Running a MacBook and Windows Gaming Laptop with Ease

May 30, 2024

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I grew up as a PC user. In fact, I despised what Apple represented. In my mind, everything Apple built was overpriced and underpowered, compared to PCs. But ever since the launch of Apple’s M-series silicone, my opinion has shifted.

Yet, I am still a PC-gamer and there are days where I want to sit back and play a high-fidelity game on my OLED monitor. It’s well-known Apple’s Macs cannot support gaming anywhere near the level of Windows (or Linux, for that matter). Thus, I have two laptops: a MacBook Pro for work, and a Lenovo Legion Pro 7i.

Purpose of the Post

The purpose of this post is to outline how I have made my setup work for me. Running two laptops is fundamentally redundant. Thus, everything we keep in our office spaces are designed to support a single laptop or desktop computer: peripherals, monitors, and desk spaces, to name some.

Consequently, I have never been able to find a comfortable way to stage my two laptops and switch between them when I wanted to. I have tried large desks and desks with drawers, trays, and other organization methods.

Nothing really worked for all of the equipment I tried to run, such as three 27-inch monitors at one point. I have since slimmed down to a single external monitor, but I do want the ability to switch between my MacBook Pro and my gaming laptop and peripherals with ease.

Overcoming Redundancy

Certainly, you can fight this by leaning into the redundancy. In other words, you can have two of everything: monitors, keyboards, mice, etc. I’ve tried that and it was awful, for me. I like a clean office space. I like a mostly bare desktop. I want one mouse and keyboard, and a single monitor that supports Mac and Windows, even if that means compromising for MacOS’s scaling standards. 

Technologies That Made It Possible

For my preferred desk setup, there are three technologies that made it possible for me to finally realize my dream of easily switching between my MacBook and gaming laptop. I will list them now, and then dive into how each one supports this setup.

  1. Thunderbolt 4 dock (Kensington SD5700T)
  2. Gaming laptop (Legion Pro 7i Gen 8)
  3. L-shaped desk (FlexiSpot E7L)

Thunderbolt 4 Dock (Kensington SD5700T)

Kensington SD5700T Thunderbolt 4

This Thunderbolt 4 docking station is compact, has plentiful ports, and with a single cable I can attach all of my peripherals, even my 165 Hz QHD+ monitor, to either my MacBook or Legion Pro. 

Gaming Laptop (Legion Pro 7i Gen 8)

Lenovo Legion Pro 7i Gen 8

While a Thunderbolt-4 equipped gaming laptop would be best, I have a Legion Pro 7i that does not have Thunderbolt 4 or a USB-C port that supports DisplayPort 2.1. Instead, it has DisplayPort 1.4 compatible USB-C ports. Consequently, even with the SD5700T, I can’t unlock the full 165 Hz my monitor is capable of.

I could directly connect the laptop to my monitor using a DisplayPort to USB cable, or an HDMI cable, but then I’d have another cable on the desk, which is against my aim for a cleaner desk. Since my monitor is 1440p resolution, and my laptop has an NVIDIA RTX 4070 GPU, I can’t really drive over 100 FPS in most games without dropping the fidelity.

So I am leaning into the DisplayPort 1.4 limit of 100 Hz and focusing on as much fidelity as I can muster near 100 FPS in games. If I were into competitive shooters, this would not be ideal. 

One thing to note, is while gaming laptops can be powered by the Thunderbolt 4 cable/dock, they at most can only take in 100 watts, which is not enough for gaming. So you must keep it plugged using a larger wattage power brick.

FlexiSpot E7L – the linchpin

FlexiSpot E7L: The Perfect L-Shaped Desk for Pros

To make this all work, in such a way that my desk would be clean, organized, and I wouldn’t have to move laptops around, physically, I realized I needed an L-shaped desk. And that desk needs to have height adjustment so I can switch between sitting and standing throughout the day.

I have organized my desk such that my monitor, keyboard and mouse are all aligned. The keyboard and mouse are under the desk with a pull-out tray (not essential but I like it for comfort and space-savings). The MacBook is just below my ultrawide monitor and I use its native display as a secondary display.

The SD5700T is in the corner of the desk, while the Legion is to my left. All I have to do is move that one cable between the laptops, and everything switches gear.

Wrap Up

Finding the perfect setup to seamlessly switch between a MacBook Pro and a gaming laptop like the Lenovo Legion Pro 7i is no small feat, but with the right combination of technology and furniture, it is achievable.

The key components that made this possible for me include the Kensington SD5700T Thunderbolt 4 dock, which allows for a single-cable connection to peripherals, the Legion Pro 7i that, despite its limitations, provides sufficient performance for high-fidelity gaming, and the FlexiSpot E7L L-shaped desk that offers the necessary space and ergonomic flexibility.

Final Thoughts

The Kensington SD5700T dock’s compact design and multiple ports streamline the connectivity process. This setup works efficiently by focusing on maximizing visual fidelity within the capabilities of my gaming laptop.

Moreover, the FlexiSpot E7L desk is the linchpin that ties everything together, providing a clean, organized, and adjustable workspace that enhances both productivity and comfort. By positioning the laptops strategically and using an ergonomic layout, I can easily switch between devices without cluttering my workspace or compromising on performance.

Overall, this configuration demonstrates that with thoughtful planning and the right tools, managing a dual-laptop setup can be both practical and efficient, catering to the diverse needs of professional work and immersive gaming.