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My unusual docking setup

Hi! I have a strange situation which has led to me replacing my desktop with a docked laptop. It's not ideal, but it works well for me, and I wanted to share this setup in case someone else out there is in a weird situation too!

First off, here's a photo of my desk setup:

1157053193_mydesk.thumb.jpg.47c21fd5eea665794ec7f7b69e290ad8.jpg

 

12 monitors on one laptop! Plus the laptop's own screen, and a Samsung DeX screen off to the right.

 

My laptop is a ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8, with LTE support. With Thunderbolt 3 I have a dock, with many USB hubs connected, as well as 2 eGPUs, both are VisionTek Radeon 7750 2GB cards, and all my USB accessories connected by a single USB C cable!

 

Specifically, my build uses: The laptop above, connected to a ThinkPad Thunderbolt 3 dock, which has two eGPUs attached via Thunderbolt 3 daisychaining. The eGPU boxes are an Akitio Node Pro which has a downstream port, and an Akitio Node at the end which only has one port.

 

If you're interested, this spoiler has all my connected devices listed:

Spoiler

2 eGPUs (both are VisionTek Radeon 7750 2GB cards)

A 14.5 TB external RAID hard drive box with 5 disks

USB 3.0 hub for easy access on my desk

Keyboard, Mouse, Wacom tablet, two barcode scanners, mag swipe, postal scale

Epson ET-7750 poster printer and Epson 80mm thermal receipt printer

Pixel phone (OG 2016 Pixel, used to move photos to for free full size backups)

Ethernet to my T-Mobile modem (I rarely use this)

USB connection to my UPS battery backup (UPS covers the entire desk)
Document scanner w/ automatic feed

Soundbar (But I don't use it, my laptop actually sounds great on its own!)

DVD Burner

3.5 inch floppy drive (Yes, I use it)

12 monitors, of which 1 runs off the iGPU powered dock HDMI connector, 2 are one eGPU, 3 on the other eGPU, and 6 run off USB VGA adapters (Displaylink)

 

Obviously we are all different, but when I first asked for help both here and on a few Discord servers, about compatibility and such before buying the parts people went crazy about how dumb I was, how this would never work, the bandwidth to the eGPUs would be too small if daisychained, blah blah blah. I know my situation best, and this works really well for me! Please, if you take nothing else away from this just remember to not let the gatekeeping mega nerds talk you out of doing what you want to do. It's one thing if something just won't work, or if there are better options that could work for you. But if you have special needs, don't be shut down by the nerds. Not everyone needs the most powerful setup, or the best value setup.

 

So why do I have such a weird arrangement? The core issue is internet. I have to have LTE on my PC to get online. With a desktop PC all data plans are by the gig, but with an LTE enabled laptop I can use an unlimited data plan for tablets. I got into further detail in this spoiler, if you're interested:

Spoiler

Desktop PCs can use LTE with adapters, USB or M.2, and there's also ethernet options like LTE modems. However, there is no official US plan with unlimited data for a desktop PC or LTE modem. Yes, there are hacked SIMs resold by some fishy companies, where they do weird things like use loopholes on an old plan and resell it, but these can stop working at any time as they violate TOS with the carriers. Sprint also has an unlimited option with a few non-profits like PCs for People, but these plans all require you to be very very poor, or to have expensive memberships to certain charities. The only official way to get unlimited data on a PC is to buy certain tablets or laptops with built in LTE, which some networks like T-Mobile and Sprint (still separate pricing and TOS despite the recent merger as of posting this) will allow on unlimited data Tablet plans.

 

Because I have this on a T-Mobile One Tablet plan, which defines a tablet in the TOS as a "device with a built in screen", this works. It's 100% within TOS and allowed, even though I might use a TB or more of mobile data per month. On a desktop I would have to use a TOS breaking hacked SIM or pay by the gig. I'd rather pay more for the laptop, dock, eGPUs, etc. and get internet for $13/mo with T-Mobile, than upgrade my old desktop with an M.2 card and pay hundreds of dollars a month for my high usage.

 

Some people raised good questions about why I need 13 displays. In truth, a few big 4K screens with split screen apps might work, but these displays were all bought one at a time over years at Goodwill for $5 to $10 each. I already have them mounted to my desk or wall, I know they work, I am comfortable with them, so why would I spend hundreds on new 4K displays that might not even work the way I want? This setup works and I know it works. Also, it's nice having screens of different ratios and orientations.

 

If you want to see what it looks like to boot up a system like this, here's a video!

