My Ultra-Portable Setup

You wait for ages for a blog post and two pop up in one day, eh?

As I noted earlier,  we’ve temporarily moved to my partner’s mum’s house for a bit more room in a house swap scenario. That’s been amazing and has allowed me to experiment with my portable working setup.

Here’s the full setup, but we’ll dig into my reasons behind it shortly.

Here are the considerations I had to make, considering when I’m at home I generally work from a 27-inch iMac.

  1. Maximise screen space
  2. Ensure I can use my mouse
  3. Everything needs to fit in my laptop bag
  4. Minimal cables

So, here’s how I achieved those aims.

Maximise screen space

Screen space is very important for me when working. I often like to put Spotify/Pocket Casts/Slack and Discord on a separate display so that I can work entirely from the main display. As someone that works daily in both Chrome and Photoshop, I can often need to switch between the two while they battle to take up more of the screen, so having a second screen is a lifesaver.

With that in mind, my iPad Pro is almost always used in “Sidecar”, a macOS Catalina utility that makes it an ideal second monitor, either wirelessly or through a USB-C connection. I can also use it as a separate device entirely, and it’ll connect to my mouse thanks to the latest version of iPadOS (more on that shortly).

I also invested in an application called Better Touch Tool after hearing the Mac Power Users podcast discuss it at length, which now gives me much more customisation of my MacBook’s touch bar. That means I no longer need to fiddle with media controls, and it doubles as my dock in the same way Pock did before I switched over. It helps keep my screen clear for what matters – work.

Ensure I can use my mouse

I reviewed the Logitech MX Master 3 for the Daily Star, and I feel a little lost whenever I don’t use it now. Apple makes the best trackpads in the world, but as someone with big hands, I much prefer using a mouse. Despite the size of the MX Master 3, it’s not too bulky to throw in my bag. It also runs via Bluetooth, so I don’t need to plug in a receiver to be able to use it.

With handy side buttons that are ideal for Photoshop shortcuts, a gesture control that lets me jump straight to Mission Control on Mac so I can see all my open apps and a high degree of comfort thanks to its ergonomic design, it’s easy to see why so many tech reviewers and YouTubers use it daily.

Even better, I can press a button underneath it to have it instantly pair with my iPad instead, allowing me to jump into work on that device instead – or a quick game of Legends of Runeterra or Football Manager Touch!

Everything needs to fit in my laptop bag

A setup can’t be “ultra-portable” if you can’t take it anywhere, and as someone that (before lockdown) would often work from coffee shops, or write lengthy articles on the train using my iPad while commuting (a necessity I don’t miss now that I’m self-employed), being able to work from wherever I choose is incredibly important.

My laptop bag is the Eastpak Floid in Sunday Grey that I picked up when I got the job at Reach. It’s an absolutely perfect tech backpack (and is the subject of an upcoming blog post), with a laptop pocket, plenty of room for my iPad, and space for the few cables I do have.

Check it out below:

 

Minimal cables

As someone with only USB-C ports on my MacBook Pro, I felt sure I’d end up having to invest in a series of dongles and adapters by now but I haven’t. My Time Machine Backups are wireless, I connect to the iPad display wirelessly, and my mouse doesn’t need a USB receiver. It’s a recipe for a super clean, minimal setup if I could get my desk at home nice and tidy (and with my iMac being sold shortly, that could actually happen!).

The only cables I travel with are charging cables (my iPhone 11 Pro Max came with a USB-C to Thunderbolt cable), so that makes things a little easier. At present, the iPad Pro is charging via USB-C, as is the MacBook. Aside from my phone (and Apple Watch), the only other thing I’d need to charge is my mouse – which I can quick-charge via one of the many USB-C chargers I have.

Finally, my Beats Studio 3s are unfortunately charged via MicroUSB, so I usually keep a small power bank in a pocket in my bag to charge that, and I charge the bank itself via USB-C.

So, what do you think of my portable setup? It’s made it much easier to work away from home, that’s for sure.

Catch you next time,

Lloyd

Recommendation

Game: I started playing Legends of Runeterra, despite having no interest in League of Legends (the game it is based on). I’m genuinely really impressed, with the game scratching the “Hearthstone itch” I didn’t know needed scratching.

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