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Does a Second Monitor Affect FPS?

For many, a dual-monitor setup is the pinnacle of productivity and multitasking. But for gamers, a nagging question often arises: does a second monitor affect FPS (frames per second), the holy grail of smooth gameplay?

This age-old debate has sparked countless forum discussions and online arguments. In this article, we’ll delve into the impact of a second monitor on gaming performance, exploring the factors at play and separating myth from reality.

We’ll examine how hardware limitations, software demands, and usage patterns all contribute to the equation, ultimately helping you decide whether that extra screen is a boon or a bane for your gaming experience.

What is FPS and Why Does it Matter?

FPS, or Frames Per Second, refers to the number of images your graphics card (GPU) can render and display on your screen in one second. Higher FPS translates to smoother, more responsive gameplay, while lower FPS can result in visible stutter and lag. In fast-paced games, maintaining a high and consistent FPS is crucial for optimal performance and reaction times.

So, Does a Second Monitor Hurt My FPS?

does a second monitor affect fps
Gaming with a busy second monitor (videos, streaming, etc.) can drop your FPS

The answer, like many things in life, is: it depends.

Minimal Impact: The Idle Screen Scenario

Having a second monitor turned on but displaying a static image (like your desktop wallpaper) has minimal to no impact on FPS. This is because your GPU only needs to render the active screen, not both. Think of it like this: your GPU is a chef, and rendering frames is like cooking a delicious meal. An additional empty plate on the table (the second monitor) doesn’t require any extra cooking (rendering).

However, things get a bit more interesting when the second monitor becomes active.

Potential Impact: The Multitasking Mayhem

Actively using your second monitor while gaming, especially for demanding tasks like watching videos, streaming, or running intensive programs, can affect your FPS. This is because these activities put an additional workload on your GPU. Imagine our chef now has to prepare additional dishes (background processes on the second monitor) alongside the main course (the game). The busier the kitchen (your GPU), the longer it might take to prepare each dish (render each frame), potentially leading to FPS drops.

Factors Affecting the Impact: Hardware & Software

does a second monitor affect fps
A powerful GPU with ample Video RAM (VRAM) can handle the additional workload of a second monitor more effectively, minimizing FPS drops

The extent to which a second monitor affects your FPS depends on two key factors.


  • GPU Power and VRAM: A powerful GPU with ample Video RAM (VRAM) can handle the additional workload of a second monitor more effectively, minimizing FPS drops. Think of VRAM as the chef’s extra workspace and tools. The more space and tools available, the smoother the cooking process (rendering frames) becomes.
  • CPU and RAM: While not as crucial as the GPU, having a decent Central Processing Unit (CPU) and sufficient Random Access Memory (RAM) can also contribute to smoother performance, especially when multitasking heavily.

Does Capping FPS Improve Performance?


  • Resource-intensive Applications: Watching a high-resolution video on your second monitor will likely have a more significant impact on FPS compared to displaying a simple text document. This is because the video requires more processing power to decode and display. Think of different dishes: a simple salad requires less preparation time than a complex, multi-course meal.

Minimizing the Impact: Optimizing for Smooth Gaming

Even if your setup experiences some FPS drops with a second monitor, there are ways to mitigate the impact.

Lowering the Resolution

Reducing the resolution of the second monitor (e.g., from 1080p to 720p) requires less processing power from the GPU, potentially improving your in-game FPS. Imagine the chef simplifying the recipe (using fewer ingredients or steps) to ensure both dishes (the game and the second monitor content) are prepared efficiently.

Optimizing Software Usage

  • Close unnecessary programs: While gaming, close any programs on the second monitor that you’re not actively using. This frees up valuable resources for the game. Think of the chef sending the helper (unused programs) on errands to free up space in the kitchen (GPU).
  • Utilize Game Mode: Many operating systems (like Windows 10) offer a “Game Mode” feature that prioritizes gaming performance by temporarily disabling background processes and notifications. This is like the kitchen staff focusing solely on preparing the main course (the game) during peak hours.

Should You Use Integrated Graphics for Your Second Monitor?

Final Thoughts on Second Monitors and FPS

In conclusion, while a second monitor can technically impact FPS, especially when actively used, the impact is generally minimal and manageable with optimization. A powerful GPU with ample VRAM and smart software usage can help you enjoy the benefits of dual monitors without sacrificing significant gaming performance. Remember, the decision to use a second monitor ultimately comes down to your personal preference and hardware capabilities.


Q. Will a second monitor always lower my FPS?
A. No, not necessarily. If the second monitor is displaying a static image or you’re not using it heavily, the impact on FPS will be minimal.

Q. What type of programs on the second monitor affect FPS the most?
A. Resource-intensive programs like high-resolution video playback, streaming, and games themselves will have the most significant impact on FPS.

Q. Is a higher refresh rate monitor on the second monitor worse for FPS?
A. While a higher refresh rate monitor on the second monitor technically requires more processing power to update the display, the impact on in-game FPS is usually negligible.

Q. Should I disable the second monitor entirely while gaming?
A. Disabling the second monitor altogether is an option, but it’s not always necessary. Optimizing software usage and lowering the resolution on the second monitor can often be enough to maintain good FPS.

Q. How can I check if my second monitor is affecting FPS?
A. Several tools and applications can help you monitor your FPS and system resource usage. Tools like MSI Afterburner and NVIDIA GeForce Experience can provide valuable insights into your system’s performance while gaming.

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