Understand use-cases and you will understand your own needs
Even if you go full remote either with your job or with your own business, chances that you will run entirely work off of the iPad or iPhone are slim to none, especially in the initial stages. Even if it is your own business, you will likely keep the laptop, at least for those more substantial tasks that can’t be done on mobile devices. Choosing the right computer will make a big difference in the way you run your business. Your environment is what will make you or break you, so investing in the right setup will pay big dividends.
Get yourself the machine that will be able to satisfy any and every possible necessity you may require along the way.
This article summarizes the long soul search of 2014, which is still relevant today. The biggest thing that I learned over the course of years is that setups evolve. Sometimes I’ve been more focused on iPad; other times, I’ve been stuck in front of the laptop and a monitor, and as my working roles evolved, my computer presence became mandatory. These work-related needs change, and so do your preferences. In this piece, I will reflect on the innovations in the personal setup, as well as the improvements that made numerous work environments possible.
Chase for the perfect setup
Six years ago, I bought 15″ MacBook Pro Retina, since then I’ve contemplated an ideal home-based setup. As I’ve breezed through the series of Best Buy returns of Led Cinema Display, regular monitors, iMac 5k retina, and few others, I’ve finally decided to settle for a Samsung 4k display with my laptop in a clamshell mode inside of a Henge Dock. I’ve stuck with this setup for almost four years before I’ve purchased a working Mac Mini because I’ve felt I was putting too much wear and tear on my laptop’s battery.
During these iterations of big-screen setups, I’ve managed to find numerous issues in the workflows that prevented me from seeing the ideal solution from the get-go.
There were numerous challenges due to my refusal to own multiple computers, and my absolute desire to have a large display that is comparable to a retina screen. These requirements made this a long journey to the holy grail of the perfect setup. Ultimately I’ve settled to have multiple computers, but the laptop remains my go-to device for the majority of leisure as well as higher-level work.
How LED Cinema Display Didn’t Fit The Bill
Initially, I’ve tried sticking with Apple, and I’ve got a Thunderbolt display. However, looking into a non-retina screen, after getting used to the high pixel density felt like a time travel to the ’90s. Buying 3 years old technology at the premium price didn’t make a lot of sense. Emotionally and financially, I just wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment to something that wouldn’t quench my thirst for technology in the long run.
This display does work beautifully, and it is much better than standard 1080p screen, but seeing pixels just didn’t cut it. The other problem was that the monitor was just too damn big. The years were showing, as newer models were working quite beautiful, at less than half of the weight, not to mention the space. I believe the biggest reason to pass on it was the fact that I could get more for far less money. Shelling $1000 for a technology that is on its way out, just felt purely insane even though it had some natural Apple features that don’t arrive with other components.
Why Regular Monitors Were Even Bigger Issue
Then I’ve tried regular displays, but the offering was even more underwhelming. Usually, I am working from home, and I don’t get to deal with the technological realities of others and their setups in the office environment. However, occasionally, I’ve taken business trips to the office, and I’ve seen my coworkers putting their long hours on low-end screens. I knew how blessed I was! This made me wonder if I could do it myself. Perhaps I would even save some money?
It was. My eyes are so spoiled that nothing except Ultra High Definition or Retina-quality can quench my graphic needs and desires if the letters aren’t crisp to read than I simply refuse to watch at a screen. Not sure why I have such a high digital snobbism related to my peripherals, but I can’t seem to get rid of it. At every opportunity to connect my laptop to a regular screen, I’ve flat out refused the notion and kept working on my retina screen. This was far from an acceptable solution!
The iMac 5k Dilemma
After a lot of thought, I finally shelled out for an iMac. I’ve been contemplating on using the desktop computer as my primary device. However, I’ve been offset by the price, as well as by the impracticality of having two computers. It’s been forever since the last time I’ve owned a desktop, and it was a PC. And this time around, it’s so strange because I still lean towards the laptop as my only device.
Being a Best Buy elite member, I had a whole month to chew on that thought. However, iMac 5k is plagued by early adopter woes and problems. The screen itself isn’t fully optimized, and the graphics were getting incredibly choppy inside of the OS itself, making mission control and desktop cruising extremely laggy and choppy. Having 8gbs of RAM didn’t help either. I know that nowadays, I can get 16 and even 32 Gb of RAM iMac’s, but after this tryout, I’ve just moved onto the next step of evolution and didn’t look back.
