Technology Explained

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

Mihir Patkar 26-02-2016

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 5 Ways to Clean Up Computer Cable Clutter Under Your Desk Cable clutter is one of technology's biggest annoyances. Here's how to organize and arrange the cables under your desk. Read More .


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.



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 The 10 Best Wireless All-in-One Keyboards for Mac and PC Wireless all-in-one keyboards can transform any computer into a home theater system. But which one should you buy? Read More 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 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 , 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.


You Should Go Wireless If…

We’ve covered what you need to know before buying wireless headphones Buying Wireless Headphones? 6 Things You Need to Know Planning on buying wireless headphones? Here's what you need to know about price, form, technical specs, and more. Read More , 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 6 Best Cheap Noise-Canceling Headphones That Are Affordable Here are the best cheap noise-canceling headphones you can buy at a decent price. Perfect for students! Read More .

The biggest drawback, though, is that you need to take care of the cables or those headphones will eventually break Here's Why Your Headphones Keep Breaking (And What You Can Do) How long do your headphones last? If they're breaking too quickly, here's why and what you can do to prolong their lifespan. Read More .


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 How To Install A Wireless Printer On Windows & Workarounds Having problems connecting to your wireless printer or looking for a way to make a cabled printer accessible wirelessly? Use these tips and tricks to achieve wireless printing Zen. Read More .



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 4 Of The Best Printers For Connecting To A Wireless Network Read More .

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 How to Make Your Own Wireless Printer With a Raspberry Pi Want to turn an old printer into a wireless printer for your network? Here's how to make any printer wireless with a Raspberry Pi. Read More  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).


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 Wireless Hard Drives: How They Work & Which Features Matter Wireless hard drives are the future of external storage, but which features and specifications are the most important when shopping for one? Read More . 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 The 8 Best Portable Hard Drives You Can Buy Right Now Read More .


We have now entered the age of wireless charging What You Need to Know About Wireless Charging Until our devices offer week-long battery life, charging on the go will remain a reality for us all. Read More , 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 What Is Wireless Charging & How Exactly Does It Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] We live in a wireless world. Except we don’t. Sure, we can send huge amounts of information across the airwaves, but the devices capable of sending and receiving it are tied down to power cords.... Read More 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.


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.

Which gadgets have you gone wireless with? Are you considering cutting the wire for any of your devices? We want to know your thoughts about which cable clutter bothers you the most and your experience with wireless devices. Share in the comments below!

Image Credits:torn apart wires by Sergey Novikov via Shutterstock

Related topics: Computer Mouse Tips, Hard Drive, Headphones, Keyboard, Printing, Speakers.

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  1. Dimitris
    November 29, 2017 at 8:38 am

    I think if it's possible to connect my pc with its (unique) monitor wirelessly

  2. Dimitris
    November 29, 2017 at 8:35 am

    I'd like to have a pc wireless connection with its monitor ?

  3. Anonymous
    February 27, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Wired is more secure than wireless. (see 2/24/16 MUO Tech News Digest, story about MouseJack)

    • Vincent
      March 11, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      Security is a good point that many of these wired-vs-wireless articles don't mention. Wired is clearly more secure, but some people might think the risk with wireless is so small that it's outweighed by the convenience. It's hard to say, especially since today's secure tech is too often tomorrow's newly discovered massive security hole.

      I use a wired mouse. I tried wireless on my laptop, but was concerned when a device connection notice came up for another nearby wireless mouse at the cafe I was in. I asked the IT guy at work about the notice, and he agreed that it was my laptop picking up on other another wireless mouse. His tone suggested that is was a security trade-off that most people - probably him included - make these days just because wireless is where the market is). Maybe the brush with the other wireless mouse wasn't anything to be concerned about, but I'd rather stick with wired. There are plenty of wired mice with thin, retractable cords, and they don't need batteries or a recharger.