Accessories for your computer

Computer accessoriesComputer accessories add additional functions to your computers. Some accessories come with your computer as standard - such as keyboards and monitors - others can be added as required. Some – like a keyboard or  mouse – are essential. Others – such as graphics tablets and barcode readers – may be useful for specialist tasks

Computer accessories are also called computer peripherals and sometimes include printers and scanners and storage devices.

The best way to assess which computer peripherals would be useful for your business is to define your IT requirements, then match up suitable accessories with these.

Get the right computer monitor

If you stare at computer monitors for hours every day, you come to appreciate the benefits of having the right computer monitor for the job. It’s important everyone in your business has computer monitors which are clear, large and bright enough.

Larger computer monitors are easier to work with. Computer monitors with a 19” screen (measured diagonally) should be the minimum, but larger sizes are increasingly affordable. If you can afford it, a 27" screen will give you an impressive space to work in. Go for a monitor with a higher resolution too (1,440 x 900 pixels or more) - this measures what you can fit onto the computer monitor.

Look for computer monitors which can be easily swivelled, tilted and adjusted for height. Some computer monitors can even rotate between portrait and landscape format, which is handy for editing documents. Some monitors are touch-sensitive, allowing you to control your software by tapping, swiping and dragging on the screen.

It is possible to use two computer monitors with one computer. This is often called ‘dual screen’ or ‘dual computer monitors’. It can improve productivity by giving you more space to work in, but having two computer monitors means you will require a separate connection for each of the computer monitors. The same effect can be achieved by having one large monitor.

Computer keyboard and mouse: essential computer accessories

Most computers come with a cheap keyboard and mouse as standard. These are usually basic models – some are adequate, but others have poor ergonomics and can be unpleasant to use.

People who spend all day typing or using the mouse on their computer may see significant benefits from a better keyboard and mouse. It’s not just about being comfortable – conditions like repetitive strain injury and carpal tunnel syndrome are associated with poor ergonomics.

Unresponsive keyboards and inaccurate mice can also dent the efficiency of staff, especially if they’re great touch typers or designers who need pixel-perfect precision. In these cases, it’s definitely worth finding an input device that fits the needs of the person using it.

A good keyboard should cost from £30 and a mouse about £20. You will pay more for wireless versions, so consider whether you really need them. It’s often best to spend the extra money on a better designed input device instead.

Unlike other pieces of hardware in your business, it may be unwise to standardise on a single type of keyboard and mouse for everyone. People have individual ergonomic needs, so it’s important you cater for these by offering a range of models.

Increasingly, touch screens are being used to complement keyboards and mice. You can add a touch-enabled monitor to most PCs, giving you a new way to interact with your software.

Projectors

Computer projectors are an alternative to computer monitors and allow you to project a large image onto a blank wall or screen. Projectors are useful for presentations and meetings and can often be connected up to DVD players or digital TV boxes too.

As with computer monitors, check the resolution. Aim for a minimum resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, but aim for higher if possible. Look for projectors that are ‘HD ready’ if you want to show high definition video. You should also look for a brightness - measured in ‘ANSI lumens’ - of 1,200 for projectors to be used in a dim room, 2,000 for a normal office environment, and 3,000 for use in brighter light.

Other types of input device

Your business might also use these other, less common types of input device:

  • Trackballs and trackpads. Like a mouse, these allow you to control the cursor on your computer screen. They are useful in limited space, or where people need an alternative to a mouse.
  • Graphics tablets. Most often used by graphic designers, these consist of a stylus and pad which allow you to 'write' on the screen and offer very fine control. They start at £50.
  • Barcode readers. Vital in retail environments and for stock control, these can be connected to standard PCs, though are often part of a customised point of sale system. You can buy a barcode reader for less than £50.
  • Fingerprint readers. These seem like a convenient way to prove your identity without a username and password, but have so far failed to catch on. They can cost as little as £30 but some cheaper models can be easily circumvented.

Audio computer accessories

Audio computer accessories, like speakers, headphones, microphones and headsets, are useful for online conferences, placing voice over IP (VoIP) calls and listening to music at work (if you allow it).

For VoIP and conferencing, a comfortable headset (about £20) is best. This leaves hands free for typing.

Computer accessories and connections

Before purchasing computer accessories, make sure your computers have enough free connections of the correct sort. Most accessories use a standard connection called universal serial bus (USB). If all your USB sockets are in use, purchase a hub (£10 or more) to add capacity.

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