No external monitor? Build an ergonomically correct setup around your laptop. [Setups]

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It may look complete, but this M1 MacBook Pro setup is waiting for a big secondary display.
It may look complete, but this M1 MacBook Pro setup is waiting for a big secondary display.
Photo: Cypher_27@Reddit.com

From time to time, as you work on making your computer setup all it can be, you order new equipment. And maybe it takes a long time to arrive. Perhaps “supply chain” issues intervene. And if that piece of equipment is your workstation’s visual centerpiece — the magnificent display, placed just so for graphical and ergonomic bliss — then what do you do, when you have no external monitor?

Do you hunch over your laptop until your neck and your back and everything else hurts? Not necessarily.

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What you can do while waiting for the big screen to make your setup whole is fashion your workstation a bit like Redditor Cypher_27’s temporary situation. They discuss it in their post, “On-going rebuild of my desk setup. Transitioning from a triple external monitor to a single external monitor (in-transit)…”

No monitor: What to do?

Cypher is transitioning from three external monitors to one. The three were a 38-inch Alienware display in landscape mode and two 24-inch screens in portrait mode. But they couldn’t get the new 16-inch M1 Pro MacBook to accept two vertical monitors, with or without DisplayLink technology.

So the one screen, now meant to be the solitary external monitor but still in transit, should make a nice replacement. It’s a 32-inch LG UltraFine Ergo 4K IPS display with HDR-10 compatibility and USB-C connectivity. It offers 3840 x 2160 pixel resolution with a 60Hz refresh rate, suitable for Macs, plus 60W of charging power to help keep other devices plugged into it juiced up.

But even without a main monitor(s), the setup looks complete and worthy of achieving a productive workday with some entertainment afterwards.

There are a few reasons for that. Cypher has done a nice job creating a solid, productive and ergonomically correct setup despite lacking one or more big displays.

It doesn’t hurt that they have a new 16-inch MacBook Pro. That means a 16-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with a remarkable dynamic range and contrast ratio draws the eye at the setup’s center. Things could be worse.

A laptop stand and proper peripherals

The keys to making a laptop into a proper setup — even just temporarily — are to put it up on a nice stand and rely on solid peripherals for input.

On a stand, the laptop’s screen can sit at eye level, so you’re not slouching or bending your neck down to look at it on the desk.

Using peripheral input devices rather than the laptop keyboard is critical, too. Don’t type on the laptop’s cramped keyboard, type on a dedicated keyboard — maybe even an ergonomically advanced one.

Cypher relies on a Keychron K2 mechanical keyboard with a Keychron wooden wrist rest designed for it. That’s smart, ergonomically speaking. It helps keep the forearms aligned and takes strain off the wrists.

“The wrist rest is great, though it feels a bit too thick and I have to raise the keyboard with its feet,” they said, replying to a comment. Still, better to have some sort of wrist rest than not.

It’s also helpful to use separate input devices rather than the laptop’s trackpad. After all, if you’ve already set the laptop up and away on a stand, it’s easier to use separate peripherals. That could be a separate trackpad or a mouse. Or both.

Cypher uses both. They have a Magic Trackpad for gesturing and a Logitech MX Master 2S mouse for other input.

Here we pull out and see the setup in its larger context, complete with pegboards for extra storage.
Here we pull out and see the setup in its larger context, complete with pegboards for extra storage.
Photo: Cypher_27@Reddit.com

Completing the picture

Part of the charm of Cypher’s setup simply results from its tasteful use of wood. That Keychron wooden wrist rest perfectly matches the Kanto YU2 powered desktop speakers just behind and on either side of the MacBook.

Putting the peripherals on a big desk mat also helps unify the overall look — as well as stabilize the gear on the wooden desktop.

Finally, off the left side Kanto keep a cool little charging station. It’s made from a Apiker charger stand with a magnetic puck for MagSafe iPhones plus an Apple Watch charger. Underneath, an Ubio Labs Qi charger keeps their iPods Pro juiced up.

In the second photo, above, we see the little setup in its larger context, complete with super-cool pegboards mounted on the wall to store lots of other gear. You can see cables, an extra keyboard, cameras and more. Very nice.

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Computer:

Monitor (not pictured; being shipped):

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Chargers:

Audio:

If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to info+setups@cultofmac.com. 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.