The Best Apple Setups

This is a nifty thought experiment from Chris Wilson:

I saw a YouTube video with the ultimate apple setup for $1000 and thought, “that’s interesting. I wonder about other budgets” So I thought I’d write it. To make it fair, I’m only using prices from the Apple website. It’s the easiest way even though I’m sure some other options could be found using second hand sites.

The idea being, what is your dream Apple setup at various price points? With the only rules being that the prices are based on Apple’s website and you can’t use anything you already own.

Matt Birchler, Habib Cham, Greg Morris, and Andy Nicolaides have shared theirs and I thought I’d do the same.

$500 Setup

  • 64GB iPhone SE for $399
  • Magic Keyboard for $99

Total: $498

I could have gone with an iPad, but an iPhone is just too essential in my eyes to leave out. And the SE is the only model within this price range. The Magic Keyboard might seem like an oddball choice, but I type a lot and having a physical keyboard for longer stretches of writing seems pretty clutch.

I haven’t included anything to prop-up the iPhone for typing, but you could rest it against the top edge of the keyboard and prop it up against literally anything — including the box that your items ship in. So I wouldn’t consider this cheating based on Chris’ rules.

And after selecting the iPhone, I don’t think there are any other accessories that I would be willing to purchase for the remaining budget. An iPhone case, headphones, or charger are natural options but I don’t use a case on my devices at all and the stock headphones and charger are just fine for my needs.

$1,000 Setup

  • 64GB iPhone SE for $399
  • 10.2-inch iPad with 32GB of storage for $329
  • Magic Keyboard for $99
  • AirPods with Charging Case for $159

Total: $986

With the additional funds, adding an iPad and AirPods seemed like the best options. The iPad is my preferred platform and AirPods are probably the best Apple product in the last decade.

In my original draft, I had an Apple Watch instead of the keyboard and AirPods, but I think this is the superior list.

$2,500 Setup

  • 64GB iPhone 11 Pro for $999
  • 128GB 11-inch iPad Pro for $799
  • 42mm Apple Watch Series 3 for $229
  • Magic Keyboard for 11-inch iPad Pro for $299
  • AirPods with Charging Case for $159

Total: $2,485

This is where things start to get really interesting and some higher-end products start to come within reach. Upgrading to the iPhone 11 Pro and iPad Pro were of the highest priority for me. The 11 Pro’s camera system is much better than the iPhone SE and it’s the only other iPhone in the lineup that comes in a size that’s worth owning — I’m still not down with larger phones.

The iPad Pro is much more powerful than the standard 10.2-inch iPad and gives us the ability to upgrade our typing setup from the Mac-centric Magic Keyboard plus cardboard box setup to the Magic Keyboard designed for the iPad Pro.

The AirPods remain, because they’re great. And this budget also sees the addition of the Apple Watch. I suppose that tells you where the Watch sits in my hierarchy of importance.

$5,000 Setup

  • 256GB iPhone 11 Pro for $1,149
  • 128GB 11-inch iPad Pro for $799
  • 21.5-inch iMac with 3.6GHz Core i3, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB SSD for $1,899
  • 44mm Apple Watch Series 5 for $429
  • Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro for $299
  • AirPods with Wireless Charging Case for $199
  • Nomad Base Station, Apple Watch Edition for $150

Total: $4,924

A little bit of extra storage on the iPhone, the same iPad, an upgrade to the Apple Watch, and the wireless charging AirPods. I cheated a bit with the Nomad Base Station — it’s not available on Apple’s website, but it’s the only wireless charger that I think is worth purchasing. You can charge all of your portable devices with it — the Watch, AirPods and iPhone wirelessly while the iPad charges using the built-in USB-C port. It’s also a gorgeous piece of tech.

But the biggest addition is the iMac — the first budget to actually include one. I would have gone with a Mac Mini to be used headless, but because of the rule preventing you from using anything you already own, it would have meant I needed to purchase a Keyboard, Mouse, and display in order to set it up. It’s not really worth the trouble at that point, so an iMac was the best alternative.

In terms of the specific configuration for the iMac, I went with the most well-balanced and powerful iMac I could afford with my remaining funds.