Antonio G. Di Benedetto is relatively new to The Verge, but he brings with him a load of talent in a variety of specialties. Besides being a commerce writer, he is an experienced photographer, a tech experimenter, a gamer, and a fountain pen enthusiast.
Someone that diverse in his interests has got to be pretty interesting himself. We asked Antonio to talk about his desk, his tech, and his work.
Tell me a little about yourself. What is your background, and what do you do at The Verge?
I’m a commerce writer for The Verge, so along with my colleagues on the commerce team, I help hunt for deals on tech and gadgets and write about them. Some of this comes in the shape of our daily deal roundups, our twice-a-week Verge Deals newsletter, and write-ups on the best deals in a specific category (earbuds, iPads, etc.). I also keep an eye out for new console restocks and often post about the PS5 and Xbox Series X popping up for sale in those limited windows.
I’m still fairly new to The Verge, but I’ve been a fan since I first saw that original Galaxy Nexus review in 2011. I come from the world of photography and worked in marketing with a little bit of PR for Leica Camera USA prior to joining in August. I also photograph weddings on the side, and in general, I’m a big nerd for cameras, video games, gadgets, computers, etc. I consider myself a bit of a dabbler — always willing to learn about something or try something new, and then I dive deep into the rabbit hole with certain stuff.
Tell me about your desk. Where is it located in the room, and where did you get it?
My desk is a simple setup from IKEA — ultimately, it’s big, and it’s cheap. It is two Linnmon tabletops sitting on three Alex drawers and two legs. It was my wife’s idea to go this route when we set up our office back in 2017, and we decided to go big and make it a shared desk space. Along with our chairs, it takes up nearly half the room.
My side of the desk is bowed from the weight of all the crap I’ve got piled on it, but it’s holding strong (for now). Our drawers are packed to the gills with stuff ranging from stationary to game controllers and a bunch of wires and dongles.
It is a pretty long desk. I understand that you were sharing it with your wife for a while. What was it like sharing a desk?
Yes, it’s just under 10 feet long and about 30 inches deep. We liked the idea of sharing it for when I’m editing photos and she is working on her crafty projects at the same time, or even just for playing games together. My side has the legs for more space to accommodate my PC, and her side has that svelte Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 laptop sitting on it. I must credit Monica Chin’s review for being the reason we bought that. It’s such a great little laptop!
Once March of 2020 came around, we found ourselves working from home in our office together for over a full year. It was kind of nice to have some company while working remotely, and we’d have lunch or snack breaks together when schedules permitted. Now I’m in a fully remote position, but she had to go back to the office, so I no longer have my desk partner during work hours (tragic!).
Tell me about your chair.
Both of our chairs are the same Steelcase Leap V2 ergonomic office chairs. They’re just your basic black fabric models without any fancier bells or whistles. But I bought them both in 2020 from someone liquidating office furniture on Craigslist. They normally sell for nearly $1,000 each, but I got two in like-new condition for a total of $600. They’re totally worth it and much better than the spare dining room chairs we were initially using. Also, I hate “gaming” chairs. Just putting that out there because it must be said, and it should be repeated ad nauseam. My Ford Fiesta has bolstered seats because sometimes I want to be stupid around a corner, and that makes sense. My love handles don’t need bolstering when I’m trying to wildly 360 noscope in Halo Infinite.
Okay, here goes: tell us about the tech that you’re using.
Oh boy… OK, I’ll start with my computers and work my way around.
My work laptop issued by Vox Media is a 2020 MacBook Air with M1 processor. It rarely fails to impress me with how good it is for everyday use and even a fair bit of photo editing in Lightroom Classic. It’s got your typical Satechi USB hub plugged into it full-time because I use an external monitor and often need the SD card slot.
As for my desktop computer, located under the desk, I built it back in 2014. It’s pretty old now, but the 980 Ti GPU and Intel Core i7-4770K processor have not failed me yet. I just run new games at low settings. I don’t see myself upgrading soon, especially with the current state of availability and prices on GPUs and other parts.
I use the same monitor for both machines. It’s a 30-inch Dell U3014 QHD monitor that I got back when I built my computer. It does not stack up to what’s out there now for a whole lot less money, but I still appreciate that it’s got a 16:10 aspect ratio.
My secret weapon in bouncing back and forth between machines is a USB switcher. It is located in that mess of cables beneath my monitor. I have four peripherals plugged into it: the Elgato HD60 S+ capture card I use for webcam duties, the Zoom H6 audio interface for my mic, a USB-C cable for when I am using a wired keyboard or need to charge this one, and a mouse receiver. I press the button on the switcher, and all four devices swap from my laptop to my desktop and vice versa. I find it super handy when you’re balancing your devices with work and personal duties.
The camera above my monitor is a Canon EOS R that’s been relegated to full-time webcam duties with the Elgato. I use the 24-105mm f/4 kit lens, though I also tinker with an adapter and one of my classic Leitz lenses from the 1950s for some “bokehlicious” Zoom calls. My microphone is a Rode Procaster that is connected to the Zoom H6 via XLR. The other mic you see on my wife’s side is a Samson Q2U that I used before I bought the Rode. It’s also connected to the H6, which is very handy when we’re playing games online together with friends or family — both our inputs are mixed together and go through one Discord account, so we never have to worry about our proximity to each other’s mics.
Other small things of note are the Steelseries Aerox 3 mouse, which is super lightweight but only okay on battery life when RGB is on, and my Anker wireless charging stand next to the adorable elago W3 stand for my Apple Watch that looks like an original Macintosh.
That’s a nice-looking keyboard.
