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1 October 2020

Home office tech set up

Buy the best home office tech, including PCs, monitors and laptops plus noise-cancelling headphones, printers and a computer mouse
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TM
Tom Morgan

If you're working from home, you'll need the right technology. A speedy laptop, reliable broadband connection and affordable printer can all help you tackle the jobs you'd normally work through at the office.

Keep scrolling for our advice on how to buy the best laptops, desktop PCs, printers, headphones, monitors and more.

Laptops

Where to buy: Amazon, Argos, Currys PC World, John Lewis and Laptops Direct are all popular retailers.

How much should I expect to spend?

An entry-level laptop with a small screen can be yours for less than £200, but at this price the laptop will probably only be able to deal with simple tasks.

  • Cheap laptops (<£500) – good enough for writing up documents and sending off emails from home. The Chromebook range is worth a look if you're on a tight budget.
  • Mid-range laptops (£500-£800) – in this price range you'll get a bigger screen and usually enough processing power to edit photos and videos.
  • Premium laptops (£800+) – if working from home demands that you run lots of windows and resource-intensive apps at once, a premium laptop with a top-of-the-range processor is the best option.

Compare prices and specs in our laptop reviews.

Laptop features to look out for

Screen size

A big-screen laptop makes it easier to multitask, as you can have lots of windows open at once.

If you're on a budget, you could save some money by buying a smaller laptop and hooking it up to a larger monitor.

If you want a longer-lasting battery and a more portable device, you may want to go for an 11, 12 or 13-inch screen – most of these will weigh between 1kg and 1.5kg. The largest screens are 15 or 17 inches, with weight the laptop increasing to around 2kg to 3kg.

Read more on laptop features in: How to buy the best laptop.



Storage space

Storage capacity, measured in the size of the hard disk drive (HDD) in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB, equal to 1,000GB), determines how many things your laptop can hold. Documents, photos, music, films and programs – they all take up space. 

If your job requires you to deal with large files, pictures and videos, you'll need a good amount of storage space. Alternatively, you could rely on a cloud storage service, but you might need to pay a monthly fee for the convenience.

How much do you have now? Check ‘My Computer’ if you’re using Windows to gauge how much storage your next laptop needs to have.

Laptop features to look out for: processing power

A laptop's CPU, also known as its processor, determines how much the computer can handle without you experiencing a dip in performance.

Machines with lots of power under the hood will have no problem editing photos, rendering video clips or running multiple apps at the same time.

But if you're simply shopping for a laptop that just handles basic tasks (word processing, emails and web browsing), don't overspend on a top-of-the-range laptop.

For more advice on processors, consult: Intel processors explained: What are Core i3, i5, i7 and Pentium?

Popular laptops

The two laptops below are the most popular, based on visits to Which.co.uk from 14 May 2020 to 14 July 2020. Prices are correct at time of writing. Follow the links to read the full reviews.

1. Acer Swift 1 SF114-32 (£479) – this affordable Acer laptop has a 14-inch display, 128GB of storage and 4GB of Ram. That's a decent spec sheet, but if you're looking for a machine that can handle tougher tasks, you'll need more power. Read the full Acer Swift 1 SF114-32 review.

2. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 (£999) – a 13.5-inch laptop with an i5 processor, 8GB of Ram and 128GB of storage. You can use the front-facing camera to log in instead of using a password. Read the full Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 review.

See which laptops scored top marks in our rigorous lab tests: Best laptops.

Desktop PCs

Where to buy: Amazon, Argos, Currys PC World, John Lewis and Laptops Direct are popular retailers

Buying a desktop rather than a laptop means you'll sacrifice portability, but there are benefits to owning one.

Although bulky, a desktop PC is far more customisable than a laptop. If your desktop PC is slowing down after a couple of years, you can upgrade it with extra Ram (memory) or a new graphics card. You'll also usually get more processing power from a desktop PC than you would with a laptop.

If you want to save on desk space, you could choose an all-in-one PC that houses all of the components behind the screen. This gives you more room, which is a nice bonus from an ergonomic perspective.

How much should I expect to spend?

  • Cheap desktop PCs (<£400) – a basic machine for email, documents and web browsing. Many desktop PCs in this price bracket are powered by an Intel Core i3 processor (i5 and i7 processors are faster).
  • Mid-range desktop PCs (£400-£750) – a better option if you'll be editing pictures and multitasking in your home office on a regular basis. There's a jump up in processing power, which means you might be able to choose an Intel Core i5 processor.
  • Premium desktop PCs (£750+) – your best option if you plan on editing HD video or gaming after you're done working through the day. Expect lots more built-in storage for your larger files.

