Output Devices

Ross Jukes
Last updated: May 20, 2024
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In a world where technology is always changing, output devices are integral in turning digital data into something tangible. These devices play as the middleman between intangible bits and bytes and visual displays, printed documents, audio playback and all other human-interactable outputs. Output devices are essential for users to understand, analyze and make use of processed data that computers produce.

This article is an all-you-need-to-know on output devices. We’ll be discussing their purpose, functionality, different types available and how they work. We will also cover these topics: Applications across sectors and the pros/cons of their use. Once you’re done here, you’ll have a deep understanding of output devices’ significance in human-computer interaction and their role in our everyday lives.

What is an Output Device?

An output device is any hardware component that takes processed data from a computer or another digital device and then converts it into a form that can be perceived or used by humans or other devices. Its main purpose is to allow users to see the final result of data processing in a manner they understand. This can be visually through displays, physically by printing them onto paper or even audibly through sound play.

These different components are designed to translate digital data into usable signals efficiently so users can interpret them properly. For this to be effective though, there needs to be some way for users to provide feedback about how effective it actually was.

When someone refers to input/output in computing we know what they mean because both terms represent sending/receiving signals between hardware components. With the term ‘output device,’ peripheral functions are named making it easier for users without technical knowledge to grasp its purpose. For example, printers “print” processed data onto paper while copy machines “copy” documents.

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To really get what an output device does we need to look at its name from a computing perspective. A device that produces usable information from processed data can be considered an output device.

How Output Devices Work

The way an output device works changes depending on the type of output it creates, but all follow a similar pattern. First, the computer sends binary data or computer instructions to the output device. Then, this data is turned into something that humans can understand or other devices can use by the output device. Finally, the properly converted data is presented to users or sent for further processing.

Let’s go over each step in more detail:

Data Transmission: The computer processes the data and sends it as binary code or digital instructions to the output device. This information is sent through various channels like cables and wireless connections.

Data Conversion: Once it receives this digital info, the output device starts turning it into a more usable form. The conversion process changes depending on what kind of device you’re using. For instance, a monitor turns binary data into pixels on a screen while a printer translates this info into ink dots on paper.

Output Presentation: After being converted, the newly processed data will be presented to you or another user/device. Screens put out visual information, printers create physical documents from digital files, speakers play audio output through sound waves and so on.

Each type of output device uses different mechanisms and technologies that depend on its purpose and how it presents info/output. However, they all have one thing in common: They receive digital info from computers, convert it and present/process it in some way.

Wireless Output Devices

In recent times there has been a rise in wireless devices due to their convenience and flexibility. These don’t require any physical cables which means they are much easier to move around with/on your person as well as use. They function through different programs/protocols such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or infrared technology.

The existence of these devices has changed how we interact with technology for good reason — making them more accessible while also giving us greater freedom in terms of placement/setup options (among other things). Wireless speakers let you listen to music or any other audio without being tied down by cables. You can print things from your phone with a wireless printer rather than connecting through USB. And a wireless monitor lets you be way more flexible with where you set it up.

While they do add to the cost, most people believe that the convenience and freedom they provide are worth it. It’s just nice not to have to worry about what’s connected to what! So, in that sense, these devices have greatly heightened our experience with modern technology and opened up new possibilities.

Output Devices vs. Input Devices

There’s a big difference between the two when it comes to human-computer interaction. Output devices present processed data while input devices allow for data entry.

Input devices are the tools we use to communicate with our computers and give instructions or input information. Keyboards and touchscreens are both types of input devices, as well as mice and scanners.

Contrarily, output devices take data that has been processed by the computer and convert it into a form that can be used by humans. This allows us to interpret the computer’s work and activate any results that need activation.

The key distinction between an input device and an output device is the direction of data flow. Input comes in, output goes out. This difference is crucial when recognizing how each type interacts with a human-computer process.

Different types of outputs act in different ways. Some appear visually to provide an image or graphics, while others make sound or even physically print off what you need right then and there.

Output Devices That Use Visual Display

Visual display outputs let users see what’s on their screens or interact with digital content using images. The following are some examples:

Monitors: These show all visual output from a computer screen through liquid crystal displays (LCD), light-emitting diodes (LED), organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), or plasma.

