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Home is Where I Set My Laptop

ยท 7 min read

I will be making the switch to a nomadic lifestyle soon. I have sold my house, and the new owners will get the keys on October 2nd, exactly three months away. Home will be where I put my laptop down. Since I want to still be productive, I need to make changes. My clunky home setup will not do!

My Home Setupโ€‹

My display setup consists of two 24" 1080p monitors suspended on adjustable arms. For input, I have a Razer Huntsman Mini keyboard and the Logitech MX Master 2S as my mouse. I have an external Aukey 1080p webcam and a Trust GXT-244 external microphone for video and audio. As decoration, I have some subtle AxonIQ stickers lying around ๐Ÿ˜‰.

Lastly, the whole setup resides on a large electronic stand-up desk. I can adjust the desk height with a push of a button, which is quite lovely.

The setup fits my current needs quite well, and I've been quite happy and productive with it.

The Requirementsโ€‹

Obviously, I have to leave the desk and the monitor arms behind. Instead, the laptop should become the centerpiece of my setup. I came up with a list of requirements for my new setup:

  • I need to be able to work as ergonomically as possible
  • The setup should include quality audio and video equipment for calls and recordings
  • Multiple screens are a definite necessity. At least two, ideally three
  • Everything should fit into a small backpack
  • It's not too expensive, so I don't lose my entire life savings if I break something

This is quite the list! Let's take a look at how I tackled them.

More screens is betterโ€‹

This is the first item to tackle, as I think it is the most important. The laptop needs to be at eye level to save my neck and back from utmost destruction. As for portable laptop stands, there are a few good choices. I discovered a small war between people vouching for the Roost laptop stand and people testifying for the Nextstand K2. I decided to go with the Nexstand K2, as it's much cheaper and available near my home. It's 64 grams heavier, but I don't mind that little extra weight.

Next, I wanted additional screens. I discovered a lot of small portable screens that you can put next to your laptop. However, those screens would be at desk level instead of eye level, thus violating the ergonomics requirement! Lucky for me, there are a lot of options nowadays. I discovered several brands of monitors that attach to your laptop and provide two additional screens on the side. I chose one of them with good reviews, the Blerron Tri-Screen. It adds two additional 13.3" 1080p screens to my laptop, attaching to USB-C ports with power pass-through or HDMI. Perfect! You can see the screens and the Nexstand K2 minutes after unboxing in the picture below.

I was afraid that it would be unstable or heavy on the hinges. However, there's a kickstand to rely on when you work at desk level. When it's on the laptop stand, I can easily balance the screens to be straight on the hinges, and it feels very stable. As for setting it up, I just need to plug in two USB-C cables, and I'm done! I'm pleased with the result.

Keyboard And Headachesโ€‹

I was unsatisfied with my current keyboard, as it's a wired keyboard and has a mini layout. I thought the mini layout would be perfect for me, but turns out I like to use function keys a lot!. I want a wireless keyboard to not have to deal with cables without a keypad to save space, weight, and they are better for ergonomics. If you wonder why, it's because you can place the mouse closer to the keyboard.

Turns out there are tons of keyboards out there! As too many choices leave me with choice paralysis, I chose a brand I always keep hearing about; Keychron. Their mechanical keyboards are excellent and affordable. I decided it was time to give it a try. After careful consideration, I decided on the Keychron K3 since it was a tactile, low-profile keyboard that looked nice, wireless, and affordable.

Once I received the keyboard and connected the Bluetooth, the trouble started. I experienced a kind of delay and connection instability that I had never seen before.

While experimenting with fixes, I noticed it got better when I disconnected my new screens. That's odd! After more trial and error, I discovered that whenever I connect a screen to the USB-C port on the right, the Bluetooth keyboard lags or even outright refuses to connect. However, after I connected the display to a USB-C port on the left, and everything worked fine! I then investigated a bit further and experimented with the NVIDIA drivers on Linux, but to no avail Turns out not all USB-C ports are created equal after all.

Despite the initial trouble, the setup looks terrific now! I'm pleased with it.

Microphone Hesitationโ€‹

The microphone in my laptop is subpar, to say the least. Dell doesn't really care about sounding professional in video calls or recordings. At home, I fixed this by using an external microphone connected to USB. However, I want to avoid dragging it with me around the world, as it's quite big and heavy.

I tested my Galaxy Buds Pro for audio quality and found it a wanting as well. I want good audio quality, especially since I plan to start recording for YouTube. A colleague of mine recommended buying a Lavalier microphone with transmitters. This way, you have a lot of freedom of movement, and the audio quality is great. Studio microphones perform better, but I cannot take all that with me.

They can be costly, though. We had our minds set on the Rode Wireless Go II, but it's 300+ euros. That's too much for me while starting out. A cheaper alternative, the BOYA BY-WM4PRO K2, is only 120 euros. I decided to give it a shot! When comparing offers, I found a website selling it for 30 euros. I was a bit suspicious, but I decided to give it a shot. I ordered it, and it arrived the next day. Turns out it was legit, and the audio quality is impressive!

I decided to make my first YouTube video on the audio quality of the microphones I have. Not only to test the quality, but also to make a decision about the microphone and to get some practice in recording and editing videos. You can check it out below. Let me know what you think!

Recording and editing this 4-minute video took me over four hours! It did help me a lot in making the decision about the microphone, though. I will use the BOYA BY-WM4PRO K2 for my travels. It's a great microphone for the price, and it's very portable. I also like the sound of my voice better with the BOYA than with the Trust microphone.

The Resultโ€‹

I am very pleased with the new setup. It will allow me to work from anywhere with three screens, ergonomic heights, and good audio and video quality. Home will definitely be where my laptop is. The closer my departure date gets, the more my excitement grows. Just three months to go!