The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
My New Seven-Monitor Office Workstation
In May 2021, I upgraded my home-office to include a 49″ 32:9 Ultrawide HDR Display, and two 4K 32″ Ergo Monitors. My office at school, however, has largely remained the same since I started teaching in 2012. Over the past few months, I finally had occasion to upgrade my workplace.
The centerpiece of the office are the monitors. I have a total of six external displays, in addition to my 14″ MacBook Pro.
In the middle is the Samsung 49″ Odyssey G9 Ultrawidescreen monitor. This curved screen is the equivalent of two widescreen monitors, placed side-by-side. And due to the curvature, the center of the monitors is further away from the desk, and the edges are closer. This curvature makes it easier to see more, without having to crane your neck.
I mounted the Odyssey with a floor stand, which allowed me to place the monitor in the corner of the room, behind the desk, at about 4-feet high.
Because the monitor is so wide, it was a bit top-heavy. To prevent it from tipping over, I strapped about 20 pounds of ankle-weights around the middle.
To make the Samsung monitor easier to move around, I placed the mount on a steel dolly designed for washing machines. It can hold up to 500 pounds of weight–more than enough for the 35-pound monitor. The dolly also allowed me to easily wheel the monitor all the way in the corner.
Rather than purchasing a single U-Shaped desk, which would not really fit the dimensions I needed, I purchased five separate black desks. Each desk was a different size, and snuggled perfectly into this corner of my office. I assembled them like a game of Tetris. (On balance, buying five small desks is far cheaper than buying one large desk of comparable dimensions.) The multiple desks also makes it easier to access cables. If I ever need to get behind a monitor, I can just pull out one piece of furniture. I placed a tall lamp in the corner, which is nestled in right behind the dolly. It provides a nice sense of depth behind the monitor, and also marks out the dimensions of the room.
Above the lamp, I mounted a convex mirror. Due to the setup of the desk, my back is to the door. When someone shows up, or knocks, I have no clue who it is. But the mirror allows me to quickly glance up, and see whoever is at the door. The mirror gives me a few extra moments to connect a name to a face while I'm turning around. (I can usually remember my students' names when they are in their assigned seats, but it doesn't always click right away outside the classroom.)
In addition to the single Samsung Ultrawidescreen monitor, I have four LG DualUp Monitors, which are mounted to the desks. (Two on each side.) Most widescreen monitors use a 16:9 ratio. To use simple numbers, a monitor could be 16 inches wide x 9 inches high. That is, the monitor is roughly 1.7x wide as tall. But the DualUp uses an unusual 16:18 ratio. For example, the monitor would be 16 inches wide by 18 inches tall. It is almost the dimensions of a square, but is slightly taller than wider. This is the first monitor on the market to have such a ratio. I absolutely love it! This resolution allows me to show a full document, with footnotes, plus any marginalia (such as track changes comments), without having to scroll up-and-down or left-to-right. (Scrolling is one of the biggest wastes of time while trying to focus.) In other words, I can view an entire page in one glance. (Sort of like reading a book.) It makes reviewing documents (especially page proofs) so much easier. Plus the "ergo" stand easily clips to my desk. I can pivot it to face just about any direction. More general, none of my mounted monitors take any actual surface space on the desk. It is all clear.
The sixth monitor in the setup is also the smallest. Immediately behind my laptop is a small, 12″ monitor made by Eyoyo.
This is my Zoom screen. I mount my Logitech HD camera right on top of the Zoom screen. That way, when I am looking at Zoom grid, I am also looking at the camera. Or to be more precise, I keep my eyes trained on the camera, and in my peripheral vision, I see the Zoom grid. Mounting your camera far away from where you are looking results in an awkward lack of eye contact, making Zoom more awkward than it is already is. I can also use the Eyoyo for looking at photos or other small items.
I manage this entire six-monitor array with only two USB-C cables from my Macbook Pro. I use two docking stations. And each docking station has three HDMI inputs. All three monitors are displayed at 4K. This device from Plugable is so, so simple. Truly plug-and-play. I plugged them in, and all monitors lit up. The dock also serves as a USB hub, which I use to plug in my camera, microphone, and mouse. The dock also powers my laptop, so I have no need for a separate charger.
Here is how the monitors look, when configured for my setup.
So far, I've described my tech. Now I'll describe the room design itself, which took some thought. First, you may notice there is no paper. Not a single sheet. I went paperless more than a decade ago, and I am very happy for it. No mess. Second, there are no books. Or more precisely, no books that I did not write. The bookshelf has my various titles, mounted on plastic display racks facing outward. They are for promotion! Third, I do have constitutional trinkets, such as cans of Milnot condensed milk, bottles of BBQ sauce from Ollie's, and some personal mementos. But otherwise, no clutter.
I use the Homall Gaming Chair. It reclines almost-flat, provides support in all the right spots, and is very comfortable. (No, I don't play video games.)
The items on the wall also represent important moments from my career. And the items are sorted (roughly) in chronological order. Closest to the bookshelf are my law degree, bar license, and some photographs from law school. Along the way are my book covers accompanied by meaningful letters I received, articles I published in magazines and newspapers, plaques I received, and one of the CUNY protest signs.
Seeing these physical manifestations of my accomplishments helps to remind me of what I've done, and motivates me to do more.
In the corner is my bobblehead collection. I mounted two display cases designed for bobbleheads. From the Greenbag collection, I have the full-size bobbles of (in chronological order) White, Blackmun, O'Connor, Scalia, Thomas, Ginsburg, Bryer, Roberts, and Alito. And don't forget Justice Brandeis on the Erie Railroad. I do not have Rehnquist, Stevens, Kennedy, or Souter. I have the Sotomayor certificate, which will be redeemed shortly. I also have several of the bobbleheads from the Texas Review of Law & Politics: Paul Clement, Justice Thomas, Judge Pryor, Senator Cotton, and Judge Elrod.
Plus I have a smattering of the smaller bobbles, which I placed on two, three-tiered lazy susans. (When you spin them, they bobble!)
One of my students made bobbles of Randy and me (before I had long hair).
I hope you've enjoyed this tour. I'm very proud that my plans came to fruition.