My Setup


by
4011w

Desk

IKEA’s Bekant elevation desk.
IKEA’s Bekant elevation desk.

You want a table with:

  • Elevation
  • Legs instead of sides it stands on
    • Otherwise you can’t clamp things to the side
    • Also makes vacuuming much, much easier
    • Lets you use a headphone hanger on the side (see below)
  • Fairly thin surface to clamp things like monitor and mic arms to

Notes:

  • Lowest height: 65cm (I measured)
  • Can’t be much lower anyway, because the power supply will hit your knees
  • 120 and 160cm widths available—140cm not available with elevation
  • No webshop; you have to drive to bloody IKEA, God rest your soul
  • Feet are loose
  • Top loose
  • Customer service experience is less than great
  • You’re going to want a coaster and placemat for this

The tabel is not a stable as I would have liked it to be, and one problem it has is a lack of mounting with screws in the centre, which leads to an audible and sensible wobble when you push down by your keyboard. To address this, you need to put something between the top of the table and the mounted metal bar underneath it. My IKEA “technician” just wedged one of the cables held by the net between to fix it.

The power adapter cable wedged into an unsupported gap that created a wobble.
The cable for the power adapter has been wedged into the gap between the top of the table and the metal bar for the feet. Wobble be gone.

One of the purposes of your desk should be to have as little on the desk as possible. What this means is that everything should preferable be on the side of your desk or under it. Towards this end, we can use:

  • Microphone arms
  • Monitor arms
  • Headphone hangers
  • Cable boxes

Microphone arm

RØDE PSA-1 arm stand.
RØDE PSA-1 arm stand.

I’ve had an untold number of issues with the PSA-1, so I’m about to find a replacement after sending back my third (fourth?) one.

Headphone hanger

The JOTO headphone hanger.
The JOTO headphone hanger. I prefer mounting it to the edge of the side of the table rather than the way it’s depicted in the photo. This is the best headphone hanger available on Europe, and there are other excellent hangers out there. Just make sure it has the capability to do something with the long cord and the fortitude to carry your headphones.

Figuring out where to put your headphones, especially if you desk scratches easily, can be tricky. And then you have to find a place for the long cord as well. With a headphone hanger, you can hang your headphones to the side of your desk and use the other end of the hook to spool the cord and keep things tidy.

Cable management

Chart of what cables to to my desk: monitors, phone, and audio interface.
Shows the cables for my two monitors, iPhone stand, and audio interface. iPad, keyboard, and mouse not displayed. Keyboard and mouse don’t tend to have cables long enough to be managed much, and my G900 mouse is wireless anyway.

In the Desk section, I outlined the general philosophy of cable management:

One of the purposes of your desk should be to have as little on the desk as possible. What this means is that everything should preferable be on the side of your desk or under it.

Because I have pretty intense allergies, keeping all surfaces as clear as possible is extremely valuable, as it uncomplicates cleaning the desk and floor. Just putting things on the ground instead won’t cut it.

A lot of cable management—and the budget for it—is just having cables long enough to be managed and tidied away. It often solves most basic problems.

Finding the right balance in cable length is trial and error, and you won’t always use your setup the same way so be sure to use cables with a length to account for that; can you move your computer around without any problems, and can you raise and lower your elevation desk without anything dropping off?

I am not a fan of drilling holes and using screws, so I won’t be doing that. Any adhesive has to be removable without tarnishing the surface.

You need to put your power cables somewhere, and there are basically two options:

  1. Attached to the underside of your desk
    • If you have an elevation desk, this will be visible in standing mode.
  2. Tucked in a cable box

I’m gonna go with the cable box, as I’m not interested in attaching everything to my desk right now.

Cable box
IKEA’s Kvissle cable box.
IKEA’s Kvissle cable box. $10! The photos make it seem like the box is made of porcelain, but it's actually metal.
IKEA’s Romma cable box.
IKEA’s Romma cable box. $10!

Not sure why the Romma costs the same as the Kvissle when it’s so much larger. It’s as good-looking as the Kvissle unless you buy the $70 Nordmärke wireless charger. It does have a sturdier, round frame compared to the Kvissle. I just put the Kvissle on the floor, even though the marketing doesn’t suggest that.

You should also know that the height of the Kvissle isn’t that great, so a MacBook charger barely fits inside and has to be tilted for the lid to close. On top of that, the cable for it is extremely short, and you probably want to bring the charger with you on the move unless you’ve got multiple chargers, so you should just find a separate outlet to plug it into instead.

Remember that any wire will have to fit through the lid hole, so major power cables won’t be able to fit through, unless you use the bottom hole. The lid also doesn’t seal, meaning the lid might come off if you tug at the cables in a certain way.

