How to set up a laptop to pretend to be a desktop sometimes?
September 6, 2010 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I spend way too much time slouched on my couch with my laptop propped up on my knees -- not too good for productivity or general health and happiness! I'd like to set up a comfortable and productive desk space in my apartment, using my laptop as a more desktop-like computer. Please give me some advice on how best to make my new space work.

I've been trying to look into this on my own but I'm finding my options very confusing. I did find this previous question but I'm concerned that 1) it's from a while ago so my options may have changed and 2) the computer goals seem to be more complicated than mine.

I have a two year old MacBook that I need to be able to keep using as a laptop, and I probaby can't afford to buy a separate desktop computer. But like I said, I'd like to be able to use my laptop as a desktop so I can be more comfortable and productive in a dedicated work space. What are my best bets here: should I just put a stand on top of a desk to raise the height of my laptop, and then connect a keyboard and mouse? Should I get a separate monitor instead, and plug in the laptop? If I have a separate monitor, do I have to keep the laptop open and running? Or maybe I should buy a monitor AND prop up the screen and have one of those fancy two-screen set-ups? If I'm buying peripherals, should they be Apple products for compatibility, or not-Apple products for affordability? Also...what are the benefits of a "laptop dock" (a concept I've just become aware of trying to research this topic)?

My computing demands aren't very complicated (Internet, word processing, etc) and I won't be spending all day at this desk, just evenings mostly. Please help me figure out what I should be considering as I get this set up!
posted by ootandaboot to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A self-made "docking station" would be a good bet. Connect a keyboard, mouse, and external monitor for ease of use and viewing, then quickly disconnect when you need to take the MacBook away.

I don't know about Mac laptops, but in my configuration I have to keep the laptop running but I can close the lid. Under Windows, I can set it to display on the external monitor only. I'm sure the Mac can do the same.
posted by yclipse at 8:20 AM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: Laptop docks are handy for two things - 1) they generally provide a single connection to reconnect everything. So plugging in one USB will reconnect your mouse, keyboard, monitor (if you want it), printer, dancing USB flower, etc. 2) a dedicated laptop stand will raise a laptop to your eye height and will keep your laptop cooler by allowing air to circulate around it, instead of just from the top.
Logitech has an all in one stand that I have and like for my PC. According to that link it's Mac compatible.
posted by msbutah at 8:22 AM on September 6, 2010

And to clarify - that logitech stand isn't a docking station per se but it's more of a usb hub with a built-in keyboard. So no monitor support through that stand, unless you have a usb monitor.
posted by msbutah at 8:23 AM on September 6, 2010

I have a netbook as my only computer, and eventually I got tired of having such a small screen all the time. So, I did the same thing - set it up as a desktop for while I'm at home. My setup is that I have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse plugged in. I keep the netbook closed.

I've tried the two-screen setup, but I don't really have room for it on my desk, and it doesn't look good because the screens are so different in size. My netbook has a 9in screen, and the monitor has a 20in screen.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:24 AM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: First of all, there are no true docks for Apple Macbooks/Macbook Pros. I have a great setup with a Twelve South BookArc, which vertically props up my Macbook Pro closed and makes it easy to plug in my monitor, speakers, ethernet, and external hard drives (I use Bluetooth mouse and keyboard). You can get a cheap 22" Dell or Samsung widescreen monitor (between $100-150) and increase your screen size.

Granted, I have to unplug 6 cables when I want to take it with me, so I leave it set up that way the majority of the time. I enjoy this setup far more than using the laptop on its own.
posted by lamprey at 8:50 AM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: I can't suggest a good docking station for a Mac, as I have a PC, but I am sure that there is something similar that exists to what I have. I bought a high end laptop, a nice big flat screen monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. I have all of this setup on my desk, so instead of having a desktop with a dual monitor setup, I use my laptop for the same purpose. I am using this docking station, but it's not like the old-timey ones you slot the entire notebook into - it's basically a hub where you can plug in a keyboard, a monitor, etc.

Instead of an office chair, I have an exercise ball. It's all pretty comfy and ergonomic, but if I want to be bad and sit on my couch and surf the intertubes while watching television, I can just unhook the lappy and go for it.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:27 AM on September 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I particularly like the look of the BookArc!
posted by ootandaboot at 7:22 PM on September 6, 2010

Best answer: Actually, there is one company that makes a true docking station for Apple Laptops:

If you have a white MacBook, this looks like the dock for you($143):
posted by Fiat124 at 10:13 PM on September 7, 2010

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