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Important Accessories of Desktop, Laptop, Smartphone, Tablet

Updated on December 27, 2014

Many of the accessories you require are ultimately determined by the hardware you buy. For instance, to make sure your smartphone doesn’t suffer from any warranty-voiding mishaps (hint: almost all mishaps will void your warranty), buy a screen protector and case. To keep from getting caught driving while dialing, invest in a hands free Bluetooth kit, or rock out with a studio-quality headset with a built-in microphone that lets you answer calls whenever they occur.

In the following sections, some important accessories for student-appropriate accessories that are designed to make the hardware you buy more functional, portable, and comfortable to use. Accessories can also make your gadgets safer, cooler, better-looking, and more durable.

Below are various examples of accessories that fit into each category and explain why you might need each one.

Corsair Vengeance K60
Corsair Vengeance K60

Desktop Accessories

The core accessories you’ll need for a desktop computer include a mouse, keyboard, speakers, and most likely a mouse pad. Regarding mice and keyboards, there is an endless array of choices available to you. For students in a cramped dorm room, a compact keyboard may be suitable, but larger keyboards can offer a more comfortable typing experience when working on lengthy projects.

There are two types of keyboards you’ll encounter, rubber membrane and mechanical keyboards. The former tend to require very little force to register a key press; these types of keyboards are very common, and tend to be less expensive. Mechanical keyboards feature individual switches beneath each key; as a result, they tend to cost more. The big difference here is that each key requires more force, but the feedback (some switches generate a distinct clicking sound) can make for a more satisfying, deliberate typing experience that users tend to appreciate. The best way to determine which you prefer is to get hands-on with the two keyboard types to see which feels better.

Gaming keyboards are also popular with students, and many have the added benefit of having backlit keys, which makes it possible to continue typing, long after the roommate has fallen asleep.

Mice also come in a variety of types and styles. Optical and laser mice are great because they don’t require regular cleaning, like the old ball-style mice. Those studying the visual arts or drafting may want to choose a mouse with a high dpi (dots per inch) resolution and adjustable sensitivity (laser mice tend to have both features). This enables users to adjust the speed and precision of the pointer‘s onscreen movement.

PC speakers too can vary wildly; you can get compact stereo speakers that attach discreetly to your monitor, room-filling sound from a 2.1-channel speaker system, or fully immersive surround sound experience from a 5.1-channel speaker system. The amount of space you have to work with is one of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a large system. Surround sound speaker systems often require that speakers be placed behind the listener, which may not be possible in a small apartment or dorm room. Headsets are the perfect way to get a quality listening experience without forcing those around you to listen as well.

Other desktop computer accessories to consider include external hard drives, screen filters, and external optical drives for burning media or watching Blu-ray Disc movies on your computer.

Cyber Acoustics CA-2880 USB Powered Speaker clips to your laptop’s screen for a significantly improved audio experience.
Cyber Acoustics CA-2880 USB Powered Speaker clips to your laptop’s screen for a significantly improved audio experience.

Laptop Accessories

Although laptops will have a built-in keyboard and pointing device, getting a standalone mouse and keyboard can bring many of the comforts of the desktop world to your portable.

If you plan to use the laptop in one place a majority of the time, only occasionally taking it with you, we’d recommend getting a laptop dock. A typical laptop dock lets you connect multiple USB devices (such as a mouse, keyboard, and flash drive), a display, and possibly memory cards.

Generally speaking, you will get more features if you opt for a unit built to work with your laptop, for instance, dedicated power delivered through a proprietary docking port. There are universal docks available, however, and they tend to be less expensive than the model- specific varieties, yet still offer many of the same features.

Laptops can get hot, and as we often mention in these pages, heat is your electronics’ worst enemy.

Cool off your laptop with a laptop cooler, which slips under the unit and directs a current of cool air over the laptop’s vents, to keep everything running smooth and reliably for as long as possible. Many laptop coolers also act as stands, letting you angle the unit for a more comfortable typing and viewing experience.

The Cooler Master NotePal ErgoStand Cooling Stand can keep your 17-inch or smaller laptop running cool and quiet.
The Cooler Master NotePal ErgoStand Cooling Stand can keep your 17-inch or smaller laptop running cool and quiet.

Portability may be the reason you opted to buy a laptop, but it’s also the reason criminals like to snatch these devices. To thwart thieves, buy a cable lock, which wrap around a stationary object like an immovable desk, and fit into the lock slot (sometimes called a Kensington security slot or K-slot) on most laptops.

Buying spare batteries and power adapters can also make using a laptop where and whenever more convenient.

If you plan to use your laptop for slide shows in a group setting, a presentation remote with a built-in laser pointer can make things incredibly simple.