 

I think that's about it. I use this laptop as a desktop with a single USB C cable, I use LTE because my only other option is our slow DSL home internet. This works really well for me, even though my Thunderbolt program insists eGPUs not connected as the first in the chain will glitch out, that hasn't happened. With my need to use a docked laptop instead of my old custom built PC I think this is a good setup for me, and while I got some good advice on Reddit and here, I ignored the tons of mega nerds who insisted that I was an idiot, and I should just "get a desktop bro" or whatever. This setup might not work for you, but it does for me! And I think it's really cool that I can just shut down my PC and unplug it, and have a fully charged laptop with all the same power, but only one screen any time I might need. With LTE too. :D

 

Finally, for those interested, here's my data usage:

image.png.b4b11f52ced909883660e3d1a879452f.png

 

If I did that all on my DSL no one else in the house would have internet... I really hope someone like me reads this post and can make their PC setup better too!

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Thats a lot of screens. I thought 4 was a lot. Lol

Im with the mentaility of "IF IM NOT SURE IF ITS ENOUGH COOLING, GO OVERKILL"

 

CURRENT PC SPECS    

CPU             Ryzen 5 3600 (Formerly Ryzen 3 1200)

GPU             : ASUS RX 580 Dual OC (Formerly ASUS GTX 1060 but it got corroded for some odd reasons)

GPU COOOER      : ID Cooling Frostflow 120 VGA (Stock cooler overheats even when undervolted :()

MOBO            : MSI B350m Bazooka

MEMORY          Team Group Elite TUF DDR4 3600 Mhz CL 16
STORAGE         : Seagate Baracudda 1TB and Kingston SSD
PSU             : Thermaltake Lite power 550W (Gonna change soon as i dont trust this)
CASE            : Rakk Anyag Frost
CPU COOLER      : ID-Cooling SE 207
CASE FANS       : Mix of ID cooling fans, Corsair fans and Rakk Ounos (planned change to ID Cooling)
DISPLAY         : SpectrePro XTNS24 144hz Curved VA panel
MOUSE           : Logitech G603 Lightspeed
KEYBOARD        : Rakk Lam Ang

HEADSET         : Plantronics RIG 500HD

Kingston Hyper X Stinger

 

and a whole lot of LED everywhere(behind the monitor, behind the desk, behind the shelf of the PC mount and inside the case)

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20 minutes ago, MartinKweh said:

Thats a lot of screens. I thought 4 was a lot. Lol

Going from 1 to 2 is life changing. It's like going from a Toyota Corolla to a BMW 3 series. Not even the same level! You can do so much more with 2 screens.

 

Adding a 3rd screen is great! You'll probably find a use for it, although I think 2 is sufficient for most people.

 

Once you start adding more, you get diminishing returns. Yeah, even now with 13 screens I run out of desktop space and put stuff behind other stuff, but really I only need 6 or 7. That gets me all my things I want open all the time, ready for me to glance at any time without a single click, and work space for things I'm actively using. More than that is nice, but not necessary.

 

Still, if I could fit 3 or 4 more screens and still comfortably view them from my normal sitting position, I'd add them. I'm sure they would get use.

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Gonna need a bigger power station...

Intel i9 9900kf - Gigabyte Aorus Z390 Pro - Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB (4x16 GB) DDR4 3200MHz C16 - Gigabyte Aorus GeForce RTX 2080 ti Xtreme 11G - Corsair 275R Airflow - Samsung 970 EVO Plus 1TB NVMe / Samsung 860 EVO 1TB SATA - Corsair RM750x 80 PLUS Gold 750W - Aorus FI27Q-P - Noctua NH-D15 (CPU) - 4 x NF-S12A PWM (3 intake, 1 exhaust) - Aorus K1 - Aorus M3 - Aorus AMP500 - Aorus H5 - Win 10 Pro

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6 hours ago, Invincible Sugar said:

A bigger what?

I think you call them power plants - you know that delivers electricity to your property? They need to turn it up to 11 to power all your monitors - it was a joke ;)

Intel i9 9900kf - Gigabyte Aorus Z390 Pro - Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB (4x16 GB) DDR4 3200MHz C16 - Gigabyte Aorus GeForce RTX 2080 ti Xtreme 11G - Corsair 275R Airflow - Samsung 970 EVO Plus 1TB NVMe / Samsung 860 EVO 1TB SATA - Corsair RM750x 80 PLUS Gold 750W - Aorus FI27Q-P - Noctua NH-D15 (CPU) - 4 x NF-S12A PWM (3 intake, 1 exhaust) - Aorus K1 - Aorus M3 - Aorus AMP500 - Aorus H5 - Win 10 Pro

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14 hours ago, A1200 said:

I think you call them power plants - you know that delivers electricity to your property? They need to turn it up to 11 to power all your monitors - it was a joke ;)

Oh, ok. Joke aside the entire setup pulls about 450-500 watts according to my UPS.

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