GUIDES

How to Buy High-Quality Laptop and Desktop Accessories for Low Prices

Buying the latest, most fully loaded computer is seldom necessary, but there is a compromise between buying the most and the best and getting an entry-level machine. The compromise is to buy a basic machine and then supplement it with accessories.

For example, supplement a small laptop with an external hard drive or add extra speakers to a desktop. Some people construct essentially custom computers out of accessories. For laptops especially, accessories can dramatically expand function, since laptops are small and are designed to be self-contained. That means there is not much room for larger speakers or an expanded screen without resorting to accessories. In either case, adding accessories can dramatically increase the cost of a new computer.

The important thing, therefore, is to get the right laptop and desktop accessories to maximise a computer's function without spending a lot of money. The trick is to know where costs can be lowered safely and where they cannot be.

Choosing Accessories for Desktops and Laptops

Getting a good deal on laptop and desktop accessories begins with finding good accessories. That means knowing what is available and knowing something about how to choose quality. With that information, it is not difficult to find a good price without sacrificing quality.

User Interface Accessories

User interface means how the user communicates with the computer. This includes keyboards, touchpads, mice, and trackballs, as well as the screen itself. All computers come with some form of user interface, but there can be good reasons for not simply going with whatever the computer comes with. For example, laptops typically use a touchpad and sometimes one or more buttons instead of a mouse, and this works fine for some users, but other people prefer to add a mouse. Desktops come with mice, but not always the type of mouse the user wants. When choosing a new user interface device of any kind, the two main considerations are ergonomics and connectivity type. For mice used with laptops, the user can also choose between full-sized mice and smaller mice that are sometimes harder to use but much more convenient to travel with.

Ergonomics

Ergonomics simply means paying attention to efficiency of movement. For people who spend a lot of time on computers, physical ease of use becomes very important. Serious medical problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and back and neck pain, can result from bad posture and hand placement caused by the design and placement of computer components. There are keyboards and mice designed specifically with ergonomics in mind. Adding an external keyboard to a laptop, when not travelling with it, also allows the screen to be placed at a comfortable eye level while the keyboard stays low and comfortable for typing. This supports good posture.

Connectivity Type

Both keyboards and mice come in both wireless and connected versions. Generally, wireless accessories are more convenient because there is no wire to get in the way. However, wireless accessories depend on batteries and can run out of power unexpectedly, such as in the middle of an important project. The users must choose which works better for their own particular situation.

Laptop Carrying Cases

Laptops are designed to be portable, and that means having a protective case to carry them in is a wise decision. Laptop cases and bags are usually soft, briefcase-shaped handbags, often with a shoulder strap, though many people use backpacks instead. Rigid cases, such as traditional briefcases, are a poor choice because the laptop can rattle around inside and get damaged. Many people prefer designs that feature two internal compartments, one for the laptop itself and the other for papers, plus an outside compartment for items that should be easily accessible. People who go through security screenings often especially appreciate designs that zip open completely and lie flat, for easy inspection. Obviously, a laptop case must be big enough to fit the laptop and small enough to fit under the seats of airplanes and trains. Make sure the bag is not so tight that a moving zipper could scratch the laptop inside.

Getting a good laptop case is always about protecting the laptop, but for many people the case is also a fashion accessory, helping to present a professional or stylish appearance. No matter what appearance the case projects, however, it should not look as though it obviously contains a laptop; laptops are valuable, and there it no good reason to advertise to potential thieves where the laptop is.

Extra Batteries and Chargers for Laptops

Again, part of the point of a laptop is portability, and using a laptop while travelling often depends on battery life. While battery life is getting longer, an extra battery or two can still make working on the go much more practical. Extra chargers are also important for travellers. One charger can be left in the office, the other at home, freeing the user from having to carry the charger everywhere. Charging cables sometimes fail, so having a spare is important. International travellers may also need multiple chargers in order to be able to be compatible with the electrical supplies of different countries.

