Caldigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt3 Dock

I wrote about how I didn’t buy this a few months ago. I also asked on Reddit for permission. And I bought this shortly after (hence the Magic Keyboard in the image) but didn’t write about it because I couldn’t admit that I caved :). As a minimalist (in training), every material addition in life needs a thorough reflection of myself. And this purchase decision was especially difficult as I get distracted easier as the number of gadgets on my desk increases. I still believe it wasn’t an absolute necessity for my workflow. I could have lived with the four TB3 ports on my MacBook Pro, with subtle yet everyday inconveniences. From the heart of a minimalist (and I stress once more, in-training), the annoyance arising from the lack of USB ports was my major gripe that became mentally taxing over time. Hence the cave.

Here are a few things I like about the Caldigit TS3 Plus:

  • Versatile – EVERYTHING I could ask for. Abundant USB A ports, TB3 ports, analog audio in/out, SD Card slot, HDMI output, Type-C ports, 1Gb Ethernet! There is only 1 cable that goes into my MBP. My LG Ultrafine 4K is even connected via this dock.
  • Temperature – My MBP 15 2018 felt always extra warm even when sitting idle. Presumably running relatively high-power USB devices off of the built-in ports was one of the reasons (aside from the slender chassis design with the extra hot 8th generation Intel processor). With the TS3 Plus providing all the charging necessary (including the laptop itself!), it runs much cooler. The keyboard, especially the Touch Bar area, isn’t so bad to touch! The TS3 Plus does get pretty warm since it uses its aluminum case as a heat sink. Fortunately, I don’t have to touch it at all!
  • Reliability – mine shipped with the shorter 0.7m (therefore can run at 40Gb/s while being passive). It is long enough for me to adjust the laptop on my desk as I shift my posture. The TS3 Plus disconnected a few times, for what felt like 10th of a sec, as I adjusted my screen and laptop, but the Caldigit Customer Support suggested trying reversing the cable, and have not seen any issue from thereon. I must stress that things continued to work as expected after a very quick re-connection. This is probably my favorite thing about this product. My Dell TB18DC docking station can never recover from connection interruptions (which happens way too frequently).
  • Design – It looks nice. Every corner of the product is nicely finished. It feels good and is comfortable to touch. Majority of the external is made of aluminum. It looks like a large heat sink from the side with the grooves. The entire bottom area is covered in rubber, so it never slips on the desk surface. I think this is worthy attention to detail, as I don’t like when things clang against my desk.
  • Performance – Perhaps this is the most important aspect. The gigabit ethernet port has no issue going over 900mbps both up and down locally. Running a test at SpeedTest.net on my gigabit AT&T connection, I usually get close to 900mbps down and 700 Mbps up. Pretty darn good. The audio interface works well – no discernable noise when I connect my headphones or speakers. Charging my MacBook Pro has never been an issue. The SD card slot is at least as fast as my other SD card readers. Charging my mobile devices work well. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a review without some negatives:

  • Audio out is only in the front. It would be convenient to have another on the back. I understand the majority of the users are working in an office with headphones, but I’m just sayin’!
  • The blue LED on the front is useful, but I wish it were white. I think it will look better. Fortunately, it’s not laser bright.

The advent of Thunderbolt 3 (synonymous with USB Type-C, I suppose) has been one of the most welcoming changes in my everyday life as a tech-savvy person. Yes, I had my doubts, and yes it cost me pretty penny, but looking back Caldigit TS3 Plus is one of the best purchase decisions of the year 2019. 

Apple Magic Keyboard 2

Long live the Lightning dock!

Back a few months, I somewhat hesitantly bought a Magic Keyboard 2 shortly after my purchase of an MBP 15 2018. I wanted an external wireless keyboard for the laptop because 1) the laptop was uncomfortably hot when connected to an external display 2) I didn’t want to spend money on a dongle just yet to use other keyboards like the HHKB Pro2 3) I liked the freedom of being wireless and 4) I just wanted to try it.

I’ve used it for a few months for at least an hour every day. And here are my picks of goods and bads.

Pros

  • Ultra-portable and light. I adjust my posture quite a lot. So I found its weight (or lack thereof) never an issue when re-position the keyboard on my desk.
  • Long battery
  • Never disconnected once.
  • Mapped to useful functions like brightness control, volume up/down.

