WORKING from home has many benefits, ranging from “spending all day with your cat” to “not having to wear pants”, if that’s your thing (and it’s totally fine if it is, he says as he types this story dressed like The Big Lebowski).
Given most of us are stuck at home until [error: date not found], it makes sense that you’ll want to kit out a home office to work more effectively… but since you’re going to have all this neat gear for work, why not get some which can also be used for play too?
Let’s assume for the sake of this story that you’ve got a laptop or managed to get one off your work – there’s still a lot of things you should consider to make your home office more effective AND useful for gaming after hours, too!
As a bonus, you might – and you’ll want to talk to your accountant about this, since this isn’t financial or tax preparation advice [/obligatory disclaimer] – might be able to recoup some of the costs of some of these things on your tax, provided you’re genuinely using them for work.
CANON PIXMA ENDURANCE G6065 PRINTER
All those reports and e-mails and stuff you used to print out on the work laser printer/copier and maybe grab a cheeky coffee while you did it? You’re going to be printing them at home now, which means you need a better printer than that cheap and simple thing you bought when you first started university years ago.
There’s two ways you can play the printer game: Inkjet or Laser. They have their advantages and disadvantages, but Canon think they’ve come up with something for the Inkjet system that provides the longevity of laser printers with the affordability of inkjets.
The Canon Pixma G6065 multifunction printer/scanner retails for around $580 but instead of running on expensive ink cartridges, it is runs on liquid ink from reservoirs in the printer. Yes, you pay more upfront for the printer, but the vastly, vastly reduced ink costs more than make up for that.
The printer has a 4800x1200dpi resolution, holds 350 pages in its internal magazine, and also has a rear feeding ramp for printing photos too. According to Canon, the ink included with the printer is enough for 18,000(!) A4 pages of black, and 7,000 pages of colour printing. Print quality is very good – up there with some of the cheaper laser printers I’ve seen – and it’s cheap to feed, too.
Replacement ink bottles are around $29 for black and $24 each for the three colours, and provide thousand of pages per bottle. Not only does this cut down on waste (one bottle instead of several printer cartridges), it also means there no issues with printer cartridge chips being un-cooperative at awkward moments.
Being a multifunction printer, there’s also a scanner included – it’s straightforward and easy to use, and produces good quality scans and .pdf documents too.
It has wireless capability so can print from laptops and phones, and from a gaming perspective, the printer can be used for printing out screenshots – whether they’ve been captured via in-game photo mode, or it’s a victory screen you’re particularly proud of, or whatever else you want to take off your screen and put on your wall.
With easy to view ink levels, quiet operation and a minimalist design, there’s a lot to like here – so if you see yourself needing to do a reasonable amount of scanning and printing and don’t want to end up spending a fortune on ink cartridges, this is well worth having a close look at.
LOGITECH G502 HERO MOUSE
You’re going to need a mouse for working on your stuff, and once you clock off for the day, it’s game time – so why not get a mouse that does both?
The Logitech G502 is a prince among corded mice, offering outstanding ergonomics (including adjustable weights) with a range of customisation options and great build quality.
I’ve had one on my desk for ages and it effortlessly swaps between my regular work and gaming without slowing down.
If you want a mouse that perfectly combines price (they’re about $149), function, form and quality then you really can’t go past this one – it’s highly recommended for both work and play.
SAMSUNG T7 TOUCH SSD
You’ll need somewhere to store your work stuff (and save game files) and the Samsung T7 Touch portable SSD is well worth investing in. It’s a Solid State Drive available in various sizes, from 500GB to 2TB and your choice of colour between black or silver.
One of the major attractions of the unit is it has a useful fingerprint lock feature, meaning you can secure it easily without having to remember yet another password, and it unlocks quickly and easily with your fingerprint to get you access to your files.
Measuring 85mm x 57mm x 8mm and weighing 58 grammes, the T7 Touch is light and easy to keep in your dressing gown pocket or to take with you on an essential trip to the supermarket or chemist, or into your main workplace office if that’s still a viable option.
I’ve been using the silver 1TB model (retail price around $438) and been really, really impressed with it – easy to use and set up, easy to unlock, and with impressive read and write speeds too – up to 1050MB/s read and 1000MB/s write, according to Samsung.
Whether it’s confidential client information or a save game you don’t want your flatmates messing with, the Samsung T7 touch SSD handles it all and comes highly recommended as a great dual work/gaming data storage device.
AMAZON ECHO SHOW 8
Distraction is the bane of getting any work done, and we all know how easy it is to get distracted with the internet right there on your work computer.
What starts as idly wondering which album a song you heard on the radio was from turns into a convoluted rabbit-hole of Wikipedia pages until you find yourself reading about the history of the Republic Of Hawaii (1894-1898; annexed by the USA) or the order of the Battle of Sekigahara (October 21, 1600; decisive victory for Tokugawa Ieyasu) an hour later and still no closer to finishing that report you promised your boss.
This is where a “virtual assistant” like the Amazon Echo Show 8 comes in. Essentially an internet-connected tablet with speaker, it has a large number of potential uses and is one of those pieces of tech you didn’t realise you needed until you get one, then you’ll wonder how you did without it.
Being voice activated you can just ask Alexa (the Amazon AI) a question and get an answer while you keep working. Want to know which album the Oingo Boingo song No One Lives Forever was originally released on? Ask Alexa (The answer, by the way, is 1985’s Dead Man’s Party). Can’t remember when Doom came out? Ask Alexa (1993 if you’re OG, 2016 if you’re a modernist).
