Once I learned that my company would be working from home until at least 2021, I set about upgrading my home office a bit. And by a bit, I mean I’m finally actually using it for something other than reading in my Eames lounge chair (swoon).
OK, so I may have over-rotated a little here, but don’t regret it one bit. After going many years without an external display at home, I just decided to jump right in and snag the best of the best, the Apple Pro Display XDR. Yes, it’s obscenely expensive, but honestly, I don’t even care about that anymore because I'm so enamored with it.
I opted for the matte option (an additional $1k), which uses their new nano-texture glass to reduce glare without sacrificing contrast. In effect, it scatters the hell out of any light that hits it. I’ve a large window in my home office and the display looks incredible no matter the time of day.
In addition to the display itself, I had to buy a display stand from Apple (another $1k...but to be totally honest, it’s pretty awesome), plus an external GPU, because neither my last-gen 13” MBP (work) nor my latest-gen MBA (personal) have the guts to power such a beast of a monitor.
In what I think is a first, I did next to no research around this and just pulled the trigger on the one Apple was pushing, the Blackmagic eGPU (another $700). It’s been a pleasure to work with—no issues whatever—but fuck if it isn’t HUGE.
If you haven’t been in the market for a webcam recently, I’m here to tell you that they aren’t available to buy. Things may be a tad different today, but two months ago when everyone realized they’d be working from home, webcams, any webcam, became impossible to find (we’re talking Amazon, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, eBay, etc.). You just couldn’t get one. (To drive the point home, check out this WaPo article from just last week: “The hunt for a work-from-home webcam: A story of broken supply chains, ‘sold-out’ messages and refreshing online carts.”)
Add to the general shortage the fact that I wanted a very specific one (surprise!), I knew I was in for a long wait. But, wait I did. And then finally, after two months, it arrived, and I have to say, it’s as cool as I was hoping it’d be.
The Logitech 4K Pro was made in collaboration with Apple and it looks like it. As far as webcams go it’s pretty svelte and attractive, and the coolest thing is that it attaches to the top of the monitor by a magnet embedded in the display (specifically for this reason). The combination looks OEM. 👌🏼
Audio has been a bit of an issue for me, which I wasn’t expecting. Both input and output have thrown up some roadblocks, but I’ve landed on a usable setup that I may try to improve going forward.
When I’m using the MacBook Pro with the external display, I keep the laptop lid closed, which renders the internal mic useless. The Logitech webcam I discussed above has within it two mics, and it works reasonably well, but there was a big issue: it has some noise-cancelling logic that wasn’t playing well with Krisp.
If you aren’t aware of Krisp yet, I suspect you will be soon. It’s the best product I’ve found for reducing (and often mostly removing completely) any sounds other than your voice. It’s magic. As one example, it effectively mutes my loud-ass mechanical keyboard (with Cherry MX Blue switches). Another cool feature is that it can process in the same way the incoming audio as well. It just makes for an all-around better experience.
Given the limitations of the Logitech mic and the issue with it interfering with Krisp, I set out to find a new one. And as with webcams, mics also are very difficult to procure right now.
After doing a bit of research, I went with the HyperX QuadCast. Great combination of features, build quality, and design. One especially cool thing is that the top of the mic is touch-sensitive; tapping on it turns the mic on or off, and when it’s “hot” (i.e., on) the entirety of the mic glows red. It’s a super simple, foolproof way to know you’re muted.
At the moment I’m just using the speakers in the MacBook Pro. As you can imagine, this isn’t ideal, and often I have to put them at max volume. I’d prefer to use the two stereo-paired HomePods I have on my desk, but—and in a perfect example of Apple being Apple—you can push audio through them only via AirPlay, despite the fact that they have Bluetooth 5.0. 🙄🤬
I was really trying to avoid adding another piece of equipment to my setup, and so I started poking around for solutions, and found one fairly quickly. I use Rogue Amoeba’s SoundSource for all things sound on my Mac, and recently it added a feature called “Magic Boost,” which does exactly what you think it does—enhances the sound, which includes increasing the volume. It works a charm.