I was talking with some friends recently about computer hardware and peripherals/accessories and what we would spend more money on. Some of my friends said that they would spend as much as possible on the fastest hardware and then just get a bunch of cheap peripherals. While I appreciate fast hardware and will always try to get some of the fastest that I can, I will always make sure not to spend the entire budget on just fast hardware. When it comes to my computing needs one of the most important things that I always look for are the things that I use to interface with my computer/technology. This covers input devices such as keyboards, buttons, mice, trackpads, etc. but also things such as displays and speakers/headphones. I always will pay extra for higher quality on those fronts. This seemed strange to some of my friends whenever I built/bought a computer, as they would wonder why I would spend more money on my mice and keyboards rather than spending a bit more on my graphics card/cpu/some other hardware.
There are a couple reasons for this:
The first is cost: As a general rule, your external display, mouse + keyboard, and speakers will last longer than your computer. As an example, one of my favourites and longest running mice I had was the original Logitech G5 lasted from 2006 until last year, after which it gave up the ghost, it would have lastest longer but I was quite rough with it. During this time it had gone through three of my computers (I do tend to go through computers faster than the normal person). It was supremely comfortable mouse that was great for every day usage as well as gaming.
What this essentially means is that if you get a new computer you do not need to go get all new peripherals and can just reuse what you already have. This means that you can amortize the cost of your peripherals of several computers. (Strange that I use computers as a measurement of time.)
The second, which I find to be even more important, is this is what you use to connect to your computer. I spend a long time on the computer and it doesn’t make sense to not use the best things to interface with your computing devices. I like to think of it as building a supercar and then attaching reins instead of a steering wheel, and a sofa instead of sport seats. It works, but you are definitely holding yourself back and there is also potential of harming yourself. High quality peripherals are usually more ergonomic and for me personally are much more pleasurable to use. If you are going to be spending any large amount of time on the computer then it is really important that you do everything you can to minimize any chance of RSI.*
How pleasurable my peripherals are to use is something that I find really important. A good keyboard, pointing device, display, and speakers/headphones just make me feel happier when using them. This then makes me work better. Having a terrible keyboard or trackpad on a laptop (ie. most Windows laptops) is one of the most frustrating things in the world and can totally ruin the laptop for me. On the other hand, having a nice keyboard with good feedback and an awesome trackpad with working gestures (current Mac laptops) make me work better. When your primary interface to your computer isn’t very good it makes it seem as if the computer is actively fighting against you and just adds to the frustration. Why would you want to add frustration to your life? Is having a more pleasurable experience really worth less than a few extra FPS?
I find that most computer companies do not pay as much attention to these interfaces with their computers. As proof walk into any computer store and see the vast range of computers with terrible displays, horrible keyboards and utterly unusable trackpads. I feel this partially adds to many people’s frustration with regular computing devices. What is interesting to me is that in post-pc devices, many manufacturers are not following the same path as the older PC market. How a device feels in your hand, and the display, the primary interface for most of them, are actually improving rather than degrading as they have been for most of the PC market. I think this adds to the love that most people have with their post-pc devices, that many didn’t have for their older computers. I just hope that this trend continues not just in computing but in other every day things. The one that I would love to see this apply more to would be in in-car entertainment systems, but I’ll save that rant for another day
* Remember to take break every hour and walk around as well as to look away from the screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes!