I sometimes write about hardware but usually only when I discard it or something. So let's talk about hardware setup and what works for me. I can be pretty particular in my hardware choice, at least in some areas. Let me tell you all about my current hardware choices in terms of computer, keyboard, mouse, and headphones.
Obviously computers are central to my life so I have a few requirements on that front.
- desktop: GTX780 Ti, Intel Core i7-4770K, and 32G
- keyboard: Logitech G710+
- mouse: Logitech MX Master
- headphones: Logitech G933
- laptop: Asus Zenbook UX501VW
- mouse: Logitech MX Anywhere 2
- headphones: Bose QC35
- phone: HTC 10
And honestly, the overwhelming logitech stuff is just a coincidence.
Let's start with my main box. I still kind of prefer a desktop simply because it's easier to customize them. Granted, once set up it doesn't really matter and if I could get all of if it a laptop I'd probably be fine with that as well.
One thing to note: the only Apple hardware I do is the iPad. Everything else is not.
So what kind of customization would that be? These days for me at least the customization of a computer only concerns CPU, GPU, and memory. The rest of the box is really whatever is required to run the chosen hardware. That and an SSD, of course.
Hardware has this funny price chart where the newest of the newest is super expensive (let's say $2000), the next one may be a big step (let's say $1300), the next still big ($800), and then the next step is relatively small ($700). I tend to pick the first model that doesn't save me a ton (relatively speaking) when going to the next cheaper model (in the example that would be the $800 model). So my desktop tends to be high end but not literally worth half by next week. My desktops tend to cost somewhere between 3000 and 5000 euro and last 3 to 5 years before I replace them. I'll pick the parts and have the shop assemble them (hardware isn't my thing and building a desktop hasn't been fun since the Pentium 4 days).
I guess I still stick to nvidia and intel. Both have been very reliable in my life (and for high-end gpu's on linux nvidia seems the way to go anyways but I could be wrong).
My current desktop is about 3 years old. It contains a GTX780 Ti, Intel Core i7-4770K, and 32G ram. The box only has linux installed. I prefer Xubuntu (xfce) but let's not get into that. This is my main development machine. The box itself is a micro tower (LIAN LI PC-V354B
While in my early days I would take future upgrades into consideration by now I've come to terms with the fact that I simply (almost) never do this. A new cpu or gpu will nearly always require a new motherboard which will nearly always require new memory. By then you're already bought the expensive parts of a new desktop anyways.
And while I have upgraded my memory once or twice in the early days, these days I don't think it really matters any more. My next box will have 64G+ but for now 32G will suffice (play nice, webstorm and chrome!
Let's face it; I don't think I'll ever experience "the 3dfx moment" &tm;; that moment where you replace your bland video card with the first generation 3dfx and open an fps with actual 3d rendering.... ooooh shiny.
Another reason may be that I simply don't care as much anymore in general. A box is a box and as long as it performs to my requirements I don't really care anymore what's actually inside.
The choice for laptops is different. For one I only use those when on the road. Conferences, clients, holiday, etc. So while I definitely have a need for power, I'm "okay" with the laptop being sub-par in that regard. That's not entirely voluntary because your choices are limited when it comes down to laptops.
Where to begin. That is actually the biggest problem. There are plenty of players in the laptop market and yet there's only a handful to really pick from. Customization is often very limited or very shady.
As I don't do Apple I'm left with whatever other players can offer me. For the longest time that meant crappy battery and a huge chassis.
I've ran with a Dell Lattitude
a while back. Solid and sturdy machine, even if it was a bit heavy and couldn't pull more than two or three hours on the battery, depending on what I was doing. Mind you this was 5 or 6 years ago. I even replaced it with another one after that so I was fairly happy with it.
After that I upgraded to a huge beast. It was a customized Hurricane Sky17 machine (they
don't even seem to sell it anymore...), set me back 5k, did carry 64G ram and the latest intel/nvidia, but also weighed in at 5kg (10 pounds) not counting cables. Additionally it wouldn't last an hour or so under reasonable load without charging. The chassis was also very big (because I opted for the big screen) and in retrospect, that just was a huge mistake. The laptop was a pain to carry anywhere, didn't really fit in my backpack, would always need power, and while it ran fine it was generally just a big disappointment. I bought a desktop where I wanted a tablet. Expensive lesson learned.