Compare our desktop PC reviews

Desktop PC features to look out for

Desktop or all-in-one PC?

You'll need to decide whether your home office is going to be powered by a desktop PC or an all-in-one PC.

A desktop PC is the more traditional option – it consists of a computer tower unit that sits by your feet or on the desk, which connects to a separate monitor that you may need to buy separately. You'll need to make sure your desk is tall enough and wide enough to accommodate it.

An all-in-on PC will give your home office a cleaner look, as there's no computer tower. Instead, the computer is integrated into the screen unit.

See more pros and cons of desktops versus all-in-one PCs in: How to buy the best desktop PC

Storage space

Storage space is a key consideration when buying a desktop PC, so think about the size of the files you'll be dealing with for work. If you're simply emailing and web browsing, you'll need less. If you're do multimedia editing and graphics, or are a high-performance gamer after hours, you'll need more. 

Most desktop PC towers have a couple of empty drive bays. This means that if you're low on space, you can buy a new hard drive and slot it inside the machine for an upgrade. Upgrading a laptop is far trickier.

Processing power

The more demanding your computer-based work, the more processing power you'll need. 

  • Basic PC for email, documents and web browsing - Make sure you get at least 4GB of Ram (preferably 8GB if you can), which will help Windows 10 run a lot more smoothly.
  • PC for lots of multitasking or photo editing - you'll want 8GB of Ram and a solid-state drive (SSD) to make things feel really sprightly.
  • A PC for video editing and gaming - at least 16GB, if not 32GB, of Ram.

As desktop PCs give you easy access to the machine's internals, you can always install new Ram if it slows down after a couple of years. 

Popular desktop PCs

The three desktop PCs below are the most popular, based on visits to Which.co.uk from 14 May 2020 to 14 July 2020. Prices are correct at the time of writing. Follow the links to read the full reviews.

1. Acer XC-885 (£449) – if you're looking for power on a budget, consider this Acer model. You get a six-core Intel Core i5-9400 processor, paired with 8GB of Ram. That might be overkill for sending work emails, but it's a good fit for photo and video editing. Read our Acer XC-885review.

2. HP Pavilion 24-xa1009na (£849) – This HP all-in-one PC will save you from having to buy a monitor, keyboard and mouse separately. It has a 23.8-inch screen and a massive 2TB hard disk drive. Read our HP Pavilion 24-xa1009na review.

3. Dell Inspiron 3000 (3670) (£399) – a four-core Intel Core i3-9100 processor is tucked inside, so don't expect super-whizzy speeds. Even so, this processor should cope fine with word processing, PowerPoint presentations and video calls. Read our Dell Inspiron 3000 (3670) review.

See our round-up of the best desktop PCs.

Fast, reliable broadband

Working from home becomes a pain if your internet connection frequently drops out. Reliable broadband means you'll be able to attend those crowded video calls and download important work files over a remote connection or VPN.

If you're living in a household where lots of people will be using the internet at the same time, you need broadband that can keep up. 

A standard broadband deal will give you speeds of around 8-11Mbps, which is more than enough for a small household. A family of four constantly using the internet to work remotely and stream video should consider a superfast package, usually between 35Mbps and 70Mbps.

To make sure your broadband is good enough to support you while you're working from home:

  1. Try our free broadband speed checker tool
  2. Make a note of how the results compare to the speeds you were promised when you signed up with your provider
  3. If you're ready to try a new broadband provider, check our expert broadband provider reviews.

How much should I expect to spend?

The price is made up of payment per month and any upfront costs. Expect to pay from £15 a month for standard broadband and from £35 a month for ultra-fast broadband. See our guide to the best cheap fibre and broadband deals

It can pay to haggle. Fishing for a deal might save you from having to swap broadband providers entirely, instead scoring you a cheaper plan with your current provider.

How to haggle for the best broadband deal.

Printers

Where to buy: Amazon, Argos, Currys PC World, Ryman and Staples are all popular retailers. 

Tucking a printer into the corner of your home office will compliment your setup nicely. You can print off important work documents and file them away, or type up important reminders and stick them to the wall above your PC.

If your work requires you to print off professional-grade photos or posters, your employer may be able to advise on which models are best. Otherwise, an affordable printer for less than £100 should be fine.