Monitor

Arm

The Ergotech Freedom in black.
The Ergotech Freedom in silver. Available in black, too, but not in Europe. Most likely, you won’t ever see the colour of the arm behind your monitor anyway. There is also an HD version (Heavy Duty), but you will literally have to add weights to that if your monitor is below the minimum weight.

I got myself an Ergotech, and they’re unfortunately a piece of shit. It looks great in promotional campaigns, but you rely on plastic components to put it together, and as a result, I ended up with an Ergotech with scratches all over, because fitting it together was a bigger pain than any piece of IKEA furniture. The manuals are absurdly minimalistic and cryptic; why they would choose to cheap out on parts and manuals for a product like this is beyond me.

Customer service was equally, if not more, awful, and the people on the other end of the e-mail correspondence don’t pass the Turing Test. Just an awful company; no wonder Amazon won’t feature their products most of the time.

The eventually got around to calling me offering to help with everything, so if you push through, you should eventually end up with an actual human on the other end.

It looks like they may have (only) reacted after I left a stinging review; I really hate that you have to do dumb stuff like this for companies to do right by you. Especially with customer support reps between them and you.

Monitor feet take up the vast majority of the desk, so moving the monitors to arms (using the universal VESA mount on the back) is an obvious choice.

The same could perhaps be said for the keyboard and mouse, aside from the potential ergonomics benefits.

Backlight

Monitor backlights, or “bias lighting”, make it easier on your eyes to use a monitor in the dark, because the contrast between the darkness and the bright displays is reduced.

You want a backlight with:

  • USB for power instead of regular AC
  • Soft light

Unfortunately, I don’t know what the specifics of a proper backlight is, but the whole idea is that the light feels natural so as to avoid eye strain.

I’ve gone with a random backlight on Amazon UK described as “Warm White”:

The "Warm White" backlight LED

It’s 50cm long with a 100cm USB cable needed to power it. It fits behind my 24” monitors fine, but I cut of one joint of 2”/5cm to be able to hide it behind properly.

The light it gives off is absolutely amazing and brightens up the whole room and makes your desk look a lot better.

Its USB cable will have to reach all the way from your monitor to your computer, or from your monitor to a functional USB port on your monitor. Most USB ports for monitors make anything connected stick out, so you’ll usually want to connect it directly to the computer for aesthetic reasons.

If your PC is next to your desk, you won’t have enough cable for your backlight to connect the monitor on the other side. One remedy is to buy a USB-A-to-USB-A extension cable for it, which is what I do; they usuall cost $1–2.

The backlight closest to my computer reaches just barely, but if I want to tidy the cable, I’ll have to rely on an extension cable.

I haven’t stuck it to my secondary monitor yet.

Mouse and keyboard

Component Product
Mouse Logitech G900
Keyboard Filco 105 key Majestouch

Mouse bungee

If you’ve got a wired mouse with a braided cable, you’re going to want to get a mouse bungee for it, because the cable will get in the way during competitive FPS gaming.

I just used whichever was the cheapest on eBay or Amazon.

Note that unbraided cables will be scratched or frayed by most mouse bungees, so don’t use it for your Logitech G402 like I tried.

Wrist rest

You may also want to get a wrist rest, regardless of your desk and chair configuration.

There’s Allsop’s small and portable wrist rest with a plastic buttom which allows it to skate around your desk in sync with all movement.

Allsop's wrist rest

I’m a big fan of Roccat’s “Rest Max Ergonomic Gel Wrist Pad”, both for your keyboard and your mouse hand.

Roccat's wrist rest

The logo is not an eyesore, and the overall design doesn’t make you feel like a geriatric.

The Roccat comes with a rubber bottom to keep it in place, but I think I prefer keeping the folio on to let me move it around, since I keep switching positions at my desk.

Of course, these aren’t placements for proper ergonomic positioning in your chair and on your desk.

Computer

Component Product
CPU Core i5-760
GFX Sapphire Radeon R9 270X 2GB
RAM G.Skill Ares 8GB DDR3-1600 ×2
Mobo Asus P7P55D-E Deluxe
PSU Seasonic Prime 850W
Case beQuiet Dark Base 900
CPU cooler Noctua NH-D14
Fan filter SilverStone SST-FF143B ×3

Allergies

As I wrote before:

Because I have pretty intense allergies, keeping all surfaces as clear as possible is extremely valuable, as it uncomplicates cleaning the desk and floor. Just putting things on the ground instead won’t cut it.

Aside from clear surfaces, clean air is obviously a nice thing to have as well. It just so happens that when you have a behemoth computer in your room, it tends to suck in air and recirculate it.

Since there’s a central place of air circulation, there’s an opportunity to capture the dust before it enters and leaves the computer, helping both the computer and the occupants of the room.