Projectors: Display images onto large surfaces such as walls for presentations, movies, shows, etc.

Virtual Reality Headsets (VR Headsets): VR headsets immerse users in virtual worlds by providing them with 360-degree visuals while providing headphones to further block out reality around them.

Heads-Up Displays (HUD): HUDs give users information while still looking straight ahead at something else — like how fighter pilots receive feedback after locking onto enemies without having to look down at their instruments.

Augmented Reality Glasses (AR Glasses): AR glasses overlay digital objects over physical reality so that you can see two things at once! They work especially well when navigating around big cities in foreign lands where street signs may not match up closely enough for your brain to handle alone.

Holographic Displays: 3D holograms projected in space that don’t require special glasses to see.


Printers are one of the most familiar types of output devices, they make physical hard copies of documents and images. These are some popular printers:

Inkjet Printers: Liquid ink is sprayed onto paper, usually used for home or small business printing needs.

Laser Printers: Toner, a fine powder, is heated up and pressed into the paper to produce sharp images quickly. It’s often used in large offices with high-volume printing needs.

3D Printers: A 3-Dimensional printer creates an object layer by layer based on a digital model. Perfect for rapid prototyping and manufacturing.

Audio Output Devices

This kind of device converts audio signals into sound so that you can hear them. Some examples include headphones or speakers.

Speakers: Speakers are the most widespread output devices in audio. They change electrical signals to sound waves so users can hear music or movies from computers, smartphones, and other devices.

Headphones: Unlike speakers, headphones are personal audio devices that deliver sound directly into the user’s ears. They give an intimate listening experience for music, videos, and video calls.

Earbuds: These small ear-huggers provide the same crisp sound just like their bulky siblings. The only difference is they come in a bite-sized package and fit snugly within your ear canal. Now you can carry around portable audio wherever you go!

Tactile Output Devices

The following output devices help those who need touch feedback while using digital content. Not all users can see or hear computer screens which is why these devices work wonders for them. Some examples include:

Haptic Feedback Devices: With gaming controllers and cell phones as prime examples, haptic feedback provides touch vibrations to engage the user further while playing games or texting.

Braille Displays: Visually impaired users benefit from Braille displays. These displays convert digital text into raised dots. Allowing them to read content as if it was written on paper.

Multimedia Output Devices

Multimedia output devices strive to provide the richest experience possible by combining multiple types of output such as visual and audio cues. Users become more engaged when they have more than one stimulus being presented at once. Some examples include:

Digital Signage: We’ve all seen digital signs before, whether it be inside a retail store or out in public spaces. Digital signs present dynamic content such as advertisements and information via electronic billboards.

Interactive Whiteboards: Interactive whiteboards combine traditional whiteboard writing with digital interactivity and touch/stylus input to write, draw, etc.

Specialized Output Devices

Every industry has its own specific needs. With that being said, it’s only right that specialized output devices cater to those needs. Some examples include:

Medical Imaging Devices: Doctors use imaging devices such as MRI and CT scanners to see detailed images inside of a human body. These images aid them in the diagnostic and treatment process.

Plotters: Used primarily in engineering, architecture, and graphic design, plotters print large format drawings for blueprints or visual representations.

Examples of Outdated Output Devices

With every new technology comes outdated equipment. Here are some classic output devices that just can’t keep up with today’s standards:

CRT Monitors: CRT monitors used to be the go-to for desktop computers. However, They have been replaced by LCD, LED, and OLED monitors which offer better picture quality and energy efficiency.

Dot Matrix Printers: Dot matrix printers are famous for their ability to make carbon copies while also being cost-effective. However, Inkjet and laser printers do everything dot matrix printers can do but faster and better.

Daisy Wheel Printers: Similar to typewriters, daisy wheel printers were top-notch back in the day when it came to high-quality text output. But now you can find similar if not better quality with modern laser and inkjet printers.

Applications of Output Devices

Put simply, these devices enhance everyday life experiences like productivity at work or entertainment on your couch. Some common uses include:

Education & Training: Schools use projectors and interactive whiteboards to create engaging presentations for students while teachers write notes on the board.

Professional Workplaces: A computer’s guts are important, but output devices allow us to fully interact with the digital world. Most people have printers in their offices, as well as monitors to view and share documents. Large format displays are often used for conferences or large meetings.

