Apple-paid study: Display size matters

If you're hankering for a snazzy large-screen monitor, consider telling your manager this: A recent study found users running the 30-inch Apple Cinema Display could be up to 65 percent more productive than those using a mere 17-inch monitor.

You might not want to mention to your manager, though, that Apple sponsored the study [PDF]. He or she might be a healthy skeptic.

The Apple-funded study was conducted by Andreas Pfeiffer, principal of independent technology research institute Pfeiffer Consulting in Paris. According to the report by Computerworld, "Pfeiffer looked at a range of computing tasks, from moving data between Microsoft Word and Excel files to image manipulation using Adobe Photoshop."

He tested not only the 30-inch Apple monitor, but also a 17-inch Samsung SyncMaster 172x LCD monitor, for comparison.

According to the study, "Productivity gains were present in not only professional design and publishing, digital imaging, and digital video, but also in general productivity and office applications such as word processors and spreadsheets."

Time savings came primarily from actions involving moving or manipulating data.

"Pfeiffer's testing showed time savings of 13.63 seconds when moving files between folders using the larger screen - 15.7 seconds compared to 29.3 seconds on the 17-in. monitor - for a productivity gain of 46.45 percent."

"The testing showed a 65.09 percent productivity gain when dragging and dropping between images - a task that took 6.4 seconds on the larger monitor compared to 18.3 seconds using the smaller screen."

"And cutting and pasting cells from Excel spreadsheets resulted in a 51.31 percent productivity gain - a task that took 20.7 seconds on the larger monitor versus 42.6 seconds on the smaller screen."

"Individually, the productivity gains may seem almost imperceptible," he notes. "Cumulated over time they can result in an ROI of thousands of dollars per year."

In the study, Pfeiffer also says that:

"Compared with TV-style cathode ray tube (CRT) displays, liquid crystal display (LCD) panels show a crisper, more stable image. As a result, we can sit closer to an LCD screen without experiencing visual fatigue, and we tend to interact with the screen more directly. Likewise, reading on screen tends to be more comfortable on an LCD panel than on a CRT display."

Per the Computerworld article, some experts disagreed with Pfeiffer's assessment, suggesting that a second monitor could potentially boost producitivity more than a larger one. "'I can surf the Net on one monitor and do something else on the other,' said Peggy Duncan, an Atlanta-based personal productivity expert and principal of PSC Press. 'It all goes back to seeing more stuff at one time. But, in my opinion, productivity is increased more by using dual monitors.'"

As for the Apple-sponsored study that doubles as an ad for an Apple product, well, we've seen that happen before. Microsoft, for example, recently sponsored a study on the effectiveness of anti-phishing technology in which Internet Explorer 7's anti-phishing technology came out on top.

Of course, I'm not saying that the results of such studies are totally bunk -- though perhaps a bit of salt makes them easier to fully digest.

Still, I'd love to see the company-sponsored research reports that don't get circulated.

Come to think of it, I'd also love to see a study that says a company-paid trip to Hawaii boosts productivity. Maybe Aloha Airlines could sponsor that research.