Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Working from home: The future of business is remote
Our editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, ZDNet may earn a commission.

What's inside Gewirtz's home office? 20 years of refinement and evolution

Our resident mad scientist, ZDNet contributor and distinguished lecturer David Gewirtz, shows you his version of a modern-day wizard's tower.

David Gewirtz hosts a tour of his home office and video studio

Welcome to my home office tour. This is actually just one of four areas in the house where I regularly work. The tour you'll see in the video above shows you where I do most of my serious writing, video editing, and research. I also use it as a talking head studio for interviews and Zoom meetings. 

Many of you have seen my workshop and fab lab spaces in previous videos. Those are where I do most of the DIY IT projects for ZDNet. At some point, I'll show you a more in-depth tour of each. I also work by our living room TV. I have a monitor and a computer mounted to a side table. I put this in when our puppy was a baby and wanted company all the time. I've kept it in because it's a great place to do my morning reading and email. Plus, having the little pup sitting on my lap while working is a great joy -- although he's definitely not happy with that plastic keyboard thing I use when I should be petting him.

We moved into this house about two years ago, so a lot of this is a work-in-progress. That said, my workspaces are always works in progress, whether I've lived in them for just a year or so, or five or six years. I'm always improving and optimizing my environment to gain productivity advantages.

Also: See more of what I use in my office: Gear for teachers who want to up their online game

The office I'm showing you in the attached video is a wonderful space. Of all the home office spaces I have had, I think this is my favorite. It's nice. It's comfortable. It's big enough to do a variety of things. I'm able to integrate both the studio and my desktop with one pretty powerful computer. I love it. And I hope that as you folks build your home offices, you're able to do the same. 

One thing I hear from a lot of folks newly working from home is that they don't have anything like the spaces us long-term work-from-homers have set up. It's true. But none of this happens overnight. I'm going to point you to a video I did just before I moved here. That showed how I worked out of a kitchen in a rental house while we were trying to find the new house that we're moving into. 

Also: My home office/YouTube studio: Making it work temporarily in a kitchen

I want you to see that because it's also possible to work from almost any location if you put some intention into it, think it through, and optimize it based on what you've got. I've worked out of the car out of hotel rooms during hurricane evacuations. I've worked out of a little nine by nine-foot square room. I've worked out of this wonderful space. I even worked out of our living room, which was great until we got the puppy and then it became unmanageable.

ZDNet Recommends

The best products for every office

Our expert reviewers scour the internet and select only the top technology products and services.

Read More

Also: An overview of each of my home offices

The point is that I've worked from home for about 20 years in a wide variety of settings and I got the job done. Each time, it's had a different personality. Each space was optimized differently. Setting each up took a bit of work, but as I showed you, you can do some of these things without a lot of expense. In the accompanying video, I showed you the credenza that I put together that was half of an $8 piece of wood and some file boxes. 

You can be creative and create a really effective home office environment even if you haven't been doing it for 20 years and constantly looking at ways to make it better. If you're starting out now, just focus on what you need. Focus on giving yourself a quiet space where you can concentrate. And then don't be afraid to think outside the box and create a space that works.

LG Curved UltraWide WQHD IPS Monitor

A curved monitor for extra working space helps get the job done

main-monitor.jpg
LG

I bought a whole new computer and updated my entire desk setup just so I could run this monitor's 2018 predecessor. It's what I'm using now, and without a doubt, it has been a huge productivity booster. The ultra-wide screen gives me room for three full-sized windows without a bezel or having to twist my head. Right now, I'm typing in the middle window, I have a web browser in my left window, and my notes for this article in the right window.

The slight curve makes it. It took about a week to get used to at first, but it makes the screen easier to read and reduces eye strain. I still use additional monitors, but they're good for secondary information and work. I can use this main curved screen and see what I need without straining my neck. My ultrawide monitor was probably the most useful and valuable tech purchase I've made in the past few years.

View Now at Amazon

2018 Mac mini

This i7 with 32GB gets the job done

007-mac-mini-2018.jpg

I had been waiting for years for a new Mac mini. For me, it's the ideal form factor because it's small, but properly equipped, it's also a workhorse. Unfortunately, this is probably the last Intel Mac mini Apple will ever make since we've already seen the Apple Silicon developer machine in the Mac mini form factor.

Also: Yes, I bought a 2018 Mac Mini (and here's how I spec'd it out)

I saved some bucks by doing my own RAM upgrade, which this machine grudgingly allows. Does anyone want to take bets on whether the Apple Silicon version will allow you to add your own RAM?