Thanks! Though, in the world of mechanical keyboards, it’s fairly basic. This keeb is a wireless TM680, which is a 65 percent layout, hot-swappable board that I set up with Gateron yellow linear switches. I caught wind of this awesome budget board from our deputy editor and fellow mech warrior, Dan Seifert.
I fell in love with small-format keyboards when I got a secondhand Anne Pro 2 (a 60-percent board) in 2020, and now even a TKL (tenkeyless) is too big for me. I like the amount of desk space they save and how your mouse hand sits closer to your body.
The keycaps are from Akko, which are colorfully inspired by EVA-01 of Evangelion to satisfy my inner anime fan. I swapped the plastic volume knob with a metal one, but I still have some small mods I want to try, including lubing the switches and taping the inside of the board to improve the noise profile. Click-clack!
I see you’ve got a couple of cameras. And is that a “real” watch?
Yes, there are few other things I spend stupid money on as much as cameras and watches. The watch pictured here is my all-metal G-Shock in gold (GMWB5000GD-9). My modest collection of affordable watches (no fancy Rolexes or anything here) is kept nearby in a drawer so I can choose what I feel like wearing for the day. When not in use, I leave this G-Shock on the desk to hear it beep on the hour.
The cameras are my Leica Q2 and Sony A9 II. The A9’s main duties are wedding gigs and any general stuff that calls for different lenses. The adapted lens you see is a beater Leica 75mm f/2.4 Summarit that still works even though it took a hard spill on the ground. The Q2 is my go-to choice for just enjoying photography on the regular, though I take it along on a job too. My Leica M6 film camera (not pictured) is usually here as well, but it’s been out on repair. I’ve neglected it for a while, but I might shoot a little more film in the future.
I like having my cameras at the ready nearby, in case I need to quickly throw them in a bag and head on my way or if creativity strikes around the house. We have two cats, and sometimes you just have to snap the quick cat pic that is far higher quality than it needs to be.
Is that a sound screen you have against the wall? You also have a light source and a mic (and a pair of headphones hidden under the desk).
That’s an Ikea Symfonisk picture frame speaker on the wall, which we just got recently, and I already really dig it. We purchased a couch from Ikea a few years back and got one of the Symfonisk bookshelf speakers with the rewards points. That got us into the Sonos ecosystem, and we now have six speakers around the house (three bookshelf speakers, one picture frame, a lamp, and a Sonos Beam soundbar). I play music nearly all day long since I’m by myself and too much silence makes me anxious.
As for the lights and headphones, I used to do some livestreams and briefly tinkered with streaming on Twitch. The lights themselves are two LED panels from a Neewer kit, one of which has an added softbox. They are mounted with C-clamp-style desktop stands, along with the Canon camera. The headphones hung under my desk are an old pair of Audio Technica ATH-M50, plugged into the Zoom H6 so I never have to worry about charging my headphones, and I also get real-time audio monitoring of my own voice when I talk into the Rode mic.
Why do I do all this? Well, I’m a try-hard poser — obviously. I don’t do live streams these days, but I always enjoy tinkering with stuff like this. And nobody is going to complain that you sound too good on Zoom or Discord.
Like a lot of us, you’ve got your share of action figures and other cool toys. Tell us about them.
I try not to spread around too many toys and collectibles (lord help me if I ever bust out my old Gundam model kits), but I’ve got a few choice ones. The “This Is Fine” dog by KC Green was a going-away gift from a former colleague, and it’s the perfect desk tchotchke. I bought the Master Chief recently because it was on sale, and I liked the Halo Infinite in-game weapon skin that accompanied it. The lime green Geodude and little boat (its name is Benchy) are some 3D prints I made years ago when I was tinkering in that world. Geodude also doubles as a pen holder.
Speaking of pens, the single-shot Nerf blaster in my pen cup is to thwart would-be assassins. Or for shooting at the wall when I need another reason to get up and walk around.
I see you like to leave yourself Post-Its.
Yes, I sometimes put up Post-Its on my monitor for reminders or random messages. I have a penchant for some brutal self-deprecating humor, so these Post-Its range from Adventure Time quotes to expletive-ladened self-motivational notes.
And like many of us, you also use a notebook.
I love a good notebook, in part because I’m obsessed with fountain pens — which I previously mentioned in our post about how we stay organized. I’m far from the most hardcore enthusiast or collector, but I own about seven fountain pens. Most of them are very inexpensive, and some were so cheap they’re kinda crappy and barely worth futzing with (the typical bad initial purchases you later learn from). The two I use the most are the Lamy Safari with a fine nib and the TWSBI Eco with an extra-fine nib. I write a bit small, so these work well for me. Though, my Pilot Metropolitan with a medium nib is also great.
I have a bunch of other notebooks on reserve, but it takes a long while for me to get through just one. I also have my fountain pen inks stored here in a drawer, and at the rate I’m going, it may take me multiple lifetimes to get through the five small bottles of ink I have. Regardless, there’s just something about these geeky pens that I’m super into.
The left side of the desk has a lot more toys and other fun stuff. Is that your wife’s stuff?
Yes, she is definitely the light side to my dark side here. Her half is nice and neat, with a cute sensibility and the natural light of the window. My side is like a cave troll’s den by comparison, lit by daylight-balanced LEDs in a meager attempt to look human.
Is there anything else about your workspace that we haven’t covered?
I have to credit my wife with her creative way of hiding our ugly router, modem, and Philips Hue bridge in the white mesh letter trays. At first, I feared it might be like a faraday cage for our home Wi-Fi, but thankfully it doesn’t affect it. Our shared iPad also lives there, though it’s mostly used as a Netflix machine or for streaming New York Rangers games when we’re both hanging here in the evening.
Oh, and since I first shot photos for this article, my Leica M6 just came back from repair. So now my trifecta of cameras is reunited. I should go take some pictures...