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Home Office Setup Guide

Hello Readers, as you have probably noticed recently millions of people are now working from home as the result of COVID-19. Working at home is very different because you don't have access to all the equipment you do in the office, and communication is much harder when you can't talk to someone in person. With this working from home setup, we have the best gear around to ensure that you can work, sound and look at your best - all from home.


Note: If you want specific examples, check out our Working From Home: Ultimate Setup and Working From Home: Affordable Setup!


Webcam

One of the most highly-coveted items right now is a webcam. A webcam is a camera that attaches to your monitor either with a flexible arm or magnetically. Webcams also have microphones, although those are usually not very good. You may think, "I don't need to buy a webcam! My laptop already has a built in webcam!". There are a few reasons why this is a flawed mindset. When you work all day, do you want to be typing on a laptop keyboard (especially if its one of Apple's atrocious butterfly keyboards)? Do you want your screen to be 13-15 inches wide? Didn't think so. Additionally, webcams on laptops are almost never at a higher resolution than 720p. This barbaric resolution will have you looking like a character from a 1980s 8-bit arcade game. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but for you to look professional, you want a 1080p, 30fps webcam. This is a standard that will make you look close to how you look in real life, and the thirty frames per second will ensure that, at the very least, your mouth matches your audio (60fps would be ideal). A lower fps count than 30 causes a chance of your words and mouth mismatching, like a Chinese movie dubbed over in english. If that happens it makes you look quite unprofessional.


A fairly generic microphone with scissor-arm

Microphone

Although webcams do have microphones, they are both low-quality and out of optimal hearing distance (you attach the webcam to the top of your monitor). Sound quality makes a big difference on how seriously people take you, similar to the effect confidence has on persuasiveness. If your voice sounds warped, tinny, or soft, people won't give you as much credence. That's simply how the human psychology works. To give you best impression, you need a dedicated microphone that will come through for you with crisp audio. Additionally, you may want to look for a scissor-arm microphone to bring the microphone close to your mouth. As you can see in the picture, a scissor-arm clamps onto your table and brings the microphone close to your mouth. However, standing microphones will do just fine as long as they are of decent quality. Two top-notch microphone brands are Shure and Blue. Microphones from high-quality gaming brands will also do the job well. Lastly, if you have a nice headset you can test out the microphone to see if it's good enough. Chances are if it's from a reputable brand it will be acceptable.


Headset

This will also be an important part of communicating with others. The main purpose of your headset is to be convenient and not crap out on you. Additionally, you could use the headset as a microphone as well, although the audio quality will not be as good as a dedicated microphone. The quality will be considerably better than a webcam, but a little or a lot worse than a dedicated microphone, depending on which headset. You can decide for yourself how much audio quality means to you. In terms of sound output, since the only thing you'll be hearing is your coworkers talking, the quality doesn't need to be extraordinary. We recommend you buy a wireless headset because they look better, are easier to configure, and won't get caught on anything during an important call/video meeting.


Monitor

Chances are you don't have a monitor at home. I mean, why would you- if you need to finish something up outside of the office, you can just do it on your laptop. Well if you are going to be working at home for a significant period of time it's worth investing in a monitor. Monitors improve your viewing angle and make everything bigger, easing your eyes. Additionally, a big monitor gives you more real estate to run multiple windows at once if that's what your job requires. Don't go overboard with say, a 4K monitor - it'll decrease your computer's speed and is unnecessary for most work tasks (or in my opinion, any task unless you're a graphical creator). A 1080p monitor will work just fine, or if you insist on better quality 1440p or 2K are also solid options. Usually I would advise buying a used monitor, but as it is illegal right now it might be better to go to your local Best Buy or Amazon. For screen size, a 23" is both an economical and serviceable size, or if you want many windows you could go with a 30"+ for a double screen.


Keyboard

One of the most important parts of any job is the typing. We use it almost everyday in multiple tasks, therefore it is advisable to get a nice keyboard for the job. I recommend a mechanical keyboard (for mechanical switch types consult our guide), but there are also some nice scissor-switch type keyboards (Logitech MX Keys, anyone?). If you are an unfortunate soul that suffers from cramped wrists, you can also look into a variety of different ergonomic keyboards, although most of those are sadly not mechanical. Gaming mechanical keyboards are always a good choice, as they will be optimized for performance (and many come with RGB lighting if that's your thing). There are also many other trustworthy brands that make mechanical keyboards, such as DROP (Massdrop), Ducky, and Logitech. I can personally attest to the fact that a mechanical keyboard dramatically increases your typing speed (it increased mine by 15wpm). There are many different levels of quality for mechanical keyboards, so it's up to you to decide what you want.


Computer

As long as you have a decent laptop, I don't think it's necessary to buy a whole new computer for working at home. If your laptop has a 4-core processor or better, it can smoothly run Zoom and other work apps while projecting to a monitor. I have a Macbook Pro (i5 quad-core, 8gb DDR3 RAM) that runs everything on a 1080p monitor without a hitch. If you don't have a laptop or if your laptop cannot run at an acceptable framerate while plugged into a monitor (very unlikely in 2020- even most Chromebooks can do it), than you should consider either getting a better laptop, a Chromebook, or this mini-PC. It runs Windows 10 Pro, has 4gb of DDR3 RAM, and a quad core processor - coming in at a ridiculously low $150.


Furniture/Space

For the space you work in, you'll want a quiet place where you can be separated from distractions. Your desk should be around 2x4 feet. This will give you space for a monitor, keyboard, mouse, laptop (or desktop if you have one), and microphone while still having some leftover space for papers. You can judge for yourself whether the quality of your back warrants a new chair. If so, look for office chairs that give lumbar support.


And there you have it; the essentials of a home office workspace. Some things I didn't include that others might have are the mouse, mousepad, and lighting. This is because I believe that in a home office environment all of those can be very standard. Lastly, if you are a gamer or streamer, the items I listed off are eerily similar to those in a gaming setup - you will already have a great camera, microphone, monitor, headset, keyboard, and computer. If you already had a gaming setup before the virus struck, consider yourself lucky.





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