For some reason, many computer cases don’t come with so-called dust filters for the fans.

Computer fans tend to have a diameter of 120mm or 140mm, so get a filter for either of those sizes.

Here’s what I got and fitted to my Dark Base 900 case—it was the only I could find, so it’s not a product recommendation:

Packaging for the magnetic fan filter.
Silverstone ultra fine 140mm magnetic fan filter.
Ten filter covers.
eBoot 140mm PVC black computer cooler fan dust filter case cover.

Note that the linked fan filters don’t come with any screws.

Here’s what I wrote in my post on putting together a computer:

They also pretend to support a fan filter for the rear exhaust fan, but it’s actually four screws with a 120mm, which makes literally zero sense, since the rear fan is 140mm—and you can’t fit a 140mm fan filter, because beQuiet are morons who didn’t distance the screws enough from the right frame, which means fan filters with any bezel won’t fit. I ended up taking a fan filter with no frame—what I call a “fan cover”—and place it in the fan itself inside the case. Ideally, the fan filter should be outside the case, but there’s no other way to use a fan filter for these morons’ case design.

Best: +| F <~
Case:  |+F <~

+ = filter
F = fan

beQuiet seem to think you only need a fan on the front intake fans.

My old Lian Li case also has problems with rear fan filter bezels because they’d obstruct the side panel from being slid on. It seems like something (deluxe) case manufacturers would have thought on, no?

I’m sure opinions diverge when it comes to placing dust filters on exhaust fans, but one’s the aspect of keeping dust from entering your computer, and another is controlling what’s let into your room. Unfortunately, many exhaust fans don’t allow mounting a filter to the rear. This usually means you have to mount the filter to the fan itself inside the case; as a result of this, you’re required to

  1. Remove the side panel
  2. Unmount the fan
  3. Remove the filter
  4. Clean the filter
  5. Re-attach the filter
  6. Remount the fan
  7. Re-attach the side panel

Considering this, taping a basic fan filter to the back sounds like the least awful plan. Alternatively, instead of removing the filter to clean it, you can use a vacuum cleaner to clean the filter, albeit with a fair amount of dust retained.

You can also buy magnetic fan filters, but since some cases are aluminium, the magnetic properties won’t help you here. In the case where your case isn’t aluminium, you can use regular or custom magnetic fan filters.

While the rear fan serves as an exhaust fan, the PSU fan serves as an intake fan, and they rarely if ever come with fan filters.

While not everyone might want to add a filter to a rear exhaust fan, you may want to add one to the PSU’s intake fan.

~>|PSU
   ---
    ↓

(For more info, see “PSU orientation” in “Setting up a New Computer”.)

Some cases, like the beQuiet Dark Base 900, come with fan filters for the bottom fans.

Of course, your computer’s job is not to work as a dust-remover. Better to clean the surfaces, vacuum the floor, and open some windows. Maybe get a dedicated fan with a dust filter?

Cable management

My beQuiet Dark Base 900 case.
My beQuiet Dark Base 900 case.

This is how I’ve tidied the cable in the cable slots (three orange ones above).

graph TD; psu[PSU] --> gapbot((Bottom gap)) gapbot --> gapmid((Middle gap)) gapmid --> mobo(Motherboard) psu --> gapbot gapbot --> cpu(CPU) psu --> gapbot psu --> gapbot gapbot --> gapmid gapbot --> gapmid gapmid --> gpu(GPU) gapmid --> gpu(GPU) style gapmid stroke:orange style gapbot stroke:orange

The SATA cables are all connected to the motherboard through the middle gap at .3m and .5m lengths; .3m is just enough to reach the third drive bay, but too short to reach the first two. You don’t want cables too long to tidy on the back, because you won’t be able to fit the case panel what with all the excess cabling in the way. You’ll want angled cables for this reason, too.

Because cable management is way harder than it looks, if your cable is too short, it can also be difficult to tuck it away out of view from the front.

Fan control

To keep the fans as silent as possible, fan control is required. I go over the ins and outs of this in my new computer setup guide.

Here is how I’ve configured my fans with the fan headers available:

graph TD; cpu(CPU fan) -- 4-pin --> CPU_FAN fan1a(Front fan #1) -- 4-pin --> controller(Case fan controller) fan1b(Front fan #2) -- 4-pin --> controller fan2(Rear fan) -- 4-pin --> controller controller -- SATA --> psu(PSU) controller --> switch(Case fan controller switch) CHA_FAN1 --> motherboard(Motherboard) CHA_FAN2 --> motherboard CPU_FAN --> motherboard

The GPU is connected independently, as it has its own fans.

Cabling

This is just me trying to have connect all devices without running out of ports, be they HDMI, optical or Ethernet.

