/ Technology

There’s nothing wrong with buying cheap tech accessories

HDMI cable

Is it a waste of money to buy branded tech accessories over cheaper third-party ones? Yes, probably. There are many lesser-known versions that do just as good a job for half the price.

When you buy a new TV or laptop on the high street, you’ll probably find the staff trying to sell you umpteen accessories for your lovely shiny new gadget. More often than not, these come at a premium – an £85 HDMI cable for example, or security software for an extra £60. It all adds up.

So why shouldn’t you buy the pricey HDMI cable, or that all important paid-for security software? The answer is; you’re probably throwing your money away.

Cheap vs pricey branded cables

Apple, in particular, is known for commanding a high price for its extras. If you own an iPad, iPhone or iPod, then the dedicated USB cable is an essential bit of kit. But if the one you get in the box is lost or damaged, an official replacement will cost you £15. Our scientists looked at lots of third-party USB leads for Apple products, some costing just £2, and though they were of a cheaper build quality, it didn’t affect their function in any way.

We’ve also found that a £10 HDMI cable gives the same picture and sound quality as one of those Monster cables that costs eight times as much. Don’t be fooled by the striking claims on the packaging of the expensive version, the end result will be the same – crystal clear sound and picture. With the money saved from buying a £9.97 Tesco cable instead, you could get yourself a Blu-ray player. Much more entertaining than a pricey cable.

What about that extra security software? Well, naturally you want to make sure you’re safe online, but there are plenty of great free alternatives to choose from, like Microsoft Security Essentials, instead of pricey paid-for anti-virus. Again, the money saved could buy you a Best Buy printer.

Top tips to save dosh on tech accessories

The key is to do your research before you buy. Of course, here at Which? we do most of this for you, but here are some extra tips for saving money on tech accessories:

  • Don’t be tempted to buy accessories at the same time as you’re buying your new gadget – the store may try to upsell you expensive versions.
  • Prices are likely to be cheaper from online retailers. If you can wait a few days for your accessory, you’ll save money buying online.
  • It doesn’t hurt to ask the retailer to throw in the extras, like a lead, battery or case. Independent retailers have a lot more flexibility to haggle than chain stores.
  • Oh, and don’t feel you need to buy branded. If you buy a third-party accessory that claims to be compatible with your product, but turns out not to be, you’re within your rights to ask the seller for your money back or a replacement.
  • You also have rights if an accessory damages your product, which you can read about in our guide to dealing with faulty goods.

Have you got any tips for saving money on accessories? Maybe you’ve got a great bargain by shopping around for ink cartridges, or persuaded a store to chuck in a free pair of 3D glasses?


Apple has unfairly implemented an authentication chip in USB cables for the iPhone 5, making it difficult for third party manufacturers to create their own. The good news is that the Chinese have already managed to crack the technology according to http://9to5mac.com/2012/10/09/third-party-lightning-connector-products-surface-as-manufacturers-report-cracking-apples-authentication-chip/

Pete says:
13 October 2012

I bought the cheapest scart lead I could find online a few years ago and it blew a brand new telly. Two of the pins had been wired up back to front (Pins 18 and 19 IIRC). After a month of trying to fix it the (TV) retailer gave up and replaced the telly. Beware.

We may be entitled to make a claim if a faulty accessory damages a product, but have real people ever been successful in doing this, other than when the items were bought at the same time?

I challenge Which? to tackle well known retailers such as Currys and Amazon. I’m sure that Which? members will be able to offer suitable damaged goods.

John says:
14 October 2012

It’s definitely worth shopping around for items. I needed some original ink cartridges for my printer. I have tried “re-manufactured” ones, but found they don’t last as long!
After looking around online (eBay etc.), I discovered Viking was doing a “Special offer” of them (30% off!)
It doesn’t always pay to get the cheapest, as the quality might not be as good, or reliable.
If you find a good reliable supplier, it’s best to stick with them
I’m not knocking unbranded goods, I do use some myself, but you just need to know the quality of what you are purchasing.

