Get a first-hand look at how you can take advantage of extra screen real estate when using Windows 10 on an ultrawide monitor.
By Greg Shultz | January 13, 2017, 11:47 AM PST
If you have been reading my articles for any length of time, you know that I am a big fan of using multiple monitors. In fact I’ve been taking advantage of a multiple-monitor configuration ever since the feature first became available in Windows 98. I guess you can say that I’m a multiple monitor junkie, since I feel irritable and cramped if I have to work on a system with only one monitor.
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One of the biggest advantages I find to a multiple-monitor configuration is the amount of time and effort I save when doing any type of multitasking, such as running multiple applications. Rather than maximizing and minimizing windows to switch between applications, I simply glance from one monitor to the other. Until recently, my most recent multiple-monitor configuration consisted of three monitors—a 23-inch wide screen monitor (LG E2350V) flanked by two 21.3-inch monitors (ViewSonic VP211b). This was a very satisfying setup until one of the ViewSonic monitors bit the dust. I limped along with the LG and one ViewSonic while I was deciding what to do. At first, I was thinking that I would take the remaining ViewSonic out of the mix and get two more 23-inch monitors. However, that idea changed quickly over the holidays.
On a recent trip to my local Costco, I was strolling through the computer aisle when I saw the LG 34UM58 34-inch monitor on the shelf. Wow! I was immediately smitten.
I took out my iPhone, Googled the monitor, and did a little research. I soon discovered that while LG has a series of higher end 34-inch monitors, the 34UM58 got good reviews and the $340 price was very reasonable. Having had good luck with LG products and not one to pass up a good deal, I grabbed a box and placed it in my cart.
I’ve been using the monitor on my Windows 10 system for a couple of weeks now and have found it to be an extremely enjoyable and beneficial experience. Let’s take an ultrawide look.
The ultrawide experience
To begin with, I have to admit that when I first set up the 34-inch monitor on my desk and sat down to work, I found it to be a little disorienting because it was so much bigger than what I’d been accustomed to. (Figure A shows my 34-inch and 23-inch LG monitors for comparison.) When they use the term ultrawide to describe a display this large, they aren’t kidding. A 34-inch monitor provides you with a really big chunk of screen real estate for desktop computing, and the 21:9 aspect ratio makes playing games and watching movies an awesome visual experience.
A 34-inch monitor is really big when compared to a 23-inch monitor,
Now, since this isn’t actually a review of the monitor, I’m not going to cover the specs of the LG 34UM58 nor all of its features. You can find that information on the LG site or in other reviews on the Web. Rather, I’ll share some of the experiences I’ve had while running Windows 10 on this ultrawide monitor.
A return to the Start screen
When Windows 8 first came out, I grudgingly accepted the new Start screen but always longed for the old-style Start menu. So when Windows 10 gave us a reasonable facsimile of the old Start menu, I embraced it wholeheartedly and never looked back.
However, when I fired up Windows 10 for the first time on this 34-inch monitor, I was immediately struck by how puny my Start menu looked. Over the course of the first couple of days I began to feel that the Start menu wasn’t as efficient as it once was. It just didn’t feel right on this large screen.
On a whim, I delved in Settings, found the Personalization > Start tab, and set the Use Start Full Screen toggle to the On position. To my surprise, I found that using the Start screen on this ultrawide monitor, as shown in Figure B, provided an easier-to-use menu system. I can’t go back to the Start menu now.
Using the Start screen is more efficient than the Start menu on an ultrawide monitor.
A better Snap
As you know, Snap is a windows management feature that allows you to arrange open windows, including maximizing and resizing, just by dragging and dropping a window to different edges of the screen or by using a series of [Windows] key shortcuts. On this ultrawide monitor, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation of Windows 10’s Snap feature.
For example, I found that using Snap to place two windows on the screen, side by side, provides a similar experience to having a two-monitor setup. More specifically, this monitor is so wide that the workspace in each application is large enough to work comfortably and efficiently. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I’ve found that it’s easier to work in two applications on a single monitor than to work in two applications on two monitors.
I’ve found that in a lot more situations than I would have imagined, Windows 10’s ability to Snap windows to four quadrants of the screen on an ultrawide monitor provides a really efficient way to work. On my smaller monitors, the four-quadrant Snap feature was more a novelty than a way to work. But on this ultrawide monitor, the windows are large enough for me to use four applications on one monitor, as shown in Figure C, and get real work done very efficiently.