When I invest ~$2200 into a piece of equipment, I have high expectations for its performance. This is where my MacBook Pro proved to be a much better investment. At the time of me trying out the iMac, it wasn’t mature enough of the hardware, as it may be today.
MacBook Pro Retina in the Clamshell Mode with a Samsung Display
And when I depleted all the other options, this led me to try 4k Samsung display. At the start, I noticed how Samsung also performed choppy on my laptop. However, I’ve checked the display settings, and it made me realize that the screen was operating only on a 30hz refresh rate.
Now, clamshell mode and the setup is not for an ordinary user. It does require some time to set up your configuration the right way, and it does require some extra hardware. For the optimal refresh rate, you will need a male to male display port, where you won’t have a slow down of the display. Living my entire life on 60 Hz retina, going down to 30 Hz, is a significant strain on the eyes. Once I’ve finally got the cable, I’ve got the quality of the retina iMac, for a fraction of the price, and I couldn’t have been happier.
It is quite funny that the main reason why I’ve opt-ed in for another monitor was that I couldn’t see the content of my spreadsheets in a single glance. This is the only most disturbing thing about the laptop size monitor. Clicking CMD and – at the same time, shrinks the letter to a point where you can’t read them anymore, just for the sake of keeping everything in a single view. However, this, at first silly, reason, became a serious one. As I’ve been reviewing more and more spreadsheets, the cumulated effect of saving time on glancing at the work documents, instead of chasing the data, helped me save time, energy and improve the quality of my work.
Desktop-Like Life, with Zero Compromise
Sitting in front of the big screen is somewhat magical experience. I remember that I’ve spent days on end, by being completely enchanted by the big screen. Those moments when I could spend countless hours in front of the computer, being carefree about the future, knowing that the only future is on the other side of the screen. Those moments 5 years ago, brought me to where I am at today.
After a long break of being mostly mobile and laptop oriented, I found myself in need of that big-screen comfort, and making it happen, without any compromise towards laptop mobility, was, in my opinion, quite an achievement.
Adding A Henge Dock – Destroying A Friction Point And Making 5 Minutes Every Day
For the longest while, my laptop was sitting on the floor, and sometimes I would even catch it with my leg. Every time I’ve wanted to get out of the house, I would have to unplug three cables, and then I would be able to take the laptop with me. Putting those cables back in place would also add unnecessary friction to getting back into my fully productive mode. You may think that those seconds don’t count, but they are yet another friction point, and these micro-moments can make it or break it for you when it comes to procrastination.
This made me realize that it’s super important to have a user-friendly environment, where my way of living and working would enable me to quickly get in and out of the desktop mode. I’ve seen the ads for Henge dock that said: “Welcome Home MacBook,” and I was very intrigued. I was sold on the idea that you can just grab the laptop out of his dock, and take it with you. When you’re back, you just “plug it in,” and your entire work is right there where you’ve left it.
I believe that the gains from owning a Henge dock make it a worthwhile investment. Currently I only have a henge dock at home, but I am considering getting another one at work. The only drawback about getting a Henge Dock, is the fact that it requires a dedicated MacBook charger.
Currently I have a Samsung Curved 32 Inch Display with high hertz refresh rate, paired with the Mac Mini as a separate environment in which I am working harder. This liberated my six year old laptop to become an even more personal machine. My setups have evolved to fit my needs. Before I used to be an executive in somebody else’s business, these days I am running Alpha Efficiency and 15 people that contribute daily to our collective mission of making digital profitable.
I am a very hard to please, and I had hard times to find a setup that works for me. Even the slightest change in the response can get me very iffy. However, my long search is finally over, and I’ve never been happier.
While no setup was ideal, the ideal price to value ratio is finally accomplished, and I’ve managed to make myself comfortable with having the best possible configuration with the least amount of devices possible. Which in my case is a lot of devices. While being a technology minimalist has its own advantages, having the optimal technology is even better. Don’t limit yourself to fewer devices, if more devices will make a big difference in the way you operate.
And the next steps
Try to come to your terms that your computer setups will evolve. Currently, I am looking into replacing my MacBook 15 Inch from 2014 with a new MacBook Pro 13 inch.
As I am getting deeper in my 30s, I am facing the fact that weight of the device determines how I am treating it on the go, as well as how comfortable I feel using my device. Laptop is rarely leaving my house these days, and iPad ultimately became a new remote device.
But iPad can’t get serious work done. Sending emails is not the definition of the real work that I am going after, which leaves me in the position where I will use iPad as a leisure / light work device at home. At the same token expanding my laptop use and naming it my new main device.