Although I try to keep my work desk clean, I have so many products coming and going it's hard to keep away the clutter. But when that desk is cleaned, these are my core essentials that I'm currently using every day. Some items are obvious, like a PC, but others not so much, like adding some low-cost sound absorption materials for podcasts. Hopefully, you'll find something you like too and get some ideas for your home desk!
In my review I said that the Surface Studio 2 was not a practical PC for most people due to the cost. However, that does not mean it's not awesome. On the contrary, it's the total Windows 10 experience money can buy right now in arguably the most minimalist, future-looking package. Besides work, I occasionally take a break to play some Destiny 2, which the NVIDIA GTX 1070 handles just fine. The display is perfect, the Windows Hello camera is excellent, and performance with the fast SSD and 32GB of RAM is right in my comfort zone. It's not cheap, but I'll be hard-pressed to give it up anytime soon.
I have mixed feeling on the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard. Short term, it's the best typing experience around, and I enjoy the split-keyboard design. While there is a learning curve, my wrists and hands are happier for it. The look and design are great too and the batteries for Bluetooth last a long time. On the other hand, that Alcantara fabric does not hold up showing hand-stains a year into daily usage. It's gross looking and can't be cleaned. So why use it? It's still the best non-gaming keyboard around for us writers. Luckily, I don't look at my hands when I type.
Best all-around mouse
A fully wireless, inductive-charging gaming mouse with high-precision, excellent buttons, and some nice glowing Chroma? The Razer Mamba Hyperflux & Firefly mat are super expensive, but this is a mouse from the future. It's great for gaming, daily work, and it just works. Being wireless and constantly charging from the mat is amazing, something I wish all computer mice could do.
Record like a pro
If you use your PC station for conference calls, gaming, or even recording voice-overs, you'll need a decent microphone. Plenty on the market fit that role, but the Audio-Technica AT2020PK has a long history of being in the middle for pricing and quality. The AT-2020 is the microphone that I use on our weekly podcast. The microphone is shipped here as a starter pack including a boom, mount, and monitoring headphones, but you could also get the mic by itself at a significant savings. Note: This mic uses an XLR connector and cable (not USB), so you'll need an audio interface like the Behringer listed here too.
If you're getting a decent XLR microphone like the Audio-Technica AT2020PK, you'll also need an audio interface to connect it to your computer. The Behringer UMC22 is a compact MIDAS mic preamplifier with +48 V phantom power and 48 kHz resolution for professional sound quality. It plugs into your PC via USB, but the mic connectors are XLR. With direct controls for mic gain and an LED for clipping, you'll have much better control over your audio using this nifty gadget. Don't forget to get an XLR cable too.
Whether you're recording a podcast or being on a Skype conference call, everyone wants to have good audio. Usually, that implies a proper microphone setup, but sound-absorption to remove the echo from your room is just as important. Luckily, there is a low-cost and fun way to do it with these acoustic sound panels. The material is spongy and can be stuck to your wall with some light two-sided tape (not included). I'd recommend at least two packs minimum for a small office. This one trick will make you sound like a pro recording in a sound booth. Plus, you can pick your colors.
When at my desk and I want to do a Skype call in between listening to music, or maybe to watch some video the Surface Headphones work quite well. It's even more important if you live in a noisy area, or have loud people in your home or office as the active noise-canceling technology goes a long way to keeping your sanity. Plus, you can pick up with your smartphone of choice to continue the experience.
Light the future
You could use regular lights in your office, but if you're like me you want to pretend in you're in Blade Runner or some other futuristic movie. Philips Hue color lights get the job done. Slap an ambiance light strip to the back of your desk, toss on some Hue Blooms, and live the dream!
Look your best
In most cases, the front-facing camera on the Surface Studio 2 would be ace for life and work. But I must podcast every Friday (show plug!), and our audience deserves the best. So far, nothing beats the Logitech BRIO 4K camera – even if most streams can't quite handle 4K…yet. Bonus: The BRIO has built-in Windows Hello facial recognition making it an excellent addition to your older desktop computer for instant logging into Windows.
Sounds good to me
The Surface Studio 2 speakers are quite impressive especially considering they're hidden. But for something with my power I prefer the Razer Nommo Chromas. The audio quality is to my liking, I like how I can direct the audio, and that Chroma lighting compliments those Philips Hue lights.
Game in style
When I do take the rare break to game, I grab my custom Xbox One controller from the Xbox Design Lab. Affectionately labeled "Surface Box" I use this controller with my Surface Book 2 and Surface Studio 2. It has matching platinum grey as the main color, some black, and a bit of Xbox green. Don't like my color scheme? That's the best part as the Xbox Design Lab lets you create your own, so go nuts!
While I can use the Surface Headphones for gaming, the HP Omen Mindframe headphones are tuned more for explosions. They also have this amazing technology inside to keep your ears cool by transferring heat away from your head to the outside of the headphones. HP calls it "active ear cup cooling technology" but is also known as a thermoelectric device. I just call it comfortable and that 7.1 virtual surround sound (positional audio and 3D spatial awareness) is perfect for hearing footsteps around the corner.
Which one of my favorites do you like?
While there are a ton of amazing accessories, gizmos, and gadgets one can use for their home office, gaming rig, or family computer most people can't afford to buy them all.
If I had to choose just a few items here it'd be Surface Headphone because you can use them with your PC and smartphone at the same time making them an all-day product to take wherever you go. I'd also be remiss in telling you how much I adore the Razer Mamba Hyperflux & Firefly mouse and mouse pad set. Sure, it's super expensive, but this is arguably the best mouse you'll ever purchase, and the wireless connectivity and charging is fantastic.
Overall, though, any of these items will make your online and PC gaming life a lot more enjoyable. Like a carpenter, you need the right tools, and this list here is a good start.
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Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.