Laptops: What is the easiest and/or least expensive way to connect four monitors to a single laptop computer?
Many people now want to connect multiple monitors to their laptops and computers. In some cases it is a business related necessity, as it might be easier for an analyst to have the graphs they are analyzing on other screens and write their report on the fourth screen. This saves time as you do not have to keep switching windows back and forth. There are some high end video games that also require multiple monitors. Similarly, some people are able to work better with a single screen spread out over multiple monitors.
It can certainly be less aggravating in many ways.
With technological advances it is now relatively inexpensive to hook up multiple monitors to a laptop to ensure that you can have the benefit of looking at diverse data sets at the same time.
Positioning the Monitors
When you plan to link four or more monitors to a laptop, you need to have a clear idea of where each monitor will go. This positioning decision has to be taken to ensure that the final configuration works as expected.
There are multiple options available to connect four monitors to a laptop. As most laptops have DVI and VGA ports, you can simply use all of these to connect the various monitors to the laptop. However, this might not be always feasible. Another option is to use a DisplayPort to Daisy Chain all the monitors to the laptop. However, the DisplayPort is difficult to install in a laptop even if it has the space for it. Moreover, only high-end monitors have a DisplayPort option, making the entire exercise more expensive.
Low Cost Option
If you want an inexpensive solution to connecting four monitors to your laptop, you need to use a USB port and DisplayLink technology. For this, install DisplayLink software on your laptop. This is simple. However, your monitor must have a DisplayLink chip. If not, you can get an adapter or docking station with the DisplayLink chip. This option makes it possible for you to use legacy monitors to set up the additional screens you require. The adapter is less expensive than a graphics card. However, the catch is that the USB 2.0 ports used can end up compressing the high end streaming videos, resulting in less clear images. This is a problem only if you are looking for gaming and other entertainment systems. For most business applications, the image quality provided by USB 2.0 ports should be sufficient.
Once the hardware is connected, you can configure the software to ensure that the right images are displayed. With Windows 8, you have multiple ways of using the four monitors – a single image on all four in extended format, different images, or duplicates. The actual choice depends on the way you plan to use the monitors and the requirements of your work. Those who have work related uses for the multiple screens will find productivity increases with this additional capability.