Next week is the one-year anniversary (if you will) of my purchase of a Dell 3007WFP-HC monitor. I snagged a refurbished model for about 60% of the going retail price.
While I’m overall happy with the purchase, and do not regret it, the pragmatics of such a large monitor have turned out to be not quite as rosy as I had initially expected.
- With Chrome’s minimal UI, I can fit two vertically-maximized PDFs on the screen at once, or three if I squeeze them down to “merely” life-size. (The screen is about 25% taller and 3 times wider than a sheet of 8.5 x 11” paper). Making it easier to read research papers was one of my reasons for getting the screen, and this aspect has worked out nicely.
- Eclipse and Visual Studio will eat as much screen space as you can give them. Having a 30” monitor means getting two pages of code side-by-side instead of just one. A portrait-mode 24” monitor at 1200 x 1920 can show one page with 100 vertical lines of code; 2560 x 1600 shows two pages with 80 vertical lines of code.
- Two displays are easier to drive from one graphics card than three. This means that a thirty inch monitor plus one is easier to set up than three smaller displays.
- Managing four million pixels turns out to be much more difficult than managing two million pixels. Because I have so much space, I tend to be less disciplined about keeping fewer windows open. I have about 150 Chrome tabs spread across 15 top level windows, plus six PuTTY sessions and six Explorer windows. I sometimes feel like I need a machete to hack my way through the jungle I created. There are apps that try to help keep windows aligned and orderly, but I haven’t managed to use them successfully.
- It’s hard to find wallpaper for 30” displays!
- The sweet spot for monitor prices on a pixels-per-dollar scale is (still) at 24” monitors. For less than the price of a heavily discounted refurbished 30” monitor, you can get two 24” monitors, and put one or both in portrait mode. For the price of a new 30” display, you can get a smaller monitor or two and a desktop or laptop to go along with it…
Would I recommend a 30” monitor to fellow programmers? I’m not sure. Two 24” monitors, or a 27” and a 24”, might make more sense. It depends on your personal opportunity cost for the extra premium over a nice 24” monitor. That extra money could be a few extra cores and double the RAM, or a dedicated box for running tests, or a nice suit and wool pea coat.
All in all, the upgrade from 20” to 24” made a much bigger difference than the upgrade from 24” to 30”. Make of that what you will.