October 16, 2006
A French IT consultant says yes, but productivity experts disagree
Written by Todd Weiss
Providing employees with 30-in. computer monitors can boost worker productivity at companies where 17- or 19-in. monitors are typically used, according to a French consultant hired for a study sponsored by Apple Computer Inc.
The study, which evaluated Apple’s 30-in. Apple Cinema Display, concluded that large screens can offer gains of up to 50% to 65% in productivity on a variety of specific office tasks and can earn back their extra costs in time savings over several years. The 30-in. display costs $1,999.
But other experts say those conclusions are wrong, arguing that the productivity improvement estimates are too high and that using two monitors side by side would likely be a better productivity booster than one larger monitor. The 40-page study was conducted by Andreas Pfeiffer, principal of Paris-based Pfeiffer Consulting, for Apple, which paid for the research (download PDF).
Pfeiffer looked at a range of computing tasks, from moving data between Microsoft Word and Excel files to image manipulation using Adobe Photoshop. In addition to studying the 30-in. LCD display from Apple, Pfeiffer also did the comparison using a 17-in. Samsung SyncMaster 172x LCD monitor. The Apple monitor has an optimal resolution of 2,560 pixels by 1,600 pixels, compared with 1,280 pixels by 1,024 pixels for the Samsung monitor.
The productivity gains, he said, occur because workers using larger monitors can avoid repetitive tasks such as switching between overlapping application windows. Instead, they can have more windows open side-by-side on a larger monitor.
The time savings are for commonly performed tasks and not meant to indicate overall productivity increases for workers, Pfeiffer said. Using a larger screen will only improve specific tasks where data is moved or manipulated quickly.