Advice for new macbook air with dock

I am changing jobs and will need a new computer. I have previously had a 27"imac with second monitor and M1 macbook air. I am considering going to a new M3 macbook air with dock and 2 monitors at home. I am looking for advice on docks, monitors and from people that have gone to a one laptop sole computer from desktop/ laptop. Do not really want to spring for the apple monitors and am also considering a single 32" monitor at home. Any advice or recommendations would be appreciated.

I did this for years with a MacBook Pro. It gave me the flexibility of being able to bring my work computer with all of its files and applications directly to my clients — without having to make sure everything was synced. Simplifying my computing setup also meant that there were fewer devices that I needed to maintain.

The downside was that using external monitors can be finicky. Sometimes they don’t connect properly, so you wake up the Mac to a black screen. This wasn’t a frequent problem, but it was consistent. So when the MacStudio was announced, I switched back to a desktop after a long hiatus.

I used an LG monitor for years, and would recommend them. I’ve also had clients use (and like) Dell monitors. You get what you pay for, but usually the cost savings for higher-end monitors for these brands means savings in the physical housing build quality or design, not in the actual panel itself.

If you add a dock into the setup, I think it will be even more finicky. That’s just the nature of adding another point of failure between the computer and the monitor. So, be prepared for this and get used to having to do the tedious plug/un-plug dance to get the Mac to see an external monitor.

I don’t have any strong advice for docks, except I would only buy one from a well-known company that has a reputation for building quality stuff that works with Macs. CalDigit and OWC come to mind, but there are others. I’ve seen lots of published reviews that seem to only review the configuration on paper. They haven’t been actually tested with a Mac to see how well it works. (For example, is it actually capable of driving 2 monitors? Does it develop a fault where it will repeatedly lose the connection to a Time Machine drive?)

Also, make sure you thoroughly understand what you need to connect your two monitors successfully (data and power) and what other ports you might want (SD card slot? lots of USB-A connections?).

And because this is a MacBook Air, you will also have to factor in how you will get power to the computer. I think you have 2 options: get a monitor that can supply power to the Mac as well, or get a dock that supplies power.

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I believe the newer MacBook Airs have MagSafe power PLUS two USB-C connectors. That’s one big reason I’d like to to upgrade my M1 MBA.

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I have a Dell USB-C monitor for when I dock my MacBook. It’s probably not the greatest monitor in the world (according to video experts), but it works for me.

The important factor is that it is USB-C meaning that when I connect, it charges my MacBook while I’m working. And the monitor has a couple extra ports where I have connected my label printer and my Logitech webcam.

If you decide on a single monitor, you may not need a dock.

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That’s a good point! I helped one of my clients set up a two-monitor system for her laptop, and we had enough ports on the monitor’s hubs that we didn’t need anything else (no dock or hub). I had forgotten about that.

A dock would have simplified the connections — meaning one cable to the dock instead of a cable to each monitor plus a power connection. (I forget why we needed the separate power. It was a pre-USB-C MacBook Pro, so maybe the monitors didn’t provide power over the Thunderbolt connection. Or enough power.)

And yes, @KirkS, you’re right. The new MacBook Airs do have MagSafe. I don’t know why I forgot about that. Possibly because I mostly work with clients who have old equipment!

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I use an M2 MacBook Air connected to an HP Z27 monitor through the OWC Thunderbolt dock. A single cable from my MacBook carries power and data. The dock provides a gigabit Ethernet connection, which is more stable than my campus Wi-Fi. I also have the Microsoft Audio Dock, which gives me the option to leave the computer lid closed and still have decent speakers and a mic. If you do leave the lid closed, you’ll also want a holder to use your iPhone in Continuity Camera mode, which has worked perfectly for me.