View Full Version : Getting Ready to Make A Switch

01-16-2017, 07:33 PM
New to the forums! After decades of using PCs for home and work, I'm finally fed up. This week I had to reload my work laptop from scratch with Windows 10 because the OS had gone brain-dead and it was, to say the least, an unpleasant experience. With MS things just seem to get worse.

Anyway -- would appreciate any suggestions on what would best suit my needs.

I work in Information Security and the majority of my work involves compliance, which means lots of document production in Word and occasional drawing work using Visio. I do absolutely NO high-end video or photo editing.

I've been at this business for several decades and, at 58, I can't function with a tiny 13 inch screen. It's just too small. I need a 15 inch screen minimum. Also, I need the ability to use two large external monitors (I currently own a couple of Asus monitors with HDMI connections, which are fine for my eyes -- can I keep using these with a Mac?).

I currently use a docking station for my Thinkpad at home with an external wireless keyboard and mouse, then just pop the laptop out of the station and take it on the road -- I travel frequently.

My gut instinct is that a MacBook Pro would be best, but I don't want to assume anything.

Anything I absolutely need Windows for, or Linux, can be run from VMWare.

I'll keep reading the forums, but in the meantime appreciate any feedback to this posting!

01-16-2017, 08:30 PM
Welcome to the Forum! Sounds like you are in the market for a 15" Macbook Pro - which would be perfect for what you describe. As far as using the Asus monitor with a MB Pro that is no problem. Depending on what model (year) you choose will depend on potential adapter needs. You can also use an external keyboard and mouse/trackpad with it.

There will be a learning curve if you have never used OS X but with patience you will catch on fast.


01-16-2017, 09:10 PM
And in addition to VMWare, there is also Parallels as a virtual machine to run Windows. I have Win7 running, but I have had Win10 also successfully installed. For the MS Office tools, MS has a version of Office for Mac, or you can subscribe for the software for about $7/month, as I recall. That's how I do it. I get all updates/upgrades for that price, which is reasonable for my needs.

I don't know of an equivalent for Visio for Mac. You might have to have the Windows virtual system for that one.

01-17-2017, 12:09 PM
Thanks for the replies! To clarify a few things: I'd be looking to buy a new Mac (and it appears it would be a Macbook Pro). Already have a subscription to Office365 (which supports Apple) and VMWare. Visio could be a problem but agree that with a VM the hurdle could be overcome. The learning curve for OS X might not be too tough for me -- I'm an aging techie and have been working with computers since the very early days (Timex Sinclair, anyone?). Prior to the PC, I was an Atari fan and owned an Atari ST. Shied away from Apple products over the years because of the higher cost and because so much of what I used on a computer required Windows. Microsoft has finally pushed me over the edge with Win 10 -- a bit of a mess of an operating system that they forced on the unsuspecting masses. Some people like Win 10, I'm not all that impressed. Any stability issues aside, the interface, even when switched out of tablet mode, is clunky and not all that intuitive.

Because of my work as a consultant (where time really is money) I don't have the luxury of reloading a computer every time it has a conniption. So here we are.

On to some related questions:

1. With a Macbook Pro, is there a value to a docking station or would the Macbook do just fine with its lid shut and connected to a couple of external monitors? Don't want to spend money needlessly.
2. Am I correct in my understanding that the connections to the two external monitors would be through a couple of thunderbolt-to-HDMI adapters?

Thanks again.

01-17-2017, 12:21 PM
I've never used a docking station. And I don't use the MBP with the lid shut, either. I just use the keyboard on the 15" MBP as it is, but I do have an external mouse because I prefer a mouse over trackpad. When I travel, I leave the mouse behind and do use the trackpad. I have an external monitor connected through Thunderbolt, but you need to look for how you might do it. I like the dual-monitor arrangement. Traveling, I have to fit everything on the 15" screen. The new MBPs don't have the typical Thunderbolt connection, just USB-C (Although Apple calls it Thunderbolt-3 as well.) And be aware that the new MBPs are NOT user upgradable, so get the size drive and memory you think you'll need down the road.

For my money, I'd look at a refurbished MBP from 2015. Apple refurbished machines come with a full year warranty, just like new, and you can get AppleCare for them as well. The cost savings for a refurbished machine from Apple are pretty good. The inventory changes practically by the minute, but if you look, there are some bargains there.

01-17-2017, 12:37 PM
Thanks, Macinwin.

Generally, I'm trying to replicate my current work environment (which suits my needs well). When I'm working from home, my Thinkpad rests in a docking station with the lid closed and the laptop essentially becomes a workstation. There are two external monitors connected to the docking station. A wireless keyboard and mouse round it out. Two screens, side by side, of the same size, are essential because I frequently have to work with multiple documents open at the same time, or have one screen on the remote connection to the client's office and another one focused on my local work. When I travel (about half the time), the 15" screen by itself is fine as I usually save the more complex documentation work for when I'm working from the home office.

01-17-2017, 01:54 PM
There should be docks available to allow you to set up the same way, but since I don't use a dock, I cannot help with that. I will say that keeping the MBP open will give you a THIRD screen, sort of a control center, where you can manage the two externals. Also, in macOS, you can have multiple desktops for when you travel so that a swipe of the trackpad will move you from one desktop to another for your convenience.

01-17-2017, 08:42 PM
Have a look at these (https://hengedocks.com/pages/vertical-macbook-pro-retina). There are several options / configurations depending upon which Mac is being used. I haven't used them personally but they seem to be highly rated. Not cheap but might be just what you need.

