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So this is the current configuration. I have a Dell laptop that has a VGA and HDMI port. It doesn't have any specific graphics card in it. Right now, I use a single external monitor connected via the HDMI.

What I plan to do is get a second monitor and extend the display on both these external monitors. What options do I have? Do I need to connect one via HDMI and the other via VGA or do I need to use some kind of HDMI splitter? If possible I'd like to have both through HDMI because of the image quality. My monitors don't have speakers, so I'm not looking to use HDMI for audio.

Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Most laptops can only output from one display-type port at a time, so HDMI OR VGA in your case, usually the second port is only provided to improve compatibility.

If you really want the dual screen set up, you can go for a splitter, although from what I've heard these can be funky and come with their own problems.

The other option is to get a USB display adaptor, ideally USB 3 if your laptop supports it. If you have to use USB 2 then you may notice a slight bit of lag on the display, it will be fine for browsing email and facebook, but movies and games won't look smooth. USB 3 may have much greater performance here.

That said there are plenty of laptops out there that do allow more than one external screen natively, so my advice would be to buy the new monitor and if it doesn't work then buy the USB adaptor.

As an aside VGA doesn't have poorer picture quality than HDMI, I'm using dual monitors now. Two identical screens, one through VGA one through HDMI and no noticeable difference in picture quality (besides the contrast on the HDMI which I've been meaning to fix for weeks). The issue with VGA is that being analogue there is more room for interference and effects of bad/long cables to degrade the signal. If you do go for VGA I'd advise choosing a cable wisely, no need to go super pricey but avoid no-name cables and stupidly low prices. That said VGA is dying rapidly so try to get a monitor that does VGA and something else like DVI if you can.

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  • Hi Owen, thank you for the clarification. I do have USB 3.0 ports, but would it be any better if I hooked up one monitor to the HDMI and the other through a USB 3.0 to HDMI converter, instead of hooking both monitors through the USB 3.0 splitter. Also, if I do use a splitter, won't that just duplicate the displays or just allow one monitor to be active at a time instead of extending the displays across both monitors? Nov 7, 2016 at 21:15
  • Basically you want to use as few splitters/USBs as possible, if VGA and HDMI work together then that is your best choice by far, if that doesn't work then USB is your best bet. Nov 8, 2016 at 23:36
  • As for splitters, it depends, most just duplicate the signal to two monitors, some will act as a proxy monitor, so for example the splitter would tell your laptop that it was a 3840x1080 display then split that signal in two so you get two 1920x1080 images, however Windows will never know these are two monitors, so if you maximise a program on one of the screens it will cover both. Nov 8, 2016 at 23:40

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