Budget-friendly MacBook Air workstation gets it done with flair [Setups]

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You don't have to spend a lot to have a highly functional and attractive computer setup.
You don't have to spend a lot to have a highly functional and attractive computer setup.
Photo: FoxyFreckles1989@Reddit.com

With all due respect to some of the whiz-bang, over-the top computer setups we’ve looked at here at Cult of Mac, you don’t have to spend a zillion bucks and a year of your life putting together a highly effective workstation.

Today’s featured setup is not without flair and it gets the job done — all for the price of an M1 MacBook Air plus a few hundred bones, more or less.

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Budget-friendly power: M1 MacBook Air and refurbished display

Redditor FoxyFreckles1989 showed off her current rig in a post entitled, “I’m not mad about spending 40 hours a week here.” Nor should she be. It’s not like setups we’ve covered that have dozens of pieces of gear or serve as a top-shelf multimedia studio, but it doesn’t need to be.

In addition to the power and portability of a 2020 M1 MacBook Air — a roughly $950 base model packs an 8-core CPU, 8GB of unified memory, a 256GB SSD and a 13.3-inch Retina display — she’s got a refurbished monitor she got pretty cheap.

The gently used 27-inch LG  features AMD FreeSync Premium technology, 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, a 75Hz refresh rate and a 5ms response time. And the price was certainly right at an unusually low $125.

“I would’ve preferred 4K, but wanted to spend under $200, and got it for $125 on Black Friday,” she said. “It’s just over $200 now (open box) and about $230 brand new.”

And now that she has it, she doesn’t miss the 4K resolution.

“Honestly? I don’t mind that it isn’t 4K. The resolution is still great when I stream Netflix and such! I generally work from it and do personal stuff on the MBA display, but sometimes I switch it up,” she said.

Not only is the external display acceptable, it sounds like it inspires her.

“I really do love it. It’s huge, looks nice and functions perfectly with my M1 MBA,” she said. “I’m planning to get a second one to make a matching set and mount them both on the wall above my desk (it is fit to be mounted).”

Other inexpensive choices

Foxy also saved some money with other choices that appear to be working out well. Approximate prices on the budget-friendly gear appear below and links to the products are at the bottom of the post.

Monitor riser, laptop stand, ring light

The monitor, for example, sits on a transparent acrylic monitor riser with space underneath for a little storage ($43).

The laptop rests on a aluminum laptop stand from BoYata ($37), which places it so its webcam can be used effectively for calls in tandem with a desk clip-on Shop LC ring light ($26) that rises up just behind it.

“It’s a ring light that clips onto the desk — or whatever else you’d like it to; I’ve had it clipped to mirrors and counters and chairs — that has a clip for your phone attached as well,” she told Cult of Mac. “I generally use it as a desk lamp and for better lighting when on Zoom calls, etc. It’s super bright and has several brightness settings as well as three settings for the warmth of the light itself (cool, warm, yellow).”

USB microphone

For sound, she uses the popular Blue Yeti USB microphone you can see at far left in the second photo. A gift from her brother, she uses it for recording music and calls it “incredible.” Price? About $99.

In this shot you can see gear more clearly, including the ring light, the laptop stand and the keyboard.
In this shot you can see gear more clearly, including the ring light, the laptop stand, the monitor riser, the keyboard and the Ariel Funko Pop figure.
Photo: FoxyFreckles1989@Reddit.com

Thrifty keyboard, desk and more

Then there’s the keyboard. It’s a full-sized Cimetch wireless keeb that costs just $26.

“Highly recommend,” she enthused. “I’ve had it for about a year and use it at a minimum of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and have only had to change the batteries like once or twice. It’s light, quiet, super cute, wireless/Bluetooth and satisfying to type on. It’s got a soft touch and the keys don’t stick. And it never had an issue connecting, either.”

The YSagi desk mat ($8.50) provides traction for mouse and keyboard on a Bestier L-Shaped Desk ($210), which comes with some shelving options and holes for cable management. The ToBeoneer smartphone stand goes for about $12 and the cute Funko Pop Ariel figure in box, a legit part of the setup’s decor, sells for about $62.50.

And those pretty lights in the first (top) photo? Brightown “warm white” window curtain lights. They cost $18.

Shop these items now:

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Display:

Keyboard and desk pad:

Lighting:

Accessories and furniture:

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.