If you are like most people, you will have bought a new PC or laptop and never considered those extra computer peripherals. After all, they probably came with the unit or were built into your laptop. Specifically, we are talking about a webcam, mouse, keyboard or even a headset or separate microphone. In this how-to guide, we will look at why you should consider spending some more money, what you need to understand about peripherals and how to buy the right item.
WebCam: A video camera either integrated or connected to a PC allowing images to be seen normally over the internet.
Mouse: A small handheld peripheral that when moved will cause the cursor on a computer screen to also move.
Keyboard: a set of keys allowing alphanumerical communication on a PC.
Microphone or Speaker: A mechanical device to turn audio sound waves into signals that can be transmitted by your PC or vice versa.
WHY should I buy a Webcam, Mouse and Keyboard?
Your brand-new PC comes with an included mouse and keyboard. Your brand-new laptop comes with a trackpad (mouse), keyboard, webcam and microphone.
However, there are a few reasons why you should consider buying a separate Webcam, Mouse Keyboard, Microphone, Headset, Speakers etc
- They did not come in the box
Chances are if you bought a freestanding computer an accessory such as a webcam is not included.
A PC manufacturer will typically only ship the most essential quality accessories to keep their and your costs down. This would influence the touch and feel or how the product looks. In the case of a microphone or webcam, it will impact how you look and sound.
This can be considered two ways:
- With a laptop computer, the peripherals are build-in; therefore when you use it remotely it is convenient, but if you are at home, ergonomically a separate keyboard and mouse will allow you to find a much more comfortable position
- The design and shape of a keyboard can reduce the stress and strain placed on your hands, fingers and back. Many people, after years of operating a computer develop an RSI or repetitive strain injury.
A third party peripheral may come with extra buttons or features that allow you to become more effective. Examples include scrolling left and right from a mouse, zooming a webcam, and pressing a button on your keyboard to open an app.
A cheap accessory is built to a price, and its performance may deteriorate quickly with use. Ensure your products will survive a fall and potentially put up with the abuse from working at home.
More and more people are now working from home (COVID has undoubtedly accelerated that) but for most small businesses that was already a reality. However, what has changed is the use of your computer to make video and voice calls. To be seen as a professional, you need to ensure your video image is sharp and your voice is heard clearly.
WHAT do you need to know about computer peripherals?
An essential product we have not covered in this guide is computer monitors. We have a separate guide available here. If you are also in the market for a new computer, be sure to check out our guide on buying a new PC.
No matter what accessory you buy for your PC, they will be connected to your PC in some way and also powered. This is likely to occur in one of two ways.
A wired connection will pass information back and forth and also provide power for the device. The advantage is you don’t have to worry about batteries or to recharge. Still, you do have to worry about an ugly cable. You also need to consider whether your PC has enough USB sockets or buy a hub (same concept as a power board).
The second method is a wireless solution that will typically connect to your PC by Bluetooth and require disposable or rechargeable batteries. The significant advantage here is no cords, especially for a mouse.
HOW to pick the right Webcam, Mouse and Keyboard
Below we have listed the key features you should consider when buying a:
- Quality of video capture. Measured as resolution and frame rate. Look for HD or Full HD at 30fps.
- Field of view. Measured in degrees will determine if you are captured as a wide (> deg sees more of the room) or closeup shot.
- Autofocus. Ensures the image of you is clear
- Light correction. If you are in a dark or bright room, how well the camera compensates
- Quality of lens. Glass is better
- Compatibility with Zoom, Teams, Skype etc
- Mounting. Does it come with a bracket to attach to a monitor or tripod
- Microphone. Determines how you sound and what other noise is picked up. Consider a stereo mike for natural sound with noise cancelling.
- Software control. Manual adjustment, video capture, and even changing the background, so people do not see your unmade bed.
- How you hold the mouse – fingertip grip, palm grip or claw grip. Also consider if it will be small enough to travel with if required.
- Feel – comfort, scrolling action and buttons
- Cable or wireless
- Sensitivity – for precision mouse movements if editing images, video or audio. Measured in Dots Per Inch, look for one with at least 1200 DPI
- Will it work on different surfaces?
- Cable or wireless – if wireless consider battery life
- Compatibility with Windows PC or Apple Mac
- Extra function keys – to open apps or perform tasks
- Ergonomics of keys – position and feel
- Sensitivity and noise – avoid mistypes and disturbing others
- Do you want illuminated keys for night use
- Over-ear – on-ear – in-ear. – Personal preference
- Sound quality
- Comfort including lightness and after long periods
- Fashion – How will you look on a video call
- Microphone quality and placement
- Features including mute, volume or even noise cancelling
- More expensive the better you sound
- Usage – video calling versus recording a podcast
- Does it connect via USB or 3.5mm jack and include software to adjust the sound
- Portability if you need to travel
- More expensive may not mean better but cheap is generally cheap
- Do you just need noise or will you also listen to music
- Cable or wireless connection
- Dedicated volume and possibly base control
- How big and how do they look
- Other uses such as a smart speaker
- How loud they are, measured in wattage
- Try to listen before you buy
If you are in the market for a new computer accessory, unfortunately, you are unlikely able to test drive it at your local retailer or office supply store. We do recommend you visit our sister site Gadgetguy.com.au for unbiased reviews and comparisons.
The key players in the peripherals market are Microsoft and the key PC makers themselves like HP and Dell. Still, we highly recommend you check out the vast range available from Logitech. The latter specialises in this market and make products to suit many needs.
SUMMARY – Improve your PC productivity
Buying a new Webcam, Mouse ,Keyboard etc for your computer is one of those things that you do not know what you are missing out on until you experience what better looks/feel like. The accessory may seem expensive but remember it is the primary connection for you to connect with your PC and possibly your customers.
When deciding what to buy always consider what you need, how it will help your productivity, improve your impression on others, and be more comfortable for you to use.