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Using a Tablet as a Second Monitor: The Ultimate Guide

Have you ever wished you had a little extra screen space when working on your laptop or desktop computer? A second monitor can provide a big productivity boost, allowing you to multitask more efficiently and comfortably. Studies have shown that using multiple displays can increase productivity by up to 42%.

But a full-sized monitor isn‘t always practical, especially if you‘re traveling or have limited desk space. The good news is, you may already own the perfect portable second screen solution: a tablet!

As a digital technology expert, I‘ve seen firsthand how using a tablet as a second monitor can be a game-changer for all kinds of professionals and power users. Over the past decade, advances in screen-sharing and mirroring technology have made it easier than ever to integrate tablets into our computing workflows.

In this ultimate guide, I‘ll walk you through everything you need to know to unlock the potential of using a tablet as a second monitor. From step-by-step setup instructions, to recommended apps and gear, to pro tips for optimizing your workspace—I‘ve got you covered. Let‘s dive in!

The Benefits of Using a Tablet as a Second Monitor

So why would you want to use a tablet as a second monitor in the first place? Here are some of the top benefits:

  1. Productivity – Multiple studies have shown the productivity benefits of using more than one screen. For example, a survey by Jon Peddie Research found that using multiple displays can boost productivity by an average of 42%. A tablet second screen makes it easy to multitask and reference information without constantly switching between tabs and apps.

  2. Portability – Unlike a full-sized second monitor, a tablet is extremely portable. Toss it in your laptop bag and you have an extra screen to work with anywhere, anytime. This is especially useful for digital nomads, frequent travelers, and anyone who enjoys a change of scenery while working.

  3. Touch and Stylus Input – One of the key advantages of using a tablet as a second monitor is the ability to interact with the screen via touch or stylus. For designers, digital artists, and anyone else who values precision input, this is a huge benefit over a standard non-touch monitor.

  4. Cost-Effective – Chances are, you may already own a tablet that can easily function as a second screen (more on system requirements later). This makes it a very budget-friendly way to expand your screen space without splurging on a dedicated second monitor.

  5. Versatility – Because a tablet can be used independently from your computer, it offers much more versatility than a standard second monitor. Use it to extend your desktop while you work, then detach it and use it to stream videos, play games, read e-books, or whatever else you like to do with your tablet.

Now that we‘ve covered the why, let‘s jump into the how! Setting up a tablet as a second monitor might sound complicated, but with the right apps and a few simple steps, you‘ll be up and running in no time.

How to Set Up Any Tablet as a Second Screen (Step-by-Step)

The exact setup process for using a tablet as a second monitor will vary slightly depending on your operating system and the screen-sharing app you choose. However, the general steps are similar across platforms:

  1. Check compatibility – First, make sure your tablet and computer meet the system requirements for the screen-sharing app you want to use. For example, Duet Display requires an iPad running iOS 10.0+ or an Android tablet running 7.1+. Most apps will list their requirements on their website or app store page.

  2. Connect your tablet and computer – For wireless screen-sharing, make sure both your tablet and computer are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Some apps also support wired connections via USB (which can provide faster performance).

  3. Download and install the screen-sharing apps – On your computer, download and install the desktop companion app for your chosen screen-sharing tool. Then, download the tablet version of the app from the App Store or Google Play Store.

  4. Launch the apps and connect – Open the screen-sharing app on both your computer and tablet. The computer app should show your tablet as an available device. Click to connect, and within a few seconds, your tablet should display an extension of your computer desktop.

  5. Configure display settings – Depending on the app you‘re using, you may need to configure a few settings like display resolution, arrangement, and input options. Most apps will walk you through this on first launch.

That‘s the basic process in a nutshell. Now let‘s take a look at a few of my top app recommendations for different platforms and use cases.

The Best Apps for Using Your Tablet as a Second Monitor

One of the great things about using a tablet as a second screen is the variety of apps and software available. Whether you‘re a Mac or Windows user, working wirelessly or via USB, or have specific features you require—there‘s likely an app that fits your needs. Here are a few of the best:

  1. Duet Display – This is my top overall pick for most users. Duet Display is a well-designed, reliable app that works with iPads, iPhones, Android tablets, and Chromebooks. It offers both wireless and wired connectivity options, making it versatile for different workflows and network conditions. The wired connection in particular is great for tasks that require high performance and low latency, like graphic design or video editing work. Duet also has some unique features like a customizable sidebar with device controls and gesture support on iPads. Pricing starts at $9.99 for the basic version, with in-app purchases available for additional features.

  2. Splashtop Wired XDisplay – If you‘re looking for a free option (and don‘t mind a wired connection), Splashtop Wired XDisplay is an excellent choice. The app supports Windows and Mac computers, as well as a variety of iOS and Android tablets. Performance is snappy thanks to the USB connection, and setup is a breeze. While it may lack some of the bells and whistles of paid apps, Splashtop is a solid option for anyone who wants a simple, no-frills way to use their tablet as a second monitor.

