I very rarely give out unqualified tech advice. When people ask me for recommendations for phones or computers or software, I often hedge. “Sure, it’s got this feature, but do you really need it?” “You could upgrade now, or just wait for the next model.” And so on. But there is one piece of technology advice that I tell everyone I know, and that I will swear by probably until I die.
If you need any type of cable, get it from Monoprice.
Monoprice is a humble website, relatively speaking. It’s not where you go to get the latest and coolest gadgets — your talking speakers or your wearable computers. It’s where you get the things that you plug into the latest and coolest gadgets. They sell things like computer monitors, and Bluetooth speakers, and mounting brackets, and battery packs. But best of all, they sell cheap-as-dirt cables.
By now, you should know that buying cables at any brick-and-mortar store is a scam. If you don’t: Buying cables at a store — especially a big-box electronics store — is a scam. Prices for basic things like HDMI and USB cables are so high they should be illegal. A 12-foot cable at Best Buy like this one currently runs $70. A ten-foot cord at Monoprice costs $4.
Prices at places like Best Buy are so high because 1) many consumers take those prices at face value (it’s just a cable, after all) and 2) people don’t often buy cables in advance — they need them immediately. The person buying a new Lightning cable at RadioShack needs to charge their phone now, and that urgency allows stores to widen the margin on cords and chargers. If you’ve ever bought an auxiliary radio cord at a highway rest stop, you know this principle.
Monoprice is like RadioShack, but on steroids and a hell of a lot cheaper. Most basic cables (which are the only type people that aren’t A/V or IT professionals need — you won’t notice a difference if your cable is or isn’t gold-plated) cost in the single digits. Proprietary connectors like Apple’s Lightning cable are a bit more expensive, but six bucks at Monoprice compared to $20 at the Apple Store makes it a no-brainer.
Are they lower quality than the “premium” cables you’d get from bigger retailers? Sure, but only cosmetically — in ways you notice but that don’t really matter. I’ve never broken a Monoprice cable; I’ve only lost them. Far more important, they work, and they’re cheap and they’re not going to break down anytime soon.I could buy three replacement cables for the price of one big-box-store cable.
Even the absurdly long cables are cheap. Case in point: My parents needed an HDMI cable so that they could connect their laptop to the TV in the living room. I sent my dad a 50-foot cable — which is almost comically long. He called me up after seeing the receipt and asked if I had really paid six dollars for shipping. “No, Dad, that’s how much the actual cord cost.”
Keeping track of cords is annoying, and buying new ones can be expensive. In a sea of iteration and technological change, Monoprice is my rock. (There are competitors as well, such as Amazon’s growing line of Basics.) So long as there are electronics there will be tangles of cables and cords to go along with them, and I know exactly where to get them without getting raked over the coals. It might be cool to have the latest iPhone, but nobody cares how much your USB cable cost.