In your experience, what is the optimal monitor specs for your primary programming monitor?

Of course this is subjective, but in my search for the ideal programming monitor, it helps to know what peoples' experience is.

Aside from a specific monitor, what lessons have you learned about monitor specs?:

Size/Resolution: Which size and resolution are best?

Widescreen: Yes or No?

Viewing Angle: Does the weak verticle viewing angle of TN panels really matter for programming?

Input Lag: How low does input lag have to be for it to have no effect on mouse/keyboard feedback?

Screen Door Effect: Does the "Screen Door Effect" of IPS panels hurt code readability?

Adjusting options: Is height adjustibility important or is tilt sufficient? Should the monitor have pivot function?

And any other words of wisdom you might have.


I use a 24" DELL 2407WFP as my main monitor and a cheap Viewsonic 1280x1024 as a secondary, and that works great for me.

The wide screen works well when you're using an IDE with docked windows around the code editor, and having two screens means you can run the app full-screen on one while debugging on the second.

Oh, and DVI/HDMI inputs are essential. Don't bother with anything else these days.

Font choice is important, and I'm a fan of Microsoft's Consolas font. You can download it from the link, but note...

This package is only intended for licensed users of Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 or 2008.

The installer requires VS to be installed, but the font works perfectly in other IDEs and editors.


Rotated to 90 for text, if you have two of this side by side even better. You can see much more code with the rotated monitor than with a normal one.


Any one monitor wont do, you need multiple monitors. At least one for the code and another for any reference you need to pull up.

Higher resolution is better, but not so high I can't read the screen. Bigger is nice, but as long as I have at least two screens I'm fine.

Other than that, the font is more important than the monitor as far as I'm concerned.

I guess it should be a color monitor too.

If you're working on a video game... get a good video game monitor.


Most programmers will disagree with me on this, but I prefer to have one very large monitor with very high resolution instead of having multiple monitors.

I have never used more than 2 monitors, so I can't say anything about 3 or more, but I find with 2 monitors, I just end up having one as my main focal point and the other basically just has task manager running in it. Thus I find it better to have a single large monitor with high resolution that is your center focal point instead of having two small monitors and having to choose which one you want as your main focal point.

Also, here's a really good image that shows the difference in viewing area for the different resolutions:



Size/Resolution: The bigger, the better for both! My main monitor at home and at work is 24" 1920x1200, but I'd much rather have a 30". In most cases, software settings can compensate for "too high" a resolution.

Widescreen: Either way.

Viewing angle: Not certain, but I don't think this is likely to be a problem for programming (as opposed to say watching TV). Maybe could be an issue with the 2nd monitor, but I've never had any trouble.

Input lag: Pretty sure this is a non-issue for typical programming.

Screen Door Effect: Not familiar with that, so can't comment.

Adjusting options: I wish more monitors had this. I don't consider it essential (since you can put a monitor on a stand), but it's definitely nice to have since height especially is important.

Other tips:

  • I definitely recommend dual monitors for programming. The 1st one should be as big as possible with as high resolution as possible. The 2nd, for documentation, debugging, etc. need not be as big or nice.

  • DVI is way better than analog/VGA. Especially if you're using a KVM switch.

  • I personally love ClearType. But in any case, pick font smoothing you like. And if you use ClearType, use the tuning wizard to fine tune it on a per monitor basis.

  • Be sure to run your monitor at its native resolution (assuming it's an LCD)! I'm amazed how many people don't do this.

  • Staring at bright backgrounds (like white) can increase eye strain. I personally prefer programming with light text on a very dark blue background. I also change the default window background color to gray instead of white for email and other applications.


I hate widescreen monitors in general, but especially for text.

In landscape mode, your eyes travel too far width-wise to be comfortable when working outside of your code (web browsing, word, etc). That's why most websites have an upper limit on content width - to make it easy for reading. And If your code is that wide, you should be putting less on one line.

In portrait mode, it's just not wide enough.

I prefer a 4:3 monitor, preferably 16x12, although 1280x1024 is what I use at work.


One of the best monitors I've tried recently is a fairly cheap (400 USD) TN-film 24" monitor - Benq V2400W. I've read that the G2400W uses the same panel, but with less funky styling and VESA mountability. It was tested to have negligible input lag, and compared to my old PVA Dell 2001FP, this feels like a CRT. I haven't been bothered at all by viewing angle issues, but I don't have a clue about its color accuracy. It looks good, but I wouldn't parade it in front of any of my photoshop loving friends. The text reproduction is very good, however, and TN panels have a reputation of being good at text.

