This one is kind of just a fun personal story, because I spent most of the day fending off our dog as deliverypeople came one by one with components for my new desk setup.
As a part of my new PC setup, one of the things I’ve been sort of lower-key excited for is the desk and rearrangement of my office space. In our last apartment, which we lived in for 3 years, I had a chance to really expand and build things out as we grew into the space, and I landed with this:
It was a nice setup and I liked it a lot, but it had some shortfalls related to my own personal tastes and to the ways in which I used the space. For one, I liked using corner desks because of the amount of surface area they tend to offer, but it is hard to find one that fits all of my hardware really well, especially once I got my curved ultrawide monitor. As an interim solution, I got some small shelves that could bring components off the desk and open up some space underneath for cable management, our router, some additional decor to live on the desk, and to allow the stuff I used for work-from-home with my last employer.
My prior love of corner desks, however, came at a cost. They usually have higher amounts of surface area, but they are fairly shallow and so I would often use the corner as my seating spot, which can make using the keyboard uncomfortable. Overall, in fact, from an ergonomic standpoint, it was definitely lacking. A big part of why I became such a huge booster for MMO gamepads is simple – it was the easiest, most comfortable way to use the desks I’ve owned over the years without having to push my wrists in at weird angles, and the discomfort I would feel was a part of why I largely didn’t play many games that use traditional keyboard/mouse controls (I used my Xbox One controller for playing most games I’ve finished outside of MMOs in the last handful of years).
It was also sort of difficult to maximize use of the space. I would have loved to use a monitor arm, but my main monitor couldn’t clamp easily into the corner because of the steel frame underneath, I was uncomfortable drilling a grommet hole in what was a cheap-ish Amazon desk offering, and while the shelving offered a decent solution, the amount of space my monitor occupied on my desk was still too large. When I moved, I had to retire one of the shelves and so the organization on my desk currently is a little lacking. I also couldn’t install as many wall shelves here as I had at the prior place, so a lot of the decor and collectables I had on display had to shuffle around, often landing closer to or on my desk.
Lastly, a few practical concerns – I want/need to be able to use a microphone arm for my Shure SM7B, which has two different pieces of hardware in its interface chain on the way to my PC, along with a mounting arm for my iPad Pro, to be able to use it…well, mostly for Twitter and WordPress notifications, but sometimes for additional video content, background elements on some streams, and just to have as a backup for when I want to watch a YouTube video without turning on my PC or using my phone. My cable management at the last apartment was dialed in nicely, but here, it has been a bit of a sprawling mess as I moved to set up my desk quickly and get it operational over ideal. I don’t currently use a UPS backup for my system or peripherals, and while it has been okay thus far, I understand the risks and with the amount I’ve spent on my new system, I absolutely want that protection as a part of the setup. Lastly, after building one for my wife recently, I’ve been more interested in a sit-stand motorized desk, because I spend a lot of time at my PC and the health benefits of being able to stand comfortably at my desk are something I’d like to try.
So, in short, my goals with the new setup were the following:
-Larger desk surface area, laid out in a more usable way, particularly with more depth overall
-Easy setup for cable management
-UPS backups for PC and full peripheral/network loadout (separate because lol 1000w power supply and RTX 3080)
-Improved storage under desk (I have cheap plastic drawers under there now, and…yeah, not great!)
-Better lighting, including RGB LEDs for streaming aesthetic changes and better direct lighting for on-camera appearances
-More organizational space, including display/bookshelves for storage and cleanliness
So here’s where I’ve landed, with photos and a followup post to come after this weekend, when I assemble the whole setup!
ApexDesk 71″x33″ desktop – A sit/stand desk has a few options for how to purchase it. You can buy a whole kit of matched components, but I noticed something I didn’t like about that – the price was jacked up in most cases despite individual components not being as good as some standalone ones you could buy. So I decided to split my purchase two ways – for the tabletop, you can get a desk-specific one or a generic tabletop and run with it. At first, I found a sort of generic tabletop that met my surface area needs, but it was not in stock in the color I wanted and was also just kind of…a square. That’s fine, but I landed on the ApexDesk Elite top because it has a contour for where you sit, pre-drilled grommet holes for cable routing, and a nice sort of shape that isn’t just a straight-up rectangle. It was spendier by a bit, but still cheaper with the next component than a full ApexDesk Elite – which is a well-reviewed desk, but for me, I had a frame in mind already.
MonoPrice Dual Motor Sit/Stand Frame – Easy choice – the frame I bought my wife was a single-motor kit and has worked very well for her setup, and that kit came from Monoprice. That exact frame was the one I was going to get, until I looked carefully at the loading limit for the sit/stand function, and…my current kit estimate comes in one pound over the maximum rated capacity for the one-motor frame. The dual-motor kit I settled on adds another 100 pounds to the capacity rating, and it also is easier to assemble. A traditional DIY standing desk kit makes you assemble each leg, build out crossbeams and adjust to width, install motors, and then install brackets for the tabletop that you drill through to secure the tabletop. This frame ships mostly assembled, so you just fold out the main frame, bolt on the legs and tabletop brackets, and you’re ready – around 12 screws compared to…like 30-40. All good on every front, and still cheaper than a typical sit/stand kit!
