Do you use a laptop or desktop as your main work machine?

Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 246
edited January 11 in Type Design Software
Have had other similar discussions to this...

I've been opting for my MacBook Air M1 (13", 8GB memory) more for my work lately. I use DropBox mainly to keep access to files synced across computers.

Typically, I spent more time on my old 21" iMac (I think it's a 2015 model). Which is also where I have my external hd plugged in constantly for backups (not so with my laptop).

So I'm considering again making my laptop (or an upgraded model and size with perhaps more ports) the main driver, "retiring" the iMac, and just getting a better monitor to plug into when needed.

The current Mac Minis with all the port options was intriguing as well.

I'm wondering if others are using a laptop for the bulk of their daily work or need the sometimes higher powered desktop machine. (I will note that I've been happy with this Air for handling Glyphs files and some basic graphic work in Adobe apps even with the current specs.)


  • I use a macbook pro + external monitor (LG 27) but I'm considering a mini/studio as a main machine. What I'm wondering is if an ipad (+ pen) would be beneficial to my workflow, If there's something that I despise is buying unnecessary hardware.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,940
    I almost never need to be mobile with a computer. So I do most of my work on a desktop setup, currently involving a Mac Mini and a big Studio Display. My MacBook has been sitting unused for more than a year now.

    I have a cheap Windows laptop that I use for VOLT and other non-Mac software, sending files back and forth via git.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,648
    edited January 11
    I had a iMac Pro for a while, and had a separate laptop for travel, etc. I had tried just using a laptop with a display as my main system, but they never had quite the same performance and the fans ran way too often.

    But when the M-series Mac laptops started coming out I realized they could perform just as well as a desktop. So now I have a 14" M1Max MacBook Pro and a separate large display. I'm tempted to get a Mac Mini or Mac Studio, but I like having all my stuff on one machine that I can take with me. I chose the 14" instead of the 16" because it's nicer for travel and I don't need its built-in display since when I'm at my desk I use the large display and run it with the lid down.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,966
    I use a MacBook Pro plugged into an external display (which has a built in USB hub).
  • Just the MacBook Pro with its 16ʺ screen and trackpad for me.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,703
    I use a laptop, but driving a full panoply of external peripherals (3 monitors, keyboard, mouse).

    I would disconnect it and move about more often, but it often takes it a while to get sorted with the triple-monitor setup.

    M3 MacBook Pro, just because the Material Symbols / Google Symbols build process is complex, and memory/CPU intensive.
  • Yves MichelYves Michel Posts: 143
    A Dell XPS17 laptop (3840x2400) with 2 iiYama monitors (27" 3840x2160 and 23" 1920x1080 portrait). Must be the only one with Windows 11? And Fontlab 8.
  • I work on a 13" Macbook Air, trackpad only. I'm always second-guessing myself since most type designers at least use a mouse, but I find the Macbook trackpad very comfortable for drawing type.

    At my desk, I have a large monitor, but I don't find it essential at all. I've actively avoided adding peripherals because I enjoy having a portable setup. I live in a busy neighbourhood of Vancouver, with lots of cafes, parks, and breweries that I can work from when I want to get out of my small apartment. Even when I'm working at home I'm constantly rotating between my desk, the kitchen table, and the couch.
  • I still use MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Early 2013) as my workstation. It is connected to 2 large monitors 27" and 24". I rarely use the built-in display, and now that I no longer teach i never seem to move it. That said I have a bunch of peripherals connected via the monitor as well as a wired mouse. I hesitate to upgrade since everything I have connect is USB and buying a zillion adapters to connect them to a new MacBook fills me with dread.
  • @James Montalbano You might not need more than one adapter. I use one of these to connect a monitor and some USB devices to my new Macbook, which doesn't have any USB ports.
  • @Justin Penner  Thanks. Now all I have to do is find it somewhere other than Amazon.

  • Nick CookeNick Cooke Posts: 181
    27 inch iMac and Magic Trackpad. 
  • stuarthazleystuarthazley Posts: 9
    edited January 16
    I experimented with a setup involving an Intel Mac Mini and a 13" Intel Macbook Pro on the go for a few years. Honestly, managing two machines within my workflow became quite cumbersome. The laptop ended up being underutilized, and whenever I attempted to use it, I found myself spending more time on OS and application updates, which eventually deterred me from using the laptop altogether.