IPS panels are generally regarded as having the best color reproduction, as well as being the most expensive type. If you'd like an IPS panel that's inexpensive compared to most, has good color reproduction, and has fairly low input lag, I've read good things about the DoubleSight 263n 26" displays, and their more expensive Planar counterparts with the same panel.

Hardforum.com has a pretty extensive section about displays if you want to read more about panel types and stuff.

I second the idea of having two panels, with the right being in portrait mode - the portrait monitor makes an awesome dedicated code monitor, whereas the landscape monitor deals well with stuff that tends to take a lot of horizontal real-estate... SQL resultsets with nasty huge tables, for example. If you want to go this route, TN viewing angles might be a problem, since your vertical viewing angle suddenly becomes your horizontal viewing angle... Anyone who has tried TNs in that setup care to comment?


Understand why we have widescreen monitors. Televisions now are much, much, much more popular in the widescreen format. Because the machinery used to make TV's is the same machinery to make monitors, we get monitors cheaper in the widescreen format then old style format.

While IDE's make widescreens more useful, even IDEs do not require the full width. On top of that I only spend 40% of my development time in IDEs. The extra width would be useful, if you can find one of those "widget/gadget sidebars" that has useful gadgets, and prevents "maxmize" from obscuring it.


I have two 22" widescreens side by side. Widescreen is brilliant for developing because IDEs can be so wide these days, leaves you plenty of room to work with.

You also want one with a high contrast ratio, to make those blacks really black. I program in an inverted colour scheme (i.e. white text on black backround - only soft greys instead). Its much easier on the eyes, especially when you stare at them all day.


I don't like huge monitors they make my eyes tired, I usually work with 2 monitors, one wide screen and one 4:3.

I have this one on my wish list:

The Apple Cinema Display, 24", excellent quality, crisp clear image... hope I get it for Christmas :D


Size/Resolution: Dual widescreen monitors. I prefer having more horizontal space than vertical. I've been using Dell for years now, and currently have 2x 22'.

Widescreen: Yes.

Viewing Angle: I don't think this is a huge deal -- depends on your working environment, but I can't imagine it varies significantly.

Input Lag: Anything under 20ms will be more than sufficient.


At my last job, they gave us dual-monitor video cards but only one (20 inch?) LCD monitor. I discovered that by using the DVI-VGA monitor adaptor that came with my MacBookPro, I was able to find an unused 24 inch CRT monitor in a back room and managed to muscle it onto my desk. So I had two very large monitors, both running 1600x1200 or better. Combined with KDE with 6 virtual desktops, I finally thought I had enough space, for the first time in my life. I could have Eclipse on one monitor, and several terminals on the other for running makes, checking out files, etc. And I could keep my email and web browsing on a completely separate virtual desktop.

So of course that job ended, and now I've got a pitiful little 21" CRT that can barely run 1280x1024 at 75Hz. Ugh.


I actually am going to go the other direction. Any good laptop screen is fine. My eyes can only look at one screen at a time. If I want to read a web page while I work then I'm not looking at the program running. That's not to say I don't read web pages.. I just like the alt tab button. I'd eventually like to get a heads up display.. but that's a dream of conservation of space not really related to real life.


You need to figure out what you'll be using the monitor for. For me, a 21" widescreen is no better than a regular 17", but with a 22" I am able to vertically split my IDE pane and fit twice as much code on screen at once.


I use the same Acer 26" S-PVA widescreen monitor model in 1920x1200 in both of my jobs. Viewing angle is near perfect, it has almost no noticeable input lag or screen door effect or smearing. Color management leaves some to be desired, but then again, I am a programmer rather than an graphic artist :)

My monitor does not have a pivot mode, but I arrange my windows so that I have one or two (vertically split) code panes near the middle, surrounded by tabbed docked windows.

And yes, I tried dual monitors a couple of years ago, but there were too many minor niggles with that setup (problematic VGA drivers from nVidia/ATi, devenv window management woes, two black monitor edges right in front of me etc.). Never had the $$$ for three monitors to try---well, that might actually work. (I am already a source of envy in the office due to my 26" vs 20-24" for others, so the chances of my boss approving 3 of these beasts is, hm, quite slim, to put it nicely.)


You definitely want widescreen. Most IDEs like Eclipse benefit from vertical bars on both sides, leaving you very little space if you're working at 4:3

Viewing angle doesn't matter unless you have multiple monitors (highly recommended)

Also, I work in a room that has a lot of windows so the amount of ambient light changes a lot over the day, so comfortable adjusting of brightness and contrast is critical for me.


Currently I'm using 4 x 19" - which is great when working with multiple Virtual Machines for testing/debugging.

I started here with 2, and picked up the others that were spare around the office. They're old and need replacing, but the screen realestate is pretty handy.

