Finance Technology Explained

Stop Buying Cheap: 7 Tech Products Worth Spending More On

Andy Betts 03-12-2015

Every buying decision we make comes down to a choice between price and quality. Sometimes the cheapest product does the job perfectly well, but there are some areas where you should always look to buy quality instead.


This is especially true in the tech world, for a range of products — whether they’re just a few dollars or a few hundred. Here are seven products where you won’t regret pushing your budget as far as it will go.

1. Headphones

If you’ve only ever bought budget headphones How To Make Sure You Buy The Best Headphones For Your Budget How do you determine the "best" pair of headphones then? Here are some things to keep in mind before you commit to a purchase. Read More , or even just stuck with the ones bundled with a smartphone, you may have convinced yourself that they’re good enough. Or that only audiophiles will notice the improvements afforded by a better pair. This isn’t true.

Upgrading from cheap headphones to even a low cost mid-range set, such as the Audio Technica M40x, will completely revolutionize your listening experience. And it’s something everyone can, and will, notice.

Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Studio Monitor Headphone, Black, With Cutting Edge Engineering, 90 Degree Swiveling Earcups, Pro-grade Earpads/Headband, Detachable Cables Included Audio-Technica ATH-M40x Professional Studio Monitor Headphone, Black, With Cutting Edge Engineering, 90 Degree Swiveling Earcups, Pro-grade Earpads/Headband, Detachable Cables Included Buy Now On Amazon $99.00

Quality headphones have a wider frequency range 10 Terms You Should Know to Identify the Best Headphones In this guide we'll cut through the jargon and show you what the key headphone specifications actually mean, and why — or if — they matter. Read More , better bass, and less distortion, and play the music exactly as it was recorded. They help you rediscover your favorite music, and even tracks you’ve heard hundreds of times sound fresh. You hear subtle sounds at the back of the mix that you’ve never heard before, simply because your cheap headphones weren’t able to reproduce them.



All that said, it’s important to note that headphones shouldn’t be judged on price alone! Not all expensive headphones are great.

Also, the differences become less apparent the more you spend. If you already own some good headphones, then a move to great ones will give you less dramatic results. The quality of your audio gear and the format your music is in How Audio Compression Works, and Can You Really Tell the Difference? In this article, we'll take a look at how music compression works, and whether it has any real effect on how your music actually sounds. Read More are likely to hold them back.

2. Batteries

For disposable batteries, the question of branded versus generic is not overly important. Tests have shown that the difference between them is negligible, and even if branded batteries do last longer, the benefit will be cancelled out by the increased cost.



There is a difference, though, between alkaline and lithium batteries. Lithium is better here: they last as much as four times longer, they work in a wider range of temperatures, and are lighter. They cost more, but are worth it in the right device. It would be a waste to put one in your TV remote, but in a high power device you should choose them all the time.

For rechargeable batteries — like what you’d use in a laptop, smartphone, or camera — it’s always worth spending the extra on an official battery and buying it from a reputable source. Third party batteries can be a lot cheaper, but there are many stories of them catching fire. Cheap batteries also might not have the capacity they claim, and there are lots of fakes doing the rounds, too.

3. USB-C Cables

Conventional wisdom states that you shouldn’t ever pay more than the bare minimum for any of your cables. That fancy gold-plated HDMI cable Why You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On An HDMI Cable To get the best out of your HD equipment, be it a nice widescreen television, a Blu-ray player, a PS3, or an HD streaming set-top box, you need at least one HDMI cable. Or more... Read More the salesman tried to get you to take with your new TV? Don’t bother.


Yet there are growing suggestions that you might be better served with a higher quality cable, at least when it comes to USB-C.


Google engineer Benson Leung has taken it upon himself to start testing cheap USB-C cables, and he’s not impressed with what he has found:

You may not just get weird behavior from your devices with these bad cables… What some of these vendors are doing is downright dangerous.

