September 28, 2020 | computer | No Comments
Products featured are independently selected by our editorial team and we may earn a commission from purchases made from our links; the retailer may also receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.
Smartphones and tablets have earned their place in the world of tech, but most of us still spend a big chunk of our day in front of a computer. Whether you’re an office worker, freelancer, or student, nothing will quite replace the power of a Mac, or PC.
Pairing your computer with the right accessories can help you get the most out of your machine. That could mean enabling you be more productive, adding, upgrading, or replacing a crucial component, or using your computer for more than just work.
We’ve collected the best accessories for your computer that cost less than $100. All of these accessories will work with a Mac or PC, and most will work with a Chromebook. We’ve also made sure that a majority of our picks can work with both a laptop or desktop, so you’re not limited to one type of machine.
1. Edifier R1280T Powered Bookshelf Speakers
If you spend a lot of time listening to music at your desk, Edifier’s R1280T bookshelf speakers will be a huge improvement over the ones built into your computer.
These are powered speakers, which means they have an amplifier inside, and need to be connected to an outlet for power. Each one has two drivers (the part of a speaker or headphones that produces sound): A 4-inch woofer for midrange and bass frequencies, and a half-inch tweeter for treble frequencies. This dual-driver system will make your music sound more balanced, and allow you to hear different instruments (or vocals) more clearly.
The R1280Ts have two sets of RCA (red and white) inputs, so you can plug your computer and one additional gadget to them at the same time. They don’t support Bluetooth, though, so you can’t stream audio to them directly. The R1280Ts are a compact audio system tailor made for any computer setup.
2. Logitech M557 Bluetooth Mouse
If you need a new mouse, and don’t want to clutter your desk with a bunch of cables, Logitech;s M557 is a great choice. It connects to your computer over Bluetooth, so you don’t need to plug in a cable or wireless adapter.
I’ve used this mouse for several years, and appreciate its relatively small size, and lack of latency (lag). The M557’s standout feature is the ability to customize its buttons to perform custom actions. Pressing the Windows button, for example can bring up Windows Search on PCs or Spotlight on Macs. Once you get used to these little time savers, you won’t want to go back to a keyboard command.
3. Plugable USB Hub
Plugable’s USB Hub allows you to connect more accessories to your computer at the same time. It has three USB-A ports, for common accessories like external hard drives, and an Ethernet port, which allows you to plug your computer directly into a Wi-Fi router or your cable modem. Plugable’s USB Hub comes with two cables, so you can connect it to a USB-A or USB-C port.
Note: If you regularly connect your computer to a TV, or want a hub that can read SD-Cards, we recommend Belkin’s USB-C hub, which is available for $99.99 on Amazon.
4. Satechi Compact Backlit Bluetooth Keyboard
If you’d like a Bluetooth keyboard to pair with your Logitech M557, we recommend this one from Satechi. It also connects to your computer over Bluetooth, and has a rechargeable battery inside, so you don’t have to worry about keeping a pair of AA or AAAs around. You can pair it with up to three devices (computers, tablets, or smartphones), and switch between them by pressing the Bluetooth 1, Bluetooth 2, and Bluetooth 3 buttons in the upper-right-hand corner of the keyboard. Bluetooth keyboards have become common, but Satechi’s is one of the few that have back lighting, which makes each key easier to see (and press) when you’re typing at night.
5. AudioQuest DragonFly Black
If you prefer to listen to music over headphones, AudioQuest’s DragonFly Black is a must-have tech accessory. It’s a DAC (digital analog converter), with a USB-A jack on one end, and a headphone jack on the other. The purpose of a DAC is processing the digital audio file you’re listening to (streamed or from your local library), more accurately than the DAC in your computer.
The result is music that sounds clearer, and easier on your ears; I’ve used a couple of AudioQuest’s DragonFly DACs, and noticed a difference after switching between them and my computer’s headphone jack while listening to the same songs. This was especially clear when listening to the bass parts of classic rock songs, which were more distinct without being overpowering. Consider the DragonFly DAC to be an upgrade for your entire digital music library.
6. JETech Laptop Sleeve Compatible for 13.3-Inch Notebook
If you carry around a laptop, you should keep it in a sleeve to prevent scratches or dents. Sleeves are more protective than hard cases because they surround your entire computer, and can block dust or water from reaching your machine while it’s in a backpack.
