440 is the pixel pitch would be essentially the same as what I have. The drawback of two of those is physical space on my desktop and having to turn my head even more. Of course I could turn one of the 24's sideways, which I think could be useful for how I use a second monitor, would help with internet browsing, and allow me to focus on buying a better monitor. I will note that in the past, I found it a little hard to get used to having two different monitors as it was easy to lose the pointer and scaling could get funny. I could probably make it work now. I'm not sure it would look very clean, but at that point I'd buy monitor arms to help declutter the desktop.

Now with regard to the usefulness of higher resolution (higher ppi), I would think it would be advantageous for photo editing to have higher resolution for viewing the photo itself? Other limitations of the technology aside, it would seem cleaner. Your image could be closer to 1:1, you'd get a better representation of what a final image might look like, etc. Now, I do see from other aspects (windows, menus, etc) where there could be a problem. My 13-inch laptop has a 1440 display, and scaling isn't perfect, and some software struggles with (or doesn't support it). I'm also uncertain how scaling works in a dual monitor setup since I've never tried it (I could experiment with my current setup).

I'm in no huge hurry. I thought the CPU/mother-board and storage aspect would be difficult, but actually the evolution of technology in the past 8 years (which I've only loosely kept up with) is making those decisions a lot easier. I don't overclock. THe only thing I'm not fond of on that level is the need to make everything inside the computer look good. I don't need windows into my case or lights on my motherboard or fans. I just want the PC to work well. Even if I was a gamer, no one on the net is going to see it anyway.

---------- Post added 08-28-2019 at 09:23 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by clickclick Quote
I'm going to raise you one more level. Go for a high resolution (3440x1440) curved 34" monitor, and this is the time of year to start looking, as this year's models will get huge discounts from places like B&H as we go into fall and cyber sales etc. Look for "$1000" monitors under $500 and even down towards $400. A friend who does professional video editing pushed me in this direction, despite my protests that it was awfully big. I would never have anything smaller now. And I have now worked with flat and curved ones, and the curve really increases the comfort and usability in ways you wouldn't realize until you've gotten used to it. With the flat ones, I feel I almost have to slide side to side, and it's not comfortable. The side areas loose their value, but with the curved, it feels right no matter where you look.
My concern with curved is that it would cause issues with perspective in editing photos with straight lines. I also feel like the value per dollar isn't great, sales aside. For instance, I would expect non wide monitors to similarly go on sale, and gain it would seem you'll get a better monitor with a standard 16:9, especially if I am trying to get one that can cover a good color gamut.
08-28-2019, 11:21 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by emalvick Quote
My concern with curved is that it would cause issues with perspective in editing photos with straight lines. I also feel like the value per dollar isn't great, sales aside. For instance, I would expect non wide monitors to similarly go on sale, and gain it would seem you'll get a better monitor with a standard 16:9, especially if I am trying to get one that can cover a good color gamut.
Don't be. It won't. I understand your concern, but it really isn't an issue. I was given a flat 34", and at first I thought great, two locations I'll edit from. Nope. Go to the curved one every time. Would be great if you could sample the two for awhile, but that's hard to do.
08-28-2019, 12:19 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by K1N8 Quote
I went with 4k 32" and it made a big difference editing full frames from the K-1.

At FullHD 1:1 only 1/8 of the photo is visible, which was really painful to work with. With such extremely down scaled images I also had issues telling sharpness. It's been easier with 4k now.
This is what I was thinking.

Did you move to the 32-inch from a dual setup or just a smaller to larger?

Do you find it uncomfortable moving your head/eyes around the screen? I've not really had issues side to side with the dual 24's.
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