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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–sitting around in your pyjamas, 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 cosy 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-cancelling 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 favourite, 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. 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-cancelling: 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.
Get the Sony WH-1000XM3 over-ear headphones from Amazon for £240
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 favourite affordable monitors. It utilizes an IPS (in-plane switching) style LCD screen, which offers better colour 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.
Get the HP VH240a from Laptops Direct for £169.98
3 & 4. A comfortable, wireless keyboard and mouse combo
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 was our pick for Best Value when we evaluated the best wireless keyboard-and-mouse combos, and with over 4,000 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.
Get the Logitech MK270 wireless keyboard/mouse combo from Amazon for £18.95
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.
Get the D-Link DIR-878 WiFi Router from Amazon for £57.95
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.
Get the 13-inch HP Spectre x360 from Currys for £1399
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.
Get the 16-inch MacBook Pro from Best Buy for £2568.98
Finally, if you need a new laptop but don’t have £1000 to spend, we’re right there with you. Fortunately, one of our favourite Chromebooks can be had for hundreds less. This Asus Chromebook Flip delivers a 14-inch full-HD touchscreen, an Intel Core m3 processor, and a 360-degree hinge for maximum flexibility.
Get the 14-inch Asus Chromebook Flip from Currys for £499
7. A laptop stand that won’t let you down
Even if you don’t need one of the laptops above and already have a great laptop, a laptop stand can be a back-saver when you’re working at home—especially if you don’t have a proper desk and desk chair to work at. 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.
When we tested laptop stands to find the best, the Rain Design mStand took our spot for Best Overall. It’s not exactly cheap, but it offers the best combination of sleek design aesthetics, durability, and flexible laptop presentation. It’s available in silver, gold, or space gray.
Get the Rain Design mStand from Amazon for £49.90