Tri-Displays
review office osx

Follow-up

After writing about my standing desk set-up, I received a few emails inquiring about my tri-display set-up. How does one get so many glorious pixels on one standing desk you ask? Fortunately, it is actually fairly straight-forward to set-up a tri-display system with a MacBook Pro. The hardest part of the whole process was actually deciding what displays I should buy.

Tri-display Computer Monitors

Displays

When I purchased my new standing desk I decided to upgrade my display set-up. In the past, I have exclusively used Apple LED Cinema Displays. For my home office, I wanted to find a display with a higher feature-to-price ratio. I had no idea what a contentious issue monitor shopping would be. There are about 10,000 different monitor and there is a lot of subjectivity and a wide range of opinions and reviews regarding the overall performance of each model. The main features I was looking for in a monitor were:

  • ~ 24 inch display
  • sub-$350 price
  • 16:10 aspect ratio1
  • 1920 x 1200 resolution
  • IPS panel
  • 8 bit color depth
  • Portrait and landscape rotation
  • No speakers2

After deciding on the main specifications I wanted, the choice became relatively straight-forward. I ultimately purchased two HP ZR24w 24-inch S-IPS Monitors. You can read a thorough review of the HP ZR24w here and read this thread for vetted user experiences. I was further convinced the HP ZR24w was the correct purchase after learning Marco Arment uses the same display, but has the 30 inch model.

For anyone interested in the HP ZR24w display, there are a number of calibration specification available here and here. These are the calibration setting that I found produced the best results:

HP ZR24w Display Settings
+ Brightness: 40
+ Contrast: 80
+ Custom Color: R247|G220|B239

Tri-Display Software

  • Check out SecondBar for multi-display menubar management.
  • There are a bevy of window management tools for the Mac, my favorite is Moom, which has a number of cool methods that support sending windows to different screens.
  • Last but not least, don’t forget Smashing Magazine's 70 Dual Wallpapers.

Tri-Display Hardware

  • My dual displays are hooked up to a 2009 MacBook Pro. One display is connected through a Mini DisplayPort to DVI dongle and the other display is connected through a USB to DVI adaptor. I have no clue how the USB to DVI works, but the quality of the output is extremely good.

  1. There is a trend in the industry toward wide screen 16:9 formats instead of 16:10. While the 16:9 format might be good for movies and gaming, it's absolutely horrible for people trying to do real work. I highly suggest trying out both 16:9 and 16:10 displays in a store before buying anything. ↩

  2. Monitor speakers almost always produce horrible sound. If I wanted speakers, I would just buy speakers or use my awesome headphones. ↩