TV and audio

This is my current setup:

graph TD; tv(Panasonic CX725) -- HDMI --> ps4(PS4) tv -- HDMI --> atv(Apple TV) tv -- HDMI --> hdmi3[-]
graph TD; receiver(Audio receiver) -- TOSLINK --> optsplitter(Optical splitter) optsplitter -- TOSLINK --> tv(TV) optsplitter -- TOSLINK --> ps4(PS4) optsplitter -- TOSLINK --> atv(Apple TV)

My issue is my receiver doesn’t have any PCM 5.1 audio over HDMI, which means no audio for an Apple TV 5 or Nintendo Switch.

But if you’re lucky, your TV has an optical port to connect your receiver to. Depending on some other factors, your TV will be able to pass that audio through to devices through HDMI alone, known as HDMI pass-through:

graph TD; receiver(Audio receiver) -- TOSLINK --> tv(TV) tv -- HDMI --> ps4(PS4) tv -- HDMI --> atv(Apple TV)

If you’re lucky, your audio won’t get downgraded to 2.0 or lag behind the video input. It’s a mess is what it is.

Absent this option, I’ve looked into an HDMI audio extractor—sometimes known as an “HDMI audio de-embedder”. It also does well to save HDMI and toslink cables, ports, and splitters. You do need to make room for an additional power plug, though.

The prices are very low in general, but the extractors tend to support 4Kp30 at most; if you want to play games at 60 FPS, you’re gonna have to hook it up directly in a different manner. Most console games only run at 30 FPS, though.

On top of that, you also have to pay attention to the HDMI cables the splitter supports; if it only has HDMI 2.0 instead of 2.0a like the Tendak, say goodbye to HDR.

Then there’s bullshit like this from AV Access:

I got this splitter to duplicate my PS4 Pro output between going through the PSVR and going to direct to the TV. I thought it would work due it its EDID copy function would copy the EDIDs between the Input EDID (PS4 Pro) to the TV and PSVR, and copy output EDID from output 1 (TV). The product description said that this is how it worked and the manufacturer answered questions to say this is how it worked.

HOWEVER, the product I was delivered was different, it has now lost the EDID copy function and now has ‘Smart EDID management’ that presents generic/fake EDID settings to the outputs. This means the PSVR does not recognize the PS4, because the correct EDID is blocked and replaced by a generic/fake one by the splitter :-(

Writing this review I see the product description has been updated to correct the description, and the product questions/answers scrubbed. I am happy the seller fixed that up. And it does work as a basic HDMI splitter, but it has lost the capability to work with the PSVR.

Product does what it says, just make sure you read all of the details. ALL devices in your video chain must be the same compliance of HDCP, and resolution or it will revert to the lowest specification in your signal chain.

Because nothing was available here in Denmark, I went to eBay UK to find an HDMI audio extractor.

Amazon is mainly useful because they provide you with reviews for products, helping you avoid lemons like this product. On top of that, you’ll generally want to only read product pages with over 25 reviews to ensure bots aren’t spamming 5-star reviews or bombing competitors.

What’s distinct about an extractor like the one above is that it has multiple HDMI out ports whereas most extractors only have one.

This allows setups like the one below.

graph TD; tv(TV) -- HDMI out --> ex(HDMI switch) receiver(Audio receiver) -- Toslink --> ex(HDMI audio extractor) ex -- HDMI in --> ps4(PS4) ex -- HDMI in --> atv(Apple TV) ex -. HDMI in -.-> switch(Nintendo Switch) ex --> hdmi4[-]

These multi-out extractors are usually made in and shipped from China. I had to return mine, because it had been damaged during shipment.

The only non-Chinese models tend to only have one HDMI out port, because they expect you to use HDMI splitters, but like extractors, splitters can end up as throughput bottlenecks. Most splitters are HDMI 2.0 at most—no a to give you HDR. On top of this, you also have to consider HDCP stripping and latency. You’ll notice the latter if the audio is out of sync.

This is not to say you won’t have similar issues with switches and splitters like in my own setup, of course. If I could, I’d just buy a new receiver, but my kind of setup would have to be replaced entirely. There are times where I wonder when I’ll end up paying more in cables and workarounds than just replacing the damn setup.

Why, it’s almost as if technology is incredibly annoying to deal with.

Consider this another argument in favour of watching as much as possible through the apps on your smart TV; if you can watch YouTube, Netflix, etc on your TV instead of through a game console or set-top box, the signal won’t go through these additional layers of crap.

Internet (Ethernet)

graph TD; router(Router) --> powerline(Powerline) router -. Wi-fi -.-> desktop(Desktop computer) router --> ethsplitter(Ethernet splitter) router --> eth4[-] ethsplitter --> tv(TV) ethsplitter --> ps4(PS4) ethsplitter --> atv(Apple TV)