Replacing monitors with projectors

If you study computer science but don’t use computers, you are screwed. I have eye problems with monitors and used to be reluctant to use computers. But luckily, I’m not screwed. I managed to set up computers without using monitors, so my long-lasting eye problems are solved. The solution is to use a projector instead of a monitor.

Long distance projector setup

Long distance projector setup

I have been using this setup for three months. It works great. My eyes don’t dry out any more. I have used it when preparing for a deadline when I worked on the computer (through the projected screen) for long hours daily for more than two consecutive weeks.

In contrast, it used to be unconceivable to even think about using computers (through monitors) so much. In half an hour, my eyes would start to hurt. After two hours looking at the monitor, my eyes would hurt so much that I would have to take long breaks to keep eyes open. If I used the computer for four hours a day, the pain would last for the next day. If I managed to use the computer for five consecutive days, each day reaching six hours, then I would really struggle to be able to discern any text for the next two days.

Here is another setup.

Short distance projector setup (front)

Short distance projector setup (front)

Short distance projector setup (back)

Short distance projector setup (back)

I used this setup for a few weeks but it turns out to be too bright. I have discarded it and bought an E-Ink screen* instead. (Original: I have used this setup for a few days now. It’s working great for my eyes.)

So far, using projectors is the best alternative that I can find for replacing monitors. Other solutions:

  • E-ink screens. These screens are very friendly to eyes. But there aren’t many E-ink monitors that are designed to work as computer screens. The current available options are hard to buy.*
  • Printing on paper. Physical papers are nice to read. But printing is too slow when I wish to scan through long documents.
  • Changing the monitor to warm color to avoid blue light. I tried, but it didn’t help.
  • Taking breaks — for every 20 minutes, close eyes for 20 seconds. I tried, but it didn’t help.
  • Finding a job that doesn’t use computers. This sounds very difficult.

Using projectors does have caveats and disadvantages:

  • The projector setup requires a rough surface, such as a rough wall, a rough cardboard, or a rough cloth. Otherwise, there will be a bright spot on the screen due to the reflection of the projector’s lamp.
  • Smaller desk space or seat space.
  • Distance shouldn’t be too short. If the projector is placed too close to the surface:
    • The projected screen can be too bright.
    • The projected image can skew so much that it becomes impossible to focus crisply on both the left and right halfs of the screen.
  • Distance shouldn’t be too long, either. If the projector is placed too far away from the surface:
    • The screen becomes so large that your neck may hurt.
    • The jittering (due to the fan) of the projector can become more obvioius.
  • Posture. Set up the position and the size of the screen to be ergonomic. If the screen is too high or too large, neck hurts. Also don’t forget to set everything else ergomonic as usual — sit on a chair of the right height, use a good keyboard, and place the keyboard and the mouse at the right places.
  • Distance may require wearing glasses. Glasses can make eyes sore.
  • Environment shouldn’t be too bright. Otherwise, the projected screen is too dim to read.
  • Environment shouldn’t be too dim, either. Otherwise, the projected screen is too bright that eyes hurt.
  • Wait time. After waking up the computer and turning on the projector, the projected screen can light up slowlier than the ordinary monitor does.
  • Resolution. Projectors are usually not designed for projecting such a small screen. They may not display high enough resolution.
  • Price. High-resolution projectors can cost several hundred dollors.
  • Lamp life. Like ordinary lamps, the projector lamp also has a limited lifetime. It will wear out from extended use.
  • Heat. The projector’s lamp can be hot. Don’t touch the area. Don’t put precious things close to it or they can be ruined.
  • Noise. Projectors usually have fans to dissipate heat.
  • Energy costs.

Despite having these new problems, the projector setup does allow me to use computers as much as everyone else does. That’s why I’m happy about this solution.

Frequently asked questions:

Q: It’s a waste to not use your monitor (besides supporting the cardboard).
A: Yes, but I don’t look at monitors anyway.

Q: Did you see an eye doctor?
A: I saw several eye doctors. They thought my eyes were healthy.

Q: Why do projectors help?
A: I guess it’s because the light doesn’t shine into eyes directly but instead goes through diffuse reflection.

Q: Your E-ink monitor is laggy.
A: Yes, but it’s much faster than the refresh rate of Kindle.** And it’s big enough. It’s painless. I’m happy with it. If you don’t need E-ink, don’t buy it.

* The DASUNG E-ink monitor (DASUNG official website; Amazon product page) has been the best solution for my desktop needs. Note, however, that E-ink monitors have obvious disadvantages. Most of my friends don’t need E-ink monitors. If you don’t need it, don’t attempt to use it.
** When using Kindle, I never turn on the background light. If you are comfortable with the background light, then we are probably different kinds of people.

Removed my positive comments for the desktop setup.
Added links to the E-ink screen, along with Q&A.