Long before the outbreak of COVID-19, I was already working from home as a technology analyst. In this line of work, I tend to spend a lot of time perfecting my home office setup, continually trying new PCs, keyboards, monitors, wireless routers and other critical accessories. When many of my family members, friends and professional colleagues were forced to quarantine because of the pandemic, it became clear that many of them were suddenly in need of a premium home office setup like mine. With that in mind, I want to use this column to provide some commentary on the components in my home office setup. I consider my setup not only powerful enough, but sufficiently future-proofed to meet your work at home needs for (at least) the two or three years.
Dell XPS 8930 Tower packs whisper-free power and style
Over the summer, I added the Dell XPS 8930 Tower to my home office setup. Once you begin working at home for extended periods, you begin to realize how precious silence really is. For that reason, I’ve fallen in love with this well-designed, attractive Dell desktop. Even with my configured high-end Intel Core i9 9900K processor, which runs at 3.6GHz, and my NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super graphics card, this PC remains tranquil. This is due to its thoughtful integration of high RPM (revolutions per minute) fans that efficiently cool the unit and produce lower acoustics. Prices for XPS Desktops start at $649, but Dell also offers impressively decked-out systems in the $1,300 range depending on the features that you select. The Dell XPS 8930 is also highly upgradeable with a superb tool-less chassis that facilitates easy expansion as your needs grow.
The Dell XPS brand is known for its gaming power and performance. Still, it’s also a terrific choice for content creators—especially video production (which I use it primarily for). But Dell also has a few tricks up its sleeve for work at home users. For example, Apple iPhone users (such as myself) will be delighted with Dell’s innovative Mobile Connect application, which seamlessly allows users to make phone calls, send texts and even receive notifications on their PC. After installing Dell Mobile Connect on my iPhone and linking it to my XPS 8930 via Bluetooth, I was able to mirror the iPhone’s screen on my Windows desktop. This feature allowed me to directly access my iPhone and use my favorite mobile apps (including iMessage) on my PC screen, controlling them with my PC keyboard and mouse. While this capability works with Google Android smartphones as well, the ability to do this with iOS devices is particularly notable—it allows Apple users to type text messages using a Windows-based keyboard.
Since there are a few non-Windows applications that I use regularly, I do need the ability to utilize my legacy 2017 Apple Mac Mini. Like most work at home users, desktop space in my home office is scarce, and I’ve never been a big fan of having separate monitors on my desk. Once again, Dell came to the rescue with its UltraSharp 49″ U4919DW Monitor ($1,440). While some users may consider a 49″ monitor simply too large, I find it to be just what the doctor ordered—it accommodates ultra-wide views, superior multitasking features, and seamless connectivity for truly immersive work. It’s eye-catching 5120 X 1440 resolution and 32:9 aspect ratio must be seen to be genuinely appreciated. Its intuitive control panel allows me to use my Mac Mini and XPS 8930 in a dual 27″ display orientation (each with 1920 X 1080 resolution). Meanwhile, Logitech’s wireless MX Keys and MX Master allows me to use a single keyboard and mouse with computers at the same time (saving additional desk space). The Dell U4919DW accomplishes the same trick if you’re using two separate Windows PCs, thanks to its integrated KVM (Keyboard-Video-Monitor) capability (accessed by Dell’s Display Monitor Utility). All of this together translates into a productive, flexible and convenient home office PC setup.
Some other great products to round out your work from home setup
There are a few other great products in my home productivity configuration that deserve mention. If you’re looking for a great sounding and easy-to-travel-with speakerphone, look no further than Dell’s Mobile Adapter MH3021P Speakerphone ($199). Measuring only 4.7″ (diameter) and 1.25″ (height) and weighing less than 8 ounces, this stylish device not only sounds great, but its USB-C interface also functions as a convenient hub for video passthrough support, with HDMI 2.0 and USB-C ports. It also delivers 90W of power, which allows you to charge a wide variety of PCs via a USB-C power adapter.
If you need exceptional sounding over-the-ear headphones with noise cancellation, Jabra’s recently announced Evolve2 85 has been a delightful surprise for me this summer. These headphones genuinely have the best noise cancellation of any headphones that I’ve used this past year (including the Bose Noise Cancelling Wireless Bluetooth 700). They feature an integrated 10-microphone architecture that creates, in my opinion, a best-in-class call experience—ideal for today’s work from home demands. In addition to their lightweight design (weighing only 10.09 ounces), they are lined with enhanced memory foam for ultimate comfort. At ($449), they are undeniably pricey, but I believe they are worth it. To top it all off, they feature more than 30 hours of battery life on a single charge.
Because many home offices often have large TVs, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Sonos’new Arc “smart” soundbar has become a new fixture in my work domicile. While it provides the kind of realistic and immersive sound quality for movies, gaming and streaming music that you’ve come to expect from Sonos, the Arc ($799) also adds 3D sound with Dolby Atmos, Apple AirPlay 2 functionality and integrated Amazon Alexa support—you’ll be able to control your entire smart home from your home office. It’s hands-down the best soundbar that Sonos has produced to date.
A few remaining thoughts
With the work from home phenomenon likely to be the new “normal” even after the pandemic subsides, I strongly advise friends, family members, and readers to spend as much as they can afford when considering a new work from home setup. Your remote work colleagues (and even your superiors) will appreciate the enhanced productivity, collaboration, and professionalism your investment will bring. There are undoubtedly other home infrastructure considerations which I haven’t highlighted above (such as selecting the fastest at-home broadband speed you can afford, a height-adjustable desk, or an ergonomic workstation chair), but this list is meant as a jumping-off point.
Here’s the bottom line: while the pandemic continues to disrupt life as we know it, you can make the best of your work situation by choosing the right ingredients that optimize your productivity and overall experience.