Laptop bags are another essential accessory. Most come with multiple pockets for carrying a mouse, spare battery, extra cables, power cords, thumb drives, a headset, and more. If you have a large laptop, focus extra attention on how comfortable the bag you intend to buy is to carry.

If your laptop lacks an optical drive, consider getting an external unit to enable media burning, CD playback and ripping, and DVD and Blu-ray Disc viewing. You can find large units designed to reside on a desk most of the time, or compact optical drives that are just as portable as your laptop

2GB Sky wifi smartpen
2GB Sky wifi smartpen

Smartphone Accessories

No smartphone is safe from the occasional drop, bump, scratch, or jolt. To make sure the screen survives unscathed, buy and apply a screen protector. A smartphone case can also mitigate any damages that may result from dropping the unit. Some cases can even protect your device from liquid submersion and high-impact drops. (Expect to pay more for a smartphone case that offers this kind of extra protection.)

Cases are also a great way to add some personality to your device; they come in dozens of colors, hundreds of designs, and may be adorned with sports team logos, animals, and countless other decorative touches.

A car adapter designed for your phone, or a generic USB adapter that lets you use the USB charging cable that came with your device, can ensure that you have power whenever you’re on the road.

Compact headsets with built-in microphones let you have a conversation while driving or performing other activities. A Bluetooth kit can also let you get where you’re going without having to look at your phone to make and take calls.

Bluetooth speakers and headsets also make listening to music and making and taking calls a fussfree endeavor. When shopping for Bluetooth accessories, make sure your smartphone supports the same or later version of Bluetooth listed on the accessory packaging.

Other smartphone accessories you might want to purchase include a tripod for taking professional looking photos, a screen-cleaning spray and microfiber cloth, spare batteries, a multi-device charging station, a cradle or dock for quick charging or music playback, and a car mount, which lets you use your smartphone like a GPS and stereo system in one.

Tablet, Smartphone Accessories

Tablet Accessories

One tablet accessory that should make every new tablet owner’s shopping list is a case. You will find folio cases that fold over the screen and prop up the unit for desktop use, plastic and rubber cases that fit your tablet snugly, cases with built-in screen covers, zippered sleeves lined with microfiber, and more. The key here is to get a case designed for your tablet and its dimensions. Universal cases exist, but they may not allow unrestricted use of the front and back cameras, microphone, and charging port.

Like smartphones, a tablet with a scratched screen will never look quite right; guard against gashes with a screen protector.

A stylus isn’t necessary for most tablets, but some tablets are capable of registering more precise input with a stylus. A stylus is especially important if the tablet is going to be used by a student studying drafting, design, or digital art.

One of the more useful tablet accessories is a keyboard attachment. These typically connect to your tablet either via Bluetooth or via the tablet’s proprietary connector. Keyboards are often compact for easy transport; some even come bundled in folio cases that help protect the tablet. The benefit of having a standalone keyboard attached to your tablet is a significantly more comfortable typing experience and the ability to input text without obscuring part of the screen with the device’s native onscreen keyboard.

If you’re using an e-reader, particularly one with an e-ink screen that requires direct light to enable viewing, then getting an attachable book light can greatly improve your low-light reading experience.

Spare chargers (including car chargers) and cables can also come in handy for anyone who uses a tablet often.

Cream of The Crop

Accessories are easy to find, but with so many choices, sometimes the trick is finding the ones that’ll actually improve your experience with a given device. I hope this guide has helped you winnow down the list of available accessories by pointing out the most necessary and useful among them.

Accessory Potpourri

We commonly think of accessories as add-ons designed to improve other products, but they can just as easily be stand alone products designed to make your life, or in this case, the life of a student, better, easier, or more enjoyable.

One such gizmo is the Livescribe Smartpen, which works just like a normal pen, but which is capable of remembering everything you write and draw, recording audio of lectures and interviews, and letting you play back that audio over a built-in speaker. The OLED (organic light emitting diode) screen lets you explore and execute the Smartpen’s various functions. Upload digital files of everything to your PC or to the Web, share it, and refer back to your notes with the aid of extensive search and text editing tools.

The flash drive is another of those accessories that no student should ever be without. They’re useful for transferring data between desktops, laptops, and tablets. They’re also available in capacities up to 128GB, with capacious 16GB models available for less than $30.


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      Vikas 3 years ago

      Thanks Greg! We switched to TeamViewer slseccsfuuly. Sorry, but comments like Windows 8 is something that is being investigated by our development team above tell me that none of your developers knew that Windows 8 would work differently and nobody tested with the Beta that's been out for months. Not inspiring a lot of confidence that this will be fixed soon