The best tech products you need to work from home
Here's what you need to get the most out of your home office.
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Many of us are working from home right now in an effort to practice social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19. While there’s light at the end of the tunnel thanks to the vaccine rollouts, for many of us social distancing means staying home for now and getting our work done amongst an all-new set of distractions.
While working from home sounds luxurious—hanging in your pajamas, for instance—there are advantages to office life that are easy to overlook. Productivity aids like a second computer monitor or fast WiFi are easy to take for granted. At Reviewed, we have years of experience evaluating tech products, and a lot of us work remotely year-round. If you're finding your cozy home isn't quite as amenable to maintaining focus as you might have thought, this suite of key products should help make your workday-at-home a lot easier.
1. A great pair of noise-canceling headphones
If you're looking to maintain focus throughout a day of work at home, a great pair of noise canceling headphones should be on the top of your list. Our current top-rated headphones—the Sony WH-1000XM4—aren't just a good investment for working remotely, they're a good investment in general.
Multiple Reviewed staffers have fallen in love with these luxurious over-ear cans over the past year. Sony really knocked it out of the park with these: they're somehow both lightweight and sturdy at the same time, and comfortable enough that you can use them for hours. They’re a minor update over the previous-generation WH-1000XM3, but the added features like speak-to-chat and dual Bluetooth connection definitely come in handy.
Naturally, their audio quality is as good as it gets in this price range, and with up to 30 hours of battery life per charge, your full workday is an easy ask. But their best feature is their adaptive noise-canceling: they reduce a ton of ambient sound, and can even adjust to the environment around you to better perform that role, even adjusting for barometric pressure for your next travel adventure (which hopefully won’t be far off). In short, they're a key tool for staying focused.
You can read more about why we love these headphones so much in our full Sony WH-1000XM4 review, but suffice to say we think they're worth every penny–even though they're definitely on the pricy side. If you're looking for something a bit more budget-friendly, check out Sony's similarly designed (but much cheaper) WH-CH710N. You can also find other great selections on our list of the best noise-canceling headphones.
2. A reliable, flexible computer monitor
In the age of 11- and 13-inch laptops, adding a computer monitor to your home office can be transformative. Even if you've got a larger 15.6-inch laptop to work from, an affordable monitor like the Samsung LC24F390 can be a great way to raise your productivity, whether it's by adding a second screen or just an easier display to view for hours at a time.
This monitor sits atop our favorite affordable monitors because it offers the best image quality of any other monitor in its price range, thanks to its ability to display deep blacks levels, and vibrant colors all for well under $200. It’s also curved, which makes for a slightly more immersive experience.
There’s only one notable downside in the slightly sub-par stand, which looks and feels a little flimsy. That said, the monitor has a VESA mount, so you can use a different stand or arm with it for around $25. The Samsung LC24F390 also has an HDMI input, so it should work with most of your devices, as well as advanced features like AMD FreeSync and Game Mode for those times when you need to take a break from the spreadsheets.
3 & 4. A comfortable wireless keyboard and mouse combo
Even if you've got a laptop you love, laptop keyboards are notoriously meh and using a trackpad can be dodgy—especially if your job requires scrolling through spreadsheets or using Photoshop. A quality wireless keyboard-and-mouse combo not only helps declutter your desk, but it also makes essential tasks like typing and navigation that much easier.
The Logitech MK270 took honors as our pick for Best Value in our best wireless keyboard-and-mouse guide, and with almost 20,000 ratings on Amazon (almost 70% of them at 5 stars), it's pretty universally loved. It offers impressive key action for fast typing, and even extras like eight programmable hotkeys for frequently used programs and storage for the wireless dongle inside the mouse.
For the cost of a week of coffee runs, you're getting a comfortable, reliable keyboard/mouse combo with good battery life.
5. A wireless router that won't leave you buffering
If you've been putting off replacing your home's unreliable wireless router, now's the perfect time to upgrade to something that won't let you down—especially important while working remotely.
Of all the wireless routers we've extensively tested, the D-Link DIR-878 is our pick for the overall best. It doesn't come with all of the features you might find in higher-end routers (it lacks USB ports, for example), but from a performance standpoint, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better router in this price range.
Case in point? The DIR-878 delivered the best performance results in our toughest, long-range wireless transfer test. Plus, the DIR-878's set-up process is a cinch, so it's approachable for most people, regardless of technical expertise.
There are other routers that are better suited for power users, but if you don't have several high-bandwidth devices that all need attention, the D-Link DIR-878 is a great choice. If you do consider yourself a power user, you might want to look into our guide for the best mesh WiFi systems to raise your wireless game even further.
6. A new laptop to stay on top of work
If you need to get a laptop to do your job from home (or are just realizing your laptop is too slow to rely on for the near future), we recommend the astonishingly powerful Apple M1 MacBook Air, which tops our list of the best laptops you can buy. The Air got a design revamp a few years ago to help make it look classy and sleek. But it’s what’s under the hood that really counts.
The latest Air model boasts Apple’s new M1 chip which is incredibly powerful and allows for unparalleled battery life, letting you work from the den, the living room, or wherever you’d like tether-free for up to 13 hours. For those worried about compatibility, fear not: the M1 laptop still works with apps made for Intel-based Macs thanks to Apple’s new Rosetta 2 software, which runs seamlessly in the background.
Apart from the excellent performance, the MacBook Air offers a great keyboard and an incredible trackpad. And, you can get it all for a base price of just under $1,000. If you’re dead set on a bit more battery and the digital touch bar, you also can’t go wrong with the new M1 Macbook Pro, but the Air offers the best value for our money.
If you prefer to stick within the Windows ecosystem, then there’s another option to consider: The HP Spectre x360 14t. This laptop boasts a convertible design that means you can essentially use it as a tablet, plus it’s powerful enough to handle all your basic work tasks.
Under the hood, the laptop comes with an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, coupled with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. In other words, whether you’re video-chatting, using productivity software like Microsoft Office, or doing some basic image editing, this laptop has you covered. And, with the beautiful 14-inch display, you can see all that content at a glance.
7. A laptop stand that won't let you down
Even if you already have a great laptop, a laptop stand can be a life-saver when you're working from home. Having your screen at the right height (eye level, roughly) and angle when possible is better for your neck and back, helping you work more comfortably and avoid residual strain.
And boy, do we know a thing or two about laptop stands. We tested a bunch to find the best, and the Rain Design mStand took our spot for Best Overall. It's not exactly cheap, but it’s not super pricey either, and it offers the best combination of sleek design aesthetics, durability, and flexible laptop presentation. It's available in silver, gold, or space gray.