Cons

  • No multipairing. I knew it didn’t have multi paring , but I actually didn’t believe it. I honestly thought Apple had a clever way of *magically* handing the pairing off to whichever device I am using at the moment. There is no such magic.
  • Rattly (noisy). I have hypersensitive ears and this drove me nuts.
  • Small arrow cluster. Impossible to reach without leaving the home row, but the problem is the up/down arrows are frustratingly miniature in size. I learned great many keyboard shortcuts though.
  • Eject button for.. what?
  • Expensive. Comparatively speaking, this is the cheapest keyboard in my fleet. Yet I still find its value proposition a bit hard to swallow.
  • Nothing to write home about on its tactility of the switch. I actually preferred the infamous butterfly switch keyboard on my MacBook Pro which I found to be very crisp, precise and tactile (of course, I try not to use the butterfly keyboard because it was repeating the ‘O’ key out of the box).

I stopped using the Magic Keyboard on a daily basis now. I don’t know if I want to keep this around. I will see if I can get great use out of it on my iPad instead.

BetterTouchTool

Shortly after I wrote about the Magic Mouse 2, I actually went out to a store to try a brand new Magic Mouse 2. It sounded a tad bit dampened, but it was essentially as loud as mine.

The next thing I tried was the Better Touch Tool. I heard about how great this app is. It lets you customize the touchbar on the newer MacBooks.

I don’t really use the touchbar as I use an external keyboard anyways (I am rotating between HHKB Pro 2 and the Apple Magic Keyboard 2), but the Better Touch Bar app is also apparently good for changing the Magic Mouse behavior to one’s taste.

I downloaded it, installed it, and tried it. Within a few minutes, I got my Magic Mouse to click on tap. It was all very simple.

BTT: Super easy to setup!

The downside is that if I am using my mouse a lot, the energy impact as per the activity monitor goes as high as my web browsers with handful of tabs open. And BTT having so features, like running a webserver to listen to its iOS apps, it makes sense.

I wouldn’t mind the energy use if I had a desktop. It was unnecesarily complicating the problem I set out to solve. So I decided to part with BTT after a brief encounter.

Perhaps the next thing I have to try is the Magic Trackpad. I wouldn’t mind having one, but I feel like is due for an update.

Magic Mouse 2

I’ve been an avid fan of Logitech MX series. I use it every day at work. It looks great and works like a champ. Despite how much I enjoyed it, a few months ago I thought I’d give the Apple Magic Mouse 2 (in space gray, no less) a try, just because I got a MacBook for work and study. I wasn’t convinced to be honest, so it was more on the side of “giving it a chance”. The MSRP is painfully expensive, but I traded it with some keyboard parts on Reddit. It still hurts though (mechanical keyboard bits for a Magic Mouse!?). Surprisingly, aside from its known quirks, I liked the experience thus far. It blends well into the MacOS, it’s easy to carry around, and I found ergonomics fine. It didn’t glide on my desk as well as I hoped it would, so I put some teflon tape on the bottom. The only thing that I couldn’t do anything about, and drives me nuts every time is how loud the click is. It is ABSURDLY loud. My right ear feels numb especially on a quiet morning like this. I have a pretty sensitive hearing. Perhaps it’s not the mouse, but I can’t do much about my hearing. What to do.. what to do…

My Keyboard Story #2 – CM Storm Quickfire Rapid

I bought this hefty little guy god-knows-how-long-ago from (now bankrupted) NCIX in Vancouver. Considering I picked this over others purely based on price (less than $70 on sale!), I really lucked out that it sports genuine Cherry-MX BLUES. Time over time, I became convinced these clicky, tactile blues are my go-to switch unless I have a special need. The build quality is simply amazing. After many years of abuse, there is no sign of wear or slightest hint of crack on the case. Heck, even the detachable USB cable is so thick and stiff to the point that it gets mildly annoying. It will outlive any USB cable out there though.

I changed a few things over the years. Obviously, the keycaps starred in the picture aren’t stock. I don’t even know where my original caps are, but let’s just say I don’t miss them at all after putting on those GMK Carbon caps. The controller, which can’t be seen above, has been replaced with the Frosty Flake by Bathroom Epiphanies.

Although I have used it as a daily driver here and there, I now use this board mostly for gaming. The rawness of blue switches accentuates gaming experience by complementing booms and bangs with clicks and clacks. Over the years I have tried other gaming boards, but this championed every time. No, it does not have a narrow profile, fast switches. And no it does not have a backlight. I keep it around nonetheless because it does the very basics so well.

My Keyboard Story #1 – HHKB Pro 2

I bought this HHKB Pro 2 when I was still in college 8 years ago (that is nearly.. 10 years!). It was a BIG money for a student (well, it’s still a lot of money). I’ve bought and sold many things for many reasons since then, but I could never let go of this little guy. It just has been through so much with me – graduation, multiple jobs, and moving between countries, health issues, mental issues, relationship issues, as well as a happy marriage among other life changing events. Sure I’ve tried many other keyboards along the way, but for work and school, nothing comes close to this layout. The Topre switches are pleasure to type on, but for me the layout is the killer feature. I *love* how I don’t have to move my hands around.