This sleeve from JETech is designed to work with 13-inch laptops (PCs or Macs). Its outer layer is made out of a waterproof fabric, while its insider is made out of cushioned foam to prevent damage if the computer is dropped. Our favorite feature is the sleeve’s front pocket, which is large enough to hold accessories like chargers and cables.
7. HP Pavilion 22cwa
An external display allows you to spread your work over a larger area, which makes it easier to multitask. This 21.5-inch monitor from HP has a resolution of 1080P (1920 X 1080), so text, images, and videos will look pretty sharp.
You can connect your computer to it with an HDMI or VGA cable, which means you probably won’t need an adapter. The 22cwa can be tilted 5-degrees forward or 25-degrees backward, so you can get the right angle. The display isn’t height adjustable, but you can use a monitor stand to lift it up if necessary.
8. Seagate Portable 2TB External Hard Drive
Cloud storage services are getting faster and more reliable, but it’s still smart to keep a full, local backup of your computer on an external hard drive. This one from Seagate has 2TB (terabytes) of storage, which should be enough to hold all of your files.
It’s bus powered, which means it gets electricity from your computer’s USB port instead of having to be plugged into an outlet. The drive supports USB 3.0, which allows you to transfer data to it at up to 128MB/s (Megabytes per second), and comes with a cable that needs to be plugged into a USB-A port.
9. Amazon eero mesh Wi-Fi router
Whether you’re trying to video conference with colleagues, or contribute to a collaborative assignment, you’ll need a strong internet connection. Eero’s Mesh Wi-Fi router can offer you speeds of up to 550Mbps, and is rated to cover an area up to 1,500 sq. ft (square feet). You can set up and manage the router via an app (iOS and Android), which is easy to navigate.
While you can use this router on its own and get great results, you can add additional eero routers to extend your network if you move to a larger space.
10. Canon PIXMA TR4520 Wireless All in One Photo Printer
We live in a digital world, but an all-in-one printer is still a very important accessory to have in your home office or dorm room. Canon’s PIXMA TR4520 can print up to 8.8 pages per minute, scan or copy documents, and send or receive a fax. You can connect it to your computer with a USB cable, or connect it to your Wi-Fi network to enable wireless printing from all of your devices.
11. AUKEY Full HD Webcam
Video conferencing is more important than ever, which is why it’s important to have a good webcam. AUKEY’s Full HD model can stream video in 1080P, so you’ll look very clear to the people you’re speaking with. It also supports auto focusing, so you won’t look blurry if you move around.
AUKEY’s webcam has a pair of stereo microphones with noise reduction, so the people you’re speaking with will hear you, but not the outside world. The webcam is designed to clip onto the top of your laptop or monitor’s screen, but you can also mount it on a tripod if you’d prefer to use it at a different angle.
12. Razer Seiren X USB Streaming Microphone
Razer’s Seiren X is a USB microphone that can substantially boost the audio quality of your video conferencing calls. The microphone sits on a swiveling stand, which you can bend to move into the proper position.
It has a mute switch on the front if you have to cough, and a volume knob so you don’t have to reach for your computer’s audio settings to make adjustments. The Seiren X also has its own headphone jack, so you can plug your cans directly into the mic.
13. SimpleHouseware Metal Desk Monitor Stand Riser
SimpleHouseware’s monitor stand can help prevent neck strain by raising your external display closer to eye level. The stand will lift your monitor 5.8-inches off your desk, but cannot be raised or lowered. This monitor riser also has a front drawer, plus two side pockets with a divider in the middle. These storage pockets are perfect for storing all of your stationary, or cables that would be cluttering up your desk.
14. Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones WHCH710N
Sony’s WHC710N are an excellent pair of over-ear headphones that support active noise cancellation. They can connect to your computer wirelessly over Bluetooth, or plug them into your DAC with a 3.5mm audio cable. Sony says you can get up to 35 hours of music playback per charge. The headphones support fast charging over USB-C, so you can get an hour of playtime by charging them for 10 minutes.
15. Elimoons Webcam Cover Slide
It’s unlikely that your computer’s webcam will get hacked, but Elimoon’s Webcam Cover Shades will offer an extra layer of protection. The shades are only .027-inches thick, and are adhesive on one side, so you can place one directly over your computer’s camera. The shade is small enough that you can move it easily with your finger tip.