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As of this morning, you can order Apple's all-new iPad Air, joining its less airy sibling, the new Apple iPad (eighth gen) that launched last month. Back in March, when the effects of Covid-19 were still largely projected to fade away within weeks, Apple released a slew of new products, including a new iPad Pro and, with it, a brand new keyboard for its iPads, the Magic Keyboard. The coronavirus hasn't done much to slow down the onset of new tech releases other than to muddle up their timing some. And that's especially true of tech designed for home use, whether entertainment or work from home. Google launched new phones, a new Chromecast and a new smart assistant earlier this month. Amazon released a new suite of Echo devices. Apple announced its iPhone 12 family. The list goes on. While you're spending more time at home, and working, these days (and months), it doesn't necessarily mean you need these new devices. But there are devices out there that can make a serious dent in your daily grind and help you be more productive and comfortable.
If you started working from home around the same time in March Apple launched its new iPad and are still doing so eight months in, you might have already invested in or upgraded your work space, or maybe you're eyeing some potential upgrades right now. Some people have work-issued laptops they brought back to their spaces. Others might only have an iPad — still ripe for an upgrade if you feel the need with some of the options above — or a shared computer that isn’t going to serve everyone’s telecommuting needs at once. It might become a lot to juggle.
I’ve been working from home regularly for more than a decade and have picked up some lessons on what works and what doesn’t — especially in the way I invest in my home tech. If you find yourself in need of some refreshed tech to get things done — and to get by — here are a few options that won’t break the bank.
Let’s start with the obvious: A computer. There are plenty of great laptops out there right now, but if you don’t want to shell out $1000 or more for a high-end machine, I recommend checking out Chromebooks and lower-cost Windows machines to get you through the next few weeks.
You might be surprised how far a ChromeOS-based laptop will get you. HP’s Chromebook x360 gets you all the browsing, email and other tools you need with higher quality hardware than a comparably-priced Windows laptop. It isn’t the most affordable Chromebook available (you can find 11-inch models for under $200, for example) but it’s one of the most affordable I’d recommend for actually doing work.
If you absolutely need Windows for your job, Acer’s long-running Aspire 5 line has some of the best performance you can get for the money. I recommend the Ryzen 5 version with 8GB of RAM, which should serve most people well.
Alternatively, if you have an iPad at home, you can turn that into a halfway decent laptop with a few extra pieces of hardware.
A keyboard case can turn your iPad into something actually useable for work, though I generally don’t recommend Apple’s own keyboard cover. Instead, grab Logitech’s offering, which has a much better keyboard with less mushy keys (not to mention a protective case that goes all the way around your iPad). Make sure you get the version that matches your iPad, as Logitech makes them for various models — old and new.
You might not realize this, but the latest version of iPadOS allows you to use a mouse with your iPad — yes, a mouse. Technically, it’s an accessibility setting (find it under Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch), and it doesn’t work quite like a real cursor, but it’s still a big improvement from reaching your hand up all the time. You’ll want a Bluetooth mouse that pairs easily with your iPad, and Logitech’s portable MX Anywhere mouse fits the bill beautifully. The brand recently released a newer model, the Logitech MX Anywhere 3, which might be nice-to-have but isn't substantially game changing.
Finally, if all else fails, you can grab that old computer sitting in the basement and hook it up to your TV for an impromptu work-from-the-couch setup. You just need the right cables and adapters.
If that old computer is a laptop made after 2008 or so, it’ll either have an HDMI port — in which case you can just use any old HDMI cable — or it’ll use something like Mini DisplayPort, necessitating its own cable like this AmazonBasics model. Check that old laptop and see what it supports. If it’s even older, it may require Mini-DVI or even VGA, which requires a converter box to connect to HDMI-based TVs.
If you want to really make things ergonomic, grab yourself a real desktop monitor (or two). It isn’t a top-tier display, and the price is likewise appropriate. BenQ has crammed some solid specs into this display: It’s brighter than much of the competition (so you can still see it in a well-lit room) and even has decent specs for a little gaming in between work sessions. Its stand isn’t height-adjustable but you can stack a few books under it to get it up to eye level, if need be.