What is cybersecurity? A guide to the methods used to protect computer systems and data

cyber security
Cybersecurity is the protection of computer systems from cyberattacks and is a rapidly growing industry.

  • Cybersecurity is the practice that protects computer technology and data systems from attack.
  • It’s a huge, multi-billion dollar industry and consists of many kinds of security practices.
  • The threat landscape is always evolving, but current threats to cybersecurity include malware, phishing, and denial-of-service attacks.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting all forms of computer technology from malicious attacks. It includes the preservation of computers, servers, mobile devices, networks, applications, and data in the event of damage, destruction, and unauthorized access. As an industry, cybersecurity is enormous and growing to help protect everyone from new and evolving threats.

What is malware? Everything you need to know about malicious software and viruses, and how to protect your computerWhat is a computer virus? Here’s how to spot signs of viruses and avoid themWhat is phishing? Here’s what you should know about the virtual scamming technique and how to protect yourself from data theftRansomware can encrypt your files and force you to pay money – here’s how to avoid ransomware, or deal with an infection

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What is RAM? How your computer’s memory keeps all your programs running smoothly

business professional working late on laptop
It’s important to understand how RAM affects your computer’s performance.

  • RAM, or Random Access Memory, is the part of your computer that keeps programs running in the background.
  • When your RAM is working properly, you’ll be able to switch between programs quickly and freely.
  • How much RAM your computer needs will depend on what you use it for.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

RAM, or Random Access Memory, isn’t just a cool Daft Punk album. It’s an important part of any computer, phones included. Without it, even switching browser tabs could take ages.

Here’s everything to know about what RAM is and how it works, what the different types of RAM are, and how much memory your computer needs.

What is RAM?

RAM is the part of your device that functions like its short-term memory. It keeps track of what programs are running in the background and what they’re doing, so when you focus on them again, they can get right back to work.

This goes for browser tabs, too. You can switch between browser tabs quickly because your computer’s memory keeps them ready to use.

The benefit of RAM is that it keeps your computer fast, and makes multitasking convenient. Because of RAM, your computer doesn’t have to lean on its slower hard drive to perform basic functions. Without it, we’d be living in a less instantaneous world.

computer ram sticks
An assortment of RAM sticks from various manufacturers.

But RAM, much like our own short-term memory, is limited. If you’re making it keep track of more things than it can handle, it’ll start to “forget” whatever it deems low priority. And if you don’t have enough of it, your computer can slow to a crawl.

When talking about RAM, there are a few different terms you should know.

Common RAM terminology

DDR

DDR stands for “double data rate,” and in essence, refers to how fast your RAM is. DDR4 is the most common type of RAM sold today, but older computer models may have DDR3 or DDR2.

The higher number the better, and because each successive generation of RAM has undergone design changes, you can’t switch out one for another.

crucial ballistix ram
These RAM sticks from crucial specifically say DDR4 on them.

VRAM

VRAM, or Video RAM, is another beast entirely. Rather than being part of your computer’s general memory, VRAM is an intermediary between the CPU and graphics card. Before you see an image on the screen, the data is read by the VRAM processor and converted from digital information to an analog image on the screen.

How much RAM do I need?

Most computers, tablets and phones have between 4GB and 32GB of RAM, although more advanced computers could have even more. On computers, 8GB to 16GB is standard. Some cheap tablets have around 2GB of RAM, which isn’t enough for your laptop.

8GB of RAM is more than enough to power a Windows or Mac computer, but won’t be able to handle too many intensive apps. 16GB RAM will handle advanced programs. 32GB of RAM and up is good for serious computer engineers, gamers, or audio and visual professionals.

Most modern phones have 8GB of RAM. And unlike computers, you can’t really upgrade the RAM in your phone.

The amount of RAM that you need depends on what you’re using your device for. Over-investing in RAM isn’t going to make your computer magically better or infinitely fast – even 100GB of RAM won’t mean anything if the rest of your computer is slow.

You can buy RAM in various combinations, or modules. For example, if you want to buy 16GB of RAM, you can get:

  • One 16 GB stick
  • Two 8 GB sticks
  • Four 4 GB sticks
Corsair Vengeance RAM
Two Corsair RAM sticks, from their “VENGEANCE” series.

The combination you get doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s compatible with the rest of your computer, and fits in the case.

What is a CPU? A guide to the ‘brain’ of your computer or phone, including how it worksWhat is a cyberattack? A guide to the different methods cybercriminals use to harm computers and steal dataSSD vs. HDD: How to decide which storage option is the best for your computerWhat is an SSD? Everything you should know about solid state drives

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The 5 best desktop computers in 2021 for work, gaming, school, and more

  • The best desktop computers offer excellent performance, upgradability, and a great selection of ports.
  • We’ve chosen the Dell XPS 8940 Desktop as our top pick for best desktop computer.
  • We’ve also identified top desktops for other uses, such as gaming, compact spaces, and for those on a budget.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Laptops have gotten better and better over the years, but the fact remains that size matters when it comes to computers – and with the size afforded by desktop computers, you can get more power, better graphics, and more user upgradability.

When buying a desktop computer, you’ll need to consider all the usual things that you would consider for any other computer purchase. A solid processor (CPU) will keep everything you can throw at it running smoothly without stutters or crashes. Memory, also known as RAM, also plays a big role, especially if you plan on running several apps at the same time and gaming, where a computer needs to store and quickly access files associated with those apps. Last but not least is storage and if you want to keep lots of games or files on your computer, you’ll need plenty of it.

There are other considerations too. If you’re a gamer, you’ll need a solid graphics card to ensure that your games can run properly. And, you’ll want to make sure you have enough ports and a design that fits in with your style – all while staying within your budget.

No matter what you’re looking for from a solid desktop computer, there should be something on this list for you. Here are the best desktop computers money can buy right now.

Here are the best desktop computers you can buy:

The best desktop computer overall

Dell XPS 8940

The Dell XPS 8940 is relatively sleek and stylish, plus it offers solid performance at a pretty low price.

Pros: Inexpensive, lots of ports, sleek design

Cons: Not much graphics performance on low-end models

Looking for a solid all-a rounder? The Dell XPS 8940 desktop is sleek, powerful, and versatile — without breaking the bank. The computer doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a gaming PC, but for everyone else, it’s more than enough. 

The XPS 8940 is available in a series of different configurations, but the base model is still pretty powerful. You’ll get a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, coupled with 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage — all for a relatively affordable $600. Upgrade it a little, and you get serious processing power, with up to an Intel Core i9 processor, 64GB of RAM, a 2TB solid-state drive, and a 2TB hard drive. In addition, you can get up to an AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT graphics card for the gamers out there.

There are plenty of ports on offer by the computer too. You’ll get a hefty seven USB 3.1 ports, along with a USB-C port. There’s also a DisplayPort, a HDMI port, two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, and so on. Safe to say, you should run out of ports, though most of them are on the back. And, you’ll get some additional ports if you get a graphics card, which may be helpful for your needs.

We’re not the only ones that love the Dell XPS 8940 desktop. The computer scored a very respectable 7.6/10 from PCGamer, while the extremely similar previous-generation 8930 scored 4/5 on Top Ten Reviews. The downsides? Well, there aren’t many at this price, except maybe that the graphics on the lower-end models is pretty limited.

The best gaming desktop computer

Alienware desktop

The Alienware Aurora R11 is well-designed and incredibly powerful — and as such it should be able to easily handle everything the average gamer can throw at it.

Pros: Cool design, very powerful, tons of ports

Cons: Can get expensive

Perhaps you’re looking for a workhorse, in which case it’s worth considering the Alienware Aurora R11. The computer, built by Dell, offers the top-end performance that you need to run all your favorite games, plus its design ensures that it should look pretty great on any gaming workstation. 

