In today's gaming world, having two monitors hooked up to the same PC is commonplace. One monitor is generally just not enough anymore, as gamers want to be able to play their primary game on one monitor while surfing the web, chatting on Discord, or watching a video on the other.
However, a question regarding the performance impact of running two monitors tends to come up every now and then, and while most people would answer that there is no impact, is that accurate? We’re going to explore this topic a little further in this article.
Testing Dual-Monitor Performance
Gaming Simplified tested out the difference between running one monitor when gaming and running a simultaneous second one. Here’s how they did it.
First, they launched Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor from Steam, and they ran the benchmark eight times while also performing other tasks on the second monitor. They were testing the game on Ultra settings with an uncapped FPS, 3440 x 1440 resolution, Asus GTX 1080Ti OC. Meanwhile, the second monitor’s resolution was 2560 x 1440.
They ran the game using Ultra graphics settings to maximize the work that the GPU had to do. The graphics card used is one of the most powerful out there, which was a big help during the test. The second monitor was an Asus PB277, which ran the resolution mentioned above, and there were four different tests. Each test was run twice. Here are the tests that were run:
- With the second monitor not connected to the graphics card
- Playing a full-screen YouTube video
- Viewing an article in Chrome
- Streaming on Twitch in full-screen
Gaming Simplified then used the average from both benchmarks and worked out their average from that. Perhaps unsurprisingly, not having a second monitor provided the most FPS, though having just one article open on the second monitor in Chrome provided very similar frame rates. In essence, having no second monitor and having a second monitor to read things will make no difference to your frames.
When it comes to video, watching a YouTube video in full-screen drops the FPS slightly. It was only 5 frames lower, but that was the largest drop recorded, and things only got worse when watching a full-screen stream on Twitch.
Why Are There FPS Drops With a Second Monitor?
This is quite a fascinating question, and the answer is just as interesting. The reason that you will experience dips in frame rates when running a second monitor is that the GPU is working on decoding the videos that you watch. When you’re half-watching a YouTube video while gaming, your graphics card is doing several things at once, resulting in a lower frame rate in your game.
If you aren’t running a graphics card as powerful as the one used in Gaming Simplified’s test, then you may have to lower your game’s graphics settings to achieve a comfortable, playable FPS while still doing your other task on your second monitor. This will provide better performance in your games while you’re watching videos on your second monitor.
What to Consider About Dual Monitors
If you are set on purchasing a second monitor to add to your gaming setup, there are a couple of things that you should keep in mind.
While some folks may not have a problem with running two monitors of different sizes, it is generally better to get two monitors that are the same size so that your experience is more balanced. Thus, you must consider the size of the additional monitor you will be purchasing.
In terms of refresh rate, most gamers will have no problem running two monitors with two different resolutions or even refresh rates. Just remember that your two screens will need to be aligned correctly for the best performance.
You should ensure that the graphics card you have installed is capable of supporting two monitors before you go out and buy another screen. If it only has 1 video port, then you will have to purchase an extra graphics card or one with two video ports if you want to run a second monitor.
However, it is quite uncommon for modern graphics cards to have only 1 video port because most newer PCs have a minimum of two ports, so they can connect to two monitors. The ports in question can be of any kind - HDMI, Type-C, DVI, VGA, or DisplayPort. So, if your additional monitor’s connector type differs from your primary monitor’s, you may need an adapter.
Another thing that you should consider when purchasing a second monitor (or even your first monitor) is the width of its bezels. Very narrow bezels are basically designed to be used in dual-monitor setups, and when placed next to one another, two monitors that have slim bezels will offer an unobstructed, unobtrusive viewing experience.
Even if you already have a monitor that does not have thin bezels, adding another thin-bezel monitor may provide you with a better view.
Dual-Monitor Setups: The Benefits
Running two monitors with your PC allows you to benefit from multitasking while playing your video games. The additional screen can be used to browse the web, watch videos, or display other information for the game you are currently playing, like walkthroughs and tutorials.
If you plan to stream on a platform like Twitch, then having two monitors is essentially a necessity. That way, you can play on your main monitor and use your streaming tools on the other while also being able to read the chat and respond to your viewers quickly in real-time.
Another benefit is that you can achieve more immersive gameplay by running the same game on both monitors. If you’re a fan of racing games, then you might consider a dual-monitor setup over a single curved monitor.
So does having a second monitor affect gaming performance? As you can see, there are many benefits to having this setup. But at the end of the day, it comes down to your preferences, needs, and the games you are playing.
And then ofcourse, there's 3 monitor gaming setups.... 🙂