When thinking about improving your computer, show love to the outside too! More often than not the PC tower is shoved out of the way and you spend all your time with the peripherals: mouse, keyboard and monitor. If you’re looking to improve your computer experience, upgrading these items is a great place to start.
Have you ever wished you monitor was smaller? Me neither. Visual display is a field where bigger is always better. Larger displays provide plenty of benefits; they’re easier to read, they offer more all around real-estate for multiple windows and tasks, they make movie watching SO much better, and they just plumb look good! The downside of the display issue is that as monitors grow in size so do their price tags. A large, 27” display will run you a minimum of $260.00.
A bit more economical, and a lot more fun, is the dual display route. Your current monitor is likely a 19” or 21”, the cost of which is much more reasonable (~$100.00.) Pick up a second monitor to match your first and you can run them both, side-by-side, with your desktop stretched across both screens. Studies have shown that by using two displays you’ll improve your productivity by 10-50% depending on the type of work you’re doing. As I’m writing this I’ve got Microsoft Word open on one screen and a web browser open on my second. Adding a second monitor is cheap, easy, and awesome! Once you try it you’ll never go back.
Considering that you never use your computer without using a mouse, it might not be a bad candidate for an upgrade. All modern mice are optical, meaning they use a laser instead of a trackball, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same. The first thing to take into account when purchasing a mouse is the connection you want, Bluetooth, RF wireless, USB, or PS/2 are all in common use and may fit your needs.
Another prominent mouse spec is dpi (dots per inch). This defines how far the mouse will move on the screen in proportion to how far you move your hand. There is not one best dpi, nor is one dpi better than another. An 800dpi mouse will work great on standard screens but will seem sluggish on larger monitors while a 3200dpi mouse will zip around with the slightest touch of your hand. Gamers especially tend to favor high dpi mice because of their precision.
I personally use a wireless mouse with a button that can switch between 800dpi and 1600dpi; the first I use for dinking around on the web and the latter I use for gaming and Photoshop.
For the most part, a keyboard is a keyboard, though there are a few things to consider. Connections, just as with the mouse (Bluetooth, RF or optical wireless, USB or PS/2), are an issue as is comfort and ease of use when buying a computer keyboard.
Where are you going to use your keyboard? Will it be chained to your desk? If so, stick with USB or PS/2 if you have the connector. Wired keyboards have slightly better response times over wireless versions and don’t require a battery.
If you’d like to be able to use your keyboard from some distance to control a movie from your couch or bed, game on your TV, or if you just don’t want a cable sticking out of your keyboard, go with wireless. Bluetooth is more reliable and works from farther away (usually about thirty feet) than other wireless options, but requires that you have a Bluetooth signal from your PC. RF or optical wireless keyboards are typically cheaper than Bluetooth and come with their own wireless receiver, but few are guaranteed to work beyond 10-feet.