As you would expect, the Aurora R11 offers high-end base specs. You’ll get a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of Ram and a 1TB hard drive, plus an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card. Upgrade it to the max, and you’ll get a 10th-gen Intel Core i9 with an absolutely huge 128GB of RAM and a 2TB solid-state drive with a 2TB hard drive too. All that, with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card.

The Aurora R11 expectedly offers a pretty gamer-friendly design, too. It looks like a big oval, with blue lighting at the front. There are plenty of ports too — including three USB 3.2 ports, a USB-C port, and audio ports on the front. On the back, you’ll get a massive six USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.2 ports, a USB-C 3.2 port, and more. That’s not to mention the ports you’ll get as part of your graphics card. Safe to say you should never run out of connectivity options.

The Aurora R11 has gotten excellent reviews since its release. Notably, LifeWire hailed it as the best gaming PC of 2020, while PCMag gave it an impressive 3.5/5. The main downsides noted in these reviews were that the rig can get pricey quickly.

The best Apple desktop computer

iMac

The Apple iMac offers a powerful all-in-one design for anyone who wants to remain in the Apple ecosystem.

Pros: All-in-one, relatively powerful, multiple configurations, solid port selection

Cons: Slightly aging design, most will want to upgrade

If you love Apple’s ecosystem, then you’re probably looking for a desktop computer that will work within that ecosystem. In that case, it’s worth buying the iMac, which has long been the go-to desktop for Apple users.

The iMac isn’t just a desktop — it’s an all-in-one. That means that it has a display built into it, too, so you don’t need to buy an external monitor to use with it. No hassle required.

The iMac is pretty high-powered too. The computer comes in two sizes — a 21.5-inch model, and a 27-inch model — and while the 21.5-inch model doesn’t have the exact same specs as the larger device, it’s still relatively powerful. The base model offers a 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive, while the highest end 27-inch iMac can be upgraded to offer a 10th-generation Intel Core i7, 128GB of RAM, and a whopping 8TB of solid-state storage. You’ll even get up to a Radeon Pro 5700 XT graphics card.

The iMac is beautifully designed too, like any Apple product. It’s got a stunning aluminum build that will look great on any desk. Around the back is where you’ll get ports, including four USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, an SD card slot, and a gigabit ethernet port. 

The iMac has long gotten great reviews. PCMag gave the 27-inch iMac an impressive 4/5, while Wired gave it an equivalent 8/10. The downsides? Well, notably that while the iMac looks great, it has had the same design for some time now, so it’s aging a little. Also, most will want to upgrade to at least 16GB of RAM, up from the 8GB in the base model.

The best compact desktop computer

Mac Mini with M1

The Apple Mac Mini boasts a sleek and stylish design, Apple’s new processor, and integration with the rest of Apple’s ecosystem.

Pros: Sleek design, powerful performance, works with all apps

Cons: More USB 4 ports would be nice

Unless you’re seriously against Apple’s MacOS operating system, the Mac Mini is the best compact desktop computer right now. It has a sleek and stylish design with enough ports for most, plus it runs on Apple’s all-new M1 processor, which is incredibly powerful and makes the transition seamless.

When Apple announced the transition to a new M1 processor architecture, many were concerned that apps built for Intel Macs wouldn’t work on M1 Macs, and wondered how difficult switching would be. The answer? It’s absolutely simple. Many apps now work with both classic Intel processors and Apple’s new processors, and even those that don’t can be translated in the background by Apple’s Rosetta 2 software. In other words, the worst you’ll experience is an app pausing for a second or two before opening, after which it’ll run as well as it always has. It’s actually kind of incredible.

The only other thing you might be wondering about is whether you should get 8GB of RAM or upgrade to 16GB. I’ve been using an 8GB model for a few weeks now, and find that even as a power user, it’s more than capable the majority of the time. With Mail, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Word, Podcasts, Safari, Reminders, and often both Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro open at the same time, the computer still feels responsive and quick. On the heaviest of heavy days, which included 4K video editing, the computer can sometimes skip a little, and as a result we recommend getting 16GB of RAM if you plan on using those pro-level apps. For most workflows, however, 8GB will be enough.

The only downside to this Mac Mini compared to the last generation is that it has slightly fewer ports. But you’ll still get two USB-A ports, two USB 4.0 ports (USB-C), an HDMI port, a headphone jack, and an ethernet port, which should be more than enough for most.

The best desktop computer under $500

Acer desktop

The Acer Aspire TC is inexpensive, sure, but it still offers excellent performance for a computer in its price range.

Pros: Inexpensive, excellent port selection, solid performance for the price, customizable

Cons: Lackluster graphics performance

If you want a decent desktop on a budget, there are some great options. Namely, it’s worth considering the Acer Aspire TC, which offers excellent performance for the price, plus it can be upgraded down the line as needed.

Despite being low-cost, the Acer Aspire TC has a lot to offer. The base model of the computer comes with a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive, but it can be upgraded to offer an Intel Core i7 chip, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 1TB hard drive – though of course, those specs will pass the $500 line. 

There’s a great-selection of ports on offer too. There are two USB 2.0 ports, a hefty five USB 3.1 ports, a USB-C port, two HDMI ports, and more. Safe to say, you should never run out of connectivity options on this computer. 

The Acer Aspire TC has made a name for itself for offering excellent value-for-money, and reviews reflect that. PCMag gave the computer a 4.5/5, which is a glowing score. The only real downsides to the computer are that the computer doesn’t offer great graphics performance, but that’s somewhat to be expected from a computer in this price range.

What to look for in a desktop computer

As with any computer, there are a few things to keep in mind when you’re browsing for your next desktop. For starters, you’ll want to think about the operating system (OS) that you prefer: Windows or macOS. Of course, the OS comes down to one’s personal preference. A good number of people happen to find that macOS is easier to use than Windows. However, Windows computers are on the cheaper side compared to Macs, and are widely more compatible with various programs and external devices.

You’ll also want to think about how powerful you need the computer to be. Most of the computers on this list feature Intel Core i processors (CPUs), which come in a range of models. At the most basic level, the entry-level CPU is the i3, the mid-range is between the i5 and i7, and the high-powered option is the i9. Additionally, gamers and visual media professionals need to consider the graphics card inside the computer, with the Nvidia GeForce RTX series being the highest-end graphics cards available today.

Apart from the processor, there’s memory, or RAM, which impacts the overall speed and day-to-day use as well as multitasking capability — we would recommend at least 8GB of RAM; and storage, which dictates how many files, including videos and music, can be stored on the desktop. For this, we’d recommend going for at least 256GB of space to start.

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What is Global Privacy Control? How organizations are teaming up to prevent your personal data from being sold

Hand typing on computer
The Global Privacy Control feature is a setting in some browsers and plug-ins designed to protect you against websites selling your personal data.

  • The Global Privacy Control (GPC) feature is a setting in some browsers and plug-ins to tell websites not to sell your personal data.
  • GPC is found in a small number of browsers and plug-ins, and compliance is optional.
  • The GPC is being developed by a consortium of tech companies and publishers.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

The Global Privacy Control (GPC) is a technology initiative being spearheaded by a group of publishers and technology companies to create a global setting in web browsers that allows users to control their privacy online. This means you should be able to set the GPC control in your browser to prevent websites from selling your personal data.

Why the Global Privacy Control feature is important

In recent years, there has been increasing scrutiny on privacy rights online. In 2018, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect, limiting the data websites can collect on EU citizens. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is a similar legislative measure that went into effect in California in 2020.

While there is enhanced interest in online privacy and some governments are taking steps to limit what websites can do with user data, there is no global way for users to opt-out of having their personal information sold or used in ways they don’t approve of. Every website that needs to comply with legal mandates – or simply implement more progressive privacy policies – must implement an opt-out mechanism on its own.

The GPC is built to inform websites not to sell user data. This is different from other privacy tools that might limit tracking but might still allow user data to be sold (or to sell that data itself).

What is the Global Privacy Control feature 1
Some organizations offer the ability for users to opt-in to their privacy control feature.