Back to the drawing board. This was around the time where hp and asus were introducing their thinbooks line. I did some comparisons and ultimately went for the Asus Zenbook UX501VW
. I was, and still am, disappointed with the max amount of memory that you can get on preconfigured machines (seems to max out at 16G at the time, 24G in one weird case). Besides that the other specs looked fine and I read it was a good linux machine. That's not unimportant as there are plenty of laptop parts that wreak havoc in linux.
I must say that so far I'm very happy with the zenbook. It was refreshing to actually have to confirm I picked up my laptop because it was so light and I wasn't used to that. It plays fairly well under linux. The battery holds for 6+ hours unless you're gaming or something and the model is fairly small in general.
My pain points for the zenbook would be the relatively small max memory (16g) and the absence of easy accessible pgup/pgdn keys. One laptop I used had them above the left/right arrow keys and that's actually a great place for them. Ah well, small things I guess.
There aren't that many devices I use for computer stuff. I guess there's three main things to note; keyboard, mouse, headphones.
After using a Trust Ergotrack
for about 15 years or-was-it-20 I decided I had to move on to something current. This was a tough choice for me as they don't make them like the Ergo track. The only model close to it was the Microsoft's Natural Ergonomic
line(s). I used them for a year or so at work but I don't like them.
Roccat Ryos MK Pro
After long consideration I initially replaced the Ergotrack with a Roccat Ryos MK Pro
. They took me a while to get used to but I ascribed that to years of memory muscle with the Trust. However, a few months later this was still a problem and after I spilled coffee over it and I realized I still didn't like the keyboard (read details
So seeing how I still often missed the keys I ultimately realized I didn't care about most of the Ryos features and replaced it with a Logitech G710+
For the love of everything holy MAKE SURE TO GET THE US MODEL and NOT the eu model. Thank me later. It seems Logitech only sells "ISO keyboards" in Europe while ANSI keyboards in the US. In NL, at least, we are used to ANSI keyboards. So I was really thrown off my game when I got an ISO version Logitech. See here
for a visual difference.
You may have to import the keyboard and when ordering have to be very careful about the actual model being ordered. Webshops tend to display the stock ANSI model imagery even when they sell ISO. Took me two attempts to get an ANSI model.
Anyways, I'm happy with the Logitech G710+ (ansi) model. It's a fairly simple keyboard, has some macro support that I never use, some extra keys that I almost never use (mapped a few to display toggling shortcuts), and ... other than that it's just a keyboard. Nothing fancy, it just works. I'm happy with it.
I used a white label wired mouse for the longest time but as I swapped out the keyboard I also swapped out the mouse. Around that time Logitech introduced their new MX Master model and when I saw that I immediately got one. Must say I'm still happy with it to this day.
The innertial scroll is AWESOME
. Apple users know this from their magic mouse. You give it a whirl and it will scroll very fast for very long. I love it for large code files or websites or whatever. It's smaller sibling suffers from laziness with the scroll wheel but I've not seen this happen on my MX Master yet.
While I don't use the buttons on the side, the extra scroll wheel there sometimes sees use for horizontal scrolling. The MX Master is also large which fits my hands well. This is not a good fit for everybody, of course. But the mouse just feels right.
The battery on this mouse goes for about a week or maybe two of intensive use without a recharge. That's extreme for a mouse of this caliber. And it uses regular usb cables, no proprietary shit required.
All in all I'm very very happy with this mouse.
I even got its smaller brother, the Logitech MX Anywhere 2
, for my laptop. That one does actually suffer from a problem with the scrollwheel where the innertial scroll mode is "imbalanced". After it stops scrolling it tends to move a little further/back as if there's some extra weight on one side that's pulled down by gravity.
That's super annoying as this innertial scroll mode is, by design, super sensitive. So as the scroll wheel tries to balance itself out you're actually scrolling two pages or whatever. I read that this is a problem with the model so I'm disappointed with that. But you can still go to ... "classic" scroll wheel mode to circumvent it.
Lastly I need headphones.
Before switching last year I used a wired set of Sennheiser HD598
for a long time. Great headphones, good soft ear cups, long wire. But still, it's a wire. I decided I wanted to go wireless so the hunt was on.
