Adding a third monitor

Adding a third monitor

The time has come for me to add a third (and probably fourth — local deal permitting) monitor to my setup, as my dual monitor setup was becoming a proper limiting factor to my productivity. This is in large part due to the scope of the project I am working on, and with how many individual parts I have to develop and test at the same time.

At any given time I have four or five separate Visual Studio Code windows open with individual projects, one Visual Code instance running (with two to four projects all inside the one window), and a Terminal window I split into a grid of 6 to 8 sessions to run specific parts of the system. This, of course, along with browser windows, documentation, et cetera.

And so, the time has come for me to replace the dual monitor arm I started using exactly one year ago (wow — talk about good timing!) with a four monitor version.

The box the arm came in. Inside is the "real" box, which is a basic, all-white box with just the model number printed on it.

After some research I settled on the EZ-MC4-220 by Eyezone, which is exactly the same company whoe made the previous arm I was using. For a well built yet budget-friendly monitor arm I think this is one of the best choices, I've had no complaints with my previous arm and expect nothing different from this one.

Where the 2 monitor version I bought last year allowed you to either use it with a foot or by mounting it directly through your desk (the latter method of which I used), this particular arm comes in two variants; one is to be used with a heavy, relatively large foot, and the other variant can either be mounted using the included clamp, or straight through your desk using what they call the "grommet" option.

I am going for the "grommet" installation, as I already have the hole made and I think it looks the cleanest, though the clamp is certainly not bad either and might be your preferred choice if you'd like to move your monitors as far back as possible.

All the included parts unpacked (except the clamp mount as I won't be using this)

As before, the arm comes with all the tools you need to install it, with the exception of a drill of course, and a Philips screwdriver should you want to tighten the VESA mount screws more than just hand-tight, or need to rely on the longer, also included bolts should the typical ones be too short —or long— for your particular monitor.

The pillar feels solid and heavy, even though it is hollow on the inside. You're not going to get any flex with this bar, which is great and exactly as it needs to be, of course.

Packaging wise I am mostly pleased, with only the minimum amount of plastic used to wrap most metal parts separately to avoid scratching during transport. I would've loved to see them wrap these parts in paper instead, but it could have been worse than this.

Before / Test / After

My "before" setup with two monitors.
My test setup before settling on the ideal layout and arm to purchase

I was originally considering a three-monitor arm, however these can have quite limited space for each individual monitor, meaning you don't have enough flexibility to face them more inward, for example. While these arms usually state they can support up to 27" monitors even, in practice this is only really true if you don't need to angle in any of the monitors.

You could alleviate some of that by using your monitors vertically, when I tested this (see the above photo) I actually ended up not liking that. Most applications assume there is more horizontal space, so they tend to have sidebars that can't always be moved. Perhaps more importantly, though, it seems like vsync is disabled or incompatible if you do use monitors rotated like this. This results in your screen potentially showing tearing, most obviously so when scrolling larger pieces of text — exactly what you would use your monitor in this setup for.

As I can definitely make good use of a fourth monitor (allocating three for code + terminal, the fourth for documentation, browser, testing and other useful bits) anyway, this and previous points mentioned combined meant going for a four monitor arm seemed like the wisest choice for me.

The new setup. It'll look a bit lopsided until I can find a fourth monitor, but it works great.

As you can see I removed the fourth arm until I find a fourth monitor. I am using 23/24", full-HD monitors, which to me offer a good balance between screen real estate, physical size and price. I managed to find the second Dell display most recently for just $25, which is a great deal in my opinion.

As my graphics card "only" has one HDMI, one DVI and one DP port, I had to resort to using one long-ish DP cable. The other two monitors are connected via HDMI (one of which uses a DVI adapter), which is the easiest kind of cable to get longer versions of, so that makes things a bit easier. If you are planning to add additional monitors to your setup, make sure your graphics card has enough ports for this and that you have all the right cables/adapters to connect them all. Once I find a fourth monitor, I'll end up adding a second, low-end graphics card I have laying around and attach two of the monitors to it.

I also took this chance to redo some of the cable management. Especially with the more devices (or monitors, as in this case) you add this can get quite challenging. Make sure your HDMI/DP/DVI cables are long enough to reach all the way to each monitor, as especially the top mounted ones can be quite a distance away from your machine.

A top-down view of the cables coming into my Hack, which is standing to the side of my desk.
I rolled up the excess cable lengths here behind the drawers, holding them together with some velcrow. Since it's out of sight it's good enough.

The process was pretty fast as the new arm is fully compatible with the previous model, even the VESA mounts are identical, so all I had to do was swap the "arm" out effectively. Most of the time ended up being spent finding the right height for each row of monitors, as-well as cleaning up the cables, but that's mostly because I like doing that — and really don't like having many cables messily laying around.

That's all for today. I am not sure if this brand's products is available where you are located, but I wanted to show it regardless, just in case you are in the market for something like this and can find similar enough looking products. You don't need to get arms that cost more than your monitor(s!) combined to get a usable, productive setup.

Thank you for reading.