View Now at Amazon

OWC Mercury Helios FX eGPU enclosure

Thunderbolt 3 provides very nice graphics output

owc.jpg
David Gewirtz (taken on that workbench shelf I showed you in my office)

There's not much to say here. If you want a fast GPU on your Mac mini or MacBook Pro, you'll need an external GPU enclosure. This one is easy to open and set up, and it's worked non-stop since the day I plugged it in. It's just there, the perfect set-it-and-forget-it solution.

Want to know more? Read my article: Do you really need an eGPU with a 2018 Mac Mini?

View Now at OWC

XFX Radeon RX Vega 56 8GB

Gotta love those pixels!

61hkt-0vsql-ac-sl1024.jpg
XFX

When I built out my 2018 Mac Mini with the intent of making it my main workhorse machine, I knew its onboard Intel 630 graphics were probably not good enough for the kind of graphics load multicam 4K video editing requires. I was right.

The Sapphire Radeon Pulse is the Vega 56 card that was recommended by Apple, and I haven't had any compatibility issues. I did consider the Vega 64 card, but it wouldn't fit in the OWC enclosure I had. There was no great loss: I'm not gaming, and for the video editing and 3D modeling I'm doing, the Vega 56 is plenty speedy.

The Sapphire Radeon Pulse RX Vega 56 card I bought almost two years ago isn't available, but this one is.

View Now at Amazon

Drobo 8D

Direct-attached storage array

drobo-1.jpg
Drobo

I am still convinced Drobo makes the best direct-attached RAID boxes. The 8D is no exception, although its speed due to its spinning platter drives does leave something to be desired.

My review: First look: Drobo 8D Thunderbolt 3 direct-attached RAID array

Here's how I use it: I do my live video editing on the internal flash of my Mac mini. As soon as a video is complete, I move it over to the Drobo. I also use the Drobo to store all my media assets. This allows me to go back to previous videos to cull clips and compound tracks, yet still have the speed I need for multi-cam 4K production. I backup the Drobo via Time Machine and then to the cloud.

View Now at Amazon

3Dconnexion Wireless 3D SpaceMouse

Great for navigating Fusion 360 models

space-mouse.jpg
3Dconnexion

This little guy takes some getting used to. Once you wrap your muscle memory around the learning curve, you'll find it seriously ups your 3D modeling game. It's almost as if the model responds to your direct thoughts.

At $140, it's not cheap. And it took me a few months to get used to it. So, if you're not an active 3D modeler, I don't recommend it. But if you do a lot of your own designs, this can be both a time saver and a way to free up your creativity.

View Now at Amazon

Contour ShuttleXpress

Quick navigation in Final Cut Pro X

shuttle.jpg
Contour

I'll be honest with you. I don't use any of the buttons. I just use the jog wheel. And I only use it in Final Cut. But even so, it's worth it. 

I like to edit with my timelines zoomed in, and that makes them very long to navigate. While I've used the trackpad and the mouse to navigate, what I like about the ShuttleXpress (and the reason I bought it) is I can just spin the wheel, hold it, and my timeline will arrive where I need it. It's one physical action and I can dial in exactly what I need.

If you don't do a lot of editing, or you don't look at it and immediately go "aha," this might not be for you. But if you're a video editor, this is a very helpful little bit. It's definitely saved me time.

View Now at Amazon

Elgato Streamdeck

Speeds up writing and video editing

12.jpg
Elgato

This is the last of the funky input devices on my desk. I own two of these, and if there was a wireless version, I'd probably own at least one more. This is a niche product, but it's such a huge productivity enhancer for some projects, it's worth listing. You can customize each button with an image and an action. 

My big uses for the one at my desk are for video editing and window management when I'm doing a big research project. I use the one at my studio desk to manage the settings needed for recording video.

View Now at Amazon

32-inch Roku TV

A great bargain on a smart TV

9.jpg
TCL

I love my Roku TVs. Ever since I bought the first one back in 2017, we've slowly been replacing most of our older TVs with Roku TVs. The interface is just about the best TV interface I've ever encountered, and the TVs are inexpensive. As a cord-cutter, there's no need to try connecting it to a cable box.

This one is no exception. It's a nice 32-inch TV, which I bought for my office. At all of $149, it was a no-brainer decision. It's got multiple inputs, so I can use the Roku from my chair or desk to watch streaming video, or I can switch it to HDMI 1 and use it as another screen on my Mac mini.

View Now at Amazon

Logitech K780 Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard

It's groovy!

keyboard.jpg
Logitech

Beyond the typical Logitech solid keyboard design, there are two stand-out features of this particular keyboard. First, it controls up to three devices. I don't use that feature at my desk, but it's enormously helpful with the other multi-device keyboards I use down in the living room.

