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Desk space

November 3, 2017


I’ve worked from home since 2005, and while the home’s changed six or seven times, it’s definitely been easier to focus when the desk’s clean. There’s some standard equipment that tends to stick around, though.

BenQ PD3200u

For years I used a 27″ iMac as my main screen, but the glare off the glass wasn’t great, and I’d always be increasing/decreasing the screen brightness depending on how sunny it was. The matt display of BenQ’s 32″ 4K monitor gets rid of that problem. It’s a lot easier on the eyes (not quite looks-wise, but absolutely with eye strain), and it gives a bit more screen space to work with, too. The only let-down is the internal speakers. I don’t use them because sound quality is bad in comparison to both my old iMac and the new MacBook Pro. I still prefer working on it, though.

Buy from Amazon.

Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speaker

Rather than listen through the MacBook speakers that sit to one side of the BenQ, I set a Bluetooth speaker on the monitor base. The sound’s amazing for the size (although the SoundLink Mini is being replaced by the SoundLink Revolve which is much taller).

Buy from Amazon (if available).

Hitachi external hard drive

I’ve never had a hard drive fail, or needed computer repairs, but I’ll regularly backup files as these things obviously happen. There’ll be better backup gear available, and this Hitachi SimpleDRIVE isn’t actually on sale anymore, so I might pick up a Time Capsule for wireless auto-backups. I see Apple sell refurbished ones at nearly half price.

MacBook Pro

My old iMac got slower and a bit noisier, and I wasn’t sure whether to buy the newest version, or switch to a MacBook and external monitor. A couple of things swayed me — a dislike of the iMac’s glass screen, and the option to take my work elsewhere on the laptop. The MacBook is impressively fast and very quiet. I keep my iMac as a backup.

Buy from Amazon.

USB-C to DisplayPort cable

This connects the MacBook to the BenQ without the need for an adapter. I mainly use three of the four available USB ports. One for power, one for my desk mic, and this, for the monitor connection.

Buy from Amazon.

USB-C to USB-A adapters

As soon as I get a cable that’s mini-USB to micro-USB I’ll do away with the adapters. I use these for the external hard drive, microphone, and transferring photos from my Nikon.

Buy from Amazon.

Griffin Elevator stand

It puts the laptop at nicer height whenever its open (if I want more screen space). It probably keeps the laptop a bit cooler, too. I know others who prefer a vertical docking station to save desk space, but I like the option of using the screen.

Buy from Amazon.

Blue Yeti microphone

A lot of my client calls are through Skype (sometimes Hangouts or FaceTime), and while the mic on the MacBook is decent, it’s not as good as this. There’s still a bit of echo to my voice because of the flat surfaces around the room, but I’ve ordered an isolation shield that gets good reviews and hopefully helps.

Buy from Amazon.

Bose TP-1A headphones

Using headphones on Skype calls means people don’t hear themselves through my speaker. I tend to use these around-the-ear ones for comfort and sound quality, but if I’m on a video call I usually plug in some in-ear headphones as it looks a bit better. My pair are nearly 10 years old, and the ear pads cracked and flaked, but these replacement pads made them like new.

Buy from Amazon (recent equivalent).

Magic Trackpad 2

I’ll use my left hand to pinch and swipe the Trackpad a few times through the day, to open apps or when skipping through web pages. I tried it for about a week as a mouse substitute, thinking it might help with work, but a week was enough as I found it a bit restrictive. Maybe I’m just that used to the mouse.

Buy from Amazon.

Magic Keyboard

I used a wired keyboard with my old iMac because the previous wireless version needed three AA batteries and too much charging. The battery life on this one is much better — always on, mine lasts at least a couple of months — and can be charged during use with a Lightning cable. The keys are noisier than the old keyboard which is a shame, but it’s still good, with a reliable Bluetooth connection, and I’d always go with the numeric keypad.

Buy from Amazon.

Magic Mouse 1

Mine’s from 2010 and needs two AA batteries. The Magic Mouse 2 charges with a Lightning cable, but inconveniently has it’s charging port on the underside rather than the front, making it unusable when plugged in. Hardly ideal. I have a few rechargeable AA batteries so I’m happy with what I’ve got.

Buy from Amazon (Magic Mouse 2).

Fellowes wrist supports and mouse mat

All about the comfort, and these gel wrist supports do the trick. The Magic Mouse doesn’t work on glass, so the mouse mat was necessary without the comfort factor. I’ve read reviews about the gel leaking after a few weeks, but no problems here after a couple of years.

Buy from Amazon (wrist support, keyboard wrist rest, mouse mat).

Steelcase Gesture task chair

Not the cheapest chair, but it’s worth spending more on something that gets a lot of use. Easily the most comfortable work chair I’ve had — good back support, quality fabric, and you can adjust the arms, height, recline tension, and seat depth. The first one I was sent had scuff marks on the frame and dirt on the fabric, making me wonder if it was second hand. But I got it replaced within a couple of weeks.

Buy from Amazon.

Pilot V5 pens, 0.5mm tip

The 12-pack I bought a couple of years ago is still going strong. They’re the only pens I use, for sketching or writing. Constant line width. No blobs.

Buy from Amazon.

Sketchbook

Last but not least, there’s always a sketchbook on my desk. I haven’t stuck to the same type like Michael Bierut has, although I like that idea. My current one is a Tim Tu creation, his SketchyNotebook. It got more than $60k backing on Kickstarter, but doesn’t yet seem available. A large Moleskine is the same size so I’ll probably go with it next.

Buy from Amazon (Moleskine).

I hope that’s been of some help.

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