A New Computer Monitor

For many years a 19 inch Acer X193w+ computer monitor with a 1680x1050 display resolution has been adequate with the office desktop. The recent addition of the Thinkpad T580 with a 1920x1080 resolution rekindled a long standing hunch that aging eyes might benefit from a higher resolution and larger screen size. This suspicion had been growing before adopting the T580 into the house network.

A new 24 inch Acer SA241Y with a 1920x1080 display is an experiment to see if the suspicion has merit.

The new larger monitor seems to be helping. The office desktop user accounts have been adjusted to accommodate the larger screen size. Rather than use scaling, for now only font sizes have been changed. KDE looks crisp and clean. So far there has been no need to fiddle with mouse pointer acceleration.

Unlike other monitors in the house network, the new device uses a power block. In the default ECO mode the new monitor uses a paltry 11 watts with normal usage and 1 watt in suspend mode. This is less than half the Acer X193w+ that used about 27 watts.

Conversely, the engineer who designed the display controls thought that being clever was more important than having intuitive controls. The dead tree user guide that came with monitor requires a magnifying glass to read. Fortunately a PDF of the manual is available online. The manual does not help much because the controls are frustrating to use.

An interesting question is what to do with the functional older Acer monitor. The monitor supports DVI-D and VGA.

One choice might be dual monitors. A challenge with dual monitors is the office desk monitor stand would need to be replaced to accommodate a second monitor or a second stand added. The office desk is somewhat crowded already. There is the expense of a second video card and the time required to configure and test dual monitors. There is the additional expense of electricity. Another speed bump is the incongruous screen sizes and resolutions that affect eye focus and neck strain. This new monitor is about aging gracefully and not geek creds.

Some people benefit from dual monitors and some do not. While multiple monitors might help with using computers, just as often they can be distracting because there is too much continual activity.

First is the idea of humans multi-tasking. Humans can focus only on one thing at a time. Another potential distraction is the fear of missing out (FOMO) — motivating many people to check email continually rather than occasionally. Usually phone ringers and buzzers are easy to disable, so why not computer email clients too? Likewise with instant messaging. Music players can be minimized not to interfere with other open windows.

Local personal computer usage habits tend to focus on doing one thing at a time. Computers are wonderful at doing multiple things, but that does not mean those concurrently running tasks need to be disruptive.

Disruptions are costly — mostly in terms of contentment and satisfaction. Do one thing and do that one thing well. Focus.

Common in the house network is virtual workspaces are limited to two. Ignoring virtual machines, the second workspace is seldom used. With some systems only one workspace is defined.

People who argue that switching among open programs is easier with multiple monitors probably are not keyboard shortcut users. Tending to favor keyboard shortcuts over mouse usage means Alt+Tab switching is sufficient to toggle to different windows, but probably is not as helpful with people who use mouse-intensive software.

Some people might argue that a second monitor adds valuable screen space, but a larger single monitor tends to counter that argument. One way or another more screen space means more pixels to travel when moving the mouse pointer. Mouse pointer acceleration might help control that or might not. There is a point of diminishing returns with more screen estate. For example, too large of a screen means text-based software probably no longer can be used in a maximized window because each line of text is too long to read comfortably. This leads into the rabbit hole of tiling, placing, sizing, and snapping windows. Rabbit holes often mean wasting time. There is something to be said about maximizing all windows and doing one thing at a time.

So the experiment is with a 24 inch monitor rather than bigger. A 24 inch screen size probably is approaching natural limits of eye movement, neck strain, mouse movement, and not fiddling with window sizes.

What to do with the 19 inch Acer monitor remains undecided.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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