Going from a 27-inch iMac to an M1 Pro MacBook with a 4K external display [Setups]

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This M1 Pro MacBook setup uses a 27-inch Dell monitor and a pumped-up audio rig.
This M1 Pro MacBook setup uses a 27-inch Dell monitor and a pumped-up audio rig.
Photo: Andrew Michletz

Andrew, a customer service experience manager for an internet service provider in Minneapolis, shared his computer setup with Cult of Mac after a big revamp. He replaced a 27-inch 2017 iMac with a 14-inch 2021 M1 Pro MacBook, which he runs alongside his work laptop, a Lenovo ThinkPad T480S. He uses his Apple gear mostly for photo editing and music production.

“With work from home, I needed the ability to use the screen with both my personal computer and my work device,” Andrew told Cult of Mac (he requested we use only his first name). “I had been running Windows on the iMac via Boot Camp and using Miracast to wirelessly extend to the iMac screen from my ThinkPad. When it worked it was great, but it became unreliable over time, and I decided that a monitor with multiple inputs are the way to go.”

Andrew said the Miracast connection with the iMac became unreliable when he got a mesh network. It would sometimes work great, but often fail to connect, despite rigorous troubleshooting. So it was time to do a little shopping.

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M1 Pro MacBook with a Dell 4K external display

When the new M1 Pro and M1 Max MacBook Pros came out, Andrew got a 14-inch M1 Pro. His is the base model, sporting 16GB of integrated memory and a 512GB solid state drive. For the external display with multiple inputs to run with both the Mac and his ThinkPad, he scored a solid secondhand 4K display.

“[It’s a] Dell U2718q found very cheap on Craigslist. 4K with pretty good color reproduction. It will hold me over until if and when Apple releases a consumer-grade monitor. The aesthetics of it are really nice too,” he said.

But amid his upgrades and changes, he had worried a 4K monitor might feel like a downgrade.

“I had been looking for a panel to match my 5K iMac and was really concerned that running 4K would feel like a big step down,” he said. “I am pleased to say that running the MacBook Pro on a 27-inch 4K monitor scaled to 1440 pixels looks Retina to my eye, and I have not found there to be any performance issues with the scaling. I saved a bunch of money vs an Ultrafine 5K and have more flexibility!”

Easy connectivity suits his needs

Photography

Andrew said his personal work with Mac involves nature and landscape photography, as well as macro photography — especially of watches. As someone who only recently replaced a pile of mechanical watches with an Apple Watch Series 6, I can relate. A Swiss watch dial and the movement underneath both make good macro photography subjects.

His new Dell monitor is flexible for switching between his Mac and PC needs, with inputs for HDMI, Mini DisplayPort, and DisplayPort, he said.

“When I switch, all I have to do is change the monitor input to or from HDMI to DisplayPort and use the respective mouse/keyboard combo,” he said. “I really like the monitor, as it serves as a USB hub as well. My personal needs require more flexibility than work so it is typically connected to the MacBook.”

Music

He added that the MacBook is powered via MagSafe and has three other cables: DisplayPort to the monitor, upstream USB 3.0 cable to the monitor and a 3.5mm cable connected to his Audioengine N22 Mini Desktop Audio Amplifier. He said he prefers the DAC on the MacBook to the monitor, as he noticed more clarity and detail when it’s connected that way.

Andrew’s speakers are Q Acoustics 3010 Compact Bookshelf Speakers along with a Q Acoustics 3070 Active Subwoofer. But he’s quite impressed with the six speakers built into the MacBook Pro.

“Given that the MacBook is usually in clamshell mode, I don’t mind the cables,” he said. “I used to use an Apogee One connected to my iMac to send audio to the speakers, but the MacBook sounds just as good to my ears. This allowed me to simplify and only use the Apogee One when recording. The music recording is really just a hobby. I like to make beats in Logic Pro X and layer over my guitar.”

This shot just pulls out and shows the setup's greater glory.
This shot just pulls out and shows the setup’s greater glory, including the Philips Hue Bloom smart light on the right side.
Photo: Andrew Michaletz

Two sets of input devices

Andrew switches input devices when he switches computers between working and playing.

With the MacBook he uses a full Magic Keyboard and a Magic Trackpad 2. With the ThinkPad (12GB RAM, 256GB SSD), he switches to an older Logitech mouse and keyboard.

He said he might want to upgrade the Logitech gear and hope folks will give him some suggestions in the comments, below. He’d consider products designed to work with macOS and Windows on multiple computers, but he actually kind of likes physically switching hardware between work and leisure activities. So he might keep things separate even with new equipment.

Lighting and furniture

Andrew lights his setup scene with two Philips Hue Bloom smart lights behind the monitor for bias lighting, he said. The task lamp visible to the left of the monitor is an Anglepoise 1227 with a Hue bulb in it.

“This lamp is awesome, as it will stay put at any angle,” he said. “I like how you can have adaptive lighting throughout the day to ease eye strain.”

Andrew places his whole setup on an Ergotron Workfit TX standing desk converter. And when he’s not standing, he sits in a Steelcase Think chair.

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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.