What if I tell you that everything that you see on this desk setup, all the monitors, chargers, peripherals, sound, and ergonomics, actually exists in this backpack? Would you believe me? Would you believe me that instead of disassembling this entire desk, I can just put it on my back and turn any available surface, no matter where I am, into the ultimate dual or even triple screen setup that would be equally as productive and ergonomic? Well, I can, and I’ll show you today. With the release of iPadOS 15.4 and macOS Monterey version 12.3, I’d like to revise a video I did two years ago called – portable Mac desk setup.
This is a showcase video of the potential of the Apple Ecosystem, combined with some extremely clever, multi-purpose accessories that will leave you inspired to unplug and work from anywhere without making compromises. I waited until today, and I mentioned these specific versions of macOS and iPadOS because they mark the official launch of Universal Control. Universal Control lets you manage multiple Apple devices using the mouse and keyboard of just one of them.
Combined with Sidecar, which provides the ability to use any iPad as a mirrored or extended secondary display, one can easily create a dual-monitor setup that fits in a bag and unpacks on any surface. This was also kind of possible 2 years ago when I did the initial portable setup, but things are even better this time around thanks to the provided ports of the latest MacBook Pro. With them, the necessity of dongles and hubs is no more, resulting in fewer things to carry around. Being able to be productive at any location is possible on all the 13, 14, and 16-inch MacBooks – the largest, of course, is the ultimate productivity canvas.
In my 16-inch MBP first impressions video, I talked about how I use the laptop for any workflow, seldom relying on an external display, and I stand by this couple of weeks later. Without any of the soon to mentioned items, I can use the laptop unplugged for hours and make money by doing video production graphic and web design work, wherever I am. You can check out my MacBook Pro video in the description below if you want to know more about the configuration I went for and my thoughts, and BTW, if you end up enjoying this video, SUBSCRIBE, because why not? Talking about portable desk setup, I have to start with MOFTs Smart Desk Mat which combines a desk mat, stand, book holder, lap tray, laptop riser, memo board, and whatnot into a slim form factor that I can carry around the studio. Besides being able to use as a productivity enhancer, this angle-adjustable surface serves as the best lap tray that can be used for either my laptop, tablet, or both or simply as a clever book holder.
It is ideal for propping up any of my devices, providing the perfect angle when used on the desk. This is all possible thanks to the clever magnetic accessories that turn the Smart Desk Mat from a minimal-looking desk mat into a modular productivity juggernaut that can do crazy things, like being a smartphone charger or even a timer trigger, thanks to the built-in NFC tags. Use the smooth leg cushion that magnetically attaches below the desk mat to take your workstation to a cozy place. With Universal Control, I like to use both the iPad mini and the 12.9″ iPad Pro for different scenarios. When using the mini, I like to keep it attached to the desk mat on the side and use Universal Control to swipe between the different apps that I need.
For example, I may open a chill piano playlist on Apple music when writing a script. The mini is my go-to chat and message choice while keeping the MacBook focused on the task at hand. The possibilities are endless. I might even resort to it as yet another browser that I want to refer to, especially when working on a design or something else that is close to a smartphone size in a vertical orientation. The versatility of the iPad mini in assistance to my MacBook Pro makes me want to have Universal Control available on the iPhone as well, but that’s another topic. I might throw an audiobook on the side as well, almost forgot about it.
If I were to do a video edit or work on a project that requires more real estate, I could turn to the big boy – the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. With its identical to the MacBook Pro XDR display, it quickly transforms into the Robin to my Batman laptop. With Sidecar, I easily extend my laptop wirelessly and turn this setup into a dual-screen one. This is my absolute favorite way to work on a video edit, even if I am at my studio and have access to all the monitors I can ask for. There’s something magical to using this combo, knowing that it boasts the best possible displays on the market that can fit in my backpack. Things get even more unreal if I were to bring back the iPad mini into the equation and have this tripe-screen setup, with two iPads flanking my MacBook.
On the left, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro extends my MacBook display with Sidecar, ready to accommodate any creative app, and on the right, I keep the communication juices flowing, thanks to Universal Control and iPad OS. These ladies and gentlemen are sick! If I look at my display settings, I even see 4 displays since the iPad Pro can be both used with Universal Control and SideCar, which doubles the productivity options on just this one device. While on the topic of the larger tablet, I’ve been meaning to share with you for a long time the stand that I like to use, which is from my friends at Pitaka. It’s called MagEZ stand. This stand is, of course, not something that you can put in your backpack. Still, it is an excellent alternative if you want to unhook the tablet from its everyday keyboard and use it as the ideal raiser for the laptop when coming back to your workspace. It provides superior eye-level comfort that matches the already propped-up laptop, ideally making everything ergonomic by the book.
Rotating the iPad is effortless, and it even clicks into place at the correct rotation points. The MagEZ stand comes with a built-in wireless charger on the bottom as well that, combined with the MOFT desk mat, gives me all the device wireless charging surfaces I might ever require. I can even charge my watch, too, thanks to this little PowerDongle by again Pitaka. I can’t stop smiling while showing you all this because I still can’t comprehend the amount of cleverness put into all these devices.
When it comes to sound, I can use any of the devices in front of me, the MacBook Pro being the most potent one. However, for the ultimate space-out experience, I prefer the AirPods Pro. Since they are part of the ecosystem, I can jump around between my devices in a snap and forget that I am emitting all this productivity from a coffee shop for example. In terms of peripherals, the laptop’s trackpad is excellent, but if I take out a mouse, I end up with exactly my home setup where I have both a mouse and a trackpad at my disposal. I’ve had viewers questions this double input method before, but I find it ideal when dealing with many apps and files. As an example, I can grab a bunch of files and move them around my space with the trackpad while holding them with my mouse. The ultimate inception is the fact that I can even grab a bunch of files from the Mac and bring them over to the iPad, thanks to Universal Control.
You can, of course, use any mouse. I tend to carry around the Logitech MX Anywhere 3, which can connect with the Mac and independently pair with both the iPads since it can be paired with up to 3 devices. Talking about input methods, I almost forgot to mention the Apple Pencil, which can not only work with either of the iPads but can also interact with macOS via Sidecar. FOR EXAMPLE, if I was to do a pen cut-out in Affinity, I could just detach the iPad Pro and start drawing around the curves. And there’s gaming. With the power of the M1, paired with an external controller, this portable setup can also be used for gaming.
The external controller, of course, is not a necessity. Still, when playing games like Tomb Raider, the experience is much more awesome with something like this retro-inspired 8BitDo controller. Extremely compact and long-lasting, this controller weighs nothing and takes little to no space in any backpack. I also use it for other work-related purposes, such as a remote controller. Ah…At the end of the day, all the aforementioned applications and tools, could not be deemed portable if there weren’t easily moved around or compressed and put together into something that can be carried around.
It’s 2022, and tech has never been more versatile to make people ultra-productive, no matter the coordinates. Putting everything into my backpack makes me feel like a magician that had pulled a rabbit, scarf, balloons, and other fun stuff from a hat. It’s a great time to be creative. Check out my desk setup playlist here and if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. Source: Portable Mac Desk Setup 2022 – the Power of the Apple Ecosystem