My friend Scott Hanselman has been worrying about his multi-monitor productivity. I agree whole-heartedly: this blog is being typed on a machine with a Matrox Parhelia video card driving three Viewsonic VP181b LCD panels for a combined resolution of 3840x1024. There is no such thing as too much screen space.
(Yeah, my desk is a mess, so what?)
You can see my email on the left, blog in the middle and Scott's blog on the right. when I'm developing, the code window is in the middle, with the property windows stretching over to the next monitor on the right, docs further right, and the running app on the left... ah, bliss.
9XMedia, Mass Multiples and Panoram Technologies all sell pre-configured multi-monitor set ups. I'm still looking for an excuse to set up one of 9XMedia's 5x2 oriented 22 inch display configurations... how's 19200x4800 grab ya! And only a mere $190,350! Even in more reasonable setups, these ready-made solutions are substantially more expensive than just putting something together yourself.
Viewsonic sells multiple display stands for their thin-bezel monitors. Most Viewsonic LCD panels have standard VESA 75mm or 100mm mounts, so that the stand that comes with the monitor can be easily removed and replaced by third-party stands. Mediamounts and ICW make some great stands.
I'm also in love with whole concept of LCD TV, although the many of the dedicated LCD TV's like Panasonic's line are ridiculously priced. When my wife wanted a TV in the kitchen, I combined an ICW wall mount with a Samsung 15 inch LCD monitor with tuner built in and got a slim, trim LCD TV solution for a few hundred dollars. Today the 15 inch LCD is gone, but Samsung makes a 17 inch bigger brother, also for a reasonable price.
But if you want to talk serious monitorage, I'd look at Samsung's 241MP, a beauty of a 16:9 proportioned 24 inch LCD panel running native 1920x1200. A pair of those would make a hell of a desktop, regardless of the absurd price. Another outrageous monitor is Viewsonic's VP2290b a 22 inch LCD beast with a native 3840x2400 resolution. 96 PPI? BAH! Try 204 PPI! And priced accordingly, too.
Some general thoughts on the state of LCDs today...
Current generation LCDs run with 25ms response times or better, making gaming just fine. In fact, I've played Unreal Tournament on my triple-screen set up, so I have a 143 degree field of view of how badly I suck at Unreal Tournament. Also, that whole limited angle of view thing is going away as well, with 160 degree and better viewing angles.
Good wallpaper can be a challenge. 9XMedia gives away a bunch. My current one is a shot of Mars off the rovers that happened to be the right proportions.
This whole DVI vs. VGA battle is silly too. The center display of my triple rig uses a DVI cable, the left and right are on VGA. You can't see the difference in the display. The only real difference is that DVI cables are limited in length and compatibility. A good quality VGA cable is a better bet every time.
When I'm buying LCD panels, I like name brands (Viewsonic is my favorite), and as much brightness and contrast as I can afford at the time. And as much resolution as I can get away with - no such thing as too much screen space!
Warranties for LCDs are very picky - if you read them close, you'll see that they don't cover a couple of failed pixels, although all the new Viewsonic displays I've bought recently (and that's quite a few) have been flawless: not a single bad pixel.
The most vulnerable part of an LCD panel is the backlight, which is generally a flourescent. Flourescent blubs need ballast, which means they're susceptible to power fluctuation damage. In environment where power is really bad, you can cook off a backlight in less than a year. Sure, its under warranty, but what a pain in the butt. Plugging your LCD monitors into a small UPS will protect them.
Many art folks can't stand LCD panels - they're much more limited in the number of colors they can display. Case in point was my 12 year old daughter. She's a photoshop nut, has a Wacom tablet, and drawing is what she's all about. When I built her machine, I stuck one of the 15 inch LCD panels I had in the office on it. Within seconds she noticed that the colors in her drawings were wrong. I couldn't see the difference, but then, I have no art skills. The machine went into her room with a 19 inch CRT attached.
LCD technology is still evolving - CRTs are as good as they're gonna get, but LCDs are nowhere near done. The difference between my four year old Viewsonic 18 inch LCD and my new Viewsonic 18 inch LCD panel is substantial - brighter, faster, more contrast, thinner bezel, lighter and less expensive. And its only going to get better.