When fully implemented, the GPC may allow you to opt-out of having your personal data sold by the websites you visit.

Status of the Global Privacy Control feature

Buoyed by these new laws, the GPC is intended to be a single, global setting users can activate in their web browser that signals to all websites the user’s intention about their data privacy.

Currently, the specification is being written by an informal consortium of more than a dozen organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the National Science Foundation, The New York Times, Mozilla, The Washington Post, and Consumer Reports.

The specification that will govern how the GPC will be implemented and behave is still in development, though in principle, it simply allows a website to read a value (such as Sec-GPC-field-value = “1”) to know that the user has chosen to opt-out of having their data sold.

A number of web browsers and browser extensions have implemented the GPC in its draft form. Moreover, adoption of the GPC privacy settings carries no legal weight. If you use a browser or extension with the GPC feature, at this time no websites are obligated to respect its setting – compliance with the GPC is voluntary.

How to change your privacy settings on WhatsApp and protect yourselfHow to adjust your privacy settings on Signal, and protect your messages with extra encryption and face scansWhat are Apple’s Privacy Nutrition Labels? Here’s what you need to know about the new App Store feature that prioritizes user privacyHow to opt out of website cookies with WebChoices and avoid targeted ads

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What is overclocking? How to boost your PC’s speed and power by changing its CPU settings

Gaming PC
An overclocked computer can run more intensive programs than usual.

  • Overclocking is the process of forcing your computer to run faster than it’s intended to go.
  • You can overclock both your CPU and graphics card, which can help you run advanced programs on an older PC.
  • Although overclocking is largely safe, it’s possible to run into overheating and crashing issues.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Overclocking a component in your computer – usually the CPU, and occasionally the graphics card – makes your computer run faster than it was originally intended. This lets you improve your computer’s performance without spending money to upgrade or enhance your PC. 

Not every computer can be overclocked, and there are some risks associated with overclocking as well. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is overclocking?

Different computer processor chips run at different speeds – this is known at their “clock speed.” A higher clock speed means a CPU can run more operations per second, and thus run your computer faster.

But even processors with different speeds are all made on the same assembly line. It’s only after the processors are built that companies test them for defects, take out the more defective ones, and manually “throttle down” those chips to make them run slower in a computer.

pc build motherboard cpu
Not all CPUs can safely run at the same speed.

That means that in theory, even these slower chips can run at faster speeds if you want them to – that’s how they were built, after all. This is where overclocking comes in.

Overclocking lets you undo the throttling and run that slower chip at a faster speed, as if it were a less defective model.

To do this, you need to increase the processor’s “multiplier,” which can be found in your computer’s UEFI or BIOS menu, causing the chip’s clock speed to increase.

The pros and cons of overclocking

Overclocking is incredibly popular among computer enthusiasts, gamers, and anyone who regularly needs to run programs that take a lot of CPU power. This can include graphic design apps, 3D modeling programs, and more. Done right, it can increase your computer’s performance essentially for free.

When you join discussions about building computers or buying graphics cards, you’ll often find people talking about how easily their computers can be overclocked. Buying a less expensive graphics card that can be overclocked can save money, while still ensuring excellent performance.

In recent years, however, there’s been some evidence that overclocking isn’t as useful as it used to be. Modern CPUs already run so fast that overclocking can have little effect. And more important, improving your processor performance can be useless if the rest of your computer isn’t fast enough to keep up. This is called “bottlenecking.” 

For example, if you have a slow hard disk drive (HDD), overclocking your CPU can’t make it run faster. Likewise, programs that use your graphics card more than the CPU won’t be helped by an overclocked CPU.

What is overclocking 2
Your CPU will need enhanced cooling if you plan to run it at a higher clock speed.

Overclocking comes with some inherent risks. Companies don’t throttle down processor chips for fun – they do it because the chip has defects, and running it too fast can cause your computer glitches.

Too much overclocking can lead to instability and crashing apps, as well as the occasional Blue Screen of Death. Frequent crashes can cause data loss and frustration. In some cases, overclocking can even damage your CPU or graphics card permanently. 

You need to weigh the sometimes-marginal performance improvements that come from overclocking against these risks. 

How to overclock your processor

If you want to overclock your computer, first assess if your processor supports overclocking – not all do. 

Intel adds an “K” or an “X” to the model numbers of the Intel Core CPUs that can be overclocked. For example, the Intel Core i9-10900K can be overclocked; the Intel Core i9-10900F cannot.

If you have an AMD CPU, the news is better – any “Ryzen” CPU can be overclocked.

You should also ensure your computer has adequate cooling equipment. Your CPU should have a heavy duty heatsink and large cooling fans. You might even want to use a liquid cooling system to deal with the extra heat generated by your faster CPU.  

Your CPU will need enhanced cooling if you plan to run it at a higher clock speed. 

To overclock the CPU, restart your computer and enter the startup menu in the computer’s UEFI or BIOS. These startup screens vary dramatically from one manufacturer to another, so you’ll need to look for the overclocking controls. 

What is overclocking 1
The BIOS or UEFI is where you’ll find an option to overclock your CPU.

It’s a good idea to increase the multiplier by a small amount, reboot the computer and test it. You can increase the clock speed in increments to get to the speed you are interested in. 

Every time you increase the clock speed, spend a few hours “stress testing” the computer. You can use an app like Prime95 to temporarily run the CPU at 100% load to make sure there are no problems with the PC. 

If your computer crashes, you get a Blue Screen of Death, or your programs won’t open, return to the UEFI or BIOS menu and revert to a slower clock speed. 

It’s also possible to overclock your graphics card’s GPU, though you can’t do that from the UEFI or BIOS menu. To speed up your GPU, you’ll need to use an overclocking utility – one of the most common is MSI Afterburner

How to install a graphics card into your Windows PC and upgrade its performanceA beginner’s guide to graphics cards and how they help power your computer’s imagesHow to download Nvidia drivers to keep your computer’s graphics running smoothly and vibrantlyHow to update or reinstall your drivers in Windows 10 to keep your computer running smoothly

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This week’s top laptop deals include $400 off the 15-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 3

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Microsoft Surface 3 laptop

Best Buy is running a huge sale on laptops that discounts select models by hundreds of dollars. Tons of different laptops are now discounted at Best Buy – from top-of-the-line Lenovo Yogas to midrange Microsoft Surface Laptops and even affordable Chromebooks. That means there’s a laptop available for every budget in this sale, which runs through March 14.

Among the most noteworthy of these deals is a $400 discount on  the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3. This configuration boasts an AMD Ryzen 5  processor, a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD), 8GB of memory (RAM), and a 15-inch HD (2496 x 1664) display. 

We called the Surface Laptop 3 the best Microsoft laptop and loved the AMD processor, the long battery life, and the excellent keyboard. We wished it had more ports and some top-firing speakers, and also found it to be a little on the pricey side. But this discount helps to address that latter concern. Overall, it’s a great pick for those looking to stream Netflix, attend online classes, and perform any other task that a general purpose computer should be equipped to handle.

Best Buy’s sale also includes compelling discounts on the HP Spectre x360, Lenovo Yoga 9i, and Chromebooks from HP and Asus among others.

Here are some more sweet laptop deals happening right now:

Surface Laptop 3 (medium)Spectre x360 Laptop (medium, Preferred: Best Buy)Yoga 9i (medium)Prestige 14EVO012 (medium)Yoga 7i (medium)Surface Pro 7 (medium, Preferred: Best Buy)x360 14c Chromebook (medium, Preferred: Best Buy)C433TA Chromebook (medium)Product Card (medium)Product Card (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Product Card (medium)Product Card (medium, Preferred: Lenovo)Chromebook Duet (medium, Preferred: Best Buy)

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6 ways to care for your laptop charger and power cord to extend its life

Laptop power cord
Protecting your your laptop power cord from damage will save you money and stress.

