Wired vs. Wireless Peripherals: What You Really Need to Know

   
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Wired vs. Wireless Peripherals: What You Really Need to Know

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Computers make our lives more convenient in countless ways, but they do pose one problem: a mess of tangled cords. Sooner or later, you’ll need to clean up that cable clutter.


Heck, wires in general can be a pain. Your headphones’ cable gets in your way while you’re running. Your mouse’s cable makes the cursor go haywire sometimes. Your charger cable limits how far away you can take the phone. Cables, cables, cables. They can be quite troublesome.

Thankfully, several common gadgets and peripherals offer wireless versions. But there are a few things you need to know before cutting the wire, so to speak. Sometimes the move to wireless is a no-brainer, but sometimes it’s the worst move you could make.
Keyboards and Mice

With computer mice and keyboards, you get wireless varieties in two types: Bluetooth or Radio Frequency (R/F). Bluetooth mice and keyboards are pretty straightforward, but they require your computer to have a Bluetooth controller.

R/F mice and keyboards come with a tiny USB dongle that needs to be plugged into one of the USB ports on your computer. You lose one port this way, but R/F generally offers better range than Bluetooth. Even so, it’s best to plug the USB receiver for an R/F device close to where the device will be operating.

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You Should Go Wireless If…

For any non-professional gamer, wireless keyboards and mice are just as good as their wired counterparts these days, so by all means, buy a wireless set if you feel more comfortable with them. The convenience is worth it, and the price difference is negligible.

Just check whether you’re buying something that uses AA/AAA batteries or comes with a rechargeable battery. We also have a quick guide to wireless all-in-one keyboard-mouse combos if you’re looking for that.
You Should Stay Wired If…

Professional gamers have traditionally stuck with wired solutions, but that’s changing fast as some gamers are finding that newer wireless options are more than good enough now. Also note that if you’re looking to buy a mechanical keyboard, finding a wireless one might be difficult.

Also, wired keyboards and mice are absolutely the way to go if you don’t want to deal with battery changes, battery recharges, or the occasional possibility for batteries to run out while you’re doing something important.
Headphones and Speakers

Like mice and keyboards, headphones and speakers also offer either Bluetooth or Radio Frequency when it comes to wireless varieties. More often than not, these systems will actually use Bluetooth since that just happens to be the de facto standard for wireless audio.

R/F headphones usually come with a separate receiver stand which needs to be hooked up to your TV or wherever else. You’ll get better fidelity and longer range with these, but it can cause interference with other wireless devices and isn’t a portable option when you’re stepping out.

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You Should Go Wireless If…

We’ve covered what you need to know before buying wireless headphones, so here’s the essential rule of thumb. Between wired and wireless, whether headphones or speakers, assuming similar price between models: wired will usually have better quality. Also, audio quality gets compromised over Bluetooth.\

That said, wireless headphones are good enough for anyone who isn’t an audiophile. They’re particularly good if you’re going to be traveling a lot. And if you absolutely hate getting your headphones’ cable caught while it’s sitting on your head, then the answer is obvious: wireless.
You Should Stay Wired If…

If you’re an audiophile, don’t bother with wireless options unless using it for travel or keeping it around as a backup. Wired headphones and speakers are leagues ahead of the output quality you get on wireless sets. Plus you won’t have to worry about batteries, unless you get a pair that cancels noise.

The biggest drawback, though, is that you need to take care of the cables or those headphones will eventually break.
Printers

Wireless printers connect to your Wi-Fi network without an Ethernet, so they can talk to your computer no matter where they sit. Once you set it up, it’s exactly like using a wired printer — with a couple of tiny exceptions.

Wired printers are cheaper than wireless options and perform better for tasks like scanning (in case you are purchasing a multi-function device). Plus, wired printers are usually plug-and-play — just connect the USB cable to the computer and you’re ready to print.

Wireless printers, on the other hand, are known to exhibit network connectivity issues and can be a pain. Heck, we dedicated an entire article on how to install wireless printers in Windows and workarounds.

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You Should Go Wireless If…

The best time to use a wireless printer is when you’re in a small office setup, using multiple computers, and need to print from various devices. It saves the trouble of transferring files to the one computer that’s connected to the printer in order to print.

Plus, you can often print directly from your smartphone, too. To get started, check out some of the best wireless printers you can buy.
You Should Stay Wired If…

If a single computer is going to be printing documents, then stick with a wired printer. Alternately, if you have a large office and have networked all the computers, then a wired networking printer that connects directly to the router might be what you want.

Plus, buying wired isn’t the end of the world. You can just turn a wired printer into wireless with a Raspberry Pi if you want to go the DIY route.
Portable Hard Drives

External hard drives are a great way to back up your important data and take it with you anywhere. But that also means taking a cable with you anywhere. Wireless hard drives solve that little issue, but with a few costs.

Wired portable hard drives transfer data faster and are substantially cheaper. However, a wireless hard drive can connect to your smartphone or tablet in addition to your computer and laptop, which a wired one usually can’t (without a special dongle or adapter).

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You Should Go Wireless If…

If price isn’t an issue, then a wireless hard drive makes more sense these days, especially if have at least two smart devices — a smartphone and a computer, for example. But make sure it supports passthrough and is compatible with your tablet or smartphone.

Here’s everything you need to know before buying a wireless hard drive. We recommend you check it out because there are a few hiccups you’ll want to avoid.
You Should Stay Wired If…

If you want the maximum amount of storage per buck, wired hard drives win easily. If you’re actively working off of files from the external storage — like editing videos — then definitely buy a wired device.

Plus, if you’re someone who needs multiple terabytes of additional storage, then a proper external hard drive with its own power adapter is the way to go. Get started with this guide.
Chargers

We have now entered the age of wireless charging, and smartphones are leading this race. From the Samsung Galaxy to the Microsoft Lumia, Android and Windows phones are rapidly adopting wireless chargers. But a quick look into how wireless charging works will tell you that it’s not for everyone.

First, your phone needs to support wireless charging through a standard called Qi. Second, you need a special wireless charging mat, which actually carries a wire to a plug point.

Basically, instead of inserting a cable into your phone, you insert it into this mat. Your phone can be kept on the mat to start charging (it needs to maintain contact) and picked up to stop charging.

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You Should Go Wireless If…

If your phone supports wireless charging, then these mats are incredibly convenient. They can be expensive and they do take longer than a regular wired charger to top up your battery, but the convenience factor is well worth it if you can afford it.

But just make sure your phone supports the Qi standard, and try to buy a wireless charger from the same manufacturer of the device being charged. Incompatibilities are more common than you think, and can be quite frustrating.
You Should Stay Wired If…

Well, everyone already has a wired charger because that’s what comes in the box! So this point is moot. Basically, if you don’t care about any of the benefits of wireless charging, just stay wired.
Are You Cutting the Wire?

In general, if you can afford the extra cost and are an average home user, you can safely buy the wireless version of these peripherals. Wired gadgets have some advantages still, but the convenience of wireless is well worth the price if that’s what you really want.

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