Hardware essentials for working from home

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Working from home product guides

This guide is one part of a series designed to help you get the most out of working from home. Check out our others:

1. Office equipment
2.
Software essentials
3.
Home office furniture

As we all face up to working from home on a more regular basis, it's prudent to equip a home office with devices that will help you perform your job to the best of your ability, and to furnish your surroundings in a way that will help make it not only a productive space, but also a pleasant one.

In this guide we review and recommend the best hardware upgrades you can make to your home office to help you work from home.

Looking for something specific? Try these quick links:

Computer monitors
External hard drives
Laptops
Webcams
Headphones

Best computer monitors

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(Image credit: Future / Benq)

To truly get the most out of that new PC or laptop you’ve invested in, a great-performing monitor is vital. Most of the information you take in from your computer comes through the display and it’s worth having a quality one for a positive computing experience. Not to mention the productivity gains made from working with two screens. Because there are so many to choose from, we’ve rounded up our picks to help you find the right one for your needs.

The top choice for professionals

Specifications

Screen size: 32-inch
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Brightness: 350 cd/m2
Contrast ratio: 1,000:1

Reasons to buy

+
4K resolution
+
Large screen

Reasons to avoid

-
Design may seem dull to some
-
Some features a bit niche

Now that the best PCs and laptops can handle 4K easier than ever before, 4K monitors are all over the place. That’s why BenQ released the PD3200U, a massive 32-inch Ultra HD display, as part of its Designer Monitor range. 

Designers particularly love this display, thanks to the factory-calibrated color accuracy and CAD/CAM mode. Marketed to creatives and professionals, BenQ has designed, seemingly by istake, a panel that gamers will enjoy as well, making it one of the best monitors all-around – so long as they can find the space for it on their desks.

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EDITOR'S CHOICE

BenQ PD3200U - best overall computer monitor - $699
Monitors like the BenQ PD3200U give us hope for a 4K future. It performs brilliantly, and the large screen size really gives you an insight into how a large 4K monitor can improve your productivity. The BenQ PD3200U also does a decent job of showing off media and games in 4K, so don’t dismiss it because of its professional-focused design and features.

Also worth considering

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Asus Designo Curve MX38VC - Best ultrawide monitor - $899
Ultrawide monitors have been around for a while: they’ve constantly made it onto our best monitors list for a few years now. These wide monitors are lifesavers when it comes to productivity, and they’re only increasing in popularity. The Asus Designo Curve MX38VC, however, takes it to the next level. Not only does this monitor have a massive 3840 x 1600 resolution, but with USB-C compatibility and a Qi wireless charger built into the base, it’s going to be a workplace companion you won’t want to live without.

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Dell UltraSharp UP3218K - Best build quality and color - $3,999.99
We don’t usually run into technology that’s so far ahead of the curve that we’re left dumbfounded, which is why the Dell UltraSharp UP3218K has impressed us. Dell went so far as to ensure that the build quality and color reproduction are the best in the business as well. The Dell UltraSharp UP3218K is aimed at professionals, obviously, so if that sounds like it’s made for you, it’s probably the best monitor you’ll ever find.

The best computer monitors compared

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Cloud serviceScreen sizeResolutionBrightnessContrast ratioPrice
BenQ PD3200U32-inch3840 x 2160350 cd/m21,000:1$699
Asus Designo Curve MX38VC37.5-inch3840 x 1600300 cd/m21,000:1$899
Dell UltraSharp UP3218K32-inch7680 x 4320400 cd/m21,300:1$3,999.99

Best external hard drives

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(Image credit: Future / WD)

External hard drives will save you money. Instead of paying for expensive upgrades to an existing laptop, or buying a new one, hard drives are a way to save money and protect your files. They’re perfect backup solutions not just for personal but business use as well. These are our picks for the best external hard drives right now.

Specifications

Capacity: 1TB or 2TB
Connectivity: USB 3.0

Reasons to buy

+
NFC security
+
Rugged design
+
Fast drive

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing of note

If you’re looking for the best external hard drive that will save you money, Buffalo's MiniStation Extreme NFC could be your match made in heaven.

With compatibility for both Mac and Windows machines, the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC is very flexible, and comes with a rugged case that's dust and water resistant, along with a built-in USB 3.0 cable.

Not only is your data kept protected from knocks and drops with the rugged shell, but it's also got 256-bit AES security features and NFC (Near Field Communication) features as well.

Essentially it allows you to unlock the drive to get to your files quickly and easily by tapping the supplied NFC card onto the drive's body. Pretty neat!

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EDITOR'S CHOICE

Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC external hard drive - Best overall - $114.99 / $164.99
It's not indestructible, but the Buffalo MiniStation Extreme makes a nice change from some of the dangerously flimsy external hard drives we've tested. It's also got 256-bit AES security features and NFC features and is compatibility for both Mac and Windows PCs. Oh, and it's fast, too. A great choice for a home and portable external hard drive.

