A Web Developer's Ultimate Hardware Toolset

Written on November 23rd, 2012. We've got comments, too!

I started developing with a rusty ol’ 15-inch LCD screen and an ancient Windows computer. I eventually learned a lot from my fellow craftsman — most importantly, that I’m missing out on a lot.

Sadly, a lot of developers don’t realize this — especially the guys trapped in a corporate cubical somewhere.

I’m going to throw out what my friends and coworkers suggest in terms of hardware. They’re not cheap, but they’re also not ridiculously expensive. They’re basically just my favorites.

It’s also not, obviously, exhaustive.

P.S. There’s a very pretty surprise waiting for you at the end. I’m serious.

Keyboard: The Das

Ah, the Das Keyboard. Also known as the “no, you can’t borrow my computer” keyboard.

I mean, just look at it.

das-keyboard

I’ve found that using the Das keyboard improved my coding time — and typing skills — considerably. It helps me trust my fingers more, which in turn speeds up work. It also has amazingly sharp feedback upon every key press.

I won’t lie, it takes a while to get used to the nonexistent labels. Some less-used keys can be a bit hard to reach. But when you do get used to it, everything changes.

I’m also a fan of the standard Apple keyboard for normal use, but I’m edging closer to use the Das full-on.

Price: $120, and quite a few stares. Here it is on Amazon.

Chair: The Herman Miller Mirra

The Mirra, next generation after the classic Aeron. Look at this baby.

mirra

Fully adjustable and really, really comfortable.

I believe in purchasing good furniture, even before buying any electronics. You’re going to keep that tablet or desktop for 3 to 5 years, tops. But a top-notch chair can easily last 8 to 10 years, if not more. So if you’re already buying $1500 computers, why skimp off a good chair?

A good chair, along with good ergonomics, can easily save you a lot of time flexing your wrists and getting massages. This is seriously a big deal. Your elbows, wrist and back are some of your biggest assets.

I got mine from XTRA, over in Singapore. The normal price is around $500. Come on, that’s cheaper than a good display.

Speaking of displays…

Display: Apple’s, or Dell UltraSharps

Oh, boy. Apple (do I really need to link that?) displays are known to be quite well calibrated. As a designer, color calibration and sharpness is crucial. I cannot understate this — most everyday displays are crap. And there’s nothing more embarrassing than seeing a print-out in a completely different color from what you were planning.

You can color-calibrate most decent screens. But not all of them can actually get to good color accuracy. In reviews, they tend to check this in terms of “92% of sRGB” or something like that.

Also, you want an IPS display. In-Plane Switching allows you to have better viewing angles, and colors that break up less as you move around. This is even more important if you have multiple displays, which you totally should. Have at least 2 displays.

Apple displays are always pre-calibrated out-of-the-box (which is, well, expected, given they also make the OS), have good color accuracy, are IPS screens, and are about the correct brightness. Note that I said “Apple display”, not just “MacBook” or something — this is because the iPad has a seriously accurate display from the 3rd generation and above. Many tablets I’ve tested have badly matching displays, once I hold them up next to a calibrated screen. This means you can get away with using an iPad for color checking.

Now, if you don’t like Apple (and if anyone screams “OVERPRICED” at this point, they’re going to look silly), you can take a look at the Dell UltraSharp line.

ultrasharp

These are Dell’s top-of-the-line screens. And boy are they pretty. I have one sitting alongside my iMac right now. They have the same basic properties as Apple displays, but with a wider range of sizes and resolutions.

Additionally, many of them allow you to swivel to portrait view, which is awesome for code. They also support various other input types, unlike Apple’s Thunderbolt display which just allows, well, Thunderbolt.

You’ll notice that the prices are practically identical for Dell and Apple — so you can really just go in and do a feature-by-feature comparison.

A 27-inch screen — probably the biggest you’ll want for a dual-monitor setup — goes for about $1000 (both the Dell UltraSharp 2711 and the Apple Thunderbolt Display.

Note: There’s a new iMac just out, which includes a fancier body shape and USB 3.0 ports. We don’t know if they’ll update the Thunderbolt Display to match, but it may be worth a wait.

Coming Up

In the next section: Mice, “companion screens”, drawing tablets, wall mounts, lamps, paper, and more. Much more.

For now, have a peek into the future and check out the absolutely fantastic Leap Motion.

Yes, I’ve pre-ordered it. Yes, it’s real — here’s a hands-on by David Pierce of The Verge:



… Yeah. $70.