The enduring image of a trading floor is a cacophonous gaggle of men yelling to buy and sell stocks and other securities.
But these days, trading floors are more likely to be dominated by batteries of screens — some desks are equipped with several different displays for a financial terminal, news alerts, tickers, instant messages, and Microsoft Excel.
"A lot of the employees even in large financial institutions are working on older monitors that can be over 5 years old," said Vinay Jayakumar, product marketing manager at Dell. "We looked at the trading floor and they were often using 19-inch monitors, in multiples of 4 or 8 or 12 smaller monitors."
So Dell wants to sell these firms much larger displays that can consolidate the wall of screens into one wall-sized screen — Dell sells monitors big as 49 inches from corner to corner. Any bigger, and the company considers them to be a "collaboration monitor" for mounting on a wall or in a conference room. A TV, basically.
Dell's not the only company that is now making larger and larger monitors. In fact, massive high-end panels were a major theme at CES, the annual Las Vegas trade show for consumer electronics that took place last week.
Acer, for example, announced a $2,999 55-inch monitor targeted at gamers. For office use, Lenovo revealed a 34-inch widescreen curved monitor priced at $799. While Apple didn't announce new monitors at CES, it released its first monitor in years in December: The $4,999, 32-inch Pro Display XDR...with a $1,000 stand sold separately. But that screen is basically a miniature compared to other new monitors.
These displays are expensive. Dell's 43-inch monitor, which I recently tried, will retail for $1,049, for instance. But the price could be justified by businesses if it makes high-value workers like traders more productive.
"Users understand the productivity gain by using high-res large screen monitor," Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa said. "In the meantime, large size monitors have become more affordable."
Another trend driving growing monitors? Laptops, which have become standard issue equipment for knowledge workers, have become much better at attaching to external monitors and docking stations, says Kitagawa.
I've been using the Dell UltraSharp 43 4K USB-C, one of the monitors Dell is targeting at financial services, for the past week.
The new monitor was supposed to improve my productivity, but at first it did the opposite — everyone in the office had to come by and check out the massive monitor on my desk. (Dell is technically rounding up — the monitor actually measures 42.5 inches corner-to-corner.)
It attracts attention. Many of my colleagues expressed jealousy at my television-sized workstation. Others said they could see everything I'm working on. My cubicle mate joked she was getting a tan from the light emitted from my screen.
One useful feature for traders is its ability to display video from four different inputs simultaneously — for example, traders often use a financial terminal that runs on a separate box than their main computer, or they need to monitor a television feed or several charts simultaneously. Each input is shown in a different quarter of the screen, and there are other arrangements possible as well, like having one big image at the top and three smaller ones below. It accepts input from HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB Type-C. (Dell also sells keyboards and mice that can switch from computer to computer wirelessly.)
While it's a large screen, it doesn't have significantly more pixels than other monitors. It's a "4K" monitor, which means its resolution is 3840x2160 — the same number of pixels as recent televisions. If you run your computer at maximum resolution, it will render text at an extremely small size. I ended up scaling up the resolution on my Mac to display text larger.
It may also be too big — when the monitor is on my desk, my peripheral vision cannot see everything on the screen at once, and I literally have to look up to change browser tabs, for example. The stand is adjustable, which is nice if you might want to adjust the monitor for ergonomics. It's so big that placing it on a stack of books is not an option.
But after using it for a week, I'm going to miss it when I return it to Dell. I really enjoyed the screen space, and while I can't say it made me more productive, it felt extremely luxurious. I'm sure going back to my smaller set of two 1080p monitors will feel like going back to an older computer entirely.