How much should I expect to spend?

This all depends on the type and size of the documents you'll need to print.

  • Cheap printers (<£100) – a cheap printer should be capable enough if you just need to print A4 documents, forms and the odd photo.
  • Mid-range printers (£100-£300) – increase your budget if you need a printer that can churn out high-quality prints larger than A4. Mid-range printers can usually offer an automatic document feeder, or automatic double-sided printing.
  • Premium printers (£300+) – This is probably overkill for the average home office. Premium printerscan produce high-quality prints extremely quickly and many have touchscreen displays that let you edit photos on the printer itself.

To make sure you end up with a printer you can rely on, browse our expert printer reviews.

Printer features to look out for

Inkjet or laser?

Inkjet printers are the smaller of the two, so you'll probably lean towards an inkjet if you have limited space in your home office. These printers can handle text-heavy documents and print photos. Our expert tests show that inkjet printers usually cost you less up front, but more in the long term.

Laser printers are designed to churn out documents, graphs and charts. They're generally faster than inkjet printers, but they're also bulkier and louder. If you're printing photos in your home office, a laser printer is the better option.

For more on the key differences between inkjet and laser printers, see our guide on how to buy the best printer.

Cost of ink

A printer may be cheap to buy initially, but without doing your research you could end up paying a fortune in print costs.

For every printer that passes through our test lab, we weigh the ink cartridges before and after our printing tests. This allows us to calculate how much ink was used and gives a sense of how quickly you'll get through a single cartridge.

Lower your ink costs with our expert guide on the best cheap ink cartridges and compatible inks.

Popular printers

The three printers below are the most popular, based on visits to Which.co.uk from 14 May 2020 to 14 July 2020. Prices were correct at the time of writing. Follow the links to read the full reviews.

1. Canon Pixma MX475 (£188.90) – this Canon model can print, copy, scan and fax. It's wi-fi enabled, so you can queue up printing jobs from your smartphone or tablet with the Canon Print app. If you're only looking for a basic printer, you can consider cheaper alternatives. Read our Canon PixmaMX475 review.

2. Epson Expression Home XP-2100 (£44.99) – an all-in-one inkjet wireless printer that scans and copies. It prints in colour using individual cartridges rather than a single combined tri-colour cartridge. Read our Epson Expression Home XP-2100 review.

3. Epson Expression Premium XP-900 (£134.10) – this Epson can print up to A3 in size, which may come in handy if you work in graphic design. If you own an Apple device, you can print wirelessly though the AirPrint service. Read our Epson Expression Premium XP-900review.

See whether these models feature in our pick of the best printers

Headphones

Where to buy: Amazon, Argos, Currys PC World, John Lewis and Richer Sounds are all popular retailers.

The best headphones block out the outside world and help you focus on your work without any interruptions.

Comfort is important, as you could be wearing your headphones for hours at a time. 

Wireless headphones might be for you if you're jogging on your lunch break. They're designed for running and are often water-resistant, so they'll hold up if you get caught in the rain on your way back.

How much should I expect to spend?

  • Cheap headphones (<£50) – The majority of headphones at this price are in-ear. Budget headphones suit occasional use, but you'll get a comfier fit from pricier alternatives.
  • Mid-range headphones (£50-£150) – expect improved build and sound quality. You may also get handy extras, such as a bundled travel case or voice command support.
  • Premium headphones (£150+) – should offer the best noise-cancelling technology and comfort.

See which pairs score highest in our headphone reviews

Headphones features to look out for

Noise-cancelling technology

Noise-cancelling headphones are ideal for noisy spaces.

This sophisticated technology can drive the price up, however. You'll need to pay at least £100, and often more.

Wireless functionality

Wireless headphones certainly make it easier to move around in your home office, but you'll need to consider battery life as the headphones will need charging regularly.

Built-in microphone

If you're leading a group presentation remotely at your computer, having some headphones with a built-in microphone will help others hear what you're saying.

You could potentially rely on the microphone built into your work PC, but the sound won't be as crisp. Investing in a headset for work that has a microphone stalk right next to your mouth will make things clearer.

Popular headphones

The headphones below are the most popular, based on visits to Which.co.uk from 14 May 2020 to 14 July 2020. Prices were correct at the time of writing. Follow the links to read the full reviews.