The problem is mostly with USB-A to USB-C cables. Leung says that some third party vendors “blatantly flout the specification”, with the result that they may damage chargers or ports that they’re plugged into.


Until the issue is resolved cheap, no-name USB-C cables are best avoided. For recommendations, you can read Benson Leung’s Amazon reviews [Broken URL Removed], and a helpful Reddit user has compiled the test results into a spreadsheet.

4. Camera Lenses

Photography can be a super expensive hobby 5 Money-Saving Tips You Should Know Before Buying a DSLR Here are some helpful tips for making photography a more financially-manageable activity. Read More . There’s always more gear to buy, and it all comes with the promise that it will make you a better photographer. It’s so addictive and common that there’s even a name for it: Gear Acquisition Syndrome 5 Nuggets of Smartphone Photography Wisdom To Live By When it comes to smartphone photography, we try to cover a bit of everything here at MakeUseOf. Sometimes though, among the sea of apps and accessories, social networks and hashtags, the essence photography can get... Read More , or GAS.

Sadly, we can’t cure your GAS, but you can at least make sure you’re getting the best value for your money. In short, when buying lenses, go for quality rather than quantity.


It’s tempting to try and get as much focal length coverage as you can, especially when investing in a new system. This leads you to buying kit zooms and cheap third-party lenses that often won’t give you results any better than what you’d get from your iPhone A Beginners Guide to Advanced iPhone Camera Features A few weeks ago, we published a Beginners Guide To Using the iPhone Camera, which explains how to use the default features of the camera app, including the how to frame, expose and focus a... Read More .

Of course, an expensive lens won’t make you a better photographer, but it will make you happier with your good shots. You can expect a better lens to be faster, sharper, have less distortion, and be able to resolve more detail. If it’s a choice between several cheap lenses or one quality one, then invest in quality every time.

And lenses are an investment 5 Common Camera Lenses and When to Use Them Wondering what camera lens to use? Here are several common camera lenses, what they're good for, and when you should use them. Read More , too. Camera bodies are replaceable and lose their value quickly, but buy a quality lens today and you’ll be using it for years to come. And if you do finally sell it, you should still get a decent price for it.

5. Keyboards

As a general rule, it’s worth paying a little extra for anything you use a lot. The keyboard is one of the most overlooked parts of your computer, and one of the areas that manufacturers will skimp on to cut costs. If you do a lot of writing or play PC games, then an upgrade to a mechanical keyboard will work wonders.


Most keyboards are membrane keyboards. They use a three-layer plastic membrane across the entire keyboard, acting as a giant pressure pad. The result is a mushy feel when you tap the keys, with little tactile or audible feedback.

On a mechanical keyboard, each key is individually mounted and spring-loaded with its own switch. It gives far greater tactile feedback, and a satisfying click with each keypress.

Mechanical keyboards are more expensive 7 Newbie Tips When Buying a Mechanical Keyboard Thinking of getting a mechanical keyboard? Here's what you should know before you commit to a purchase. Read More because they are a mass of moving parts, but they last longer and give more accuracy and greater speed to all kinds of folks, but especially to gamers 5 Heavy Duty Mechanical Keyboards For The Hardcore Gamer We’ve made quite a song-and-dance about mechanical keyboards here at MakeUseOf, and now that more and more manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon they’re no longer specialised bits of kit reserved for the upper echelons... Read More .

6. Laptops

Computer hardware has long since reached the level where even a system with base specs is good enough for anything a typical user would need it for: the Internet, Facebook, Netflix, even a little photo editing or casual gaming.

So unless you have specific needs, why would you spend extra on a new laptop? For a lot of reasons.


A more expensive laptop will have a better design, lighter weight, thinner body, and will generally be more enjoyable to use. It will likely be made of metal rather than plastic, so will be much more durable. It’ll have a battery that can get you through a working day Get More Runtime From A Single Laptop Battery Charge Does your laptop battery charge not last long? This guide will offer tips on how to get more runtime from a single charge, using simple Windows settings. Read More  instead of dropping dead within three hours. And it will have better components, such as a better keyboard, a higher quality screen, and a fast SSD instead of a slow HDD.