  • Maintaining the integrity of your laptop charger will help ensure you can safely charge your laptop with it for longer.
  • Tightly wrapping your laptop power cord is among several reasons it breaks down faster.
  • Avoiding contact with table edges, exposure to liquids and more can help prevent wearing down the rubber protecting the wires inside your cord.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

A laptop charger is essential to have on hand, and replacing one is a pain (and can be expensive.) There are a few simple tips to follow when it comes to extending your laptop charger’s life. 

Laptop chargers have two parts: a transformer and a power cord. The transformer is the brick that converts the current from your power outlet from AC to DC, and the power cord connects the charger to the outlet. 

Over time, transformers can overheat, which can cause internal damage. Simultaneously, any section of your power cord can wear away and expose the wires inside.

How to care for your laptop charger and power cord

Macbook charger
Laptop charger health can save you money and unexpected stress.

Maintaining your laptop charger’s integrity will help ensure you can safely charge your laptop with it. Here are six ways to do it. 

Avoid tightly wrapping your laptop power cord

Wrapped laptop power cord
Wrapping your charger tightly can damage the wires.

While it may be tempting to wrap your laptop power cord in a tight pattern to keep it organized, doing so can shorten the life of your charger. This practice puts repetitive stress on the thin copper conductors inside power cords and can cause them to break. 

To avoid this, loop your laptop power cord loosely to avoid crimping the wires and if you can wrap it a different way each time to avoid repetitive stress on the same section.

Use a power strip

GettyImages 1143499309
Consider a power strip to avoid any electrical damage to your laptop’s power cord.

But not just any power strip––make sure it has a built-in surge protector. In addition to offering convenience (allowing you to plug in multiple devices with only one outlet), power strips with surge protectors can protect your laptop, phone, and other electronic devices from power surges that can damage your device.

Ensure the transformer has room to breathe

Laptop charger transformer
Your transformer can get overheated and damage your charger wires.

The transformer can get hot during the charging process. To avoid overheating while your laptop is charging, make sure it’s placed somewhere with plenty of airflows (e.g., not wedged in a couch cushion), especially if you know you’ll be plugged in for an extended period.

Avoid contact with sharp edges

Power cord on table edge
Resting power cords on the edges of desks and tables can wear them down.

Exposed wires are a big no-no, and extended contact with sharp surfaces like table edges can wear away the rubber protecting the wires in your laptop power cord. 

Whether you often move your power cord from one place to another or have a designated charging hub, ensure your setup doesn’t expose these delicate wires to sharp edges.

Keep your power cord away from water

Glass of water next to computer
Try and keep your cord and your computer away from liquids.

Water and electronic devices don’t mix, so it’s essential to avoid situations where your laptop power cord could be accidentally exposed to water as this can cause electrocution, damage to your laptop, or both. This means not charging your laptop in or near your kitchen or bathroom. 

If your laptop charger comes into contact with water, disconnect it from the outlet at once and move it away. Thoroughly dry the charger and make sure it is completely dry before deciding whether to use it again.

Use different cords to avoid overuse during transport or storage

Device cords
Keeping multiple cords for all your devices can help you avoid charging hiccups.

Of course, this means you’ll have a backup when one breaks down. But opting to have two in your possession is about more than being proactive. It can help reduce the wear and tear of both — and will likely improve their life span.

Reserve a cord specifically for travel, and leave your other charger in your living room or bedroom. Only use the travel cord while you’re on-the-go and the living or bedroom cord while you’re working in the house and in those rooms.

This will help you avoid pulling, stretching, and wrapping your cords as frequently. 

3 easy ways to charge a laptop in your car when you’re working on the goWhy is my laptop hot? How to troubleshoot and cool down an overheated laptopTips for fixing an iPhone or iPad charger that appears to be broken or frayedA full guide to wireless charging, including how it works and the best models to buy

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The 5 best 4K computer monitors of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • 4K monitors offer the highest resolution commonly available to PC desktops and laptops. 
  • I’ve reviewed hundreds of monitors and laptop displays over the past 14 years. 
  • Dell’s S2721QS combines sharp 4K resolution with vibrant color and an affordable price.

A 4K monitor is the sharpest, most attractive display for most computers sold today. Only Apple’s 5K displays pack more pixels per inch. While 4K monitors are often marketed towards professionals or enthusiasts, their superior image quality is obvious in everyday use. It’s possible to buy an outstanding 4K monitor without emptying your wallet.

I’ve tested over 600 desktop monitors and laptop displays over the past 14 years, and I’ve kept a log of instrumented test results for the past decade. While monitor technology hasn’t changed drastically in nearly 20 years, quality has certainly improved. Modern monitors are much brighter, more colorful, and sharper than those sold a decade ago.

Despite that, pricing continues to fall. Dell’s affordable S2721QS is a great example. It’s excellent by every measure, providing a crisp, vibrant, bright image. It’s also sturdy and includes an ergonomic stand. If the Dell S2721QS isn’t for you, though, don’t worry. There’s several great alternatives for people with more specific needs.

Here are the best 4K computer monitors you can buy:

The best 4K monitor overall

best 4k monitor dell s2721qs.JPG

The Dell S2721QS delivers a bright, colorful, sharp 4K picture at a surprisingly affordable price.

Pros: Vibrant color, high maximum brightness, attractive design, sturdy ergonomic stand, great value

Cons: Mediocre HDR performance

Dell’s S2721QS is a fantastic monitor that raises the bar for value. Though not the best in any category, it has many strengths and no major flaws. It’s also among the most affordable 4K monitors currently sold. 

This monitor has a sharp, vibrant image. Its color performance is excellent, displaying a wide range of color with great accuracy. It can realistically display photos, video, and games as their creators intended. 

It’s an exceptionally bright display, which is useful if your home office or computer room is brightly lit. The S2721QS is bright enough to compete with open windows on a sunlit day and has an anti-glare finish that reduces reflections.

The S2721QS supports High Dynamic Range (HDR), a standard that helps movies and games provide better contrast and color. Despite its vibrant color and intense brightness, this monitor’s HDR performance is mediocre, as it lacks advanced features like a backlight that can selectively dim when necessary. Having said that, the S2721QS is the best monitor for HDR on this list. 

You’ll enjoy looking at the S2721QS even when it’s off. The monitor’s design is sleek, modern, and professional. It has a sturdy ergonomic stand has the ability to rotate 90 degrees for use in portrait orientation. It’s VESA compatible for use with third-party monitor arms. 

The S2721QS is affordable, but sometimes out of stock due to its popularity. You should also consider the (similarly named) Dell S2721Q. This monitor has comparable performance but lacks an ergonomic stand, though it includes a VESA mount for attaching a third-party monitor arm. The S2721Q is less expensive and rarely out of stock. 

The best 4K monitor for gaming

best monitor Viewsonic XG3200

The Viewsonic XG3220 is a large, sharp, and colorful monitor with AMD FreeSync support.

Pros: Attractive color, good contrast in dark scenes, impressive display size, AMD FreeSync supported, significant image customization 

Cons: Poor HDR performance, limited viewing angle, not a high-refresh monitor

Gamers prefer a monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate (or higher) because higher refresh rates let a monitor respond more quickly to player input. Unfortunately, high-refresh 4K monitors are very expensive and hard to find in stock. That’s why I recommend the large yet reasonably priced Viewsonic XG3220.

4K resolution pairs nicely with this monitor’s 32-inch display, providing excellent clarity that gives games a sharp, immersive look. The XG3220 performs well in contrast by reaching a deep, inky black level that most monitors fail to achieve. Gamers who enjoy the horror and simulation genres will appreciate this. 

The XG3220 technically supports High Dynamic Range (HDR) content. Its brightness is just mediocre, however, leading to poor HDR performance. I recommend you leave HDR turned off. The XG3220 has poor viewing angles, so you’ll need to view this monitor straight-on for best results. 

