Let’s begin by figuring out what peripherals may include… hmmm… everything you can connect to your computer to enhance its performance or ease your way or simply to make it cooler really.
A peripheral is a device that is connected to a host computer, but not part of it. It expands the host’s capabilities but does not form part of the core computer architecture. It is often, but not always, partially or completely dependent on the host. — [Wikipedia]
Think of it this way, anything that connects to a computer but without which a computer can still function is termed a peripheral. We’ll mostly be exploring external peripherals required for the office. As usual when buying stuff, keep your budget and needs in mind and try to strike a realistic balance between the two.
Let’s start with the basics – the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Obviously those of you using a desktop will need all three. In case of the monitor – my advice – go for the flat screen LCD monitors. If you are going to spend the better part of the day staring at a screen, it might as well be pleasing.
Other factors to consider – price (well duh), size, resolution, extra features like additional USB ports, webcam etc. Eric Franklin in his Monitors buying guide identified three rules for buying a monitor:
2. Warranties and support matter — Make sure your chosen manufacturer offers a money-back guarantee.
3. Performance is key — When you’re using your monitor, you’re staring at its screen. Make sure you like the types of images it displays before you buy…
A flat screen LCD monitor example
Apple Thunderbolt Display MC914LL/B
HD LCD monitors or Apple Thunderbolt display flat monitor — available here
When buying a keyboard, if at all possible, try to get one which is ergonomically designed so as to avoid repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome. I have not been fortunate enough to try one of these ergonomic keyboards yet but I hear they are a dream to work with.
Of course price and availability is a big factor in acquiring one of these. eHow has more to say on the matter in the article How to Buy a Computer Keyboard:
2. Test-drive a few computer keyboards. Never buy a new keyboard unless you’ve actually typed on it.
3. Know your budget.
4. Determine your must-have features. Modern keyboards are more than just a keyboard. They have all sorts of short-cut keys, DVD functions, and accessories. If you frequently use your computer to watch DVDs, you may want to have a volume control on your keyboard.
5. Be certain that the keyboard you choose is compatible with your computer.
An ergonomic keyboard example
Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
Microsoft natural ergonomic keyboard 4000 — available here
Did you know they make ergonomically designed mice too? And ones with programmable buttons?
Now I know that having a laptop means I don’t need a mouse, but man does it make life easier when using one. I can navigate faster and frankly it is less stressful using an optical, wireless mouse with a scroll wheel.
Check out what Lisa Johnston says about the things to consider before buying a mouse:
Wired or Not? — Whether or not you should get a wireless mouse is really a personal preference. With a wireless mouse, you won’t run the risk of getting tangled in your cord, but you do run the risk of running out of batteries at an inopportune time.
Laser or Optical? — An optical mouse can track between 400 and 800 dpi, while a laser mouse can generally track more than 2,000 dpi. Don’t let the higher dpi numbers fool you, however. Your everyday mouser typically won’t require such precise tracking and will get by just fine with an optical mouse.
Ergonomics — Perhaps the most crucial aspect of any computer peripheral is its ease of use, and when it comes to mice, comfort is king. Ergonomics in mice are important because they can help prevent repetitive stress injuries.
Cool wireless mouse examples
Apple Magic Mouse
Apple magic mouse — available here
Anker Vertical Ergonomic Optical Mouse for Windows and Mac OS
Anker vertical ergonomic optical mouse — available here
Video chat with your friends
If you have a laptop, it is likely you have a built in web cam but if you don’t (*gasp really?) and you need it for your business purposes (video conferencing, interviews etc) or just to socialize, you can look into a myriad of webcams available nowadays.
There are wireless ones (yay!), full HD ones, network ones and so on and so forth. WikiHow has more on how to buy a webcam:
2. Select the brand carefully — Before buying a webcam, take into consideration the various features.
3. Evaluate the light sensitivity — Some webcams offer exceptional low-light sensitivity, while others do not. Look for a webcam that can handle low light.
A cool web cam example
Logitech HD Pro Webcam, 1080p Widescreen Video Calling and Recording
Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920, 1080p Widescreen — available here
Multifunction printer examples
In case you are not already aware, I prefer the multifunction printers, well obviously because one device is performing several tasks – printing, copying, scanning, faxing. Plus it saves space!
