WFH Deskdistractions desk keyboards
Since Quarantime began, I’ve been working from home, and my desk solution has steadily evolved throughout that duration.
The first week, I was blessedly on the JoCoCruise, which boarded the weekend before the WHO declared a pandemic. This hardly count
The second week, I reclined on a couch, working from my work laptop, a 2017 Pixelbook.
The third week, my back began to complain, so I sat at the edge of my couch, with a teal counter stool as my “desk”. (A counter stool is 6” shorter than a bar stool.) That barely lasted a week.
The fourth week I arranged my bar stools into legs for the insert for my coffee table. The insert is 2.5’x5’ and has a craftboard surface, making a sizeable and durable desk!
This formed the base of what I’ve been working with for the last few months.
The next problem was the chair. I have a “feature” chair which is ordinarily just good for set dressing or short duration guests. It’s pretty low, but it’s the only chair I own with a back, so it became my desk chair. I had to do something about the height, so I pilled cushions onto it. They didn’t add much once I was sitting on them, but enough to make a difference.
At this point it was clear that the pandemic wasn’t going to be done in 4 short weeks, so I gave in and bought a chair from SecretLab, which arrived just as my back had had enough of the too short chair.
The chair is easily the most comfy desk chair I’ve ever used. I could feel tension drain from my back the first minute I sat in it. It’s holding up well after a few months. Hopefully that doesn’t change, as I’ll be sitting here a lot. I originally tried to keep the chair only for work use, as a focus asist, as I have no other seats like it that didn’t last long. Now the only rule is I can’t passively consume while at the desk and the chair. I must be working, writing, or playing a game when at it.
The trouble with bar stools as desk legs is that they put the desk surface at 30 inches high. They’re also bar stools, so they take up much of the underside to support the top compared to ordinary legs. In short, they aren’t ideal.
At the office, my desk could elevate to standing height and down again via motors. Since excuses to get moving are sparse during quarantime, being able to work standing up for a spell couldn’t hurt too much. So I ordered some legs from Uplift Desk along with some monitor arms to reclaim some desk space, and add additional flexibility.
I could have ordered a desktop too, but did not. 1) The insert is doing great as a desktop, and 2) I don’t know what size desk I want (smaller, bigger, deeper?). That second point ties into the other reason for adjustable desk legs: I didn’t need to figure out what height desk I needed ahead of time. I can adjust for feeling and circumstance.
I may have spent more time than I’m proud of raising and lowering the desk, just for the joy of it.
Since I didn’t want to put holes into this desktop, I have clamps to keep it attached to the legs. This was important once all the weight of the monitor and laptop were mounted on the back edge of the desk with the monitor arms. Without the clamps, the desktop is likely to tip over.
With my monitor and laptop moved to arms, I could no longer use the laptop’s keyboard and mouse, and needed to get proper ones. I started with a “generic” logitech office keyboard, which was merely OK. I had started to looking into mechanical keyboards, and what the options there were.
I’ve begun to covet low-profile mechanical keyboards. This isn’t super suprising to be honest. My home computer has been a laptop of some description since university.
When I moved to Seattle after school, I had grand visions of proper gaming desktop tower, so I could actually play all the games that I’d been missing out on. Friends, I haven’t yet finished Starcraft 2.
It’s not exactly for a lack of time, but a lack of push to play games. But I digress.
Low Profile keyboards have a shorter travel and a shorter distant to actuation. They’re more similar to the keyboards in laptops which are necessarily vertically constrained.
The keyboard also needs to be a TKL. AKA, without the number pad. I’ve grown so used to a touchpad, I don’t mouse nearly as well as I used to. I noticed the difference a wider keyboard makes when it comes to mouse positioning. With a opted for a cheaper TKL mechanical keyboard. I don’t do numbers enough to require a number pad so that’s not the end of the world. If it ever gets to that point, I can pick up a dedicated pad for it, and use that as needed.
Right now, I’m using a Velocifire TKL02 (Wired). It was only 35 dollars, and I got it to learn more from the typing experience of mechanical switches. Given that I’ve seen various keyboards get up to the over 200 dollar range, and this is a tool I use nearly all day every day, having one that is a pleasure to use feels like a wise investment. But in order to not waste money, I feel like spending 35 to learn more of what I like is a good idea, rather than picking up something expensive that I may hate too early.
The main thing I’ve read is that the physical experience is what matters most when it comes to mechanical switch types. This keyboard comes with “CONTENT Brown switches” which means they’re from the brand CONTENT, and have a tactile keypress. Tactile means they are suppose to have an actuation bump, but no loud physical click.
It’s early days still, but I’m learning, that while I’m enjoying not bottoming out to actually type, compared to a more basic Logitech membrane keyboard, or the on built into my laptop (which are probably some kind of scissor switch, due to keyboardness) it’s very loud. I may order some O-Rings to put under the keycaps which are suppose to dampen the noise somewhat as a shorter term fix. Apparently one can also opt for keyboard switch lube too, to quiet things down. But that requires more disassembly than I have patience for.
Given all I’m learning, this has been well worth it so far, and it’s not even been a week. We’ll see how I feel about it after a month.
The front runner for an ultimate replacement from all my research is the Logitech G915 TKL, which ticks pretty much all the boxes at least in abstract. Low profile, check. TKL, check. Mechanical switches? All three primary classes (Clicky, Tactile, Linear), so check. I’d probably prefer the 815 which is the wired version, but they don’t yet have a TKL version, but it seems inevitable, so if I’m patient, I can get a keyboard without the wireless that I probably won’t use on the regular.
Since I’m switching between two laptops (one work, and one personal) being able to avoid moving all the cables between the two is very desirable. Both have a USB-C port, which makes connectivity easier, but hubs are pricy, so I resisted for a while.
My monitor does have a built in hub, but that leads to all the cables dangling around from it which just looks untidy, even if I route them down the arm. Also, if I have a laptop plugged into it via USB-C, it seems to function very differently than if I’m displaying via HDMI, which my personal laptop can do natively. While it’s about the same amount of work, it would be great if I could avoid moving as many cables from the laptop as possible.
Originally when I got the dock, to swap between my personal laptop and work laptop, I needed to move a an HDMI cable from the laptop to the dock, and move the dock’s USB-C cable from the personal laptop to the work laptop. I also need move the active laptop to the arm. The work laptop gets power from the dock, which means it only needs to move that one cable. I can probably forgoe the HDMI cable swap by getting a displayport cable for the dock to the monitor, which it also supports.
These days I end up leaving the HDMI plugged into the dock the whole time, so both laptops send the display through the USB-C. I didn’t originally do this because I game with my personal laptop. However, since the monitor can’t display more than 60 FPS anyway, it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s coming through the dock or not. The USB-C protocol caps it to 60 Hzs regardless.
The dock seems to work very well with my work laptop, but seems to have problems with my personal one. I suspect it’s due to drivers and behavior differences between Windows 10 and Chrome OS.
I rather like having everything plugged in all the time. It’s mighty convenient.
Overall I’m very happy with my desk set up for the time being. Other than the keyboard situation, which is ongoing, everything seems to be working well, and nothing is really pushing to be replaced. As with everything during quarantime, since we can’t move about as easily, evolution must happen within our spaces. Time will tell for how long this snapshot will last before it changes again.