An awful lot of us are working from home right now in an effort to practice "social distancing," a recommended remedy for the spread of the new coronavirus, covid-19. For many of us, that means staying home 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 Wi-Fi 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 headphones should be on the top of your list. Our current favorite, top-rated headphones—the Sony WH-1000XM3—aren't just a good investment for working remotely, they're a good investment regardless.
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.
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 workday is an easy task. 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. In short, they're a key tool for staying focused.
You can read a lot more about why we love these headphones so much in our full Sony WH-1000XM3 review, but suffice to say we think they're worth every penny, even if they're a bit on the pricy side. If they're too rich for your blood, check out some of our more affordable selections on our list of the best headphones of 2020.
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. But even if you've got a larger 15.6-inch laptop to work from, a 24-inch monitor like the HP VH240a can be a great way to up your productivity, whether it's by adding a second screen to display information, or just an easier screen to view for hours at a time.
This monitor sits atop our favorite affordable monitors. It utilizes an IPS (in-plane switching) style LCD screen, which offers better color and viewing angles compared to the VA- or TN-type screens found on most laptops.
Unlike many monitors in this price range, it also offers a high degree of flexibility: panel tilting, adjustable height, and portrait rotation, which are not usually flexibility features you get for less than $200. It's also got inputs for HDMI and VGA, meaning it'll interface just fine with most laptops (though you should check your video out ports just in case). Of course, you could also just hook your laptop up to your TV if you want a really big screen.
3 & 4. A comfortable, wireless keyboard and mouse combo
Even if you've got a laptop you love to work from, 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, it makes essential tasks like typing and navigation that much easier.
The Logitech MK270 was our pick for best value when we evaluated the best wireless keyboard-and-mouse combos, and with almost 20,000 ratings on Amazon (almost 70% of them at 5 stars), it's pretty easy to see why. For the cost of a week's coffees, 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 you work 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, it's tough to find a better performing 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.
The bottom line is this: 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 a mesh WiFi system.
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 newest 13-inch HP Spectre x360. It offers high-end design, top-of-the-line speed, and an excellent keyboard/screen/trackpad combo—with new configs featuring Intel's latest 10th-gen i7 processor costing just $1,000 on sale.
If you need a MacBook or something even more powerful for creative work, we would recommend the newer 16-inch MacBook Pro, which has an updated keyboard design that replaces the incredibly unreliable "butterfly" keyboard Apple introduced awhile back. It's big and heavy, but it's the best MacBook right now.