Covid-19 has changed the way we work. First and foremost, even with the plague diminishing (at least in the US) telecommuting is going to be with us for a long time. It’s a no brainer solution for management and the rest of us. (And it’s about time!)
When Zoom became ubiquitous, we all became cognizant of production values. Crappy “optics” and audio quality do not score points in a meeting–whether it’s a job interview or a family powwow. You may save a few bucks but using a mediocre webcam is not going to be in your self interest.
The Logitech C922 Pro Stream Webcam (under $100). It’s high-end features– autofocus, light correction and full HD video make a huge, positive impact. If you’re serious about looking professional and acing that job interview, this is the ticket. I tested it in poorly backlit settings, and it the image was crystal clear.
It couldn’t be easier to set up—just plug and play. You can clamp it on your desktop monitor or use a tiny tripod (included in the package). Audio (there are two mics) is decent for everyday use but for optimal quality, you’ll want a headset or an external mic. Zoom fatigue is usually the consequence of straining to hear someone’s garbled voice so crisp audio is very important.
Logitech’s H390 USB wired headset is an inexpensive option ($24) to pair with the webcam. I was skeptical, because of the price, but came away impressed with its audio. My voiceover artist friend who helped me test this set, Cindy Ramirez, was also pleasantly surprised with the audio. However, she noted that for long periods of use, it’s going to feel like a $24 headset.
The humble mouse is an item we take for granted. A good one makes me more productive. I suspect it has the same impact for other folks.
Of all the “mice” reviewed in this article, the MX Anywhere 3 is the most technically advanced, with more features that the others. If you need one mouse to do everything, this is it. It’s also the smallest in size, thus making it ideal if you’re on the go. It’s comfortable, sturdy and the “Magspeed” scroll wheel is infinitely adjustable to your needs. This is done by clicking the button at the center of the mouse, just rear of the scroll wheel. By pressing the button you can go from indexing (clicking at discrete intervals) to “free-wheeling”. Unlike an inexpensive mouse, it operates flawlessly on any surface—even glass. The software on this device will also lend itself to innumerable programs–you can customize it for any number of applications.
You can charge it with a USB cable or use the mouse “hard wired” with the cable. A full charge will last 70 days. The only caveat is that it might be a bit too small to use as an everyday tool for someone who has medium to large hands. (You can check out the photo near the bottom of the article to compare it to a standard size mouse, in this case the MX Triathalon 720).
The Ergo M575 is designed with a sculpted ergonomic shape and differs from a conventional mouse because it remains stationary. You just move the trackball, which is quite precise. You can either use it with Bluetooth (with an AA battery) or with a USB cable. If you have a disability that inhibits use of a conventional mouse, this is a good solution. To be frank, this will take you a few outings to get used to. If you’re conditioned to move a mouse around, just using the trackball will feel a bit weird. That said, it will grow on you. A lot of folks I know, swear by it. It’s especially handy if you have very little real estate on your desk.
The MX Vertical is a full-on workhorse capable of connecting up to 3 devices. Designed with a 57° vertical angle, it reduces the strain on the wrist and comfortably positions the thumb. It’s incredibly precise and buttery smooth. If you have any wrist or arthritic issues, this mouse is also a good option. In a short period of time, this has become one of my favorites. It’s also easy to use in a limited amount of space and works on just about any surface. The ergonomics of it provide a sort of reassuring feeling. It’s also rechargeable, there’s a USB port on the back or, you have the option of using it hardwired.
The MX Triathlon 720 (so named I assume because it can handle up to three devices) has become my go-to mouse on my desktop system. There are so many ways to love this device. First off, it feels good. Ergonomics are great and the sort of rubberized finish is tactile without being “tacky”. The size is perfect for a guy who has medium sized hands (like me!). The center wheel has some heft so when you spin it freely it rotates on its own, making scrolling for long pages easy without too much finger or wrist action.
There is a button (at the center) that switches the scroll wheel from indexing (clicking at discrete intervals) to “free-wheeling” which comes in handy depending on the application. It pairs easily (I tested it on two machines at home) and has software that allows you to configure the buttons for your own programs/applications. Unlike some of the other Logitech units I tested for this article, this mouse comes with a rechargeable Lithium AA battery. There’s no USB port so you’ll have to charge it externally. This one is a keeper.
Of the units I tested, both the MX Vertical and the MX Anywhere 3 utilize USB “C” charging so you don’t have to hassle with throw away batteries.
FWIW the Ergo M575, the MX Triathlon 720 and the MX Vertical have earned the “Amazon Choice” moniker. Evidently a lot of people like these particular products. I would have to agree.
All four paired seamlessly with Bluetooth.
Finally, an item that I’ve found indispensable for the home office is Logitech’s K780 Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard ($53.00). It works with all my mobile devices and is fully compatible with Windows, Mac OS, Chrome OS, Android, and iOS. I can also use it with my smart TV to browse the Net on the big screen.
I’m a stickler for the old IBM style “touch” keyboards and the K780 is no slouch in this department. It has a full-size, six row keyboard that will automatically change functions depending on the OS you’re working in. It’s built off of a rubberized tray that can hold your mobile devices at the ergonomic viewing angle.
You can use it with up to three devices at once via Bluetooth. (Without Bluetooth can connect via Logitech’s Unifying USB dongle). The keyboard are three white buttons on the upper left hand side of the keyboard are used to pair your devices. Switching between paired gadgets amounts to just tapping the right button.
The best application that I found for this keyboard (which is powered by AA batteries) was to use it in concert with my laptop in a “tent” mode on my kitchen table. I just put the K780 on my lap and it was much more comfortable than using the laptop’s native keyboard. Thus it allowed me to create new office space!
If you are a roving kind of home office worker, this is a must-have.
Rob Kay, a Honolulu-based writer, writes about technology and sustainability for the Honolulu Star Advertiser and is the creator of fijiguide. com. He can be reached at Robertfredkay@gmail.com.