External monitor, MacBook Pro and iPad all float on one arm [Setups]

Today’s featured Mac-and-gaming-PC computer setup pulls off a rare feat. It perfectly aligns three displays on one arm. The displays are a substantial external monitor, a MacBook Pro and an iPad Pro mounted vertically (yet running Sidecar).

Read on for tips on how to pull all that off, as well as tricks to using an iPhone as a mounted webcam and more.

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External monitor, MacBook Pro and iPad all float on one arm in setup

Mechanical engineering student and Redditor ishyaboiabba (“Ish”) showcased the triple-display setup in a post entitled, “Pretty Unique Hybrid Mac/PC Single Cable Setup 🙂 [Items in the Description below!]”

They said they use the setup — which has seen three years of evolution and counting — for both gaming and working with a computer-aided design and engineering application called SolidWorks.

One monitor arm, three displays

Ish toils in the engineering program SolidWorks 2022. To the left of the wired QuertyKeys QK65 mechanical keyboard is a UAD Apollo Solo Audio Interface.
Photo: [email protected]

In the photo at the top of the page, you can see the custom gaming PC at bottom right (specs: Meshify 2 Compact Case, Ryzen 5 5600x, ASUS KO RTX 3060 Ti, 16GB RAM, 1 TB storage). But it’s the unusual floating tri-display on the desk that grabbed our attention.

It’s an 11-inch iPad Pro, 14-inch M1 MacBook Pro and a 27-inch Pixio PX277 Prime IPS external monitor, all perfectly lined up on mounts coming from one monitor arm. You can find all of the gear in the links list below.

Ish described it as a “Triple monitor setup with a monitor, Macbook and iPad all on ONE arm for this floating effect, as you can see in pic. I used an app called BetterDisplay to get a vertical orientation for wired Sidecar. Also the iPad is mounted on the Vesa mount using 3M magnetic mounts so I can take it off and use it separately any time.”

A commenter marveled at how perfectly lined up the three displays are, but Ish said it was easy to do:

The MacBook and the monitor are on gas spring arms, so I can do it with very little effort. The iPad is [on] a fixed arm, but since I went with magnets to mount it, as opposed to screws, it has some give on the exact location, so I can scoot it so that everything lines up. If it didn’t all line up, my OCD would tear me apart.

Relatively simple Mac/PC switching

The custom PC under the desk is used strictly for gaming.
The custom PC under the desk is used strictly for gaming.
Photo: [email protected]

Ish uses a CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 dock’s ports to hook up peripherals in addition to a Ugreen USB switcher used like a KVM switch.

“With one click, I can switch the wired keyboard and the MX Master mouse between my Mac and PC,” they said.

And since the PC is really only used for gaming via the main external display, managing the display inputs isn’t too complicated:

I like to switch between Mac and PC in between games to reply to texts, change music, etc.

All I do is just figure out the video input switching on my single main monitor. Only the peripherals go through the USB switch. So I don’t have a switch for simple switching between the displays, I only have one main monitor that has DisplayPort inputs from both my gaming PC and MacBook, and I simply switch inputs between the 2!

iPhone used as webcam

A MagSafe car mount hides behind the desk.  It flips up to hold an iPhone used as a webcam.
In addition to the mounts, a MagSafe car mount hides behind the desk. It flips up to hold an iPhone used as a webcam.
Photo: [email protected]

And the video operation sounds interesting too, as Ish described it:

Video: At the back of the monitor I have a wired, always-powered light for some bias lighting along with a car-mounted articulating MagSafe mount. When in video calls, I just fold it over, and magnetically attach my phone to use Continuity Camera to use my iPhone’s superior main sensor as a video camera, as opposed to any other webcam.

Custom mechanical keyboard

For input, along with a Magic Trackpad and gaming consoles, Ish uses a custom QuertyKeys QK65 mechanical keyboard they described as their first build.

“I just really the keyboard I built, hehe,” they said. It’s a QK65 (all foams except PE), Prevail Epsilon switches L+F, with a 9009 OEM Keycaps. I have recently been into the more clacker sound of my keyboard, along with the buttery smoothness of the long-pole Epsilons. It’s my very first build but I would love to explore more into the hobby once I have the funds to afford the crazy prices.”

Modded macOS and Windows

Where are all the cables?  Well, they're crammed into a tray under the desk.
Where are all the cables? Well, they’re crammed into a tray under the back of the desk. Under the front of the desk Ish mounted a tray for gaming controllers, left, a Ugreen USB switcher and a CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 dock.
Photo: [email protected]

Here’s how Ish described their software use, with a heavy reliance on macOS:

I used many different softwares to make it easier to get around the OS such as BetterTouchTool for an insane amount of multitouch macros, Swish and Magnet for multi touch window management. Some other smaller things include Shottr for enhanced screenshots, Raycast for improved search, Playcover for use of iPad apps natively, Airbuddy, TG Pro, CopyClip, etc. Two of my favorites [are] the newly released Ryujinx for flawless 4K enhanced switch emulation and Parallels Desktop 18 running Solidworks 2022 for my classes. I have so little reason to even turn on my PC anymore lol.

Shop these items now:

Computers and docks:

Gaming:

Displays and mounts:

Input devices:

Audio:

Furniture and accessories:

If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Macsend some high-res pictures to [email protected]. Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches or challenges.

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