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For years I've been using a 2015 iMac 5k. I recently decided that I needed something 1.) Newer and 2.) Portable. Just in the off case that "going places" is a thing again.
I initially picked up a 2020 MacBook Air (https://amzn.to/2U4K1DC) The i5/8gb/512gb model. I liked it a lot overall, but when I started doing anything even remotely processor intensive, like simply installing Xcode, it sounded like it was going to take flight. The cooling was clearly not up to snuff for any heavy-duty work. I returned the MacBook Air for a 2020 MacBook Pro (https://amzn.to/3gN46bp). I'm much happier with the Pro. It's noticeably faster, especially under sustained loads. It uses the same updated keyboard as the 2020 Air, which is to say they've finally killed off my arch-nemesis, the butterfly switch keyboard, and brought back the good scissor switches. The cooling system is hands-down better on the Pro. You damn near never hear the fans unless you're doing something that's REALLY pushing the processor.
If you're on the fence between the Air and Pro, my advice is this:
If you think you can get away with the base model Air with the i3 and 8GB of ram, go ahead and do that. It's a perfectly legit option if you never do processor intensive stuff, and it's a very nice overall package.
However, if you feel like. you need to bump the processor and RAM, just go ahead and buy the $1799 Pro. You're gonna get close to the price of the Pro pretty quickly if you upgrade storage, RAM, and processor on the Air, and the Pro will handle your heavier workloads much better.
I needed some new stuff to go with my new computer. I definitely wanted an external monitor for coding work while I'm at home. Since I'm half blind, I went with a cheap option. I got the Philips 276E8VJSB (https://amzn.to/3ctf1Dy). It's a 27" 4k monitor that cost me $239 at the time of purchase. I will reiterate that I am NOT a big theater guy, and I'm half fucking blind, but this monitor looks super legit to me. Great color, great brightness, and even looks amazing from pretty extreme viewing angles. I literally could not be happier with it, especially when you factor in the extraordinarily low price.
Speaking of using the laptop while docked, I needed a place to put it. I wanted something simple that would just hold the laptop. I'll get to the "docking" part later. I went with the JARLINK Vertical Laptop Dock (https://amzn.to/303MbqP). It's super simple, adjustable to holds a bunch of different size laptops, and it's very sturdy and non-slip. For like $25 that's pretty much all I expected from it, and it does it very well.
I obviously needed a keyboard if I was going to use my laptop in "docked" mode. I initially got the Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (https://amzn.to/36Tm6fP). It's...fine. But I kinda wanted something different. I ended up getting the Logitech MX Keys (https://amzn.to/36V9oNk). It's backlit, unlike the Apple offering, and. has more key travel. It also easily pairs to up to 3 devices via either Unifying Receiver or bluetooth, so if I get another computer I can easily use it for that too. I absolutely love it and want to replace all my keyboards everywhere with one of these. Key travel is fantastic. The angle is PERFECT for me. Works exceptionally well with Mac and I love the backlighting.
I decided to get away from the Magic Trackpad 2 (https://amzn.to/2U456OO) I had been using with the 5k iMac and go with a more traditional mouse. The trackpad was giving me hand cramps if I used it for long periods of time. Since I had already decided on the MX Keys (https://amzn.to/2XX7iIO), I decided to go with the MX Master 3 (https://amzn.to/2U4otqQ). I like it a lot. If you happen to have the MX Master and the MX Keys, like I do, you can connect them both to one USB wifi receiver. Makes it to where they're only connected when your laptop is docked and avoids any bluetooth jank. The Logi Options software lets you customize basically everything about the keyboard and mouse including per app shortcuts. It's pretty damn solid. Also both the keyboard and mouse are cheaper than their corresponding Apple Options, so to me it's a win/win.
This is really the thing that ties the whole setup together; The Caldigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt Dock (https://amzn.to/2BkGudQ). It features a USB type A port and a USB type C port on the front, as well and mic and headphone jacks for easy connectivity and an SD card reader. On the back the dock has a DisplayPort, so I can connect the monitor to that for 4k60 output, as well as two more thunderbolt ports and four USB A ports. Also you get charging at 87W, optical audio, and ethernet. Basically what this means is that I connect my monitor, speakers, USB adapter for the keyboard and mouse, and external hard drive to the dock, then all I have to do is connect one cable to get everything connected AND charge the laptop. It's pretty damn legit. If you have a USB C/Thunderbolt laptop and you ever use it "Docked", you totally need one.
I mostly just listen to podcasts, and here lately code tutorials, and I'm definitely not what you would consider an audiophile, just want to get that out of the way. Having said that, I picked up some AmazonBasics computer speakers (https://amzn.to/2XqugsH). They're surprisingly good for the money ($16.99). Decent bass, though you should have reasonable expectations based on their physical size, they get plenty loud enough and they're impressively clear, again for their size and price. I'm totally happy with them. I'm pretty sure if you won't want these, you already know exactly what you want. If you aren't super picky about audio, they'll be fine for you.
Other Stuff and Final Thoughts
Also on my desk are a GoPro Hero 8 Black (https://amzn.to/2U6n9nh) with Media Mod (https://amzn.to/2MqxmXE). This is my go-to running around camera. Great for car projects because it's relatively cheap and relatively durable. I feel super happy with the audio quality from the Media Mod shotgun mic. It's also small and portable. Keep it on a little selfie stick and you can run and gun pretty easily.
The charger is from Monoprice. It's an Obsidian Plus USB Desktop Charger (https://www.monoprice.com/product?c_id=309&cp_id=30902&cs_id=3090202&p_id=13914&seq=1&format=2). I find it super nice to have on your desk to keep from cluttering up your USB ports on your computer/dock. There's usually a ton of stuff on my desk that needs to be charged, but doesn't really need to be connected to my computer. AirPods Pro (https://amzn.to/2ABEFsx), Keyboard, Mouse, Phone, etc. Doesn't need to be connected, but does need power. This puts out 40W over 5 ports for 8w per port. It's great for just having all types of cables plugged in for charging whatever is in your hand and low on battery.
That about covers it for my current setup. I intend to keep this setup until the ARM Mac becomes a reality and is fully fleshed out and more or less fully compatible, which I figure will take at least a couple of years. This should definitely hold me over until then, though I do have a new camera on the way that may end up replacing or supplementing my GoPro, but I'll let that be a surprise for next week.
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