MaxiVista: More than Just a Good Product Name

So I've been trying out MaxiVista for a few weeks now and have some impressions that you may or may not consider a review.  If you don't know... Maxivista is software that creates an additional monitor for your machine by using a second PC (or laptop) and making your primary PC think that it has a second, third, or fourth display adapter that is really just your network card projecting an image to the extra PC's. 

I don't really like the concept of providing traditional reviews because I worry that too many people get caught up in ratings without looking into the real pro's and con's.  One persons 2/5 may be another's 5/5.

To provide some context: I have been primarily using this to turn a second full PC into a part time third monitor for my primary PC that already had a real dual display. The two PC's are connected to each other through our corporate network.  Occasionally I tried adding my tablet as well, but I found the results less useful.  These are my impressions.

Maxivista works as advertised and creates what looks and acts like an additional display on your machine.  The networked display works great for text focused applications like Outlook, Word, or the MSDN Help Viewer.  It is less useful for videos, animation heavy apps, or applications that tend to be less static like Visual Studio going from design to debug mode.  The best way to describe how your networked monitor will work is to imagine a having an excellent terminal server session open.   For development I would recommend using the second or third display for your help viewing while you keep most of your work on the primary displays. 

Most of my negatives with the software outside of the slight latency would be that most software is not designed to work across multiple displays.  I would include Visual Studio in this boat. Beyond a second monitor dedicated to help viewing a third display doesn't add much to your experience.  Some people have told me they use the VSWindowManager add-in in combination with Maxivista to create window layouts that put all their tool windows on the third display and leave the center dedicated to the editor. Because I reinstall VS all the time I've never had the inclination to leverage much other than out of the box configurations. 

I had to disable the software when using Windows Movie maker to import a video. At some point during a long video encoding Movie Maker would tell me that the encoding had to be stopped because the screen resolution had changed. I'm not sure what was causing this, but the encoding went fine after I turned off Maxivista.  This sort of glitch, along with the latency, would suggest to me that if you are focused on video creation you would probably want to get a real second display. 

I mentioned that I simply use a second PC as my extra display when it is not in use rather than my Tablet. I do this because I don't have a dock for my tablet and found it frustrating to keep setting it back up so that it aligned with my other two monitors.  I also did not like the experience of switching my focus from a 19" display to a 12" display. I think I would have overcome this if I had a full sized laptop rather than a tablet since the displays would be more comparable.

People have told me that at three monitors you will have reached the limit of productivity gain that can be attained by creating more screen real estate. I've found that unscientific observation to be true.  When I first attached a second display adapter I could not believe I lived without it for so long.  Adding the third did not give me the same thrill, but I do feel more productive than with two. Adding a fourth display would probably be overkill. So my recommendation would be that if you don't currently have a 2nd or 3rd display on your machine, but you do have a laptop or cheap PC laying around then you should give the extra real estate a try.  If you like it then it is certainly cheaper than purchasing another adapter/monitor combination. 

Hope you enjoyed! Josh