Working from home shouldn’t mean a complete upheaval, but the best PC setup for working from home includes some gear that should make things easier, ensuring you’re well prepared for the impending hermitry. What’s needed for your home setup depends on what sort of work you’re doing, but there are a few things that should cover most bases.
You’re going to need a suitable desk and chair setup, a fast internet connection, equipment for video conferencing, some fast and responsive hardware, and peripherals that are comfortable to use for extended periods. The key to most of this is going for gear that is comfortable and easy to use, but that will also be powerful enough (or high enough quality) to get the job done.
While this guide will aim for those items that are ‘budget, but still good enough to get the job done comfortably,’ conveniently, many of these things coincide with creating a great gaming setup. And while having one of the best graphics cards for gaming probably won’t be necessary for creating a great work from home setup, a budget GPU that’s more than capable of playing the latest games might be.
I think being able to play games to stay sane during a quarantine period is a legitimate work expense, don’t you?
For most people, by far the three most important components for working from home will be the CPU, SSD, and RAM. These components together should form the backbone of a snappy, responsive build that lets you breeze through any deadlines you might have. Having a great GPU is secondary to these, unless you use many graphically intensive apps for your work.
Best CPU for working from home
The best CPU for working from home is AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600. Boasting 6 cores and 12 threads clocked at 3.6GHz/4.2GHz (turbo) and retailing at $175/£154, this CPU offers the best combination of both general desktop and gaming performance for a reasonable price, bucking off competition from Intel in the mid- to high-end consumer gaming market.
Best SSD for working from home
The best SSD for working from home is Addlinks’s S70 1TB NVMe SSD, retailing at $155/£150. Although it comes from a lesser-known company, this SSD is simply one of the snappiest SSDs you can buy, and still manages to undercut its more well-known competition on price.
Best RAM for working from home
The best RAM for working from home is Corsair’s Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4 RAM at 3200MHz speed, retailing at £72. This RAM can go fast enough at 3200MHz to deal with almost anything, and yet it keeps the cost low by doing away with any fancy RGB lighting. 16GB of DDR4 RAM should be enough for most work from home setups.
These three make a solid backbone for your gami- *cough* work from home PC. From there, you can choose other compatible components, peripherals, and a monitor, and build a PC that suits your working needs. But we should probably also say a quick word about graphics cards.
We’ve put the GPU in its own section because it’s not fundamental to a PC build for most people. And for those that it is fundamental for, the advice is likely to be different. For most people, the best graphics card for working from home is Nvidia’s GTX 1650 Super, retailing at £145. This graphics card is cheap enough that it shouldn’t break the bank and is justifiable for a working rig, but is also capable of playing most modern games at 1080p, high settings, at 60fps.
If your job requires a bit more oomph in the GPU department – maybe you’re a video editor or 3D designer – then the best graphics card for working from home will be AMD’s RX 5700 XT, retailing at $426/£300. This graphics card offers unparalleled performance for its price in the current GPU generation, outperforming the similarly-priced Nvidia’s RTX 2060 Super on all resolutions in many games.
The best webcam for working from home is Logitech’s C920 HD Pro Webcam, retailing at £65. This webcam has been the go-to for streamers for a long time, and for good reason. Its quality is spectacular for its price, offering 1080p 30fps video calling with superb image quality, and it also includes stereo audio. With this webcam you can be sure your workmates are hearing and seeing you clearly in video conferences.
The best microphone for working from home is Blue Microphones’ Yeti mic (aka the ‘Blue Yeti’), retailing at $130/£119. This microphone, like Logitech’s C920 webcam, is the go-to budget studio mic for many studio professionals and streamers for good reason. For its price it offers fantastic audio quality with a frequency range of 20Hz – 20KHz, and it offers four pickup patterns: cardioid, omnidirectional, bidirectional and stereo.
This versatility makes it suited to many different types of home audio setup. However, while a studio-quality mic is nice, it’s far from necessary for working from home. If the Yeti is a bit out of your budget, you can stick to the C920’s stereo audio. Or pick up a budget gaming headset…
The best headset for working from home is Corsair’s HS50, retailing at $65/£40. For the price, this headset offers great sound and comfort. There might be better options in terms of pure audio quality for a little extra cost, but ensuring you’re as comfortable as possible is going to be important when working from home. For this reason, and because of its stellar price, Corsair’s HS50 gaming headset takes the win.
The best internet speed for working from home must offer enough bandwidth for everything you’ll need to get your work done, preferably without breaking the bank. This depends on how many other people in the house will be using it.
In an average 3-5 person household, a download speed of up to 50Mbps – 100Mbps should be sufficient for most use cases. This means no more DSL, unfortunately – fibre broadband is almost a necessity for any household with more than one or two people using the internet.
Upload speed shouldn’t be forgotten here, either, because things like video conferencing and screen sharing require upstream usage. 5Mbps – 10Mbps upload speed should be more than enough for relatively low-bandwidth tasks like video conferencing, but if large files need to be uploaded, or if multiple people are utilising upstream bandwidth with video calls, then more might be required.
Finally, you should make sure you have a strong WiFi adapter for your PC to connect to the modem or router. This should preferably be an internal PCIe adapter capable of 5GHz connectivity, but a 2.4GHz USB adapter should get the job done.
Once you’ve got your work from home PC, peripherals, and internet connection sorted, all that’s left is to get something to put it all on, and something to put yourself on. A cheap office chair can do just fine in a pinch, but if you’re going to be sitting on this thing day in, day out, you might want to go for something a little more long-lasting and comfortable.
Now, I’m not saying you should go out and buy the “world’s most advanced gaming chair”, but there are a couple of things you should look out for. First, make sure the height is adjustable so you can get yourself set up at your new desk more easily. Second, consider a mesh chair, as these are more breathable (and we are approaching summer, after all).
As for the desk, the main thing to look out for is how much space your setup will require. It’s easy to underestimate desk space needed for a setup, so once you know how wide your keyboard, screen, and mousemat are, add a little extra width than this onto your estimated desk size requirements. There’s nothing worse than having an amazing setup, but not having enough room to seat it all.
You might also consider a height-adjustable desk. These desks allow you to adjust from sitting to standing height, giving you the chance to stretch your legs without stopping your work. It can be easy to allow yourself to sit down all day (trust me, I know), and this is one way to combat that proclivity.