I’ve found buying from a reputable retailer is the best bet – unless the item is easy to “test” with a meter. So for simple passive connectors buy cheap – for complex active connectors buy from a good retailer. Never had a problem with refunds or replacements for defective goods whether “new” or within the guarantee limit. on or off-line – but very few items I buy go wrong for me. I found buying on Ebay tends to be cheaper overall

When I read this I thought that the £10 HDMI cable was going to be an example of an expensive one, not the cheap one. I bought a few 3m HDMI cables off Amazon and they cost around £3 delivered. All work perfectly. Unlike analogue cables, there is little to be gained by buying expensive digital cables – they either work or they don’t and if they don’t you are entitled to your money back.

We’re talking about this on the podfcast – more comments very welcome.

how did the lego man know we were going to do this – he is right. We’re talking about this on the podcast, so get your comments in. What happens to your rights if your non-manufacturer brand ink makes your printer go beserk?

One of my favourite purchases is my HDMI cable that I bought for just 92p (So yes I would agree that £10 is quite expensive). Yes it is quite short (<1m). Yes build quality isn't great, but for something that is rarely plugged and unplugged I doubt I'll have any problems with it in the next few years. Signal is crisp and bright with no detected issues and it has worked with all of my kit so far!

Again, Cheap HDMIs: bought the Asus Transformer pad at PC World, which has a mini HDMI output – thought about getting a cable to connect it to the TV: 1m cable – £25. Fortunately, that’s too short to get comfortably from sofa to TV, AND someone in the checkout queue advised Amazon was far cheaper, so put it back, thinking I’d buy on-line later.

3 day later while in the US, saw and bought a 10ft cable for $10. Does the job far better ( it reaches for a start!), and far cheaper.

I agree that for such short distance digital products (USB, HDMI, Etc) cheap is best. Not too cheap, though, as these may cause issues later, and there is nothing to be gained from a £60 HDMI cable. Mine are of the £3 special 1m kind, except for a 15m one that I run upstairs; that was £50 as I don’t want to have to install it again when I find the line resistance has degraded the digital signal too much!

As for other items:

PC security: I use Norton (brought at half price, never full) as it has value added options and installs on several computers, one of which my other half uses, great peace of mind. However, many Broadband providers offer inclusive products, which are as good, do check first!

Accessories: I recently brought a £15 PSU off e-bay for a Sony laptop as a spare to keep at work. Sold as a V32, but a V26 arrived: same voltage and ampage output, but drew an extra 50W input! No wonder it had a ‘Gets Hot’ sticker on it. Sent it back as not described. Not sure I’ll stretch to the £100 that Sony wants, but not having such a fire hazard around either.

So sometime cheap works (I have a £1 USB to Apple cable that works great) and sometimes they don’t, just make sure you buy from somewhere reputable if there is a problem.


Irish Hound says:
18 October 2012

For good quality and low priced printer inks, cables, batteries etc, etc try 7dayshop.com. I have bought from them for several years with no complaints.

Davy Barrett says:
19 October 2012

Ref ink. My Epson suffered from a nozzle problem. The repair agent blamed the fact that I was using non – Epson ink. In fairness, they replaced the machine, along with inks!

David Maxfield says:
20 October 2012

“With the money saved from a £9.97 Tesco cable, you could buy yourself a Blu-ray player”

Now it is possible that I am completely misreading this, but where can I get a Blu-ray player for less than a tenner?

Davy Barrett says:
22 October 2012

I think, David, the trick is in the “money saved”.
IE, take £9.97 from a highest price to get the money saved!

David Maxfield says:
22 October 2012

Ah, thanks for that Davy. I obviously WAS misreading it. Having reread the paragraph in the light of your comment the meaning becomes clear

It wasn’t terribly clear, so I’ve tweaked it. Thanks

Sean says:
29 October 2012

Could anyone offer advice on connecting TV’s (Samsung SMART TV – has USB and HDMI) to ipod sound docs (such as those in the Nov issue) rather than buying Soundbars etc. Does it work? Does it sound good? It would save a few bob.

Cheers, Sean

Simon says:
26 December 2012

The article referring to powerline adapters was interesting. I don’t subscribe to smart TVs, in fact I still have a beautiful 12 year old Bang and Olufsen 4:3 CRT TV with great sound and picture which pleases me everytime I use it, but your techie failed to mention that you need two power-line adapters at £35 each!, that’s £70, the same price as the slick no wires wifi dongle. I see no money saving there.

Adam Smith says:
27 March 2015

You can buy best iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Multiport USB Charger.