1. Apple AirPods Pro (£205) – the iconic Apple AirPods don't come cheap, but they're undeniably convenient. These in-ear headphones come with active noise canceling, which aims to block out distracting noises while you're in your home office. Read our Apple AirPods Proreview.

2. Sony WH-1000XM3 (£247) – these over-ear, noise-cancelling headphones let you answer calls to your smartphone hands-free, as they;'re compatible with Apple's Siri and Google's Assistant. These Sony headphones also fold up neatly to tuck into a drawer when you're done for the day. Read our Sony WH-1000XM3review.

3. Skullcandy Sesh (£50) – They look like AirPods and the Skullcandy sesh in-ear headphones are truly wireless, with each bud housing controls for playing and pausing your music. Read our Skullcandy Seshreview.

Our rigorous lab tests reveal the best over-ear, on-ear and in-ear headphones. See our pick of the best headphones.

Monitors

You might need a monitor to use with your desktop PC. Or if you're using a small laptop to work from home, buy a monitor and you can plug your laptop into it to mirror or extend your display to the larger screen. This makes it far simpler to multitask.

You could also buy a second monitor to use with your desktop PC, giving a dual-screen setup to make it easier to work from home

How much should I expect to spend?

Monitor prices vary depending on screen size and resolution.

  • Cheap PC monitors (<£100) – most cheap PC monitors go up to around 24 inches. Expect a resolution up to 1080p.
  • Mid-range PC monitors (£200-£300) – screen sizes of between 24 inches and 30 inches. Some mid-range monitors are 'ultrawide' (21:9 aspect ratio rather than the traditional monitor screen ratio of 16:9, so you can fit two documents side by side) or curved.
  • Premium PC monitors (£300+) – ideal if you work in graphic design, as you get extra screen space (more than 30 inches) and better colour accuracy. Screen resolution can go right up to 4K.

PC monitor features to look out for

Screen size

Screen size is mostly down to personal preference, but do bear in mind the shape of your home office and desk space.

Most home office setups should comfortably fit a 24-inch monitor, which is one of the most popular sizes. If you're tackling complex design tasks, go for a larger screen.

Screen resolution

The resolution that your monitor runs at impacts how clear text and images appear on-screen. For example, 1080p resolution (1,920x1,080 pixels) is clearer than 720p resolution (1,280x720 pixels).

At the higher end of the scale is 4K, but that resolution is typically reserved for monitors beyond the £300 mark.

Types of PC monitor

1. Widescreen monitor – Thanks to its shape, you'll be able to open two different web pages side by side and have a clear view of both. These displays come in a wide range of sizes, so measure your home office desk and pick a suitable model.

2. Curved monitor – There's no big advantage to buying a curved monitor over a flat monitor. The difference is mainly aesthetic – you might prefer the modern look that a curved monitor brings to your home office. If you enjoy gaming when you're not working, a curved monitor can offer a more immersive experience compared with a flat monitor.

3. Portable monitor – With a portable monitor, you can connect your laptop for an on-the-go, multi-display setup.

Where to buy a PC monitor

We don't currently test PC monitors but popular retailers stocking a wide variety of them include:

  • Argos – stocks PC monitors ranging from 21.5-inch to 32-inch. At the time of writing, the retailer also sells the Asus MB168B, a portable USB monitor that connects to your laptop via USB.
  • Amazon – hundreds of PC monitors from big-name brands including Acer, BenQ, LG and Samsung. Plenty of 21.5-inch monitors are available for less than £100.
  • Currys PC World – offers a healthy mix of 1080p widescreen monitors, curved monitors and 4K monitors.

For more expert advice on buying a monitor for your home office, see our guide on how to choose a computer monitor.

Computer mouse

A computer mouse can make a big difference to how comfortable it is to work from home, as you'll know if you've ever used a laptop's trackpad for long periods.

How much should I expect to spend?

Very little, you'll be pleased to hear. Assuming you're shopping for a mouse for work, you don't need anything fancy.

  • Cheap computer mouse (<£10) – a wide mix of wired and wireless options. HP, Logitech and Microsoft all sell computer mice for less than £10.
  • Mid-range computer mouse (£10-£30) – at this price, mice are usually wireless with better build quality. Some are marketed as 'silent'.
  • Premium computer mouse (£30+) – expensive computer mice are usually designed with gaming in mind. They have extra buttons on the side that you can assign to a specific action.

Computer mouse features to look out for

Wired or wireless?