My first attempt to switch to something sturdier was when I saw an announcement for Blue Microphones Mo-Fi Powered High-Fidelity Headphones
. These are high-end headphones and I ordered a pair. Ultimately I did not enjoy the way they fit my head and I ended up giving them to a friend. He's still happy with them to this day so they're probably good :)
About two years ago Logitech announced a new line of headphones. Amongst them was the G933
. So I waited for them and then preordered them when I could. No real regrets with these. The wireless capabilities are good, the sound is fine, and the isolation is good enough. Mind you, these aren't noise cancellation headphones.
Initially I wasn't super happy with the sound. But at some point I connected them to the windows app and tweaked them there. I was able to remove some annoying metallic sound that way and boost its performance greatly. This eliminated these problems for me entirely.
One problem that persists a bit is that the headset sometimes won't respond to the hardware button. Just won't connect or even turn on, even when there is power. If that happens you have to physically disconnect the battery from the headphones (in the right cup, just remove the batter and disconnect that tiny cable for a few seconds). I'm not sure if this can be fixed with a firmware and it's very well possible that this is already long and fixed. But since I don't use Windows the headphones don't see the app that often ;) Ah well, it's a small thing that doesn't happen very often and once you know the fix, it's okay.
I use these headphones two or three days a week. The battery would last me a whole day initially though lately I've seen some decline in that area. You can
use these when they are charging but that kind of defeats the point. Since the battery is trivially removable I think I can easily replace it so I'll probably go that route, eventually.
Parrot Zik 3
While the G933 is a good headphone for at home, I also wanted a pair of noise cancellation headphones for travel. At home I don't want NC because I want to tentatively hear what's going on around me. In particular I want to hear the door bell, my wife, or my kid when they do require my attention. The G933 is perfect for this as I can close myself from the world but can still be reached fairly well when needed. However, they are a little clunky for travel and absolutely not sufficiently isolated for airplanes.
After some research I, finally, ordered the Parrot Zik 3
. They get a lot of praise online and a friend of mine had used them and was happy with them. It was a toss between the zik and the Sennheiser Momentum 2
but I had tried the momentums in a store and their cups were too small for my ears. I was worried that the zik had the same problem but no way to test it so I ended up buying a pair.
The ziks were too small as well. While sound was fine and the app was really nice, the cups pressed too hard on my ears and did not wrap them. They were "on-ear" while I really really want "over-ear". Especially with noise cancellation. This was a little disappointing to me, and it's so difficult to figure that metric out online too.
Then I met another friend who was carrying the just released Bose QC35 headphones. I tried it and was immediately sold. I immediately bought a pair and never looked back.
The battery lasts for 10+ hours, the cups are large enough to wrap around my ears. The cups are covered in velvet, that really feels nice to the ears, and the set isn't heavy. The sound is good and the headphones is able to connect to multiple sources so you don't have to switch syncing between your player and your laptop or whatever.
They also fold up properly and come with a traveling case. I really like these and am still happy I finally found them.
I've been running with HTC phones for a long time now. Currently I'm on the HTC 10
and have used all the flag ships for a few years now and have been quite happy.
To be honest, I think they've stretched their innovation a bit thin by now. I'm not convinced I care much for their Sense version of android. At least not enough for it to be a selling point to me. I strip most of that crap anyways. And nowadays a phone is a phone. The flagships are too similar these days to care much. All companies have this innovation problem.
The newly announced HTC U11 will have a squeeze function. But I'm not convinced that's gonna be any kind of useful. The 10 may be the last of their models I use before jumping ship. This week the Essential Phone
was announced and to be honest I'm kind of intrigued. So it may very well be that the next phone I get will be that one and, for the first time in years, not an HTC.
Anyways, the HTC 10 is a good phone. Since I work from home I tend not to use it as much as the average person since I've always got a real computer at my fingertips. But it's probably also fine to carry the M9 or even the groundbreaking M8. You won't notice that much difference, aside from Android version of course.
At home a desktop is vital and my peripherals accidentally ended up all being Logitech like it's 1999. On the road I want a strong thinbook and good noise cancellation headphones. Sometimes it takes a few iterations to get to the right hardware but that sweet spot is so sweet once you find it.