This time two years ago, I changed up my annual gift guide feature’s focus from travel to working from home. After all, very few of us were doing much traveling at the time. I planned to switch back as the world reopened; it’s clear now, however, that for many of us, there is no going back to the before times.
The pandemic has had a number of lasting impacts 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 deliberate act. At its center is building a space where it’s possible to be every bit as productive in the absence of in-face meetings and awkward break-room conversations. You need to build a place that will sufficiently separate work life from the personal for eight to 10 hours a day.
Here’s a handy gift guide for the person in life who needs a little extra push into that — or perhaps requires a refresh on some of the gear they purchased early in the pandemic.
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1. Mac Studio
This thing is a beast. This is that money-is-no-object gift to really, properly transform that spare room into a home office. There are far-less-expensive options out there — including several from Apple — but the Mac Studio is a beautiful and wildly powerful desktop.
And hey, while you’re picking up that little square computer, why not shell out for the $1,599 27-inch 5K Studio Display? It’s a heck of a one-two combo — though fair warning, the Studio Display’s webcam continues to be lacking for a system at that price point. Aside from that, picking up one of these will make you never want to go into the office (or, perhaps, leave the house) ever again.
Price: Mac Studio $1,999, Studio Display $1,599
Available from: Apple
2. Opal C1
Speaking of webcams, I continue to get a lot of compliments on the picture quality from the Opal C1. The startup’s hardware had great image quality out of the gate that nearly rivaled a desktop DSLR, and subsequent software updates have only made things better. The company has worked out most of the beta bugs, with firmware that will work with all the major teleconferencing platforms and tweaks to image quality that make this is a hard one to beat.
Also worth a look is the Insta360 Link. The webcam is priced the same at $300, but the clever gimbal base makes for more dynamic shot tracking. That’s great for those who like to move around a bit more during remote meetings.
Available from: Opal
3. Shure MV7
I love this mic. I asked Shure to send me one for gift guide testing purposes and wound up writing a bit of a love letter to the thing in the meantime. As I shifted from in-person to remote podcasting during the pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect USB mic. With design and sound-quality to rival its famous XLR counterparts, the directional MV7 is going to be a hard one to beat.
I recently recorded an NPR interview on the thing, and have turned it into my day-to-day teleconferencing microphone. It’s about as close as you’ll get to plug and play at this level, and the sound rivals studio-quality recordings. Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about it. Pair this with the Opal cam and wow everyone on that Zoom call.
Available from: Amazon
4. Google Nest WiFi Pro
The Google Nest WiFi Pro is a bit of an odd duck. Like some of the products above, it’s super easy to use. After years of wildly complicated router installs, it’s a breath of fresh air. Setup is effectively as easy as getting a smart speaker up and running. Also like the above, it may be a lot more powerful than most need. The system supports extremely fast download speeds via WiFi 6E — and there’s a good chance your existing ISP is going to be the biggest bottleneck.
I’ve happily ditched my ISP’s hardware for one 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 in with its surroundings, much 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 don’t come better than this. Sony continues to be my top pick in the category, courtesy of sound quality, comfort, battery life and active noise canceling. And bonus: when it’s time to get back on the road, these are a perfect carry-on companion.
Available from: Amazon
6. Satechi Accessories
I love me a good Satechi accessory. The company makes clever, well-designed products that blend in well with their surroundings.
The 2-in-1 Headphone Stand With Wireless Charger is a particularly good desktop companion. The bar up top gives you a place to keep the over-ear headphones, with a USB-C port in the rear to keep them charged up. Below is a MagSafe compatible wireless charging pad for your iPhone or AirPods.
The 3-in-1 Magnetic Charging stand is a bit pricier. It’s great way to charge up the iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch in one fell swoop. The MagSafe pad is also designed to keep the phone upright, so you can continue to use it while topping up the battery.
Price: 2-in1 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 from home guide. He recommended the Keychron Q5 QMK Custom Mechanical Keyboard. The accessory is customizable, but it’s nothing too fancy, just a great feeling, terrific sounding, well-priced mechanical keyboard that will help your loved one reconnect with the joys of typing.
Available from: Keychron
8. Coway Airmega AP-1512HH Mighty
How about the person who seems to otherwise have their office in order? No one has ever regetted bringing a high-quality air purifier into their house. There are a lot of overpriced products and quite a bit of snake oil in this category, but the Coway Airmega AP-1512HH Mighty is a reasonably priced powerhouse. This HEPA filter is designed to clean a space up to to 874 sq. ft. in around half an hour, promising to reduce 99.999% of 0.01-micron particles.
In addition to removing pollen and odors, there’s a built-in pollution sensor that showcases a room’s air quality in real time. It’s hard to imagine a better gift than the gift of breathable air.
Available from: Amazon