‘Death Star’ Mac Pro and ‘worst’ MacBook power global IT ops [Setups]

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Another trash can Mac Pro is still doing its thing.
Another trash can Mac Pro is still doing its thing. Here you see it elevated to help with cooling.
Photo: Andrew-UK

Reader and technologist Andrew (last name redacted, so to speak) runs a “boutique AV, IT [and] cyber systems integration company from a home office” in London — though he supports sites worldwide. Clearly, he has a lot to do.

And he does it using a late-2013 Mac Pro he fondly said should be on the Death Star from Star Wars, plus a 2017 MacBook Pro he described to Cult of Mac as “perhaps the worst-constructed laptop I have ever owned.”

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‘Death Star’ Mac Pro and ‘worst’ MacBook Pro

In addition to the Macs, he uses an Alienware Area 51 laptop with an i7 Intel Core processor.

Running a far-flung technology business from home in England, Andrew said he needs to use his computer setup to program systems, create and edit large graphics files and technical drawings, present on webinars, video conference, remotely support sites across the globe and run things day-to-day.

“There is an expectation as a tech guy that I have the best audio-video on calls and that my equipment never has problems,” he said.

He may be upping that challenge ever so slightly by using older gear, though he’s planning some updates. At any rate, he wanted a setup that seamlessly links with the 2017 15-inch MacBook Pro he uses when out of the office, especially for reviewing video content and listening to music.

He described the laptop as “always full of dust and suffering from the blight of a butterfly keyboard and orange patches on the monitor … it is perhaps the worst constructed laptop I have ever owned.”

And so he may invest in an M1-powered MacBook before too long. When he does, he expects to go toward the higher end.

“Any M1 I get will be the MAX, probably with some extra RAM — no one has ever complained about their computer being too fast,” he said. “I also think that in 3 [or] 4 years, after a few OS upgrades, the additional performance will make it more useable.”

In this view you see both the Alienware laptop and the frustrating MacBook Pro.
In this view you see both the Alienware laptop and the frustrating MacBook Pro, right, with the Mac Pro behind it.
Photo: Andrew-UK

Mac mini M1 Max? Yes, please.

But his roughly five-year-old MacBook is as fresh as the morning dew relative to his desktop, the “Death Star” trash can Mac Pro from late 2013, which he’d love to replace with something we’d all like to see Apple produce. And the sooner the better.

“I have always liked the design aesthetic of this particular Mac Pro — it always looked to me like it belonged on the Death Star,” he said. “However, after having one, I realize there is no good way of managing cables and as such showcasing it. One day I might get around to sorting this or Apple could just release a Mac mini M1 Max, which would work very well as a replacement.”

Indeed it would. People love their Mac minis, and it seems a super-charged one would do nicely in place of the ol’ trash can.

A more near-term upgrade might be to get a Speed Designs Pro Cooling Base for the Mac Pro to help head off any problems.

“The cooling base is a proactive addition and about hopefully circumventing inherent GPU issues,” he said. “I haven’t had any trouble in the 2 plus years I have had the Mac Pro, but you never know.”

Various and sundry pluses and minuses

Plagues of cables and dust

In the meantime, Andrew said, cable management remains a nightmare, as does dust.

“Periodically everything gets disconnected and rewired to try and tidy things up,” he said. “Dust is the other nightmare on my desk, the Mac Pro needed to be raised to get to it off desk level as it was always full of dust.”

Love those Logitech input devices

On the plus side, Andrew is happy with his Logitech MX input devices — the ever-popular MX Keys keyboard and MX Master 3 mouse. They help him switch between his Apple machines and his PC laptop.

“I won’t be going back to Apple keyboards and mice after getting the MX devices and particularly like how Logitech Flow works between the Mac Pro and the Alienware laptop.”

Logitech Brio webcam and Elgato ring light

Arriving at the right webcam also took some doing, but he’s happy with what he has now, though fitting it with the Elgato ring light has been problematic.

“I have been through a number of webcams (Logitech 1080, Razer Kiyo) to get to this particular one, though mounted on the ring light it is now slightly too high,” he noted.

Here you see the AirPods Max headphones on their charging stand.
Here you see the AirPods Max headphones on their Satechi USB stand, the Elgato Stream Deck and the bulldog from the James Bond movie franchise — a fixture on M’s desk.
Photo: Andrew-UK

From big to bigger curved monitor?

He’s also mostly happy with his 34-inch Samsung curved monitor, but not entirely happy.

“I like the curved monitor, however, [I] hate that this particular model can’t be mounted on an arm or bracket as it doesn’t have a Vest mount. It’s a very boring omission on Samsung’s part. Having gotten used to it would like something larger now, too.”

The larger display he’s thinking about is a 38-inch Alienware curved monitor, which sounds like a sweet upgrade.

Comfort all day and relaxation at day’s end

Andrew said the most important purchase he made for his setup is his Herman Miller Classic Aeron Chair. He described it as super comfortable.

“[It] enables me to spend all day at my desk when required,” he said.

Last but not least, a computer setup needs the right sound. Andrew said he chose his Bang & Olufsen speakers for their size and shape, but he has a switch in mind.

“[I] still really like them but am now looking for more,” he said. “Something that I can really listen to in my office at the end of the day with a G&T. If 2022 is kind to me I’d love to upgrade these for an L-Acoustics Creations Fiji 2.1 speaker system. Though my wife, kids and neighbours might have something to say about that.”

You can check out all of Andrew’s gear below, including his desired upgrades.

Shop these items now:

Computers:

External display:

Input devices:

Audio and video:

Lighting:

Hubs and docks and power:

Accessories and furniture:

Future upgrades:

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.