a blog from CenturyLink

How to use a tablet as a second monitor

by | Jul 22, 2020

Need to extend your desktop? A second monitor can be essential for people working or learning from home, increasing both productivity and focus. In fact, many people swear by their dual monitor setup for tasks like coding, editing photos or videos, or researching and writing blogs or papers. Multiple monitors help people multitask for any number of reasons, or simply add a little more visible workspace.

Additional computer monitors can be expensive, though, and they aren’t very portable, essentially anchoring you to your desk. Plus, you might only need an extra monitor for certain tasks, leaving you with a pricy eyesore the rest of the time. One solution that can provide the functionality of a dual monitor, but with more mobility, is a device you may already have on hand: a tablet.

A tablet, which hovers somewhere between a smartphone and a laptop, offers some unique functionality as a second monitor. Tablets come in aspect ratios of either 16:10 (great for landscape displays) or 4:3 (ideal in portrait mode). They are more mobile than both desktop and laptop computers, and have touchscreen functionality, allowing easy and intuitive navigation and use of a stylus. Tablets won’t force you to give up valuable desk space, as a permanent additional monitor might. If you work remotely or travel for work, a tablet can provide an adaptable second monitor setup. Plus, a tablet allows you to switch from work to play in seconds.

woman using tablet with laptop

Setting up a tablet as a second monitor

There’s good news for Mac users: Apple recently made an application called Sidecar available on devices running the macOS Catalina or iPadOS platform. This app allows you to add a secondary display to your Mac computer, making it easy to turn your tablet into an additional monitor.

Keep in mind that Sidecar is only meant for display, so it doesn’t allow you to use the touchscreen function on your iPad at the same time. You also need to be logged in with the same Apple ID on both devices. But if you’re a Mac user, Sidecar is an easy, built-in way that you can get started using an iPad as a second monitor.

If you use an older Mac, PCs, or other devices, you will need to download (and purchase) an application, usually on both devices to allow them to sync. There are different types of programs that use WiFi or a USB cable to connect your primary device to your tablet and make it function as a second monitor. Choosing the right app and setup for you requires a bit of research, so be sure to read more about the apps in depth and check out reviews from other users before you make your choice.

One more tip: it’s helpful to purchase a stand for your tablet, so you can adjust the angle and height and see the display properly.

Duet Display

Promising zero lag, Duet Display works on both Macs and PCs and can connect to an Apple or Android tablet. Duet Display aims to deliver a retina display at 60 frames per second with zero lag, which is pretty impressive. Instead of using WiFi, Duet Display connects via USB, which means you don’t have to worry about being on the VPN or your upload or download speeds. It also supports touch gestures. Duet Display retails on both the App Store and Google Play.

Splashtop Wired XDisplay

Like Duet Display, Splashtop Wired XDisplay uses a USB connection to designate a tablet as a second monitor. The bonus here is that you can even use your Kindle! Wired XDisplay also works with both iPads and Android tablets, and the app is the only one in our roundup that is free to download.


Want to have the flexibility of choosing to use either WiFi or a USB? iDisplay allows you to connect your second monitor to your Mac in whichever way works best for you. For PCs, WiFi is your only option, although USB connection for Android is coming soon. It also allows you to connect multiple devices, so you can configure your setup just how you like it. iDisplay retails on the App Store and on Google Play.

Air Display

If you want to connect to your tablet wirelessly to create your dual monitor setup for your Mac, Air Display is a great option. The app allows you to extend or mirror up to four screens at once and to use the touchscreen functionality at the same time. It even works with teleprompters, making it a great option for video and podcast makers. However, Air Display only works for Mac computers, offering limited cross-compatibility. This means you can use a PC as a secondary screen for a Mac, but not vice versa. Air Display retails on both the App Store and Google Play.

work looking at data on tablet and laptop

Final thoughts

Being more productive, organized, and better at multitasking can be as simple as adding another monitor. If you need to stay connected on your work chat or Slack while you edit a document or work on another project, dual monitors are a great solution. They also help you reference multiple documents at the same time without obscuring the view of one. But if you don’t want to invest in a permanent setup, using a tablet as a secondary display device can be a great option, promising portability on top of functionality. There are plenty of options for optimizing your connection, whether you prefer a wireless connection or the speed of a USB. Best of all, your monitor setup is completely customizable, whether you want two, three, or even four monitors.

Do you use a second monitor? What tips do you have for productivity as you work from home? Let us know @centurylinkhome on social media.

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<a href="https://discover.centurylink.com/author/kirstenqueen" target="_self">Kirsten Queen</a>

Kirsten Queen


Kirsten Queen is the Senior Content Marketing Manager for CenturyLink and Quantum Fiber. Since she started writing professionally, Kirsten has dabbled in nonprofit grant writing and communications, social media marketing, and now writes content about life with technology. In her free time, Kirsten likes to cook, garden, and hike in the mountains of Colorado. Her name rhymes with first, not cheer.