Windows 10’s four-corner Snap really works on an ultrawide monitor.
LG Screen Split feature
While Snap works great, LG one-ups Snap with its proprietary Screen Split feature, which you access from the OnScreen Control software. On the Screen Split tab, shown in Figure D, you’ll find 10 window layouts you can instantly access just by selecting the layout icon. Using the Screen Split feature’s various two- and three-screen layouts, as well as the Snap feature, provides some nice ways to put this ultrawide monitor to use.
The Screen Split tab provides 10 window layouts.
Another nice feature here is the PIP, or picture-in-picture, layout. When you select one of the four PIP layouts, you can drag one application window into the PIP area. When you do, that application window remains the top window no matter what other windows you select. I’ve found PIP to be a handy feature when I’m watching something on YouTube, like a training module, and need to keep an eye on the video while I’m working in other windows.
The good old Cascade Windows command
I remember when I began using Windows 3.0 in the early 90s, I got a big kick out of using the Cascade Windows command to arrange windows. Well, the Cascade Windows command, along with the Show Windows Stacked and Show Windows Side By Side commands, is still available in Windows 10. Just right-click on the taskbar, as shown in Figure E. And even though these old window management commands pale in comparison to Snap and the Screen Split feature, I have found some instances where using them on an ultrawide monitor comes in handy.
The Cascade Windows command can still be found in Windows 10.
For example, when I have many applications running at the same time and I need to find a particular application, I’ll often use one of these commands rather than [Alt]+[Tab], [Windows]+ [Tab], or taskbar thumbnails. Since I have so much screen real estate, it may be easier to find what I’m looking for when I can see regular windows as opposed to the miniature windows displayed by the other methods.
Panoramic desktop background
If you’ve used the Personalization > Themes feature, as I described in How to turn your desktop from drab to dynamic with Microsoft’s Personalization Gallery, chances are that you’ve downloaded one of the panoramic themes and been disappointed to discover that the desktop background image is cut off on either side to display on your monitor. Well, with an ultrawide monitor, you get the full panoramic image.
Dual HDMI connectors
Another nice thing I discovered about the 34UM58 is that it has two HDMI inputs, as shown in Figure F. Of course, lots of monitors come with multiple video inputs. But what makes it such a cool feature on this monitor is that you can connect two separate devices to the monitor and then toggle between them using the monitor’s onscreen menu.
The LG 34UM58 has two HDMI inputs that allow you to connect two separate devices to the monitor.
To access the onscreen menu there is an easy-to-use joystick controller conveniently located on the bottom of the panel, right in the center of the monitor, as shown in Figure G. You use the joystick to turn the monitor on and off as well as to access and navigate the menu.
The LG 34UM58 has a joystick controller rather than multiple buttons.
You’ll then use the menu, which is laid out in a circular pattern, to select Input and access a menu from which you can choose an HDMI input, as shown in Figure H. My Dell laptop has an HDMI output, so I can connect both my desktop and my laptop to the 34UM58 and easily switch between them without ever having to leave the ultrawide monitor environment.
Switching between the two HDMI inputs is a quick job using the joystick controller.
In addition to connecting my laptop to the second HDMI input, I’ve connected an Apple TV and a Blue Ray player to the 34UM58. This dual input capability definitely adds versatility to the monitor.
Games and movies
As I mentioned, the 21:9 aspect ratio on this ultrawide monitor makes playing games and watching movies an awesome visual experience.
If you can find games designed for 21:9 ultrawide monitors, you’ll definitely be in for a totally immersive experience. You can find some games designed for 21:9 on the Windows Store, like Minecraft or Rise of the Tomb Raider, but you’ll want to do some investigating on the Web to find out which games truly support the 21:9 aspect ratio.
However, you’ll find that many games will be able to use the whole screen and look very good doing so. For example, Microsoft Solitaire Collection will run in full screen on an ultrawide monitor and it’s neat that the cards display on the screen as life size.
When it comes to watching movies from most streaming sites, such as Netflix, you’ll discover that they are almost always in 16:9 and won’t use the whole screen on an ultrawide monitor. Although you’ll have the black frame around the picture, the picture will definitely be larger than when played on a standard 16:9 widescreen monitor. Of course, there are 21:9 movies out there—but again, you’ll have to do some legwork to find them. To see what a 21:9 movie looks like on your ultrawide monitor, Google 21:9 trailers. You’ll find a bunch of movie trailers on YouTube.