Wired is ever so slightly cheaper, but not by a big margin. If you buy a wireless mouse, you'll need to pair it with your PC or desktop via a Bluetooth connection.

You can also pair it with a wireless keyboard to make your space even neater.

Ergonomic design

An ergonomic computer mouse is made to fit the natural shape of your hand. As these aim to eliminate palm and wrist strain, the buttons will often be located on the side of the mouse rather than on the top.

Mappable buttons

If you work in graphic design or video editing, a computer mouse with mappable buttons will help you set up shortcuts for repetitive tasks.

For example, you could configure one of the extra buttons to activate a specific brush in Photoshop, or to crop a clip in your video editing software.

Types of computer mouse

1. Wired mouse – the most basic type of computer mouse. It's a plug-and-play USB option that doesn't require any third-party software or a Bluetooth connection.

2. Wireless mouse – invest in a wireless mouse if you don't want cables winding their way across your home office desk.  These often connect to your PC via a small USB stick that acts as a wireless receiver.

3. Trackball mouse – these let you explore webpages and documents using your thumb. They're designed to conform to the shape of your hand and are commonly used for precise scrolling – that makes them well suited for photo and video editing.

4. Vertical mouse – a vertical mouse is ergonomically shaped so that you hardly have to twist your wrist to grasp it. Your forearm and wrist should be at a neutral rest position, improving comfort for those long days in front of your computer.

Where to buy a computer mouse

We don't yet review computer mice, but popular retailers that stock a wide variety of them include:

  • Argos – sells an array of budget-priced computer mice with a focus on wireless options. You'll have no trouble finding a wireless mouse for less than £10.
  • Amazon – a vast selection of computer mice from the likes of Dell, Microsoft, HP and Logitech. Some come bundled with a keyboard.
  • Tesco – you wouldn't naturally think of Tesco when shopping for home office tech, but the supermarket does stock a small range of affordable computer mice. The cheapest of the bunch is the Trust Yvi Wireless Mouse at around £6.

Keyboard

If you've ever worked on a laptop for hours at a time, you'll know that typing on a small keyboard can be a pain. Buying a separate keyboard will give you far more space to work with and you can also go wireless.

How much should I expect to spend?

If you're just looking for a basic keyboard, you won't be spending too much. Simple wired keyboards generally cost less than £30.

  • Cheap keyboards (<£30) – one of these will do the trick if you just want to type up documents and send emails.
  • Mid-range keyboards (£30-£50) – at this price you're more likely to get a wireless keyboard and mouse bundle.
  • Premium keyboards (£50+) – increase your budget if you need a keyboard that has lots of extra mappable keys. You'll probably need to install third-party software to configure the keyboard.

Keyboard features to look out for

Wired or wireless?

A wired keyboard is cheaper than a wireless one, but a wireless model won't leave trailing wires all over your workspace.

If you do decide to go with a wireless keyboard, you'll need to set it up using a Bluetooth connection.

Types of keyboard

1. Wired keyboard – a no-frills option that's perfectly suitable for basic tasks such as typing emails or documents. Increase your budget and you could get a keyboard with mappable keys and built-in wrist support.

2. Wireless keyboard – minimalists will prefer the look of a wireless keyboard setup. Make sure you have a spare USB slot on your laptop or desktop PC if the keyboard partners with a receiver.

3. Ergonomic keyboard – while a traditional keyboard is basically rectangular, an ergonomic alternative usually has some curves built into the design. An ergonomic keyboard is often split into two halves, as the shape is meant to conform to your natural arm and hand position. Many have a palm rest attached.

4. Backlit keyboard – these keyboards are typically aimed at gamers who like to add a splash of colour to their computer setup. Many pricier models will let you customise the colour of specific parts of the keyboard.

Where to buy a keyboard

We don't currently test keyboards but popular retailers stocking a wide variety of them include:

  • Argos – many of its most popular wireless keyboards also come with a wireless Bluetooth computer mouse. Expect to spend between £15 and £30 for a bundle of this kind.
  • Asda – the range is small but affordable, consisting of both wired and wireless keyboards. Asda also sells the £30 Blackweb Gaming Keyboard, which has 15 programmable keys.
  • Currys PC World – sells keyboards from a vast selection of brands including Advent, Apple, Corsair and HP. If you're looking for a basic wired keyboard, the Advent K112 is a tempting £5.99.

Popular laptops, desktop PCs, printers and headphones picked based on visits to the Which? website from 14 May 2020 to 14 July 2020.

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