Monitor Arms – I got a basic MonoPrice single arm for my main ultrawide, which mounts simply and doesn’t offer much adjustment, which is fine because I don’t need it. However, for an acquisition I’ll talk about momentarily, I wanted to be able to put two additional monitors above my main one, so I picked up the VIVO extra-long arms, which have points of articulation and can hang the monitors up to 39 inches off the desk surface. My goal is to have a triangle of monitors with the main one at bottom-center and the other two above and next to each other.
Desk Shelves – A new thing I found while looking around, clamp-on shelves offer me something I was pretty stoked for – the ability to free up additional space on the desk surface while being able to hold my PC on one side and a variety of accessories on the other, with space underneath I can put more stuff. So I got two, one for each side left and right, because I wanted that symmetry and also because they’ll bring up the sensitive stuff off the desk in the event I spill a drink on my desk or get overzealous with cleaners when keeping my desk nice!
Dual UPSes – I grabbed a Cyberpower large UPS with a 1000w rating solely for my PC to plug into and be backed up by, and a second 600w one for my monitors, modem, and router. Easy enough to explain – safety for everything to run off of, enough power to keep things running through a simple outage, and the ability to split the loads to avoid overloading one with the PC plus all of that, since finding even a 1000w unit was hard and higher wattage maximums upped the price substantially.
MonoPrice 35″ Zero-G Ultrawide Monitors x2 – As I mentioned above, I wanted a trio of monitors and while I love my main Asus ultrawide, my Dell side monitor is nearly a decade old at this point and an older cold-cathode model, meaning it gets hot and is heavier than a modern monitor. These new ones match my resolution and refresh rate, are light enough to mount on the super-long monitor arms, and I got a super-sweet Black Friday deal on them that was so good we bought 3 – two for my new setup and one for my wife’s. The only complaint I have, and it is a minor one, is that the VESA mount option requires screwing on a bracket, which is open to the inside of the monitor. When trying to install it on my wife’s monitor, we lost a screw to the internals of the monitor and even a quick disassembly on my part couldn’t get it out!
A Variety of Clampy Mounts – In no particular order – a gooseneck tablet holder for my iPad, a new microphone boom, the aforementioned shelves, clamp desk lamps, a clamping USB hub that tucks 4 USB 3.0 ports right on an edge of the desk for a clean look, and I’m debating getting a clampy laptop stand to hookup my old Macbook Air. Basically, if I had an easy, well-reviewed, and low-ish cost way to get hardware off the main desk surface and make it more usable or nicer, I grabbed it.
Cable Management Galore – I got a pair of cable baskets for underneath the desk that screw into the underside nice and neat (not the famous Ikea Signums but a pair that is black and is larger to fit bigger power strips and the like into it. I also grabbed a 4 pack of zipper sleeves that can conceal cables, which I can run into the grommet holes on the desk to keep things neat and clean. I also grabbed a headset hook that will screw into the bottom of the desk to keep my headphones tucked away safe and sound when not in use, and then finished up with a bevy of cable clamps, ties, zip ties, and velcro straps.
Various Room Accoutrements – With the new setup, I’m taking the chance to also run through and fix up most of my pain points with my current office corner. In no particular order – adding shelving for mixed use as display for a streaming set and also storage, enhancing my lighting with a ton of RGB LED strips both for the room as a whole and also a desk outline run, Wifi-controllable RGB bulbs for the desk lamps, a vintage filament bulb pendant display for accent lighting, curtains instead of the apartment-included vertical blinds, a desk mat, a handmade wooden wrist rest with electrical current patterns filled in with resin, and some sound-isolating foam bases for my speakers. Most of this stuff is only tangentially related to the actual desk or PC setup, but it all serves to add more comfort and build something that I think will be really cool for streaming or just relaxing in.
With all of this coming in and sitting around, I also made the decision to run ahead to my new rig. At this point, the only piece I am missing is the new CPU, and since my existing CPU is an AM4 CPU with full PCIE 4.0 support and I went with soft tubing for my watercooling, it is easy enough for me to transplant my intended Ryzen 9 5950x when I can finally buy one, and to run with the improved storage, watercooling, new lighting, and the capture card to allow for console play and streaming at my desk. So…this weekend, I have committed to a huge project of stripping down my current space completely, building my new system and leak-testing the watercooling loop, assembling my desk and related new furniture, and then trying to enjoy all of it once that is done!
At that point, I think I’ll be very thrilled with the outcome, but for now, all I have is this 3D model I’ve been working off of to test fit everything!