    A couple of years ago, I made the decision to streamline my setup by transitioning to a M1 Pro MacBook Pro 14" with 32 GB of RAM. I paired it with an external monitor, specifically, the Apple Studio Display, and the experience has been fantastic. To be frank, I'm contemplating that my next upgrade might be to the Mac Studio. Although I appreciate the concept of a mobile setup for working in coffee shops, the reality is that I rarely find myself in that situation.
  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 246
    I think part of this also is boiling down to having to 'manage' less computers, as others have noted. Particularly with keeping files up to date. I use DropBox to work on active files and store other recent ones, but occasionally a file gets created and saved locally to either the laptop or desktop, and then it's a hassle to keep track and access.

    I got the "cheaper" MB Air M1 for travel or when simply not at my desk, but am using it more frequently than before. So the idea of a larger screen, more powerful laptop as the 'only' machine (with an external monitor option) has me thinking.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,648
    I had an M1 Air for a while, and it works great with a large display connected.
  • A Dell XPS17 laptop (3840x2400) with 2 iiYama monitors (27" 3840x2160 and 23" 1920x1080 portrait). Must be the only one with Windows 11? And Fontlab 8.

    I thought I was the only one on Win-laptop :-) HP Pavilion 15 and WIndows 10 and Fontlab 5.04 (and installed FL 8 - but I don't have time to study it)

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,128
    I’ve been using a big monitor/iMac with a Wacom tablet and stylus since 1994, but did use a Mac Powerbook for the year I decamped to England, 2004/5. (Was it really so long ago?!)
    However, I plugged the Wacom into the laptop, so it didn’t seem so different.
  • jeremy tribbyjeremy tribby Posts: 206
    edited January 21
    14" macbook pro with with some kind of M2 in there, driving an external 27" display (studio display)
    but I agree with the original post that a mini is intriguing these days as a daily driver. I’ve gone through a lot of macbooks in recent years and honestly just don’t think apple makes enough of its hardware design decisions in good faith anymore - arthur miller and all that. the mini strikes me as an outlier
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,966
    For a while I’ve been considering buying a new Macbook that can push the Dell 32" 8k monitor. I’d never need to print a proof again.
  • I work on a MacBook Pro (early 2019) with an external LG HDR 5K monitor, using a Magic Mouse and keyboard.
  • MacBook Pro 16 M1. Using its own display and trackpad. Sometimes, I also use a 27" external monitor. With FontLab 8.3, which runs natively on Apple Silicon with impressive performance.
  • Macs seem to be popular amongst designers in the West... I use a pricey PC that I have upgraded additionally, and my phone for scanning designs I draw on paper. I have worked on a MacBook back in 2014.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,703
    My close colleague Vassil Kateliev, like Vasil Stanev, is based in Bulgaria and is desktop PC based.

    I did just send him an M1 MacBook, so we will see if we can convert him...  :smiley:
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 1,374
    I use a Windows 11 Intel i9 10900K (10-core) with 16 GB RAM. A Roccat Vulcan numberkeyless optical keyboard. A BenQ PD2700U 4K monitor. I don't vibe with Apple devices, so that's not an option for me, although I made some attempts over the decades. I tried Windows laptops before, but I found them physically difficult to use. All the laptops I've used never had a robust arrow key cluster, the keyboards get hot, and the screens are too small, too close, and too low for me. I get anxious about having a device I can't immediately repair myself. I like being able to go out for a walk, buy a component, install it, and get back to work.
  • John J. BlairJohn J. Blair Posts: 26
    edited January 23
     I have an M! Mac mini and I like it so much that I talked my wife into getting the M2 version. These are FANTASTIC computers!!!!!
  • I designed my first 3 fonts on a laptop in Sydney. After resettling in the UK I got a desktop. I do keep a little M1 for travel working but find it hard going back to the smaller screen. 
  • Yves MichelYves Michel Posts: 143
    I’ve been using a big monitor/iMac with a Wacom tablet and stylus since 1994, but did use a Mac Powerbook for the year I decamped to England, 2004/5. (Was it really so long ago?!)
    However, I plugged the Wacom into the laptop, so it didn’t seem so different.
    Hi Nick,
    You mention the Wacom Tablet you use. I used an old Wacom CTE-430 years ago.
    It seems this model is not supported anymore by Window 11. I guess new models must work with the new softwares.
    I was wondering if a new Wacom (and which one?) would help me with my work on Fontlab 8.

    Could you share your experience and tell us if it's a plus in font design? 
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