But I do know some people with the don’t put all your eggs in one basket philosophy, who like to keep things separate. The logic is that you are not totally crippled just because one device has decided to give up and die on you.
If you are one of those people and you like to play it safe (*yawn), then depending on your requirements you’ll be investing in either all or some of the following – printer, scanner, copier, fax machine.
Below are some snippets of PCMAG’s guide to buying printers and scanners:
Most printers – including most inkjets that manufacturers market as photo printers – are general-purpose printers, meant for printing text, graphics and photos. Special-purpose printers include portable printers, dedicated photo printers and label printers.
If you’re looking for a printer to print, say, photos, consider whether you want to print only photos or want a printer that can also print other kinds of output.
Cool multifunction printer examples
Brother HL-2270DW Compact Laser Printer with Wireless Networking and Duplex
Brother HL-2270DW Compact Laser Printer — available here
Do you need a flatbed? — For photos or other easily damaged originals, bound material, and 3D objects, you need a flatbed.
Do you need a sheet feeder? — If you plan to scan documents on a regular basis – particularly documents longer than one or two pages – you almost certainly want a sheet feeder. – Sourced from PCMag.com
Epson B11B189011 Perfection V500 Photo Scanner
Epson B11B189011 Perfection V500 Photo Scanner — available here
Other cool peripherals to have
Other peripherals you can look into are:
External hard disks — really useful for backing up all your work. The prices of these vary according to the storage capacity.
WD My Passport 2TB Portable External Hard Drive Storage USB 3.0
WD My Passport 2TB Portable External Hard Drive — available here
Flash/pen drives — inexpensive, small memory storage devices which make it really convenient to transfer data from one computer to another.
Kingston Digital DataTraveler 101 USB 2.0 – 16 GB Flash Drive
Kingston Digital DataTraveler 101 USB 16 GB Flash Drive — available here
USB hubs — it gives you additional USB ports so that you don’t need to keep disconnecting your devices. To take the pain out of searching, untangling and plugging the right cables, opt for a wireless USB hub.
Belkin USB 2.0 4-Port Ultra-Mini Hub
Belkin USB 2.0 4-Port Ultra-Mini Hub — available here
Headsets (headphones with mikes) — if you are into that whole social networking scene, these are handy to have.
Panasonic KX-TCA60 Hands-Free Headset with Comfort Fit Headband
Panasonic KX-TCA60 Hands-Free Headset — available here
Speakers — though not necessary, the built-in speakers in most computers usually suck, so if you are looking for a joyous experience while watching videos or listening to podcasts, you might want to invest in these.
Cyber Acoustics Subwoofer Satellite System (CA-3602a)
Cyber Acoustics Subwoofer Satellite System — available here
Gaming peripherals — if your job involves playing games (booyah!) you can get joysticks or those wheel thingies to enhance your performance.
Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick
Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick — available here
Logitech PlayStation 3 Driving Force GT Racing Wheel
Logitech PlayStation 3 Driving Force GT Racing Wheel — available here
UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) — in case you live in a developing country and power outages or surges are the norm, a UPS is a hardware device that provides a backup power source. It provides enough power for you to save your work and shut down the computer properly.
CyberPower CP1500AVRLCD Intelligent LCD 1500VA 900W with AVR Tower UPS
CyberPower Intelligent LCD with AVR Tower UPS — available here
Video Projectors — if your work involves a lot of presentations and meetings you can get one of these.
ViewSonic PJD5133 SVGA DLP Projector
ViewSonic PJD5133 SVGA DLP Projector — available here
Computer peripherals make using your computer easier and really allow you more freedom of choice. It would be blasphemous to view them as mere accessories because they are so much more than just that. They provide comfort, precision and ease in both work and play.
When buying your peripheral devices look for ones which have had great reviews and which come with warranties. Go for function over looks if you are on a tight budget.
But if you are not, go wireless (to reduce clutter) and go crazy, we only live once after all!
What’s your favorite office peripherals?