Deciding between desktop Macs and laptop MacBooks can be challenging — you typically get more computer for your money with desktops, but notebooks aren’t anchored down to one location. Managing two Macs is getting easier with features like automatic software updates and iCloud Drive syncing Desktop and Documents folders across machines, but using one Mac is often easier to manage and more affordable.

My own setup has shifted over the years from laptop only to both desktop and laptop to desktop only. I’ve found that I’m most productive and comfortable when using a desktop with a large display and a dedicated mouse and keyboard, but I also benefit from being able to take my work out of the office.

Given the current Mac lineup and my own needs, I’m settling on a MacBook Pro with external display, mouse, and keyboard to balance portability and ergonomics. What’s your ideal setup? Desktops, laptops, or both?

Your own experience will vary based on your needs, but this is going to be my setup until something major shifts in the Mac landscape:

  • 15″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • Apple Magic Keyboard
  • LG UltraFine 5K 27-inch display

The goal is to have a single Mac that can go out of the office with me, but easily serve as my desktop Mac during work hours.

I can definitely work from laptops  — I worked for months on the 12-inch Retina MacBook and I’ve worked exclusively from the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar since its release — but I always feel tremendously more comfortable working from a desktop setup.

My main machine before the new MacBook Pro last fall was my 2012 Mac mini. It was a small workhorse that got me in the habit of working from a desk using a dedicated mouse and keyboard and a large display.

I haven’t used my Mac mini since the new MacBook Pro arrived, however, so I sold it over the weekend and connected my MacBook to the external display, mouse, and keyboard.


I dislike using multiple monitors as much as I dislike managing multiple Macs, so I use the MacBook in clamshell mode and treat it like my Mac mini. That means losing access to Touch Bar and Touch ID so I may rethink this in the future, but for now it’s working for me.

I’m actually using my old 27-inch 1920×1080 DELL monitor connected over HDMI to USB-C until the LG screen arrives on Wednesday, but I’m already happier with the bigger screen and improved ergonomics of this desktop setup. It feels better physically than crouching over a notebook on my desk, and I can unplug and take my work with me in an instant as needed.

This would be improved by a better-looking external Retina display and a Magic Keyboard with Touch Bar and Touch ID, but for now this setup is ideal for me.

I don’t think new desktop Macs like the iMac and Mac Pro would make a difference for me based on my own needs, but that’s likely a factor considering the 12-inch MacBook and new MacBook Pros were the only new Macs last year.

What about your own Mac setup? Let us know in the poll and comments.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel

About the Author