If you spend some or all of your time working from home, choosing a new device is a little more involved than just poring through spec sheets and picking something with a decent price. Here are the key issues you need to consider.
Woman working at home picture from Shutterstock
Build Quality and Reliability
If you’re a self-employed home worker, no PC means no work means no money - so you can’t afford to cut corners and buy a device that isn’t tough enough to depend on or built to last. There’s no substitute for physically lifting and touching potential purchases, and you should pay particular attention to laptop/2-in-1 display hinges, to keyboards and to the quality of the screen. A device that creaks and flexes and feels like it came from Poundland isn’t going to inspire much confidence, and a keyboard that doesn’t feel right in the shop is going to make your fingers miserable in the long term.
Your Device's Double Life
If the device will be used solely for work, great - but if it needs to lead a double life as your personal or family PC too, it’s worth thinking about the additional issues that raises. Any Windows device can be set up with multiple user accounts and parental controls - something that’s as useful for keeping you off work apps during me-time as it is for keeping kids safe - but there are physical considerations too.
A 2-in-1 PC or tablet is more comfortable than a laptop if you’re using it on the sofa, so if you’re a habitual Question Time twitterer a hybrid device might be a smart purchase. Small screens aren’t brilliant for watching TVs or movies, so if that’s important you might be better off with a device with HDMI output (or inexpensive HDMI adapters) that you can connect to a TV to watch things properly.
If you’re planning to store lots of personal stuff such as music or photos, you’ll need more storage or a reliable cloud-based storage service (and a backup device such as an external hard disk: the more it matters, the more important it is to have multiple backups). And if little hands are going to be anywhere near it, you’ll want something tough enough to withstand the inevitable lumps and bumps it’s going to get.
Outdoor working picture from Shutterstock
Are you likely to work from the same desk day in day out, or will you be working on the move, on public transport or - weather permitting - from the garden, park or beach? If you’ll be working from different places it’s sensible to look for a device that can go where you go, such as an Ultrabook, tablet or 2-in-1 device with long battery life. If you’ll be working in bright light, consider a device with a matte screen or one that’s bright enough to shine in direct sunlight.
Your Connection Options
Is Wi-Fi fast enough or will you need a cabled connection to your broadband service? If it’s the latter, you’ll need a device with Ethernet ports (or an adapter to add them to your PC). If you’ll be using the mobile data network a lot, you might want to consider a device with built-in 3G/4G connectivity: it’s less hassle than setting your phone up as a wireless hotspot and 3G/4G dongles have a tendency to disappear to wherever it is odd socks and Biros go. Don’t forget about basic connections too: if you’re a fan of external keyboards or mice, or of other wired peripherals such as scanners and printers, you’ll need sufficient USB or USB 3 ports for those.
You can add more ports with a USB hub or docking station, of course, but it’s worth thinking about these things in advance so you don’t end up with a fistful of cables and nothing to plug them into.
Warranties and Insurance
Don’t assume that your home insurance covers your work stuff: your policy might do, usually subject to a price limit, but there’s usually an excess to pay and getting your money can be a slow process. If you can’t afford to be without your device for a few days, it’s worth looking for firms that can offer next-day, on site warranty service. That does cost a little more than the standard return to base warranty, but it’s less than you might imagine.
Criminal with laptop picture from Shutterstock
This one’s easy to forget, but mobile devices get lost, stolen and broken in terrifying quantities. You can avoid a lot of those issues by taking precautions such as never leaving devices visible in your car, putting laptops or other devices away when they’re not in use, investing in protective cases and by using security tools such as Kensington locks to physically anchor devices to something hefty, but it’s a very good idea to plan for worst-case scenarios and take precautions accordingly: if your device was stolen or destroyed, could you get up and running again quickly by using a borrowed or newly bought PC? If you use external backups or cloud-based storage to keep up-to-date copies of anything important, your answer can be a confident 'yes'.
This article originally appeared on Lifehacker UK