For both batteries and chargers, the central issue is compatibility. The size and shape of both batteries and charging plugs varies from one laptop to the next, and while off-brand batteries and chargers are available, they are designed to work only with specific machines. Even if a battery or charger happens to fit a computer, electrical compatibility could damage the laptop. Specifically look for matching voltage; to upgrade to a better battery, look for a higher watt-hour or amp rating, but do not use a different voltage.

Other Popular Computer Accessories

There are many popular accessories available for both laptops and desktops. Many work with both types of computer, or at least come in both laptop and desktop versions. This chart lists several common accessories for both laptops and desktops, each listed with a brief description.

Accessory

Description

Monitor

Upgrade to a better screen or use two screens at once

External Hard Drive

Can back up an entire hard drive or store files created on several different computers

Docking Station

A central unit that connects a laptop to several other accessories and offers some upgraded functionality; some double as cooling pads

Cooling Pads

A box with a fan inside that a laptop can be set on to help keep its processors cooler

Security Cables

A cable that hooks into a laptop and locks to anchor it in place

Speakers

Desktops and laptops typically come with speakers, but upgrading to external speakers improves sound quality

Headsets

Headsets allow the user to enjoy a full sound experience without bothering nearby people

This is list is, of course, not exhaustive, and only the most common accessories are included. Desktops typically come with more equipment and more features, being larger than laptops. Therefore, in many cases, buying accessories for a desktop involves either upgrading existing features or the buyer deliberately buying an underbuilt machine and making up for it with accessories, hoping to get a better deal.

Finding Good Deals on Computer Accessories

There are two basic strategies for finding a good deal on electronics. The first strategy involves being very clear about what equipment is actually needed. The second strategy involves finding equipment at unusually low prices.

Knowing What to Look For

Not everyone needs the same thing from a computer. Serious gamers want great graphics and sound, while business professionals might require a good camera and microphone for video conferencing. A simple way to save money on accessories is to refrain from buying unnecessary equipment. Buying a basic, entry level device when possible frees up money for higher-end products in the area where quality really counts. Never buy anything simply because other people consider it worth having; if the user does not actually have a use for it, the device is a waste of money even if it is available well below market price.

Finding Low Prices

The trick to finding great prices varies somewhat with the product in question. As a general rule, older, second-hand, and off-brand all equal lower prices, but there are important caveats. A laptop case, for example, can work well, provided the laptop fits inside it and it looks alright, no matter how old and well-used it is, but a battery cannot. A used battery, or one over 18 months old, is simply not worth buying at any price, because batteries degrade over time. A battery of the wrong type also is not worth buying at any price, because incompatible batteries either do not work or damage the machine. With most other electronics, buying used or buying older stock that is about to be replaced by a newer model is a good bet.

How to Buy Accessories for Laptops and Desktops on eBay

One advantage of buying through eBay is that so many laptop and desktop accessories are available in the same place. With a few tips on how to find the right accessories and how to negotiate the buying process, shopping through eBay should be easy. If you already know what accessories you want to buy or you would like to research your options, eBay is an excellent choice.

Finding Desktop and Laptop Accessories on eBay

Although a direct way to buy a specific accessory is to use the Advanced Search feature, some shoppers prefer to browse the options by using a simple search. Just type 'laptop and desktop accessories&' into the search box and then use the menu options to focus on accessory types.

Buying Desktop and Laptop Accessories on eBay with Confidence

It is always a good idea to reread the listing before buying, to make sure that it is the right item. Any question can be addressed to the seller directly, through his or her profile page. The seller's feedback score is listed on the profile as well. For major purchases, ask the seller to insure shipping.

Conclusion

The key to getting a good deal on desktop and laptop accessories is to know what is needed and what is not. If something does not provide the features an individual user wants, then no matter how low the price is, it is still a waste of money. And if an accessory is of poor quality or in bad condition, then again the purchase is a waste of money. For some items, such as batteries, it is important that the item be new and fresh, but deep discounts can be found by buying off brand. For others, such as new screens, quality is related to how up to date the design is, but since new designs only come out at intervals, a good strategy is to buy just before a new design comes out when a product is priced low, but still relatively up to date. Sometimes, as in laptop cases, quality is largely in the eye of the beholder, so buying second-hand to get a good deal makes a lot of sense.