Returning to the office calls for a lot more than just a wardrobe update. Most of us have spent the last few years working in the privacy of our own homes — so we could likely use a few tech upgrades before we head back.
Whether you've been taking video calls without headphones or your laptop is simply on its last leg, Consumer Reports Senior Technology reporter Thomas Germain joined TODAY to share the hot tech, gadgets and software you'll want before you head back to the office with picks starting at just $32.
Keep reading to shop all of these essentials, including a set of trendy over-ear headphones for less than $50.
Consumer Reports tech and digital security picks
With a "Best Buy" rating, these wireless headphones check off nearly all of the boxes: "Above-average sound quality and fantastic sound-block abilities," as well as noise-canceling capabilities, according to CR engineers. While they might not have all of the bells and whistles that other models do, for the price, you can't beat 'em, CR says.
A good label maker can make all of the difference at home, in the dorm or in the classroom. This model from Brother impressed CR testers, thanks to its Bluetooth capabilities, which allow you to print labels from your phone, tablet or laptop anywhere. Once you link it with the included app, you'll have access to a variety of fonts and styles to inspire your organization methods. It's also battery-operated, so you won't have to worry about charging it.
If you are on the computer all day, odds are you've come across the term "ergonomic" a few times. Germain says ergonomic mice like this one are designed to place less stress on your forearms, shoulders and your wrist. Adesso's model stood out during testing since it places your arm in a handshake position, which the brand says reduces forearm pronation and wrist extension.
We're living in an era where malware is a constant threat to the lives of our devices, so investing in the right antivirus software is "crucial" Germain says. Consumer Reports put over 30 antivirus programs to the test and says F-Secure came out on top when it comes to Mac computers. This software from F-Secure will help protect your computer without breaking the bank, plus it received high marks when it came to defending against cyber threats and live exploits.
For PCs and Microsoft Windows operating systems, Germain says Bitdefender is a "great choice." Consumer Reports testers gave this program (as well as F-Score) a data privacy score of "Good," based on how the company collects, shares, uses and allows you to control and access your data.
Apple's AirPods earbuds have been causing a stir since their initial debut in 2016. Germain says the AirPods Pros are "definitely" an upgrade over their predecessors and worked well in the CR lab when it came to sound quality, noise-cancelation and a customizable fit, thanks to the interchangeable ear inserts.
For those who will still be working from home, this WiFi accessory can help break through the "dead zones" in your home where you might get poor signal. Mesh routers like this model from Netgear plug into your modem and act as satellites, helping to extend the signal from the router. Netgear's model received high scores for easy setup and a "Very Good" score for data security, but it did receive a rating of "Fair" when it comes to data privacy. Germain says the last two points are worth taking into account, since wireless routers are often a target for hackers.
If you need a laptop that allows you to do the essentials — check emails, browse the internet, get work done — Germain says a Chromebook is a great way to do it all and save money. This 14-inch model won't run you over $300 and packs a punch: It has over 13 hours of battery life for web browsing, 4 gigabytes of memory and 64 gigabytes of flash storage. As long as you are gentle with it and don't overextend its use, Germain says it should treat you well.