Best Home Office Gear, for Budget or Blowout

The latest tech—multitasking and good-looking—for big spenders and penny-pinchers alike.

Photograph by Charles Masters

THE COOL SETUP: $6,800 Of the equipment listed at right, this is the jazziest to look at. Style counts, and it also costs. (Note: multifunction printer not included.)

Working from home seems like a win-win idea, and then the distractions and duties of home life intrude. It doesn´t help if your office tech is bland of color, boring of form and limited in function. You need gear that´s a pleasure to own, use and look at. To that end, we´ve put together three hot home office setups, aiming them at budgets that range from thin to flush. As our frugal setup proves, you don´t need to spend large to get the latest technology. More money, of course, does buy more style, as the flashy setup at right shows.

THE DREAM SETUP: $8,000

Computer

A. With high-end components, meticulous construction and a Porsche-worthy paint job, the Voodoo F Series ($3,928) can make an Ikea desk look like it belongs in the executive suite. It´s also sports-car fast, with a 2.53GHz Pentium4 system, CD/DVD and CD-RW drives, 512MB of RAM and a 80GB hard drive. Its ATI Radeon 9700 Pro video card is the top-of-the-line.

Monitor

B. Peering out from a striking Plexiglas frame, the 20.1-inch Formac Gallery 2010 ($1,699) LCD offers a high-resolution (1,600 by 1,200 pixels), high-contrast and high-brightness screen for vivid color reproduction and fluid full-motion video playback for movies or gaming.

Mouse & Keyboard

The Kinesis Advantage ($299) ergonomic USB keyboard stores up to 48 macros, which lets you enter frequently typed phrases with only a few keystrokes.

Sound System

The 500-watt, five-speaker plus subwoofer Klipsch ProMedia 5.1 ($400), certified by THX as best-of-breed, adeptly recreates crystalline music as well as bone-rattling videogame sound effects.

Storage & Backup

Maxtor´s gargantuan 250GB Personal Storage 5000XT ($400) external hard drive is perfect for archiving video, with transfer speeds via Firewire or USB 2.0 of up to 40 megabytes per second. A one-touch sync button makes backing up a no-brainer at the end of the day.

Multifunction Printer

If speed is your master, consider the Samsung SCX4216F ($399) black-and-white laser, which prints and makes copies at a lightning-quick 17 pages per minute. An automatic document feeder makes multipage faxing effortless.

PDA

C. The latest wireless-enabled Palm, the Tungsten W ($549), boasts a high-resolution 320- by 320-pixel color screen, e-mail, Web browsing and voice-call capabilities, plus a built-in keyboard for stylus-free text entry.

Bonus Gadget
D. Use the Logitech io Pen ($199) like a regular pen. Then, when you´re done, just slip it into an included cradle and the text is transferred to your PC as â€digital ink,†which can be e-mailed or saved in a Word document (though not converted to text).

THE FRUGAL SETUP: $1,500

Computer

The Gateway 300S ($399) is a bare-bones CPU but extremely capable–and an extraordinary value with a 2.0GHz Celeron processor, 40GB hard drive and CD-RW drive.

Monitor

Samsung´s 19-inch SyncMaster 957MB Superbright CRT ($369) automatically changes brightness levels–either over the entire screen or in separate windows. Low brightness yields crisp-looking text, while the high setting is perfect for movies or games.

Mouse & Keyboard

E. At $100, Logitech´s Cordless Freedom Optical just begs you to get the cords off your desk. An extra set of buttons puts multimedia functions at your fingertips.

Sound System

F. The twin titanium-driver-equipped Creative iTrigue ($100) speakers deliver great sound without sacrificing precious desktop real estate; a wood-enclosed subwoofer handles the low end.

Storage & Backup

G. The tiny Lexar Media JumpDrive 2.0 Pro ($200) holds a whopping 256MB of data and plugs directly into your computer´s USB 2.0 port, for transfer speeds of 6 megabytes per second.

Multifunction Printer

The Lexmark X85 ($180) is the perfect machine for the business basics, with an integrated 600- by 1,200-dpi flatbed scanner, 4,800-dpi print quality and fax capabilities when it is hooked up to your networked computer.

PDA

After years of $500-plus Pocket PCs, Dell shakes things up with the Axim X5, a sub-$200 device with a fine display, 300MHz Intel X-Scale processor and built-in CompactFlash and SD card slots for expandability.