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Useful gear for the quarantined creative

Stuck working at home for the first time? These may help make your makeshift photo- or video-editing setup operate a little more smoothly.

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I miraculously had a Wacom MobileStudio at home, which is now serving as my second monitor.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Trying to get work done in a makeshift workspace is hard; trying to replicate your office-based professional workflow during this coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic requires even more finesse. Here's a first stab at some gear that might make it go a little more smoothly.

Hopefully, you've already bought  or own the requisite laptop, desktop or tablet necessary to get your creative work done; thanks to growing numbers of shelter-in-place/lockdown edicts, it's getting harder to get some nonesssentials shipped. In fact I can't find one of the products I'd hoped to recommend, the Logitech Brio webcam, from any first-party sellers (it's available from an alternate seller on Amazon if you need a movable camera for virtual show-and-tell).  

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Now's a great time to up your router to Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). Even if your system is only at Wi-Fi 5, it really does deliver a more stable signal, at the very least, which is important if you're collaborating, or uploading and downloading large video, photo and graphics files. A mesh system will cover a house. Read our Asus ZenWiFi AX review.

Netgear

If you're dealing with really big files or are in the unenviable position of having to suddenly share bandwidth with kids watching Disney Plus while you're trying to edit video, a gaming router may be the answer. It's expensive, but you'll get top performance; perhaps more important, good gaming routers give you granular control over prioritization -- that way, your deadline video upload takes precedence over Frozen II. Best gaming routers.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Wacom's cheapest pro-level Cintiq-wannabe is small at 13 inches, but if you only occasionally need it as a tablet it can servce double-duty as a second monitor in a crowded workspace -- even for your Android phone. Wacom One preview.

Lori Grunin/CNET

I honestly don't know how most people cope with the thimblefull of ports on laptops; a hub-slash-docking-station is essential for handling all the external displays, drives and wired peripherals surrounding me. You should buy one with the collection of ports that you need in particular -- for instance, the TS3 Plus sitting next to me has a full-size DisplayPort connector, while another model will have HDMI. It's nice for Windows' laptops, which tend to be shorter on Thunderbolt ports than MacBooks as well as newer MacBooks which lack USB-A connections. Plus, the SD card reader comes in handy.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you work in the dark for better color accuracy and contrast, an illuminated mouse is essential. Gaming mice give you lots of control over the light -- you can usually dim them so you can still see them but the light doesn't interfere with your peripheral vision. They also tend to have finer, on-the-fly control over speed and sensitivity and smoother glide, which I've found critical when switching from photo editing to gaming to writing. lus, you can create macros and assign them to various buttons for your video or photo speed-editing needs.

The Rival 3 is a solid, inexpensive wired model.  Wireless versions tend to be more expensive, but I like the $120 Rival 650 Wireless. Best cheap gaming mice.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like the mice, I think gaming keyboards are far better for, well, almost everything except looking thin: the controllable illumination and programmable macros are useful for the same reasons as the mouse: working in the dark and speed editing of photos and videos. I like mechanical keyboards like this inexpensive one, and Logitech makes some well-respected ones. But if you prefer something with a softer sound but a mechanically tactile feel, the $90 Steelseries Apex 5 is my current budget go-to.

They're both wired, but if you want wireless, we like the $80 Corsair K57 RGB wireless.

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