That said, I'd prefer a couple of 24" or maybe a single 30" ;)


Optimal to me is 3x21", but I've never had it :(

My home rig has 19", 20.1" widescreen, 20", 19", 19", and 17" screens.



I'll split my response, into two parts for the two thoughts.

The best monitor I ever had was a 19" Sony Trinitron. Bigger would have been better, and definitely not wide screen. Two would have been good too. But these monitors were heavy and big, which caused some problems.


I currently use dual 30" Apple Cinema displays...absolutely lover them and all the space!


The more monitors the better, but a minimum of 2 (good) monitors. Please don't give me the option of either one 24" or two 12" monitors ... it doesn't work that way.



At home i have one 27" dell widescreen at 1920x1200, and a spare generic monitor at 1024x768 for extra bits i need.

at work i have two dell 21" 4:3 screens, both at 1280x1024, which while a little small for my liking does fine.


Both at work and home, I have a 22-wide and a 19-"square".

The 22 always has my IDE on it. The 19 has data files, the app, a web site, task manager, documentation, photoshop, etc. . .anything that I want to regularly view to support what I'm working on.

A 19-square is essentially the same height as a 22-wide. When I had 22/17, it was a little off-putting to have a very different vertical span on the two monitors. So, it's not just the size of a 19, but how it relates to my 22.

I'm much more efficient as a programmer using multiple screens.


I was using two CRTs, a 21" and a 19" (non-Widescreen) for XNA development. As the project matured, I realized that I spend a lot of time going back and forth to look at the dozens of classes I had created while writing the hundreds of lines of code for my game. I therefore bought two 22" widescreens to put on the edges of my 4 monitor setup. It works great actually, I was using 3 screens for development, each with split windows so I could see a total of 6 classes at the same time (well, not at the same time, but I could quickly stare at them and save time), and used the 4th screen for the object definitions, etc, and when debugging, I also had the 4th screen plugged into my xbox with a vga cable for easy and quick xbox debugging sessions. For my next project, I'm going to replace the CRTs because the picture is kind of dark and straining on my eyes after using the 21" inch for about 8 years (Sony Trinitron, very expensive and nice monitor). So, I'm probably going to be 2 more 22" to complement the others, although these will do 1080p whereas the others will only do 1050xsomething else. A single bigger size monitor sounds tempting though!! Viewing angle is not bad, except for the fact that I found myself wishing to have a single monitor in the middle instead of two right in front, but I got used to it. Screen door effect???? No commnets on that one... (sorry, no time to google). It would be great to be able to adjust the height since the 22" Acers only allow tilt, I want to look at the screens on a eye level height prefferably. It would be great if all the monitors I have were the same resolution, even thoguth the upgrades will be much higher than the current 22"s I got. Would be nice to have all 4 be 1080P so that I can see the same font size on all the monitors. Hope that helps!


Best Programming Monitor

I have a Samsung SyncMaster 2343BWX. 2048 X 1152.

That's right. 2 kilopixels wide. It's great.

It took awhile to get everything configured to make the best use of the extra space:

  1. Put tabs on right in Firefox, instead of along the top (verttabbar extension)

  2. Tell Adobe Reader to show everything two-up. I'm surprised no one else has mentioned this, as it is an amazing timesaver if you are often reading through PDF's. (Prefs->page display-> page layout= two up and zoom=fit page)

  3. Re-arrange palettes in Pshop so they are along the edges

  4. Firebug on the second screen, or have a really wide browser.

Best part: I paid $200.

It seems a little too wide occasionally; if the center is in focus for my weak eyes, the edges are slightly out of focus. Sometimes I turn it.

It has more pixels than anything else I've ever owned, and I use 'em. It worked first time with the external video on my old macbook (was worried there wouldn't be enough VRAM). I use the browser on the main screen and put firebug over on the laptop screen.

You do need to have your mouse warpage turned up pretty high to get across all those pixels. I use a trackball so I can spin hard to get over and then fine tune.

I also use it to watch TV, very very occasionally. My DirecTV box has HDMI output, and it turns out that a "DVI to HDMI" cable works just as well in the other direction. The syncmaster has one DVI in and one VGA in.

I hate the touch buttons, but you can't have everything. I have the older model which doesn't rotate into portrait mode, though I hear the newer ones do.

I agree with the fellow who said a 24" trinitron was the clearest monitor he ever had. I used to have a pair of 'em. The syncmaster isn't that clear, and the vertical viewing angle isn't all it could be. But I like those gobs of pixels, even if they aren't quite razor sharp.


    - nick

I think I shouldn't probably mention that I recently moved from a 15.4" Dell Inspiron to a 13.1" MacBook.


IBM 3279g -- best ever screen!

(Hint will only make sense to mainframe programers.)