  3. Sidecar (macOS and iPadOS) – If you‘re an Apple user, you may not need a third-party app at all. In macOS Catalina (10.15) and later, Apple introduced a native feature called Sidecar that lets you use an iPad as a second display for your Mac. Performance is excellent, and it supports the Apple Pencil for precision input. The catch is you must have a compatible Mac and iPad—check Apple‘s website for a full list of system requirements.

  4. Spacedesk – Spacedesk is a popular free option for Windows users. Like Duet Display, it offers both wired and wireless connectivity and works with a variety of iOS and Android tablets. One unique feature is the ability to use your tablet as a secondary display for multiple computers on the same network—handy if you frequently switch between a desktop and laptop.

In addition to these picks, there are numerous other screen-sharing apps available, many tailored to specific uses like gaming or graphic design. Popular options include Air Display, iDisplay, and Astropad, to name a few. When choosing an app, consider factors like your operating system(s), the type of work you‘ll be doing, and whether you need features like stylus support or customizable shortcuts.

Tips for Optimizing Your Tablet Second Screen Setup

Once you have your tablet and computer connected, there are a few things you can do to optimize the experience:

  1. Choose the right screen arrangement – Most screen-sharing apps will let you position your tablet to the left, right, top, or bottom of your primary display. Consider which position feels most natural and ergonomic for your neck and eye line. You can also experiment with different screen resolutions and scaling settings to find the right balance for your needs.

  2. Use a stand or mount – Propping your tablet up on a stand or mounting it to a monitor arm can help create a more comfortable, productive workspace. This lets you position the screen at eye level and frees up desk space. There are even mounts that attach your tablet directly to the side of your laptop screen for a compact, all-in-one setup.

  3. Customize your input devices – If you‘ll be frequently interacting with your tablet screen via touch or stylus, consider customizing the sensitivity and pressure settings to your liking. Many screen-sharing apps also let you create custom gestures or button shortcuts for common actions.

  4. Take advantage of productivity features – Some screen-sharing apps have built-in productivity features that can help you get more done. For example, Duet Display has a customizable sidebar where you can quickly access tools like a calculator, notepad, and calendar. Look for ways to integrate these kinds of features into your workflow.

  5. Optimize your network – If you‘ll be connecting wirelessly, make sure you have a strong, stable Wi-Fi signal. For best performance, try to sit close to your router and minimize interference from other devices. If you frequently work in areas with poor Wi-Fi, consider using a wired connection instead.

With a little experimentation and customization, you can create a tablet second screen setup that perfectly suits your work style and environment.

Common Issues and Troubleshooting Tips

No technology setup is perfect, and you may occasionally run into issues when using your tablet as a second monitor. Here are some common problems and troubleshooting tips:

  • Connection issues – If your tablet won‘t connect to your computer (or keeps disconnecting), first check that both devices are on and connected to the same network. If that doesn‘t help, try restarting both devices and relaunching the screen-sharing app. You can also try switching from a wireless to wired connection (or vice versa) to see if that resolves the issue.

  • Lag or poor performance – If you notice lag, stuttering, or poor image quality, there are a few possible culprits. Make sure you‘re using the latest version of the screen-sharing app and that your tablet and computer meet the minimum system requirements. If you‘re connecting wirelessly, try moving your devices closer to your router or switch to a wired connection. You can also try lowering the display resolution or scaling settings to reduce the amount of data being sent over the network.

  • Input delay – If touch or stylus input feels delayed or unresponsive, first check that your screen-sharing app supports input forwarding (most do, but some only support display mirroring). If the problem persists, try adjusting the sensitivity and latency settings within the app. As a last resort, you may need to switch to a wired connection for the lowest possible input lag.

  • Battery drain – Using your tablet as a second screen can be taxing on the battery, especially with a wireless connection. If you‘ll be working for extended periods, it‘s a good idea to keep your tablet plugged in to avoid running out of juice. Some apps also have power-saving features that can help extend battery life.

If you‘re still having trouble after trying these tips, check the support documentation or user forums for your specific screen-sharing app. Common issues are often addressed there, along with more advanced troubleshooting steps.


As you can see, using a tablet as a second monitor is a versatile, cost-effective way to boost your productivity and streamline your workflow. With the right apps and accessories, you can transform the tablet you already own into a powerful tool for multitasking, collaboration, digital art, and so much more.

Whether you‘re a laptop user looking to maximize limited screen space, a freelancer seeking a mobile dual-screen setup, or a hobbyist wanting a high-precision drawing surface—there‘s a tablet second screen solution that can work for you.

The key is to choose a reliable screen-sharing app that fits your needs and budget. Take the time to experiment with different layouts and settings until you find an arrangement that feels comfortable and efficient for your workstyle. Don‘t forget to make the most of productivity-enhancing features like custom input gestures and app integrations.

With a little ingenuity and know-how, you‘ll soon wonder how you ever got work done without your trusty tablet second screen. Happy multi-screening!