Choosing the right laptop or desktop is hard enough (even with our expert help). When you need to add must-have accessories, whether it's a wireless mouse or USB hub, there's a nearly endless ocean of options, and often very little to differentiate one product from another.
Fortunately, Amazon sells a wide range of low-priced PC accessories as part of its AmazonBasics brand, which also covers everything from HDMI cables to batteries to Bluetooth speakers. In the case of PC accessories, most of these AmazonBasics picks are fine for casual use, or if you you want to sample something new without spending a ton.
We picked almost a dozen potentially useful AmazonBasics extras to test out, and here's what we thought of each. We've used the list price, but they may be on sale for more or less.
(Note to UK and Australian readers: Some, if not all, of these products are available on Amazon in the UK and Australia at equivalent prices. Just search for the product name.)
Disclaimer: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured in this guide.
Originally published May 31, 2018.
As basic as a wireless mouse gets. But, I especially liked the soft-touch finish, and that it has a slot in the battery compartment to house the nano receiver when not in use, so you're at least slightly less likely to lose it.
The first thing most PC makers strip from a laptop when trying to shrink it down (or cut costs) is an Ethernet port. Adding one back in requires a dongle like this, or a USB-C model for laptops that lack even a standard USB-A port.
This is the nicest-looking AmazonBasics accessory in this batch. The gray felt sleeve feels like it could come from any of the wide range of upscale laptop case makers, and even the AmazonBasics logo gets a cool treatment in faux leather.
There are a couple of pockets for papers, dongles or USB keys, and only the velcro closure feels a bit on the cheap side. The 13-inch model is a bit big for a MacBook Pro or Dell XPS 13, but just right for a MacBook Air.
Yes, it's an actual mouse pad trend: bigger surfaces for gamers and designers. These roll-up mouse carpets have been spotted from Razer, Dell, HP, Acer and other PC makers. This big pad measures 17 by 15 inches, and a wider 36-by-11-inch version is also available.
About half the price of most other basic nylon laptop bags we've seen. It's not exactly a looker, and it has a big AmazonBasics logo right on the front, but it also has a reasonable number of zippered pockets and a loop for slotting over your rolling suitcase handle.
Getting a premium gaming keyboard from AmazonBasics sounds like it makes about as much sense as buying a lobster roll at 7-11. The price may be right, but you'd better look carefully at what you're giving up. The main issue here is that this is still technically a "membrane" keyboard, rather than a true mechanical one.
Despite the low price, this version has some notable features, including a customizable color backlight, programmable macros and a row of media control buttons.
Full mechanical gaming keyboards from Logitech and others usually cost between $50 and $150. In this case, I felt the actual keys were too small, which made everyday typing difficult (although it was fine for gaming), and you can feel the actual keycaps are lower quality -- and clackier -- than more-expensive gaming keyboards.
I liked the wire routing slots on the back, but a potential dealbreaker is the pair of metal tabs on the front edge that keep the laptop from sliding off. These make it almost impossible to type comfortably. Better laptop stands start at only a few bucks more.
Got a MacBook or MacBook Pro? Or any one of a number of new super-slim laptops from HP, Asus, and others? Then you'll probably need one of these at some point, even if it's just to plug in a USB memory key or the adapter for a non-Bluetooth wireless mouse.
This adapter is USB 3.1, with 5Gbps transfer speed, and it can drive 5 volts of power to external devices. Plenty of other brands make essentially the same dongle, but usually for around $10.
A single USB-C to USB-A dongle will get you through a one-time USB key or mouse dongle emergency, but if you plan on connecting more than one extra at a time on a regular basis, something a little more structured is called for.
This low-cost accessory takes one USB-C port and routes it to four USB-A ports (all USB 3.1) built into a small connection block. Think of it as a hassle-free mini dock for your mouse, printer, external hard drive and more.
CNET editor John Falcone has one these, and he says: "For $20, this durable metal stand is perfectly functional. It's not adjustable, but if you need an attractive way to raise your laptop off your desk, look no further."
Forty bucks sounds a bit steep for an AmazonBasics dongle, but Apple is happy to sell you its version of essentially the same thing for $69.99. USB-C means cleaner laptop designs, but it also means something like this is a must-have, especially if you ever plan on outputting to an external monitor.