Having two monitors is something that is common today. One monitor is simply not enough. We play our games on the primary monitor while watching a video or surfing the web on the second monitor. However, a question that seems to come up every now and then is if having a second monitor affect gaming performance.
Most of the time, I would say no to this question, simply because I do not think it does. However, it is also quite easy to test, so what I did was to fire up a game on my primary monitor while doing something else on my second monitor. It turns out, that, in some cases, you will lose FPS for having a second monitor.
Testing Performance & How I Did It
To test this out, I fired up Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on Steam and ran the benchmark eight times while doing other things on the second monitor. This is the environment I was testing in:
- Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on Ultra Settings
- Game resolution was 3440×1440 with uncapped FPS
- Asus GTX 1080Ti Strix OC
- Second monitor resolution was 2560×1440
I wanted to run the game on ultra-settings to max out the work for the GPU (and also because I can). I have one of the best graphics cards on the market, which helps a lot for this test. My second monitor is an Asus PB277 which is running in the resolution 2560×1440. I ran the test two times per test and the four different tests I did was:
- With the second monitor disconnected from the GPU
- Reading an article in Google Chrome
- Playing a video on YouTube in Full-Screen
- Playing a stream on Twitch in Full-Screen
I then took the average number from both benchmarks and got an average number from that. The results from this can be seen in the image down below.
To no one’s surprise, having no second monitor at all gave the best FPS. However, just having an article open in Google Chrome is very close and I would say that it’s within the margin or error. Having no 2nd monitor vs having a 2nd monitor to read stuff on is basically no difference at all.
It’s more interesting when we come to video. When watching a YouTube video in full screen, the FPS dropped to 130. It’s still not a big drop, as it’s only 5 FPS but it’s the biggest drop on the chart. It gets worse when watching a stream on Twitch, as the FPS keeps dropping to 127.
All four bars are still within a 10 FPS range which is not much. The monitor I use is the Acer Predator X34A and that monitor has a 100Hz refresh rate, meaning that I was still a good 27 FPS above the maximum for this monitor. Even having the newer model X34A, which does 120Hz, would not matter.
If you have a 2560×1440 144Hz gaming monitor, such as the Asus Swift PG279Q, your FPS would probably be higher than this as well, reaching up to the magical 144 FPS in all four tests. That is because that monitor has 1.2 million fewer pixels than my monitor which makes it easier for the graphics card to push out higher FPS.
Why Does the FPS Drop When Playing a Video On the 2nd Monitor?
An interesting question is why the FPS is dropping when playing a video on the 2nd monitor. The reason for this is because the graphics card is decoding videos you are watching. This means that when you are watching a YouTube video and playing a game at the same time, your graphics card has to do multiple things at once. This can result in a lower FPS in the game that you are playing.
Since I tested with a 2560×1440 monitor, YouTube automatically chose the 1440p quality for the video I was playing. If I would have manually chosen 1080p or 720p, I would have seen a smaller FPS drop, since that wouldn’t have required as much work for the GPU as 1440p did.
Now, the important part of this equation is the graphics card. I am fully aware that not everyone is sitting on a GTX 1080Ti in their gaming rigs and unfortunately, I don’t have something like a GTX 1060 or 1070 to test with, otherwise, I would have done that. However, most people do not also play their games in 3440×1440 at Ultra settings.
If you have a graphics card that is not as powerful, you may have to lower the graphics to maybe High or Very High. This will yield better performance in games while still watching YouTube videos on a 2nd monitor.
So, the long answer to the question if a second monitor affects gaming performance is that yes. It can decrease the performance of your game, but it will depend on what you are doing on your second monitor, what resolution you are playing at and what graphics card you have. However, the FPS was still hovering in the 125-130 FPS range, which is more than enough for most people. Also, if you are using a gaming mouse and lost dongle for wireless mouse, don’t worry!
Scaling the resolution and graphics card to your level, you would most likely see the same results as I did, with all numbers in the 10 FPS range. If you do not, I would think that you either has a graphics card that is not powerful enough or you are running your games in too high settings.
With the above in mind and a final answer to the question, I would say that: No, having a second monitor does not affect gaming performance and you should get a second monitor if that is what you want.
Having the extra real estate is great and something that I highly encourage. Before you get one, make sure the new monitor supports ideal brightness and contrast for monitor to save your eyes from strain. Also, check out our take on curved vs flat monitor for gaming!
Have you tested something like this yourself? Were your results the same as mine? Let me know in the comments below!