Other recommendations

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WD My Passport Ultra 4TB external hard drive - Best built-in encryption - $79.99 / $114.99
The latest generation of the Western Digital My Passport Ultra range of external hard drives is here, coming in sizes from 1TB to 4TB, and they’re among the best external hard drives out there. It features cloud storage and 256-AES encryption, along with WD's own software suite.

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Samsung T5 SSD external hard drive - Best SSD - $129.99 / $229.99
If you'd rather have an external hard drive that takes advantage of solid state drive (SSD) speeds, then the Samsung Portable SSD T5 is among the best external hard drives you can buy. Samsung has an excellent reputation for external SSDs and the T5 builds on its predecessors by adding a fast USB Type-C connection that ekes out every last drop of performance from the solid state drive inside. It's backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 if your PC doesn't have USB Type-C. Be prepared to shell out a bit more cash, but it’s well worth it.

The best external hard drives compared

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Hard driveCapacityConnectivityPrice
Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC1TB / 2TBUSB 3.0$114.99 / $164.99
Western Digital My Passport Ultra2TB / 4TBUSB 3.0$79.99 / $114.99
Samsung T5 SSD external hard drive1TB / 2TBUSB 3.1$129.99 / $229.99

Back to external hard drives top.

Best business laptops

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(Image credit: Future / Dell)

Over the course of a year, we review over 150 laptops covering every price point and use case. If you’re looking for a productivity workhorse - the perfect business laptop- then these are the computers for you. In our evaluations, we focus on design and comfort, display quality, the keyboard and touchpad, performance, battery life and especially value. These are our picks for the best business laptops you can buy right now.

The best overall laptop you can buy today

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i7-1165G7
GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 16GB
Display: 13.4-inch, 1200p
Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 2.8 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Attractive, premium chassis
+
Great performance
+
Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks legacy ports

What do you get when you put one of Intel’s new Tiger Lake processors into a Dell XPS 13? Even more speed. The latest Dell XPS 13 keeps all the things we loved about this year’s previous model, such as a smaller frame, four-sided InfinityEdge bezels and a larger keyboard. 

This refresh brings Intel’s 11th Gen Tiger Lake processor and a host of promised features, including better CPU and graphics performance and longer battery life. You also get Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6.

But does Tiger Lake live up to the hype? Absolutely. With the new Intel Iris Xe GPU you can play certain AAA games on an integrated GPU, albeit on low settings. And in many cases, the overall performance is top-notch as well. 

The battery life even surpasses Intel’s new Evo standards by two hours. Those looking for a business laptop with equal parts beauty, power and longevity, the Dell XPS 13 is the laptop for you.

Dell XPS 13 - Best overall laptop - $1,400
EDITOR'S CHOICE

Dell XPS 13 - Best overall laptop - $1,400
Smaller, sleeker and sporting the tiniest bezels on all sides, the new Dell XPS 13 shows that Dell still knows how to push the envelope without going too far. It's an exercise in patient restraint, improving the notebook in a bunch of small ways that add up to a big leap for the system.

Other recommendations

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Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, M1) - The best MacBook on the market - $1,200
The MacBook Pro 13-inch M1 delivers impressive performance and has the longest battery life we’ve ever seen on a Mac. If that’s not enough, paired with new OS Big Sur, you get blistering webpage load times and a better webcam experience – all thanks to Apple Silicon. In short, the new MacBook Pro is everything Apple said it would be and more.

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Acer Swift 3 (2020, AMD Ryzen 7 4700U) - $809.00
The 2020 Acer Swift 3 served up surprising power on our benchmarks including overall and graphics performance. Plus, it has staying power with over 11 hours of battery life, premium good looks, and a rather comfortable keyboard. The Acer Swift 3 is an $800 laptop that can best some of the most premium laptops on the market.

The best business laptops compared

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Video conferencing serviceCPUGPURAMStorageDisplayWeightPrice
Dell XPS 13Intel Core i7-1165G7Intel Iris Xe Graphics16GB 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD13.4-inch, 1200p2.8 pounds$1,400
MacBook Pro M1Apple M1Apple M1 GPU16GB 1TB 13.3-inches, 1600p3 pounds$1,200
Acer Swift 3 2020AMD Ryzen 7 4700UAMD Radeon Graphics8GB 512GB SSD14-inch, 1080p2.7 pounds$809.00

Best webcams

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(Image credit: Future / Logitech)

When working from home, or if you're unable to visit friends and family, webcams can not only be essential tools, but lifelines as well, that allow us to keep in contact with colleagues, friends and loved ones remotely. An upgrade from a laptop or smartphone's built-in camera will mean vastly improved image and sound quality and make these essential communications all the better. These are the best webcams you can buy right now.

Logitech StreamCam

Best overall webcam

Specifications

Resolution: 1080p
Connectivity: USB Type C
Features: Smart auto-focus and exposure, AI-enabled facial tracking, 9:16 format, built-in electronic image stabilization