01-18-2017, 10:38 AM
Have a look at these (https://hengedocks.com/pages/vertical-macbook-pro-retina). There are several options / configurations depending upon which Mac is being used. I haven't used them personally but they seem to be highly rated. Not cheap but might be just what you need.

The vertical style dock looks very nice -- a lot better than the horizontal dock for my Thinkpad, which takes up a pile of real estate. Someone mentioned the potential use of the MBP as a third monitor -- however, I don't have the desk space for that and although it might be useful from time to time, the re-configuring of my work space to accommodate that would be more work than it's worth. There are some additional considerations I'll need to investigate -- such as the connection to an external CD/DVD drive and on occasion a USB stick.

01-18-2017, 09:12 PM
I almost bought one of these several years ago when I first started running the MacBook Pro with an external monitor attached. Given that I wanted to use the computer screen as the second monitor it would have meant using a horizontal dock. I didn't have the desk space for that.

01-18-2017, 10:04 PM
I never really trusted those vertical "Henge Docks" for two reasons: 1. Not efficient for cooling 2. Squeezes the keyboard on the display which may leave a mark on the display

Instead I opted for the "Griffin Elevator" and kept the MacBook lid closed on some felt pads to avoid damaging the screen. Ran it that way for four years with a Samsung external monitor and it worked great. I do have a rather large executive desk in my home office though. I still have the Griffin which can be used with most MacBook Pro models 13" and 15".

01-18-2017, 10:15 PM
Had a look today at the Henge Dock for the 2016 Macbook Pro (it's on pre-order only), saw the price tag of $500, and decided against it. A docking station for $500??!!?? Not in my universe anyway. The docking station for my current computer (Thinkpad W550s) cost around $200 new. Think I'll just plan to set the Macbook down on my desk and plug in the connectors (it will take 3 Thunderbolt connections for my needs -- a Gigabit ethernet jack, and a couple of HDMI/USB multiports).

01-18-2017, 10:52 PM
I have a stand by Cooler Master (I think it's this (http://www.coolermaster.com/cooling/notepal-series/notepal-u2-plus/) one, only an earlier model. I don't use the cooling fans that plug into the USB port very much, but I do like the angle for the keyboard so that it's not as flat as if the MBP were resting directly on the desk. The fans I've used a couple of times when I was watching a long Flash video and the fans in the MBP get going hard, but not in a long time now.

For the dock support, I take off the Thunderbolt port to a thunderbolt dock that then has USB3 ports, Ethernet, sound, video, etc. I actually have two, one from Belkin and one from OWC. Both work well. So basically, when I get back from traveling, I drop the MBP on the stand, plug in the Thunderbolt and the power and I'm all connected. I do use the keyboard and the screen, as I said, but I also have a thunderbolt monitor for the dual screen setup. One screen is the laptop screen, which I use as a "command center" and the other monitor is for the "reference" things I need or want open as well.

I was the one to suggest possibly using your MBP screen as a third screen in your setup. If you don't use a vertical dock, you are going to give up the desktop footprint of the MBP anyway, so why not?

But, hey, that's why there are horse races!

01-19-2017, 12:55 AM
I used one of these (http://lifehacker.com/5990110/most-popular-laptop-stand-rain-design-mstand?tag=hive-five) with my MacBook Pro in a setup similar to what Charlie described. It works nicely if one is planning to use it with an external keyboard but I find the angle of the stand a bit awkward if the built in keyboard is used.

01-19-2017, 01:04 AM
I had one of those, too, for when my wife wanted to have the screen a bit higher and to use an external keyboard. It is definitely too high if you use the built in keyboard, but just about right if you use an external one.

01-19-2017, 01:13 AM
I still have mine even though the MacBook Pro isn't my primary machine anymore. The thing is indestructible.

01-19-2017, 02:58 PM
The issue for me is the layout of my home office -- which has a desk with pull-out desk trays and a cubby for the monitors. Two 23 or 24-inch monitors side by side fill the cubby cavity, and there's space just below the monitors for a laptop. If I open the lid of the laptop, the screens are blocked. I don't have an expansive desk to work with. My desk is something similar to this:

01-19-2017, 05:11 PM
You have to do what's right for YOUR workstation. I have a large flat desk, no keyboard drawer, so having the laptop open and using the built-in keyboard makes sense. The second monitor sits to the right of the portable and I have them configured to be logically edge-to-edge. But in your situation, if having the laptop open will block the monitors, you'll need to do something else. There is no one-solution-fits-all here. But you might not need a dock if you can get the OWC Thunderbolt Dock or the Belkin Thunderbolt dock. As I said, all I have to connect are two things, the MagSafe power and the Thunderbolt cable and all my external devices attach automatically.

01-19-2017, 05:23 PM
Thanks for the reply! I had a look at the OWC and Belkin Thunderbolt docks (Amazon has them), but they're for Thunderbolt 2, not Thunderbolt 3. Does that matter?

01-19-2017, 05:56 PM
TB2 is slower than TB3, but they are supposed to be backwards compatible. You can call or chat with OWC and they can tell you the details for that. Super folks there.

01-19-2017, 08:24 PM
Thanks for the tip re OWC. Contacted them and they have a docking station for TB3 on the way, with delivery sometime next month. Much more affordable than the Henge. Think I'll probably go with that.