College freshman sees upside of hunkering down in his parents’ house [Setups]


Shad Ahmad's straightforward setup centers on a MacBook Pro and 32-inch monitor.
Shad Ahmad's straightforward setup centers on a MacBook Pro and 32-inch monitor.
Photo: Shahid Ahmad

Shad Ahmad was a hard-studying freshman majoring in biology and minoring in history at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

Going home to continue classes for a semester remotely from his parents’ house in Wisconsin may not have been ideal, but Ahmad found a comforting upside. Integrated smart technology makes his life easier, he told Cult of Mac.

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Smart tech: ‘Hey Alexa? Make my life easy.’

“I’m surely pleased with my parents’ home being integrated with all the smart features,” he said. “It makes it my favorite place to be because I can be as lazy as I please.”

Makes sense. A lot of college freshman would say that.

He set himself up for school work in his parents’ seldom-used study, where he gets privacy — even with two “rowdy” younger siblings in the house, he said.

With the smart system, Ahmad can ask Amazon’s Alexa to turn on the lights and adjust the temperature. Every room has Alexa speakers, so he can play music anywhere via Spotify.

“I ask Alexa to turn off my TV and Xbox when I go to sleep,” he said.  “It just makes it easier to stay warm in my blanket when I’m about to go to sleep, especially on cold winter nights like these.”

Setup: a mix of old and new

Ahmad built his current setup, based around a MacBook Pro and a 32-inch monitor, over time.

“Honestly, this is a collection of many years,” he said. “I didn’t go out and buy this much worth of stuff [all at] once.”

He especially loves using his MacBook Pro with the much larger, 32-inch LG monitor, so he can see everything “nice and big,” Ahmad said.

“I love my display, it has speakers!” he said. “But it sometimes drops the connection for a second and then reconnects. I don’t know what’s up with that. I use the USB-C cable LG provided. I would like to have the new Apple display but that’s like five grand.”

He’s also a fan of his MacBook Pro’s M1 chip — at least so far. And he prefers his new laptop’s keyboard compared to the one in his old machine.

“I think the M1 is great but there are always issues with first-gen products,” he said. “And I love how fluid my experience is with this computer. The reason I upgraded from my 2016 MacBook Pro 13 was the shallow keyboard and I am glad to be able to ‘feel’ my keyboard again!”

Appreciation for peripherals

He said he really appreciates his peripherals, but he doesn’t like keyboards other than Apple’s. His experience using some Logitech products fell short of his expectations.

“I’ve tried both the MX [Keys] keyboard and the MX Master mouse,” he said. “Both didn’t measure up for my tasks. I specifically like that my [Apple] Magic accessories can wake my computer when docked.”

He may add a Logitech webcam soon, however, when it comes back in stock at the local Target.

He’s also a fan of his AirPods Pro earphones and would like to have the AirPods Max, though he thinks those are out of his price range and what he called his “tolerance for expensive items.” He doesn’t do luxury, he said, and the Pros are luxurious enough for him.

Parting from Alexa is such sweet sorrow

Ahmad said he will head back to campus for classes next fall. He said he’s already planning to apply to both medical school and law school. That doesn’t seem to jibe with his earlier “lazy as I please” remark. But one would think in whatever career follows, he’ll have no problem affording his own smart technology.

In the meantime, Ahmad can enjoy a life with Alexa at his parents’ place. He may not be back at school yet, but he is still, after all, a college kid.

“My chair is a brown barstool that swivels,” Ahmad said. “Please don’t judge me. I’m only here for a short while.”

Shop these items now:

Computer equipment:

2020 13-inch MacBook Pro (Apple M1 chip, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)

Twelve South BookArc MacBook Pro stand

LG 32-inch monitor

Apple Magic Keyboard

Apple Magic Mouse 

Apple Magic Trackpad 

Audio equipment:

AirPods Pro in Native Union Case

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) 

Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 Bluetooth speaker

Other accessories:

Aothia Office Desk Pad

BenQ Screenbar E-Reading LED Monitor Light

Native Union Dock Wireless Charger Stand

If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches or challenges.


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