In a home office environment, this means you’re not wandering off on a magical mystery tour of the internet when you should be working, and that’s even before you get into the other advantages of the system such as connecting your calendar, playing internet radio or podcasts (like the GOA podcast!), streaming video, setting alarms, or even being a form of videophone.
Gaming wise, you can use the Echo Show 8 to find game tips and walkthroughs without having to take your hands off your controller (or keyboard and mouse), and thanks to its Spotify/Amazon Music integration you can also use it to play your favourite video game music too (if it’s on those services, of course.)
With an 8” touchscreen and an RRP of $229, the Amazon Echo Show 8 is a versatile and useful addition not just to your office but your home in general.
NETGEAR NIGHTHAWK AX8 WIRELESS ROUTER
Yes, there’s probably already a wireless router in your modem, but it doesn’t give you any detailed control over your network traffic. In practical terms, if everyone is trying to watch Netflix and you want to game, watch your ping skyrocket. From a work perspective, you may want to make sure your conference call keeps running smoothly while someone in the house selfishly uses the internet for things like “keeping in touch with loved ones” or “trying to do their own jobs” – and a good router can make sure that happens.
The Netgear Nighthawk routers are high-end products designed with gamers in mind – I’ve got the Nighthawk XR700 set up at home – and they can make a real difference to your network, especially now when most people have a household full of family members all trying to use the internet at the same time.
The AX8, one of the newest routers from Netgear, has the added advantage of being Wi-Fi 6 compatible, which provides further benefits if you’re running one of the latest generation laptops (all Intel Project Athena certified laptops have Wi-Fi 6 capability).
The processor is a 64-bit 1.8GHz quad-core processor, designed to handle gigabit speeds, and the unit also has a long range designed for large homes, with eight Wi-Fi spatial streams (four in the 2.4GHz wavelength, four in the 5GHz wavelength).
The design is pretty cool too – I think it looks like something that should be in a dogfight with an X-Wing fighter.
The only catch is it’s not cheap, with an RRP of $599, but if you want a decent home office-slash-gaming setup then it’s worth investing in quality gear for the best results.
HISENSE HS215 2.0 SOUNDBAR
A lot of people like to have their TV on in the background while they’re working at home, maybe running ABC News 24 or whatever it is people who use their TVs for stuff besides gaming and streaming TV do.
Sure, you could use the inbuilt speakers, but if you’re going to be at home for a while a soundbar is a sensible thing to look at – offering the sound experience of a home theatre system but without the complicated setup or space requirements.
HiSense are well known for their affordable but quality home entertainment products, and offer a 2.1 channel Sound Bar with wireless subwoofer which could be just the thing to enhance your workday and your post-work gaming.
With an RRP of $349, it features a wireless 6.5in subwoofer, Dolby Digital and DTS technology and connection via the usual suspects including HDMI-ARC, Bluetooth, AUX, USB, Optical and Coaxial.
From a gaming perspective, deep bass is a focus, and the unit provides 40Hz-20kHZ frequency response so will work well for when it’s time to put the work stuff away and fire up Doom Eternal or whatever you’re playing right now.
LIFX SMART LIGHTS
A smart office or smart gaming area needs smart lights, too.
Smart lights are, as the name suggests, connected to the Wi-Fi network and linked to a smart home hub like Google Home or Amazon Alexa, allowing you to control them without having to do anything as mundane as “using the light switch” like some kind of medieval peasant.
Lifx have a range of lights in this space and they have many uses for both work and gaming
The main challenge the Lifx light ranges faces is they only work on the 2.4Ghz wireless bandwidth, and don’t seem to play nicely with dual 2.4Ghz/5.0Ghz routers, which is something to keep in mind.
It is technically possible to get those routers to only work on one band, but it’s far more stuffing around than the average person should have to deal with just to get a light which can be controlled remotely.
If you can get it set up though, the Lifx lights are marvellously versatile, being programmable to do everything from automatically dimming or changing colour at a certain time, to providing just the right shade of whatever colour you want for whatever you’re doing.
You can use lights to set a scene or mood in your office/gaming area, and being able to have them on a routine or controlled by your virtual assistant is great – the units are also IFTTT (If This Then That) compatible, which means they can be set up to do things like blink or flash when you get phone calls or notifications.
The lights can also integrate with Razer Chroma software via a link, which means your workstation can become a gaming space as RGB-tastic as your keyboard once you’re done working for the day.
The Lifx light range is varied and starts at around $34 for the A60 mini and goes up from there; the 1100 lumens ‘standard’ A60 bayonet-mount light is about $88.
Sometimes, you just want something nice to look at; something to brighten up your home office. Nanoleaf have a product called the Canvas, which are light-up squares you can arrange on your wall in pleasing shapes, and the change colour to suit your mood or what you’ve got happening on your TV or phone (if you like).
They work via wifi and your smart device and can be programmed to do things like play regular or changing light patterns, as well as connected up to react to noise from your device – such as music or games.
It’s one of those things that is just nice, and while it’s not a casual purchase (the starter pack retails for around $318 and includes nine of the light panels) it is neat and will definitely make a difference to wherever you are working or playing at home.
Whether you want some pleasing lightwork to improve your mood while you work, want to have a funky display as you listen to music, or want something reacting to what’s going on in your game, the Nanoleaf Canvas is a fun addition to your work/gaming space and will still give you a conversation piece for when the pandemic is over and we’re allowed to have “other people” come and visit again.