A $350 laptop might do the job, but if you can afford to push your budget a little higher, you’ll find a laptop that can do the job better, and will last longer.

7. Smartphone Storage

Smartphones are expensive, and if you’re set on a particular model, buying the model with the least amount of storage is usually the only way to get it cheaper.


But if that reduced capacity is only 16 GB and there’s no memory card slot for future expansion, then it’s a bad idea. A 16 GB iPhone 6S actually has only around 12 GB of free space, and a 16 GB Nexus 5X only has around 10 GB of free space.

Take a few photos, shoot a few videos, and install a few games, and you’ll be facing the prospect of spending the next two years of your phone’s life deleting stuff Live Photos & 4K: Why You Shouldn’t Buy a 16GB iPhone 6s If you want to take advantage of the new iPhone 6s camera, you'll probably want to avoid picking the 16GB storage option. Read More  just to keep it usable.

Your Best Buys?

So now it’s over to you. What are the tech products where you think it’s worth paying extra for quality? Or do you disagree with any of our picks?

Have you found any absolute bargains that we need to know about? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

Image Credits: Headphones via Jonathan Grado, Batteries via Mike Mozart, USB-C via Maurizio Pesce, Lens via Evan Blaser, Keyboard via makototakeuchi, Laptop via Jan-Willem Reusink, iPhone via Karlis Dambrans

Related topics: Buying Tips, Save Money.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Sandi
    December 7, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    When it comes to laptops, go for something tested and if you want quality, find a mac-book as a good investment. I've been using all the time top brand laptop models (except Apple) and I got fed-up with them. Last technology on the market is usually not driver supported enough, so I always had issues tuning up the laptop to make it work properly (you may have experienced that after 3 months you had to update drivers manually).
    Apple in contrary makes both - hardware and software, nicely tuned together to usually work better than last technology gadget laptops; however, the top gaming laptop may cost you as much as good Mac-pro laptop.
    When I am considering use of laptop, than it is visualization, multitasking, batch processes etc., where usual and also good laptops will start cooling their top ticking processors and for me working mainly in the night, I get easily annoyed with running fans.
    Mac-book works smooth, no much cooling required, nice design, long battery autonomy (9 hours declared), lightweight, crystal clear screen...
    Be sure I don't have any Apple computer yet, but sure enough next one will be MacBook Pro.

    • kailash
      March 24, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      six years before my son,student, bought sony vaio with hd web camera which is still working excellent,even same battery is in good shape; yes definitely costlier than apple laptop. and his friends' laptops of hp/dell got their life complete.

  2. Anonymous
    December 3, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    The only PC laptops I'll look at are Microsoft Surfaces, Lenovo ThinkPads, Asus ultrabooks and, for special people with poor judgment and bad taste, Apple Airs and MBPs. If it's not one of those things, it's probably garbage.

    Begging people not to buy $250 laptops and worse is my Christmastime tradition.

    I'd also like to put forth that IPS monitors aren't all that expensive and make a world of difference, that there's no reason to buy any computer in 2015 that doesn't use an SSD for primary storage and, for PC hobbyists, a cheap power supply is its own punishment.

  3. Tim
    December 3, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    I would put a caveat to saying it's worth spending more on camera lenses. There are some third-party lenses for DSLR's that are almost as good as those from Canon and Nikon. For example, the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 DI VC USD is probably 95% as good as the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens, and is approximately $500 less. That said, it's still a pretty penny, costing you around $1,500. So, in that respect, you're still not "cheating out."

  4. Anonymous
    December 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    The old adage that you get what you pay for is generally true. That said, there are occasions where cheap does the job just fine. For instance, I listen to a lot of spoken word audio, so a $20.00 pair of ear buds is good enough for my needs. I won't go budget on a laptop, however.