This time two years ago, I changed the focus of my annual gift guide feature from traveling to working from home. After all, few of us traveled much in those days. I planned to switch back when the world opened up again; however, it is now clear that for many of us there is no way back to the past.
The pandemic has had some lasting effects on our lives, including how – and where – we work. But the transition from the office to home requires more than simply choosing not to get on that train every morning.
Creating a home office is a conscious act. The focus is on building a space where it is possible to be just as productive when there are no face-to-face meetings and awkward conversations in the break room. You need to build a place that provides enough separation between work and home for eight to ten hours a day.
Here’s a handy gift guide for the person in life out there who needs an extra push – or perhaps needs a refresh on some of the gear they bought at the start of the pandemic.
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This thing is a beast. This is that money-is-no-object gift to really turn that spare room into a home office in just the right way. There are many cheaper options – including several from Apple – but the Mac Studio is a beautiful and immensely powerful desktop.
And hey, while you’re picking up that little square computer, why not pay for the $1,599 27-inch 5K Studio Display? It’s a great one-two combo – though fair warning, the Studio Display’s webcam is still lacking for a system at that price point. Aside from that, picking up one of these will make you never want to go to the office (or maybe even leave the house).
Price: Mac Studio $1,999, Studio Display $1,599
Available from: Apple
2. Opal C1
Speaking of webcams, I still get a lot of compliments on the image quality of the Opal C1. The startup’s hardware had great image quality from the start that almost rivaled a desktop DSLR, and subsequent software updates have only made things better. The company has fixed most of the beta bugs, with firmware that works with all major teleconferencing platforms and image quality tweaks that make it hard to beat.
Also worth a look is the Insta360 link. The webcam costs the same at $300, but the clever gimbal base allows for more dynamic shot tracking. That’s great for those who like to move a little more during remote meetings.
Available from: Opal
3. Shure MV7
I love this microphone. I asked Shure to send me one for gift guide testing and ended up writing a bit of a love letter to the thing in the meantime. As I transitioned from in-person to remote podcasting during the pandemic, I spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect USB microphone. With a design and sound quality to rival its famed XLR counterparts, the directional MV7 will be hard to beat.
I recently recorded an NPR interview on the thing and made it my everyday teleconference mic. At this level, plug-and-play comes as close as possible, and the sound rivals studio-quality recordings. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about it. Combine this with the Opal camera and amaze everyone during that Zoom call.
Available from: Amazon
4. Google Nest Wi-Fi Pro
The Google Nest WiFi Pro is a bit of an odd man out. Like some of the products above, it is super easy to use. After years of hugely complicated router installations, it’s a breath of fresh air. In fact, setup is as easy as getting a smart speaker up and running. Also like the above, it can be much more powerful than most need. The system supports extremely fast download speeds over WiFi 6E – and chances are your existing ISP will be the biggest bottleneck.
I happily ditched my ISP’s hardware and haven’t looked back. It’s reasonably priced at $200 (larger homes may want to go the mesh route with the two- or three-device bundle) and designed to blend into the environment, just like the rest of the Nest line.
Available from: Google
5. Sony WH-1000XM5
Unless you live alone in the middle of nowhere, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones are a must – and over-ear models are no better than this. Sony remains my top choice in the category, thanks to sound quality, comfort, battery life and active noise cancellation. And bonus: when it’s time to hit the road again, these are a perfect carry-on.
Available from: Amazon
6. Satechi Accessories
I love me a good Satechi accessory. The company makes smart, well-designed products that blend in well with their surroundings.
The 2-in-1 headphone stand with wireless charger is a particularly good companion for the desk. The bar at the top gives you a place to keep the over-ear headphones, with a USB-C port on the back to keep them charged. Below is a MagSafe-compatible wireless charging pad for your iPhone or AirPods.
The 3-in-1 Magnetic Charging Stand is a bit more expensive. It’s a great way to charge iPhone, AirPods, and Apple Watch in one fell swoop. The MagSafe pad is also designed to hold the phone upright so you can continue using it while charging the battery.
Price: 2-in-1 Headphone Stand with Wireless, $80 | 3-IN-1 Magnetic Wireless Charging Stand, $120
Available from: Satechi
7. Keychron Q5 QMK custom mechanical keyboard
I asked my friend (and fellow TechCruncher) Frederic to recommend a nice, accessible mechanical keyboard for my work at home guide. He recommended the Keychron Q5 QMK Custom Mechanical Keyboard. The accessory is customizable, but it’s nothing fancy, just a great-feeling, great-sounding, well-priced mechanical keyboard that will help your loved one reconnect with the joy of typing.
Available from: Keychron
8. Coway Airmega AP-1512HH Mighty
What about the person who otherwise seems to have their office in order? No one has ever regretted getting a high-quality air purifier. There are way overpriced products and quite a bit of hose oil in this category, but the Coway Airmega AP-1512HH Mighty is a reasonably priced powerhouse. Designed to clean a room up to 874 square feet in about half an hour, this HEPA filter promises to reduce 99.999% of 0.01 micron particles.
In addition to removing pollen and odors, there is a built-in pollution sensor that shows the air quality in a room in real time. It’s hard to imagine a better gift than the gift of breathing air.
Available from: Amazon