AMD FreeSync is supported, and the monitor unofficially works with Nvidia G-Sync. The monitor can match its refresh rate to the framerate of games, eliminating stutter and image tearing.  

The XG3220 has a detailed on-screen menu that offers a variety of customization options. This lets you customize the display’s image quality to your preferences. The monitor also includes gaming-specific features, such as a dark stabilizer that can be activated to brighten dark areas of the screen. Gamers can use this feature to see foes hiding in dark corners. 

It technically pivots up to 90 degrees, but the monitor is too large to use in portrait orientation. It’s VESA compatible, so you can swap to a third-party monitor arm.

The Viewsonic XG3220 is a great value. Its retail price is close to 32-inch competitors that have a lower 2560 x 1440 resolution, yet its image quality is superior to many alternatives.

The best 4K monitor for professionals

best 4k monitor BenQ PD3220U

BenQ’s PD3220U has pinpoint color accuracy and tons of connectivity. 

Pros: Great color accuracy and wide gamut, supports 10-bit color, excellent connectivity, plenty of display customization

Cons: Mediocre brightness, poor HDR performance

All the 4K monitors on this list have vibrant color, but professional photographers, videographers, and digital artists demand more.  They need precise color accuracy and the ability to display colors outside the range normally supported by a monitor.

The BenQ PD3220U delivers. It has exceptional color accuracy out of the box. That’s important for professional work, as it means an image displayed on the PD3220U can represent how it will look on other displays or in print. 

In testing, the BenQ PD3220U handles up to 89 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut. DCI-P3 is a standard color gamut used when shooting and editing for film and television. This monitor also supports native 10-bit color, which expands color support from 16.7 million to 1.07 billion colors. The real-world difference is less than those dramatic numbers suggest, but the PD3220U’s ability to display additional colors is critical for professional use.

The PD3220U’s color performance is backed by deep customization. You can select a variety of color temperature, gamma, and gamut presets and make tweaks to color hue and saturation. These features aren’t relevant to most readers. Professionals, however, need this customization so they can change the monitor’s look to match the standards of the project they’re working on.

Brightness is this monitor’s only flaw. The BenQ PD3220U is fine for use in most rooms but can struggle to compete with a sunlit window. This also impacts the monitor’s High Dynamic Range (HDR) performance, which is lackluster. It’s useful for professionals creating content that will be viewed in HDR but doesn’t deliver much visual punch. 

The BenQ PD3220U has excellent connectivity. It’s a great monitor to use with multiple inputs and it can charge laptops connected to it via Thunderbolt 3.

This monitor has an adjustable stand and is VESA compatible, so you can switch to a third-party monitor arm if you’d like. 

It’s important to note this is a true professional-caliber display and is priced to match. Readers not familiar with this monitor’s special features, like 10-bit color and the DCI-P3 color gamut, shouldn’t buy this monitor. The BenQ PD3220U’s superior performance will only be obvious to the eyes of professionals who work with photos, video, or digital art. 

The best 4K monitor for USB-C

best 4k monitor dell U2720Q

Dell’s UltraSharp U2720Q 27-Inch 4K Monitor can handle up to 90 watts of power over USB-C, easily charging most laptops. 

Pros: Accurate and realistic color, excellent build quality, delivers 90 watts of power over USB-C, great warranty 

Cons: Poor HDR performance, no Ethernet por

Anyone who uses a laptop with an external monitor should consider a USB-C monitor. A single USB-C cable between a monitor and a laptop that supports USB-C charging can handle both power and video. It even turns the monitor into a USB hub. This lets you replace the mess of cords normally connected to your laptop with a single USB-C cable between your laptop and monitor.

Many USB-C monitors are available, but the Dell UltraSharp U2720Q is the best 4K for most people. This has everything to do with its power delivery. The U2720Q can deliver up to 90 watts of power over USB-C. That’s enough to power any laptop that supports USB-C charging. Most competing 4K monitors support only 60 to 65 watts of power over USB-C. That’s fine if you own a 13-inch laptop, but it’s not a match for more powerful laptops like Apple’s MacBook Pro 16 or Dell’s XPS 15. 

This monitor can act as a USB-C hub. This is helpful when the monitor is paired with a USB-C laptop that has limited connectivity. However, unlike some more expensive USB-C monitors, the U2720Q doesn’t have an Ethernet port. 

The U2720Q has excellent image quality with precise color accuracy. Like the BenQ PD3220U, the Dell UltraSharp U2720Q supports the expanded DCI-P3 color gamut used in professional film and television production. Though not as accurate as the BenQ PD3220U, the U2720 is a good monitor for photographers and digital artists.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is supported, but the U2720Q doesn’t handle it well. The monitor is bright but not as bright as the less expensive Dell S2721QS, so it lacks the punchy, vivid look HDR is supposed to provide. 

This monitor’s stand can rotate 90 degrees to put the monitor in portrait orientation. It’s also VESA compatible with third-party monitor arms. 

While the U2720Q is a great monitor, I only recommend it if you can take advantage of its USB-C connectivity. You won’t get your money’s worth if you pair it with a desktop over HDMI or DisplayPort. 

The best 24-inch 4K monitor

best 4k monitor LG 24UD58 B

The LG 24UD58-B 24-Inch 4K Monitor packs 4K resolution into a 24-inch size, providing the sharpest image available on a PC.

Pros: Incredibly sharp, good image quality, compact size, supports AMD FreeSync

Cons: Unattractive design, no ergonomic stand

Not everyone needs a large monitor. If you want a small 4K monitor, however, your options are slim. 4K monitors smaller than 27 inches were easier to find in 2016 and 2017, when 4K monitors first appeared. LG’s 24UD58-B is the only reasonable option remaining.

Packing 4K resolution into a 24-inch display has the advantage of drastically upping pixel density to 185 pixels per inch. Only Apple’s 5K iMac and the rare handful of 5K monitors sold over the past five years beat that. The result is a remarkably sharp, crisp image. Pixels are virtually indistinguishable unless your nose is touching the monitor. 

The LG 24UD58-B is otherwise an average, mid-range monitor. It has acceptable color accuracy, can display a wide range of color, and is bright enough for use in most rooms. This monitor has some trouble with dark scenes, because it can’t display a rich, deep, inky black. It also tends to show bright spots in dark scenes because of uneven backlighting. 

This monitor can’t display an HDR signal. It does support AMD FreeSync, so it can match its refresh rate to a game’s framerate for smooth, stutter-free gaming if you have an AMD video card. 

Unlike other monitors on this list, the LG 24UD58-B has a flimsy stand that only slightly adjusts for tilt. The monitor is VESA compatible, though, so you can add a third-party monitor arm. This monitor isn’t much to look at, with simple black plastic construction and thick bezels around the display.

The LG 24UD58-B is the least expensive 4K monitor on this list and the least expensive commonly sold today. It’s a fine option for people who don’t want a display larger than 24 inches. 

What else we considered

4K monitors, once rare, are now extremely common. There are dozens of options, ranging from 24 to 43 inches, with prices from $300 to over $3,000. Most alternatives provide great image quality but didn’t make the cut due to pricing, a lack of additional features, or known flaws. 

