Skip to main content

Hardware essentials for working from home

hardware main banner
(Image credit: Unsplash)
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

monitors banner

(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.

BenQ PD3200U

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.

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.
View Deal

Also worth considering

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.
View Deal

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.
View Deal

The best computer monitors compared

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

external hdd banner

(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.

Buffalo MiniStation Extreme NFC external hard drive

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!

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.

View Deal

Other recommendations

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.
View Deal

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.
View Deal

The best external hard drives compared

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

best laptops banner

(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.

Dell XPS 13

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.

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.View Deal

Other recommendations

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.
View Deal

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.
View Deal

The best business laptops compared

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

webcams banner

(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
Reasons to buy
+Content creation features+Facial tracking+Auto-focusing
Reasons to avoid
-Not cheap

Our top pick for the best webcams is more than just a webcam. The Logitech StreamCam won’t just have your back when you’re video conferencing, video chatting with families and friends, and live streaming your games. This feature-rich 1080p webcam has many tools to offer for your content creation needs as well, including auto-focusing, smart exposure, facial tracking, up to 60fps frame rate, and a flippable design so you can take photos and videos in 9:16 format. You can even mount it on a tripod, and it uses USB Type-C for fast and more efficient video transfer speeds.

EDITOR'S CHOICE

Logitech StreamCam - Best overall webcam - $199.90
The Logitech StreamCam is a brilliant business webcam. While it's not primarily designed for business use, the fact that it offers excellent features like auto-focusing, smart exposure, facial tracking, up to 60fps frame rate, and a flippable design, means it's a great choice for professionals.View Deal

Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 - best value for money - $55.95
The Microsoft LifeCam Studio is one of the best webcams out there. Aimed at pro users with large displays, it features a familiar configuration of 1080p recording and 720p live video calling. It rotates 360 degrees, and can be mounted on a tripod with autofocus. The wideband mic delivers crystal clear audio, and Microsoft’s TrueColor system will shift the exposure dynamically to keep you well lit.View Deal

Microsoft LifeCam Studio for Business - a great pro option - $99.00
The LifeCam Studio is made for business conferencing and presentations, with its 1080p recording, 720p live video calling and wideband mic to deliver crystal clear sound. This is a serious peripheral – one that requires a powerful PC for max settings. It comes with 360-degree rotating capabilities and Microsoft’s TrueColor system.
View Deal

Best webcams compared

ProductResolutionConnectivityFeaturesPrice
Logitech StreamCam1080pUSB Type CSmart auto-focus and exposure, AI-enabled facial tracking, 9:16 format, built-in electronic image stabilization$199.90
Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000720pUSB Type CColour correction, noise cancelling$55.95
Microsoft LifeCam Studio1080pUSB Type CColour correction, hi-fi microphone, Skype$99.00

Best headphones for work

business headphones banner

(Image credit: Future / Sony)

With many of us working from home on a regular basis, having a good pair of headphones with a mic is vital, allowing you to stay in touch and engaged in conference calls wherever you are. There's a huge amount of choice out there, which can make choosing the best headset for conference calls difficult. These are our picks for the best business headphones and earphones picks out there.

Sony WH-1000XM4

The best all-round business headphones

Specifications
Acoustic design: Closed
Weight: 8.95 oz
Cable length: 3.94 ft
Wireless range: 98ft
Battery life: 30 hours
Reasons to buy
+Improved noise-cancellation+DSEE Extreme audio upscaling+Multipoint pairing
Reasons to avoid
-Not water-resistant

The Sony WH-1000XM4 are the best all-around business headphones in 2020, thanks to their combination of excellent sound quality and noise cancellation, as well as being wireless.

Not only do they sound great and pack excellent noise cancellation, but they manage to do this all wirelessly. 

While they don't look significantly different from their predecessors, a number of new features including multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play/pause using a built-in sensor all help the WH-1000XM4 claim the title of best headphones in 2020.

Offering all of this without a serious price-premium over the competition means the Sony WH-1000XM4 are a great all-around choice. 

EDITOR'S CHOICE

Sony WH-1000XM4 - The best all-round business headphones - $298.00
The Sony WH-1000XM4 deliver excellent noise-cancellation and great sound quality all in a lightweight, comfortable design. New features including multipoint pairing, DSEE Extreme upscaling, conversational awareness and auto-play/pause using a built-in sensor all help the WH-1000XM4 claim the title of best business headphones in 2020.View Deal

You could also consider:

Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 - Solid, affordable, mid-range noise-cancelling headphones - $62.98
Plantronics now makes the brilliant BackBeat Go 810, which use less premium materials than its flagship model, but sound nearly identical – and sport an equally chic design. With that in mind, the BackBeat Go 810 are the best headphones for those that want wireless connectivity without the high price tag.View Deal

Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless - Incredible audio fidelity - $349.95
These no-holds-barred wireless headphones are oozing with positive qualities, but for many, they're almost prohibitively expensive. However, if you're an audio lover that can spare the expense, do not hesitate on this comfortable, hard-working set of headphones that will likely last for years.
View Deal

The best headphones for business compared

ProductAcoustic designCable lengthBattery lifeWireless rangePrice
Sony WH-1000XM4Closed3.94 feet30 hours98 feet$298.00
Plantronics BackBeat Go 810ClosedNone24 hours330 feet$62.98
Sennheiser Momentum 3 WirelessClosed4.6 feet25+ hours30+ feet$349.95

More working from home guides and product deals

This guide is one part of a series designed to help you get the most out of working from home. Make working from home as comfortable and as productive as you can:

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