Setting Up A Dual Monitor Laptop
If you're interested in turning your laptop into a dual monitor laptop workstation like this...
...here is your step-by-step guide. Not seen in the picture is my laptop, which is sitting just to the left of the picture, completely running on the dual screen monitors you see in the picture!
It's not as simple as it looks to set something like this up, as I learned the hard way by purchasing some equipment that I really didn't need. Nevertheless, you can learn from my mistakes as I show you exactly what you need and why.
To start, I bought two similar modeled Gateway monitors. There's no particular reason why I chose Gateway. I purchased the first monitor on eBay several years ago. Then, when I decided that I wanted to create this dual monitor laptop workstation I went on eBay again and looked for the exact same brand.
Now, once you have two monitors, things get a little trickier. You can't just plug both monitors into your laptop because 99.9999% of laptops only have one VGA plugin.
Therefore, you need to buy something that allows you to adapt two plugins into your one available VGA in your laptop.
Now, I made the mistake of buying something like this...
DO NOT BUY this! Yes, this will allow you to see your laptop on both of your dual monitors. However, you won't be able to view two different things on separate monitors!!
For example, if you wanted your Internet browser on the left screen, and a Word doc on the right screen, buying something like above won't allow you to do this.
Instead, you need something a little more sophisticated that can tell which screen is which. For this, I purchased what is called the Matrox DualHead2Go...
This particular model is what reviews said was the best of the best. If you bought it directly from them it would cost around $100-200 I think. However, I got an absolute steal on this item on eBay for around $35. It came with all of the cords you see and also the software that goes with it.
The software simply remembers whatever your settings are. It also makes your bottom Windows bar (the one with the Start button in the bottom left corner) appear across both screens. It's a really "nice to have" feature that came with my Matrox DualHead2Go.
Anyways, you aren't limited to just that model. But if you want the best and you want to be sure to buy something that works, you can get this on eBay for at or below $100 if you wait long enough for a good deal.
That's really the bare minimum you need, assuming it comes with the software.
If you want to take your geekiness to a whole new level, you can start by getting a wireless keyboard and wireless mouse. This allows you to work clutter free.
I have a really cool laptop mouse with a very tiny USB stick that I plug into my laptop. It's so small that I leave it in 24/7, never having to take it out. My mouse is smart enough that it recognizes if you aren't doing anything for an extended period of time and will shut off so it doesn't drain the battery.
Just look to see how big the USB stick is that you plug into your laptop. If it looks small, you know it's a good one.
I also have a Logitech diNovo Keyboard. The keys feel great when you type. It's nice having a full keyboard with the number keys on the right. Also, the great thing is that batteries last a really long time. I'm on my computer all day and have had this keyboard almost two years and it's still using the same batteries.
Finally, you can really get geeked out and buy a multiple USB plugin. What this allows you to do is only have to plug in one cord as opposed to several (keyboard, mouse, headset, speakers, etc.). This is only if you want to be as lazy as possible.
I bought one on eBay for about $5 which was shipped directly from China. It ended up not working after a couple of months, so I went back to the old fashioned way of plugging in three cords instead of one each morning. An added time cost of two seconds each day. :-)
This is basically how it's done to have a dual monitor laptop set up like mine. When you get everything installed, you may have to play around with the settings on your Matrox software (or whatever you bought) until you get it to fit your needs.
Once it's set up though, you simply plug the USB and VGA of the Matrox DualHead2Go into your laptop and it automatically kicks on to your dual laptop screens and you are ready to go.
Everything runs just as fast as if you were just using your laptop. There isn't any drag or lag time or anything like that, and my graphics card and laptop is far from the best of the best.
Once you are set up and ready to go, I'm sure you'll agree that your dual monitor laptop was a wise investment. Soon you'll be so addicted that you won't be able to work without it!
My Total Investment Cost:
First Gateway Monitor: $70 on eBay
Second Gateway Monitor: $65 on eBay
Matrox DualHead2Go: $35 on Ebay (but expect to pay around $100)
Wireless Keyboard $40 on Amazon (Logitech diNovo for Notebooks)
Logitech Laser $30 on Amazon
Grand Total (everything but laptop): $240
If you just want one monitor and your laptop, check out my other laptop monitor guide
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