  • AOC CU32V3 ($389.99): This 32-inch 4K monitor is inexpensive and has good image quality but can’t match Viewsonic’s XG3220. It also has a flimsy stand that only adjusts for tilt.
  • Asus VP28UQG ($274.99): The Asus VP28UQG is the least expensive monitor of its size. Its image quality is acceptable though not outstanding, but the monitor’s build quality and stand leave a lot to be desired.
  • Acer Predator X27 ($1,343.99): The Acer Predator X27 is a high-end, 27-inch 4K gaming monitor that throws in every feature imaginable. That leads to an extremely high price. It’s also frequently out of stock online and often sold at inflated prices when it is available. 
  • BenQ EL2870U ($299.99): This 28-inch 4K monitor is among the most affordable sold today, but the Dell S2721QS has superior image quality. The BenQ EL2870U also has a limited stand that only adjusts for tilt. 
  • Dell Ultrasharp PremierColor UP2720Q ($1,599.99): The UP2720Q is Dell’s top-end 27-inch monitor for professionals that need nearly perfect color. It even has a built-in colorimeter that lets you calibrate the display on the fly. Still, it’s hard to justify the monitor’s premium over the BenQ PD3220U. 
  • Dell U3219Q ($864.99): The Dell U3219Q is a credible competitor to the BenQ PD3220U. It’s a couple years old, however, and Dell is likely to replace it with a new display soon. 
  • HP V28 ($324.99): HP’s V28 is an affordable display similar to the Dell S2721QS, but its design is unimpressive and the stand only adjusts for tilt.
  • HP U27 ($464.99): The HP U27 upgrades its design to better match the Dell S2721QS, but it also ups the monitor’s price into a higher tier that forces it to compete with better displays. Despite the price bump, the stand still only adjusts for tilt.
  • LG 27UL850-W ($449.99): LG’s 27-inch 4K monitor is a great display with excellent image quality and attractive design. But it’s more expensive than the Dell S2721QS and doesn’t have an advantage in image quality. The LG27UL850-W does include USB-C, like the Dell U2720Q, but it only provides 60 watts of power delivery. 
  • LG Ultragear 27GN950-B ($799.99): The 27GN950-B is among the best gaming monitors available. It has 4K resolution, a Nano IPS panel, and a fast 144Hz refresh rate that responds quickly to player input. Unfortunately, its expensive retail price is only inflated by short supply. Gamers who want this monitor will likely have to pay over $1,000 to a third-party seller.
  • LG 43UN700-B ($599.99): This massive 43-inch 4K monitor is affordable relative to its size, but it’s too large to make sense as a desktop monitor, and its image quality is mediocre. 
  • LG 32UL950-W ($1,296.99): This 32-inch 4K monitor has features comparable to the BenQ PD3220U but targets professional use with less precision. It isn’t as easy to customize, and its color performance isn’t as accurate. 

What we look forward to testing

  • LG 32UL500-W ($296.99): This extremely affordable, 32-inch 4K monitor seems too good to be true, undercutting competitors significantly while claiming color performance that’s in line with more expensive displays. Owners seem to like it, but I’ve yet to test this monitor. 
  • Philips 328E1CA ($349.99): Philips monitors are once again coming to the North American market, and they look to undercut the pricing of established competition. This 32-inch 4K monitor is nearly as inexpensive as the LG 32UL500-W and makes similar claims, though it has a curved screen as well. I hope to test this monitor in the coming months.
  • Acer Nitro XV282K KV ($899.99): Acer’s upcoming 28-inch 4K monitor has a 144Hz refresh rate and wide color gamut and supports HDMI 2.1. That last specification is important for gamers, because it will make the monitor compatible with 120Hz output from Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Sony’s PlayStation 5. It will be available in May 2021.
  • Asus ROG Strix XG43UQ (TBA): This 43-inch 4K monitor has every feature you could possibly desire, including a 144Hz refresh rate, HDMI 2.1, a wide color gamut, and support for the DisplayHDR 1000 standard. Asus has not announced pricing or availability, but I expect it will easily exceed $2,000. 
  • LG UltraFine OLED Pro 32EP950 (TBA): OLED technology, which is common among televisions, remains almost unheard of among monitors. This 32-inch 4K display will change that. Pricing and availability remain to be announced but expect it to exceed $2,500. 
  • Viewsonic XG320U (TBA): Viewsonic’s XG320U is a 32-inch 4K monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate, HDMI 2.1, and a wide color gamut, features that make it a perfect companion to an Xbox Series X or Sony PlayStation 5. It will be available in the first quarter of 2021, though pricing remains unknown.

Our testing methodology

I test displays using a Datacolor SpyderX colorimeter. This device creates a performance report that checks the monitor’s color accuracy, color gamut, gamma, luminance uniformity, and white point against industry standards. 

The Datacolor SpyderX is precise enough that the details of its report aren’t relevant to most people, but it provides an objective benchmark that can be used for comparisons between monitors. 

I have used this device (or its earlier version) for over a decade, and I have logged all my results. I’ve tested over 600 laptop and desktop displays. 

There’s more to a monitor than image quality, though. The best monitors also have good connectivity, a highly adjustable stand, attractive design, and a customization menu that’s easy to navigate and offers many options. Pricing is also a major factor in my final recommendations. 

In fact, image quality rarely elevates a monitor to a top recommendation. Many companies make monitors, but most source parts from the same suppliers and construct their monitors in similar ways. That limits how much image quality will vary between displays. Monitors instead set themselves apart with great design, impressive connectivity, or a surprisingly low price.

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29 tech gadgets we use to boost our productivity and comfort when we work from home

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

grovemade desk tray
Grovemade sells many beautiful tech accessories to make your desk more organized.

  • We’ve rounded up the best work-from-home tech you can get to set up your home office.
  • Our picks include a sharp computer monitor, a comfy keyboard and mouse, an effective webcam and 26 more essentials.
  • We’ve personally used all these items when we have worked from home over the years.
  • Read more: The best computer monitors of 2020

One of the biggest challenges of working from home is setting up a home office with the right tools, but once you’ve got everything in place, it’s easier to get your work done.  

Even if you don’t have a ton of space or a dedicated room to turn into a home office, you can still have a comfortable and productive work-from-home setup. All you need is a table, chair, and a few key pieces of tech. 

We’ve compiled this handy list of the best work-from-home tech to help you increase your productivity. The main tech essentials everyone needs to work remotely are reliable internet and a laptop, but we also recommend getting a monitor so you have a bigger screen to work from as well as a decent keyboard and mouse. With these gadgets, you’ll feel much more comfortable working than you would if you had to squint over your small laptop screen all day. 

Beyond those main tech gadgets, you may also want to get a few more accessories, so we’ve added others that are enjoyable to have, including everything from headphones and speakers to webcams and smart speakers.

A wireless mouse for your home office

Logitech MX Master 3

Logitech MX Master 3 wireless mouse

Logitech MX Master 3 for Mac wireless mouse

MX Master 3 Wireless Laser Mouse for Mac (button)

Logitech’s MX Master Wireless Mouse is our top pick for the best computer mouse for good reason. It has an ergonomic design that’s comfortable to use for hours on end and you can customize the functions of its buttons and the speed of the scroll wheel. I’ve been using this mouse to work for several months now, and it’s helped limit the amount of wrist and hand fatigue I feel at the end of the day. It’s also wireless, so it’s an excellent mouse to have in your home office setup. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor

A strange-looking mouse that’s worth the risk

Work from home tech Logitech

Logitech MX Vertical Wireless Mouse

MX Vertical (button)

The Logitech MX Vertical looks odd, and feels even stranger when you put your hand on it. But after a few days, using it becomes second nature, and it’s noticeably more comfortable than normal mice, especially if you use computers all day. I had an MX Vertical I left at BI’s NYC office before the pandemic, and I ventured back into the city from the safety of my suburban home during the pandemic to get it back for my home setup. — Antonio Villas-Boas, Senior Reporter

Don’t settle for a cheap, flimsy office mouse pad

Steelseries

Steelseries QCK Heavy Mousepad

I initially wanted a larger, thick mouse pad for PC gaming, but I’d find it difficult to be productive without the Steelseries QCK Heavy mousepad. Indeed, it’s about twice as thick and twice as large as a standard cheap office mousepad, the cloth feels premium and smooth, and it’s washable. It gives you a lot more room to swing your mouse around comfortably, and it makes a surprisingly positive impact on your comfort without needing to spend very much. — Antonio Villas-Boas, Senior Reporter      

A good-looking desk pad

Grovemade desk pad

Grovemade Desk Pad

When I first started working from home, I used a towel as a desk pad to protect my table from wear and tear. After a few months of that, I started looking into desk pads and found this one by Grovemade. It’s made of natural linoleum with a cork backing to give it some cushion and prevent it from sliding around on the desk. You can also get it in wool or leather, but both of those options are more expensive. sizes range from small ($40+) to extra large ($90+).