But here, the standout feature is the groove in the back. It's meant to hold up an iPad or smartphone, and I do use it for that. I also use it to hold my trackpad at the perfect position so I can use it without removing my hands from the keyboard.

View Now at Amazon

Logitech MX Anywhere 2 mouse

Small for my desk, but mighty

logimouse.jpg
Logitech

I'll admit this is not the perfect mouse for my desk. It's just a little too small. But back in 2017, when MacOS Sierra broke my Bluetooth mice, I grabbed three of these and assigned them to our various problematic Macs.

I've been using it ever since. Sure, I'd probably prefer a bigger, better mouse. But it works and so I'm using it. Sometimes, it's nice to just stick with what works. These days, it's hard to find a more resounding recommendation than "it just works," especially if "just works" has been for years now.

View Now at Amazon

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i multi-sheet scanner

Because when you need to scan, you NEED to scan

scansnap.jpg
Fujitsu

When my wife insisted I needed this for my office, I wasn't so sure. I don't do much with paper at my desk. But she was adamant that we each needed a scanner at our desks. As I've discussed before, my wife is much smarter than I am, and once again she was right.

If you run a business, are dealing with #adulting, or have any other responsibilities, you're going to have to deal with forms and paperwork. Often, you're going to have to do so quickly. It's not a common thing, but when it happens, it's almost always urgent. Being able to scan in a document at those times can be mission critical. That's why this is a smart addition to my desk.

View Now at Amazon

Echo Dot (3rd Generation)

Because it's always nicer with someone listening in

Amazon Echo Dot 3rd-gen

OK, fine. I kid. Sort of. The point is, Amazon's Alexa devices are enormously helpful. We have one in literally every room of the house (including the bathrooms -- yes, the bathrooms). We use them for smart home control, list management, timers and alarms, as a gateway to all the knowledge of the internet (with not always the best results) and as a whole-house intercom.

We have two Echo Shows that might wife requested, two full-size Echos, and the rest are little Dots. We've long accepted that we have devices recording small bits after wake words, but the fact is, we don't discuss anything all that revolutionary, so it doesn't matter to us. You need to make your own decisions.

View Now at Amazon

Blackmagic Design ATEM mini

Great for multiple video sources or green screen chroma key

atem.jpg
Blackmagic Design

If you want to offload your green screen processing from your computer to something with a lot of chromakey smarts, consider the $295 ATEM Mini. This is the first of a growing line of ATEM Mini devices that offload professional video production to little boxes you can use to run your home studio.

Black Magic Design, the storied video gear company behind the ATEM line, also just announced two cool new products: The $885 ATEM Mini Pro ISO with built-in individual multi-stream recording capabilities; and the ATEM Streaming Bridge (which is more of a tool for pro broadcasters) that converts the ATEM stream back into professional video formats. Both will be available in August.

View Now at Amazon

Inexpensive teleprompter

This can up your game considerably

teleprompter.jpg
Caddie Buddy

While teleprompters are great for reading scripts, I often use my teleprompters for reading notes without looking away from the camera. My biggest use of the teleprompter is to put the talking head of my guest or interviewer right in front of me, so when I converse with them while looking at them, my eyes are straight into the camera.

I actually own two of these Caddie Buddy teleprompters. One is in the workshop and one is in my upstairs studio. While they're reasonably inexpensive, they're also pretty solid and definitely do the job.

View Now at Amazon

Blue Yeti USB mic

A well-accepted standard works for me, too

blue-yeti.jpg
Blue

You may think that video requires ideal video quality, but it's actually sound quality that matters the most. You can get by with lower frame rates and even pixelated video, but if your sound is annoying, folks will tune you out immediately.

I've been using the Blue Yeti for years and it produces good quality sound reliably. It comes with a number of different pickup patterns, which gives you a bit of versatility in how you use it. The included stand stood me well for years, but I recently upgraded to a boom arm, which I showed you in the video.

Buying hint: These are in and out of short supply due to the pandemic. If they're out of stock in one color, look for another color. Also, don't let the price gougers get you: This should run about $130 or so, new.

View Now at Amazon

executive guide

Remote working 101: Professional's guide to the tools of the trade

Mastering remote work is all about finding the right tools to stay productive and connected. This guide will have you and your team synchronized and working in harmony, wherever you happen to be.

Read More

Final thoughts

Remember, if you're working from home, this is your work. It's not a recreational activity. This is how you make a living. So it is worth it to put some time, energy, and sometimes investment into the place that you use to make a living and help support your family. And with that, go out there and build an awesome home office.

Do you have an awesome home office? Are you just building one for the first time? Tell us about it in the comments below.


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.