This is 100% personal preference, and lots of people will choose to work in a different environment. I just thought I'd share what I find useful.
I had previously been using a minisforum HX90G, which is an AMD mini PC with a dedicated laptop GPU (not far off from what I have now). Unfortunately, after a few months, it died, and as I documented on my blog, I had a horrific experience of trying to get it repaired, which soured me on their hardware permanently. I'm still fighting over refunds and have had to involve my credit card company.
My main workstation is a Lenovo P360 Ultra that I got off eBay, but which was, as far as I can tell, never used. It still had the little peal-off protective stickers on the logo and other parts of the chassis. It was a good deal for the price ($1,500.00 ). As it's currently setup, it has the following configuration:
- Intel i9 12900K. 16 cores, 24 threads, 30MB cache, 5.2GHz peak speed.
- nVidia A5000 GPU. 6,144 CUDA cores, 16GB GDDR6 memory. This is a wildly overkill GPU for what I do, but given the deal I got, I can't complain. It's approximately equal to a 3080 consumer GPU.
- 128GB RAM (DDR5-4800)
- 2 x 2TB Samsung 980 Pro SSD
This is a (largely) Windows 11 Pro machine, although I lean quite heavily on WSL2. There's still a lot of things in the embedded world that run better on Windows than they do Mac, so it felt like a good use.
On that machine, which I use for most of my 3D work, I also have an El Gato Stream Deck and a 3Dconnexion Space Mouse Compact, which I discuss elsewhere. They're hardly required, but they are a huge quality-of-life improvement. I have them mounted together in a 3D design by wit4r7, which reminds me of the old button boxes that IBM made for their CAD workstations. It's printed in a slightly too pink pink (Sakura Pink from Overture).
Macbook Air M1
My other main personal machine is a Macbook Air with the original M1 chip. It has 16GB RAM and 1TB of SSD in it, and it's just an absolute joy to use. It's not quite as fast as my main workstation, but it is smooth, absolutely silent, cool to the touch, and weighs so little. The only downside is that with 3D modeling, I just can't get the hang of using the trackpad. I've contemplated picking up a Bluetooth Spacemouse, but they're even more expensive.
Since I mostly use the laptop on the couch and such, I figure I can just go upstairs to my workstation when I need to do modeling.
This shares a Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Pro dock, which is ... meh? It's fine, I suppose. But it seems to have random occasions where it just can't deal with a monitor, and I have to power cycle the dock and get it back to some sane state. Sometimes this happens 3x a day, and sometimes it's weeks between occurrences.
As you can imagine, and like many other people in the tech industry, I have strong opinions about input devices. Personally, I use a a Varmillo MAv2 keyboard with Cherry MX Clear switches. Sadly, Varmillo doesn't offer the Cherry switches any more. The MX Clears have been my go-to because they offer great tactile feedback, but without the noise that comes with many. I would love to use my Unicomp keyboard with it's glorious buckling-springs, but it's simply far too loud if I have to do calls with people, and I share these peripherals with my work laptop.
The keyboard is augmented with a set of Dasher MT3 keycaps, because you can never have enough glorious '70s Data General colors. Seriously, we lost something when we abandoned the land of color for whatever we have now, and I don't mean gaudy RGB lighting of everything. I don't want my computer to be like a Las Vegas casino.
For navigation, I'm a big trackball fan. I don't think I've really used anything else when sitting at a desk for decades. My go-to trackball is the Kensington Export Mouse with a big honk'n 55mm ball in it. It's just glorious. If I have any complaint, it's that the scroll wheel around the ball is a bit crunchy, and in spite of my best efforts, I've never figured out why.
To put photons in my eyeballs, I have a pair of Dell U2723QE 27" 4k monitors, in spite of the best efforts by certain people trying to convince me to pop for an Apple Studio Display. It might be marginally better quality, but it costs more than both the Dell displays, and that's 14,745,600 versus 16,588,800 pixels for the twins, and as you'll see below, I use the twin monitors to my advantage for more than extra real-estate. Those are mounted on a gigantic Ergotron LX stand, which is almost 40# all by itself. I've had it for 13+ years though, and it's still bulletproof.
Finally, all of this is hooked up with a 2x2 4K KVM from TESmart (HKS0402A1U-USBK). This works great because it allows me to either have both monitors on a single machine, or to split the two monitors between two machines and use the right hand "Windows" key to pop back and forth. It has a small remote control, but honestly, I just press the button the front when I have it set with both monitors attached to a single machine (the usual configuration).
Separation of Work and Personal
As tempting as it is, I'm a big believer in keeping a very strict separation between my work and personal devices. I don't even open email on my work laptop, much less anything else. Using a KVM lets me still check email and such during the day without interfering.
Comments or Questions?
If you have any comments, questions, or topics you'd like to see covered, please feel free to either reach out to me on Mastodon (link below) or open an issue on Github.