I got a large linoleum desk pad in the blue color, and it makes my desk look great while also protecting it from stains, scratches, and other dangers. It cleans up easily, too with the swipe of a damp washcloth or a paper towel. The desk pad works as a mouse pad, too, if you don’t want to get both.

I also got a desk organizer from Grovemade to keep my pens, sticky notes, and other desk accessories in order. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor

A laptop stand

Twelve South curve laptop stand

Twelve South Curve Laptop Stand

I got a laptop stand about nine months into quarantine after using books and boxes and all sorts of odd things to hold up my laptop during video calls. This laptop stand from Twelve South is sturdy, matches my MacBook Pro’s design, and keeps my laptop at the perfect height for video calls. It also helps prevent my laptop from overheating, thanks to its open bottom, which facilitates air and circulation. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor

A cheap Bluetooth keyboard for your home office

Logitech keyboard

Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard

I’ve been using Logitech’s K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard in the office for almost a full year. I like its compact design and I find the keys responsive for typing. I never use the numberpad on giant keyboards, so I prefer this no-frills option. It’s wireless, too, so my small home office setup doesn’t look cluttered by a bunch of cables. For about $30, it’s an excellent affordable option. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor

An ergonomic keyboard

Logitech Ergo Keyboard

Logitech Ergo K860

If you plan to be desk-bound, an ergonomic keyboard is essential, and my favorite is the new Logitech Ergo K860. I have used many ergonomic keyboards for the past 25 years, and none have worked as well as this one. I like the elevated wrist support that keeps my hands and arms in proper typing position. The split keyboard does take some getting used to, but after a day, I found myself typing away with minimal typos. The keys are well positioned and require very little travel distance, which means less strain on your hands and wrists. It’s wireless, so you can easily move it, and it supports up to three Bluetooth devices — I love the ability to switch between my MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPad quickly. Since I started using this keyboard regularly, it has lessened my wrist pain. — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor

Nothing beats a classic mechanical keyboard

Work from home tech Durgod

Durgod Taurus K310 Mechanical Keyboard

I used the Durgod Taurus K310 mechanical keyboard for typing, and I absolutely love it. It has a classic mechanical look and feel, and it’s a dream to type on. I have the “Cherry MX Silent Red” switches on mine, which means it’s very quiet for a mechanical keyboard, which are typically loud. It has the Windows logo on the Command key, but it’s equally compatible with MacOS devices, too. I like having the number pad on my keyboards, but it’s also available in a smaller option without the number pad called the Taurus K320. — Antonio Villas-Boas, Senior Reporter    

A foldable Bluetooth keyboard

Plugable keyboard

Plugable Bluetooth Keyboard

If you have limited space to work from home or you need to pack up your setup and take it with you, a foldable Bluetooth keyboard may be the answer. I’ve been using this full-size model from Plugable when I’m working from home unexpectedly. At the end of the day, I can easily fold it up and hide it away to regain access to my dining table. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor

A gel wrist rest for your mouse

Kensington wrist wrest

Kensington ErgoSoft Wrist Rest

To limit wrist fatigue, I’ve been using Kensington’s ErgoSoft Wrist Rest. It’s essentially a small gel-filled wrist pad that you can position exactly where you need it. The sticky underside keeps it from shifting around on the table, but it’s ideal to have the option to angle it or remove it as needed throughout the workday. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor

A micro-bead mouse wrist rest to keep you RSI free

Imak

IMAK Cushion Ergobeads Wrist Rest

I have a confession to make: I’ve been using the same Imak ErgoBeads wrist rest featured here for an undetermined amount of years. I’ve washed it regularly, of course, but let’s just say it’s not something I would let go of as a hand-me-down. This thing is the definition of computing comfort, in my opinion, and there are bundles that include a wrist rest for your keyboard. There’s something about beads that perfectly contour to your wrist and feel like a down pillow underneath it. Don’t make this tough time even worse with a repeated stress injury —  trust me, I know from experience. — Joe Osborne, Senior Tech Editor

A mousepad with a wrist rest to prevent RSIs

3M mouse pad

3M Precise Mouse Pad

Look, there’s enough to worry about much less a debilitating work injury preventing you from getting your work done. That’s why we’re recommending the 3M Precise Mouse Pad, because it’s cheap, effective, and will keep your mouse hand comfortable with a wrist rest. Also, its tracking surface is designed for modern optical mice, so you’re basically covered from every angle for less than $20. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor

 

An affordable smart speaker

Amazon Echo Dot 4th gen

Amazon Echo Dot

Echo Dot (4th Generation) (button)

My Echo Dot has become an essential desktop companion whenever I work from home. The affordable Alexa device is our top pick for best budget smart speaker, and it packs all of the same digital assistant features found on Amazon’s more expensive Echo products into a compact, budget-friendly package. Sound quality can’t compete with genuine stereo speakers, but the Echo Dot gets the job done for casual background listening while I work. It’s also a convenient tool for setting alarms and reminders, getting quick answers to questions, and receiving news and weather updates. And best of all? Its reliable voice control means you never have to step away from your keyboard.  — Steven Cohen, Technology Editor

A smart display

Google Nest Hub

Google Nest Hub

I like to have a clock nearby when I’m working from home, because I am wont to lose track of time entirely. I also like to have music playing in the background. To address both of those needs, I set up the Google Nest Hub on my desk. Not only does it always show me the time, but it can also play music, do math for me, and answer any random questions I have while working. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor

An affordable 27-inch monitor

Dell 27 inch monitor

27-inch Dell FreeSync Monitor

Although you can get fancy 4K, curved monitors for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, there are also plenty of decent displays for $200 or less. This 27-inch Dell FreeSync Monitor has a full HD IPS LED screen that should be both big enough and high-res enough for most people’s needs. It uses Dell’s ComfortView tech to limit reflections, blue light, and other distractions. It’s the monitor I have setup for working from home. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor

An UltraWide monitor

LG Ultrawide monitor

LG 34WK650-W 34″ 21:9 Monitor

I had the pleasure of testing out LG’s 34WK650-W 34″ 21:9 monitor for a few months and it completely opened my eyes up to the benefits of an UltraWide display in a home office. Typically, I work with a 24-inch 16:10 Dell UltraSharp monitor, and it performs very well for most needs. There are times, however, when there’s just not enough real estate available on the screen for all the applications I have open. With the UltraWide design of the LG 34WK650-W, however, it’s basically like having two monitors in one. Organizing different windows around your screen is a breeze, allowing you to multitask like a pro. The monitor also packs in several advanced display features, like HDR and FreeSync, which make it a fine fit for entertainment and gaming when you’re not working. — Steven Cohen, Technology Editor

A laptop that can be your WFH warrior for a long time

Google Pixelbook Go

Google Pixelbook Go

Acer Chromebook 15.6

While many might scoff at $649 for a Chromebook, hold that thought until you take a peek at the Google Pixelbook Go’s 1080p display, its excellent keyboard, sharp 1080p webcam, and spacious trackpad. For a combination of WFH-ready features such as these within similar aluminum-clad laptops, expect to pay at least $300 more. If you want to save even more, we’d suggest the Acer Chromebook 15, a $325 15-inch laptop with a 1080p screen and just enough performance and space to get you through this stint of working from home. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor

A desk for your new make-shift home office

wayfair lamantia desk

Three Posts Lamantia Computer Desk

Foundstone Black Desk

Fully Jarvis Electric Adjustable Height Desk

Parsons Desk

Generally speaking, we recommend the Three Posts Lamantia Computer Desk as the best desk for its drawer space, dashing looks, and decent $220 price. However, those looking to save as much cash as possible without working on a box should take a look at the $107 Zipcode Design Folkston Desk. Finally, our favorite standing desk is the Fully Jarvis Electric Adjustable Height, which adjusts electronically to save your back. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor

