Best gifts for working at home in 2020
This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.
After working from home went mainstream in the spring, many of our favorite remote-work staples became impossible to buy online. But now many of those items have come back into stock — and for the first time in a long time, our favorite Webcams, USB mics and monitors are once again available. These peripherals, accessories and services can upgrade the remote work experience, and they make great holiday gifts.
The must-haves are obvious: A full-size keyboard, a wireless mouse and an external monitor. But there’s a handful of other gear — from a proper desk to blue-light-blocking glasses to a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones — that can make your workday less frustrating, more productive and quite comfortable. Our recommendations are below.
More stuff to make WFH go smoothly
Logitech’s new-for-2020 mouse is ostensibly geared for travel, but it’s really just a good all-around mouse for anyone who finds the step-up Logitech MX Master 3 to be overkill. From the scrollwheel to the programmable side buttons, this mouse can handle any pointing task. It charges via USB-C, and interfaces with devices via the included USB-A Unifying dongle or Bluetooth. There’s also an Apple-centric model available for the same price.
If space is tight but you need to print shipping labels, shopping lists or homework assignments a few times a month — an increasing likelihood as the coronavirus era drags on — this is your machine. The HP LaserJet Pro M15w is a great fit for practical, nonfussy tasks and its tiny footprint, measuring about 8 inches deep and 14 inches wide, fits perfectly on a bookshelf. And it connects via Wi-Fi to nearly any device, which means you can print from your phone. If the students in your family can live without a scanner — after all, phone cameras can handle most scanning jobs now — and color output, the LaserJet Pro M15w is a great choice for under $120.
After being sold out for months, Logitech’s excellent StreamCam is now intermittently back in stock. And though it’s expensive, it’s worth the money — if you can find one for the $170 list price. (Some resellers have been price-gouging since the epidemic started).
Once connected to a USB-C port, this wonderfully smart, capable camera delivers crisp HD video (in both landscape and portrait mode) and good sound. It automatically keeps you centered in the frame, even as you move around. And in addition to supporting Zoom and Google Meet, the included Logi Capture software is intuitive and highly customizable. You can mount it atop an external display, laptop or on a tripod, and it supports both MacOS and Windows.
If it’s sold out, you can use a tripod and your phone’s HD camera for video chatting. Here’s how to do it. And if you’re looking for other gear to help enhance your meetings online, we’ve got a roundup of gear for video chats.
The Shure MV5 combines an unfussy setup and high-quality audio with a compact form-factor. I wouldn’t recommend it for high-stakes recording projects, but it will certainly boost the sound quality of your Zoom meetings and other webconferencing interactions. It comes with both USB-C and Lightning cables.
If you’re willing to spend more, and can find it in stock, the Blue Yeti is an even better mic for advanced users. It features three capsule microphones, four pickup patterns (for different kinds of recording) and just enough controls to help optimize the way you sound without overloading you with super technical features.
Many newer gadgets have transitioned to USB-C charging, but plenty of us still have legacy USB-A cables around the house. With the Aukey Omnia 65-watt charger, you’re good to go with any of them. It’s got both types of jacks, and the USB-C one is Power Delivery compatible, meaning it can charge most compatible laptops, too. Best of all, this costs as little as $25, thanks to a semipermanent Amazon instant coupon.
There’s a lot to like about the Edge Desk System. It provides a highly ergonomic sitting position, with knee supports that can relieve the tension of sitting in a traditional chair. It’s highly adjustable and we’ve been able to change the height and angle to accommodate everyone in my family, including an 8-year-old child. It can also easily and quickly fold up into a surprisingly compact and mobile package.
Tabletop real estate is at a premium in my house these days, with two adults working full-time and two kids who occasionally dabble in remote schoolwork. In an effort to make a room of her own, my wife bought this simple, inexpensive and surprisingly adjustable two-piece desk system. Aside from the roller wheels, which are great, but which weren’t fun to install, the setup was painless. The desk allows her to work seated or standing, with one platform for a keyboard and another for a laptop or display.
BenQ is currently offering $50 off this 32-inch 4K LED display. That’s a good price for a large, ultra high-def HDR display.
Apple’s Magic Keyboard is awesome. It has the old-school Mac keyboard design and space, with the pleasing scissor key mechanism, and it’s wireless, connecting via Bluetooth. Best of all, the battery, which is rechargeable via USB, lasts for months on a charge. (I also love Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 for the same reasons.) The larger version with the numeric keypad — yep, that’s great, too.
You can use Apple’s peripherals with Windows machines, but if you’re looking for an alternative Bluetooth keyboard that will work with anything from Windows PCs to Macs to iPads to phones, the Logitech K380 (about $30) is a great choice. Pair it with up to three devices, and toggle between each of them with the click of a button.
If your kids invade your office and you really need to tune out distractions, noise-canceling headphones are a good way to maintain focus. Plantronics isn’t as cool a brand as Beats or Bose, but the BackBeat Pro 2 provide excellent wireless noise canceling and they cost considerably less than comparable models from those other companies. They’re also comfortable to wear, sound great on phone calls and are smart enough to pause whatever you’re listening to when you take them off. But if you need more options — including AirPods-style true wireless models — check out our list of best noise-canceling headphones.
When you work from home, making coffee becomes a sacramental practice. Think of this kitchen appliance as the Swiss army knife of the drip coffee maker world. The Ninja programmable brewer (with frother, thermal carafe and reusable filter) offers an uncanny degree of flexibility, making it the best coffee maker for those who don’t always want the same cup. It can create everything from solid drip, to perfect cold brew, to iced coffee, to latte-style drinks with its milk frother, and it will adjust the temperature according to your choice. Its thermal carafe will keep tea or coffee hot up to two hours. This programmable coffee maker even lets you brew iced coffee and hot coffee in multiple sizes, from small cups, mugs and travel mugs, all the way up to half and full carafes.
When you’re not commuting, there may be some more time for dinner prep. Dinnerly rolls out exciting-sounding and delicious meals such as summery chicken panzanella and risotto with asparagus and cannellini beans. But with no more than six ingredients per recipe, the damage done to your time and kitchen is minimized. The price tag for Dinnerly puts it squarely in the budget-friendly category, clocking in with a cost per serving of around $5. The subscription options include a Two-Person Box for $30, or a Family Box for $60, each with three recipes for the week. Looking for more options? Check out our list of best mealkit services.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.