Last night, as is my wont, I was flicking through RSS headlines and spotted a post on Microsoft's Building Windows 8 (opens in new tab) blog which looked quite interesting. This morning, the post is gone – presumably for further editing somewhere along the way.
Since the post has been taken down I won't go into too much details about the way Microsoft says it's improved multiscreen use in Windows 8 – obviously something in there wasn't right and I've no way of knowing what that is. There was, however, some useful stats about dual and triple screen use which led me to wonder: how many pcgamer.com readers use more than one monitor?
According to the disappeared post, 14.68% of desktop users have more than one screen connected to the their PCs, as do 4.36% of laptop owners. Logically, you'd think that would be the other way around – it seems far more sensible to use a second screen with a notebook when it's stationary. But the post writer is probably correct when he assumes that the majority of second screens are used by office workers and people who've recently upgraded.
Compare that with the Steam Hardware Survey (opens in new tab) and there's about 0.22% of users who might be using EyeFinity to fool their games into seeing several monitors as one, plus an undisclosed number of people explicitly running several screens at once. (I've asked Valve to confirm how the numbers split between single and multiple monitors – but last time I raised the same question they didn't have the figures.)
Here's a bit of guesswork – since the lowest percentage in the 'Multiple monitors' category is 0.02% and applies to some really bizarre resolutions like 2592x900, I'm going to assume that there's between one and 10 people with a 1152x720 TV linked up to a 1440x900 monitor for running Steam games on. That gives us a total number of multiscreen users in the survey of between 5,000 and 50,000 people. It's been estimated in the past that Hardware Survey results are based on 12% of the total Steam population. At it's peak this week, that was 4.6million. At its lowest, 2.1million.
Even using the most generous figures I can think of (that 50,000 people use dual screens and the survey size is just 250,000 people) that gives less than 0.2% of total users who explicitly have two screens. Add that to the 0.22% presumed before, and I can't see any way that more than a half of one percent of users in total have two or more monitors set up for gaming – and it seems more likely the ratio is much lower.
I'm happy to be proved wrong (and a head cold is messing up my maths brain) – but unless there are thousands of people with that 2592x900 monitor set-up I'm not sure how we could get close to one in ten for multiscreen use.
The significance of that is nothing to do with Microsoft and Windows 8, though. Right now, I'm in the middle of a big group test of graphics cards and trying to figure out whether or not it's worth recommending the fastest ones because they can put out more than 1920x1080 pixels at speed. Looking at these figures, I don't think I honestly can. So obviously the next step is to ask you.
Since I love polls and forms and stats and stuff, here's a quick survey for you to fill in. It's entirely voluntary and captures no personal data on our behalf, although it is hosted by Google Drive. I'll be analysing the results before finishing off the group test.