A desk lamp

TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp

TaoTronics LED Desk Lamp

Whether you’re burning the midnight oil or just need extra illumination, this TaoTronics LED desk lamp can add some much needed light. The brightness is adjustable to suit your workspace, and it has a built-in Qi-wireless charger for recharging your phone. For more desk lamp options, check out our guide.  — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor

A comfy office chair to plant your bottom

Space Generation office chair

Knoll ReGeneration

Space Seating Professional AirGrid

It’s entirely too easy to spend a fortune on an office chair, so while we can personally recommend the Knoll ReGeneration as it’s the New York City Insider office’s chair of choice, it’s also more than $800 for individual pricing. So, may we suggest the far more approachable Space Seating Professional AirGrid? It’s a fraction of the price at $175, and offers many similar comfort features. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor

A webcam for acing all of those video meetings

Logitech camera

Logitech C920 Pro Computer Webcam 

If you expect to be holding internal (and outgoing) video meetings for quite some time, and you aren’t going for the above recommended laptop, then pick up the Logitech C920. This is a 1080p webcam with an excellent stand for laptops, monitors, and tripods. While this is a plug-and-play option, it’s also equipped with enhanced controls and filters for power users. That’s a lot of webcam for just under $50. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor

A surge protector and powerstrip

Anker powerstrip

Anker Power Strip Surge Protector with 12 Outlets

It never ceases to amaze me how many devices I need to plug in at my desk. I got this 12-outlet power strip and surge protector to help streamline all the cables I needed to plug in at my desk. It has room for my laptop charger, phone charger, router charger, smart display, my printer, my monitor, and more with room to spare. — Malarie Gokey, Deputy Editor

A USB or USB-C hub for all of your gear

HooToo hub

Satechi Aluminum Multi-Port Adapter V2

HooToo 6-in-1 USB-C Adapter

Anker 10 Port 60W Data Hub

If you have a work laptop or even a personal one released within the last two years, chances are that it has one or more USB-C ports. Naturally, chances are if you have a USB-C laptop you have plenty more gadgets and accessories that use traditional USB or some other more legacy form of connection. That’s where the Satechi Aluminum Multi-Port Adapter V2 comes in with several ports and passthrough charging. It’s also $80 generally, so something like the HooToo 6-in-1 USB-C Adapter could do just as well for less than half as much. For anyone still rocking straight USB ports, we suggest the Anker 10 Port 60W Data Hub for $43. — Joe Osborne, Senior Technology Editor

A pair of noise-cancelling headphones

Bose 700 headphones

Bose 700 Headphones

Though working from home likely gives you the freedom to pump up the volume on your speakers, headphones can still come in handy in many home offices — especially noise-cancelling models like the Bose 700s. Perfect for tuning out potential distractions around the house, or intruding sounds from outside, the Bose 700s feature some of the best noise cancellation tech on the market. They’re especially well-suited for use during important work calls since the mics can isolate your voice from background noises. The Bose 700s are also our pick for the most comfortable noise-cancelling headphones, so you can wear them throughout the workday without any problems. — Steven Cohen, Technology Editor      

A worthy alternative to Bose’s noise-cancelling headphones

Work from home tech Sony

Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise Cancelling Headphones

The Bose 700 are featured in this guide as ideal home office noise cancelling headsets. But I’d urge anyone to take a look at the Sony WH-1000XM4 noise cancelling headphones. They’re slightly more comfortable than the Bose, in my opinion, and their customizable sound means I enjoy my music more than I do with the Bose, too. Noise cancelling is about as good, and they’re $50 cheaper than the Bose, too. Plus, they dramatically reduce ambient noise for better phone calls, and there’s no need to switch between your computer and your phone, as they can connect to both devices at the same time. — Antonio Villas-Boas, Senior Reporter

An affordable pair of desktop speakers

Logitech speakers

Logitech Z313 Speaker System

Logitech is known for its reliable desktop speaker models, and the company’s Z313 are our top pick when it comes to budget computer speakers. The system includes compact left and right speakers, along with a dedicated subwoofer for extra bass while listening to music throughout the workday. Though far from high-end, audio performance is solid for such an inexpensive system, making them a very affordable upgrade from integrated speakers on your monitor or laptop. — Steven Cohen, Technology Editor

A portable hard drive

Seagate Hard Drive

Seagate BarraCuda Fast SSD

If you have separate computers for work and home, an easy file sharing solution is to store on a portable hard drive, like Seagate’s BarraCuda Fast SSD. In my previous years of testing hard drives, Seagate’s are some of the more reliable ones I’ve used. This particular unit uses solid-state memory, which allows for fast read and write speeds (it can be used for gaming and productivity), and you can toss it inside a bag and not worry about damage to moving parts. The BarraCuda Fast SSD supports USB-C for fast transfer speeds of up to 540MB per second, but it’s also compatible with older USB ports, albeit slower. — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor

A conference speaker phone

Anker conference call

Anker PowerConf Bluetooth Speakerphone

Unless it’s a quick call, I’m not a fan of using headsets or putting a phone against my ear for long hours. I also don’t like terrible sounding speakers on my phone or laptop. The solution I’ve been using is the PowerConf Bluetooth Speakerphone from Anker. Yes, it’s designed for group conferences, and it’s portable, so you can take it on the road. But I like the sound quality it produces and that it has six microphones, so it can pick up my voice clearly regardless of where I am in the room. — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor

A multifunction printer

Canon Pixma Printer

Canon Pixma TR4520 Printer

Whether you need to print, scan, copy, or even fax, the Canon Pixma TR4520 is an affordable all-in-one that does all those things. It’s small enough that it doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it has high-end features like two-sided printing and an automatic document feeder for multi-page scanning. For more affordable printer options, check out our guide. — Les Shu, Senior Guides Editor

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Apple’s Refurbished Mac Store is the company’s best-kept secret, selling devices in perfect condition with a nice little discount – here are the best deals

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MacBook Air Open

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Apple’s Certified Refurbished Store is one of the company’s best-kept secrets.
  • Refurbished Apple devices come with the same warranty and condition as if they were new.
  • You can find nice discounts on older and current-generation devices, including Macs,  iPhones, iPads, and Apple accessories
  • Apple’s latest 13-inch MacBook Pros running on the M1 processor recently started appearing in Apple’s Refurbished Store, as well as the iPhone 11 series.
  • Apple has a web store that’s hard to find on its main website called the “Certified Refurbished Store.”

It’s a place where Apple sells some of its devices for a nice little discount. And, not all of them are older models. Some refurbished devices are current-generation – or very recent, at least.

I was amazed by the quality of my refurbished 2016 MacBook Pro that I bought in 2017. It was flawless and showed no signs that it had already been used. In my mind, my refurbished MacBook Pro came from Apple, not the previous owner. 

I personally haven’t bought other refurbished products from Apple yet, but if they’re anything like my refurbished MacBook Pro, they’re absolutely worth considering if you’re not trying to spend full price for brand-new devices. 

Apple’s refurbished devices come with the same warranty as if you bought a brand-new model, and all the original accessories that come with new models are also included with refurbished units. 

Below, you’ll find that I’ve listed the cheapest refurbished options for each device, but you’ll also find more options that potentially have the specs you want in Apple’s refurbished store. 

Check out the best refurbished devices you can buy from Apple’s Refurbished Mac Store:

Macs

MacBook Air Red Closed

Apple Refurbished 13-inch MacBook Pro (Apple M1 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage) — $1,099

Even though Apple’s line of M1 MacBook Pros were only released in November 2020, refurbished models are already starting to appear. Going for $1,099 refurbished, this M1 13-inch MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage comes in $200 cheaper than a brand new model.

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iPhones

iPhone XR

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Accessories

iPad Air Apple Pencil

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