Healthcare: Medical imaging devices like MRI scanners help doctors visualize what’s wrong with a patient. They can be used in diagnosing illnesses and coming up with treatment plans. It’s common for healthcare professionals to use printers to generate prescriptions and medical records too.

Entertainment: High-resolution sound systems and VR headsets make binge-watching your favorite show feel even better. Do you remember that concert you went to? Those giant screens made you feel like you were right on stage, didn’t they?

Accessibility: For visually impaired individuals, Braille displays are crucial in getting into the digital world we all enjoy so much. Haptic feedback devices are important for people who can’t move with full control of their body.

Art and Design: Graphic designers need high-quality printers to ensure that the colors on their screen come out properly on paper. In general, these fields require pricey equipment so there’s no shortage of specialized tools.

Retail and Advertising: Retail stores often have large interactive displays set up around the store to engage customers while they shop. Additionally, salespeople will print posters or banners on high gloss paper to promote products.

As technology advances, people will likely continue finding new ways to take advantage of output devices. They’re practical in many different circumstances.

Pros and Cons


Customization and Flexibility — Output devices give users a sense of control over their computers by allowing them to tinker with certain components without changing everything else.

Enhanced User Experience — The different types of feedback a user gets from an output device make using computers more enjoyable overall.

Accessibility — Output devices help people who cannot see or hear very well access digital content as effectively as anyone else can.

Specialized Functionality — Some output devices are built with specific industries in mind. Medical imaging, for example, only exists because healthcare professionals need to diagnose patients.


Cost — High-quality output devices can often be pretty pricey. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for people to settle with a cheaper model that doesn’t work quite as well.

Space Requirements — Setting up multiple components can get cluttered and difficult to manage. Users should try to arrange their workspace so they don’t run into any problems later on.

Compatibility Catch — Each computing system or software application doesn’t connect with all output devices. Printers, speakers, and monitors might not work if you have the wrong one for your computer. Make sure your device matches up to avoid any compatibility issues and save yourself from frustration.

Maintenance and Upgrades —  All output devices require standard maintenance like cleaning, calibration, and software updates for best performance. However, once it starts to age out of those features, users need to upgrade to keep the full capabilities of their output devices. But that comes at a cost and can be time-consuming.

Environmental Impact — As technology advances, so does our waste. The production, use and disposal of these electronic devices are causing major environmental concerns. Properly recycling these is critical to mitigate negative impacts.

Although the pros overwhelmingly outweigh the cons when it comes to output devices, everyone’s situation is different. Users need to be careful in what they choose to purchase considering their specific needs, budget and environmental impact.


What is an output device in simple terms?

Any hardware component that takes processed data from a computer and presents it to the user in a form they can understand is an output device.

Why are output devices important?

Without output devices, we aren’t able to view things on screens or hear sounds through speakers. They’re essential for making use of digital activities.

What are some common examples of output devices?

Monitors, printers headphones fall under this category along with projectors, plotters and haptic feedback devices.

How do I know which output devices are connected to my computer?

Accessing the device manager or system settings will show you what’s connected — look for categories like “Display adapters” or “Audio inputs”. Physically inspecting ports works too.

Can I use multiple output devices simultaneously?

Yes. Most computers allow this. You can connect multiple monitors for extended screen views, use speakers and print at the same time, or even use a VR headset alongside haptic feedback devices.

What factors should I consider when choosing an output device?

Budget, compatibility with your existing setup, and any additional features that may enhance user experience need to be considered.

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Ross Jukes
Ross Jukes
Ross Jukes is an accomplished American copywriter with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing. Based in the United States, Ross is a language expert, fluent in English and specializes in creating compelling and engaging content. With years of experience in the industry, he has honed his skills in various forms of writing, including advertising, marketing, and web content. Ross's creativity and keen eye for detail have made him a valuable asset in the field of copywriting, where he continues to excel and innovate.

Why Trust Us

Our editorial policy emphasizes accuracy, relevance, and impartiality, with content crafted by experts and rigorously reviewed by seasoned editors for top-notch reporting and publishing standards.

Purchases via our affiliate links may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you, and by using this site, you agree to our terms and privacy policy.

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