Output Device

Why Trust Techopedia

What is an Output Device?

An output device is a hardware component that translates processed data into a form that can be understood by humans or used by other devices. In this context, output is the final result that users can see, hear, or physically interact with. Outputs can be viewed on a screen, printed, played as audio, or sent to another device.


The purpose of an output device is to allow users to interact with, interpret, and use data that has been generated by or manipulated by a computing device.

The effectiveness and quality of an output device depend on its ability to accurately and efficiently convert and present digital data in a form that meets the user’s needs or the requirements of another device.

Techopedia Explains the Output Device Meaning

Many digital-to-analog output units are named after their peripheral function in the computing process. (For example, printers “print,” and copy machines “copy.”)

This naming convention helps users easily understand the purpose of each type of output device in the broader context of human-computer interaction (HCI).

Following that same pragmatic logic, the word “input” refers to data or signals that are loaded into the computer for processing, while “output” refers to what the computer sends out to peripherals after the data has been processed.

Arguably, any device that can take processed data and present it in a usable form can be referred to as an output device.

How Output Device Works

The exact way a specific output device works will vary depending on the type of output it produces, but the general process works something like this:

  1. The computer sends binary data or computer-readable code to the output device.
  2. The output device converts the digital data it receives into a form that can be understood by humans or used by other devices.
  3. The converted data is then presented to the user or sent to another device.

Wireless Output Devices

Wireless devices use technologies such as near-field communication (NFC), Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, infrared, or proprietary wireless connections to communicate with a computer or network. This eliminates the need for physical cables and allows output devices to be more portable and flexible in terms of where they can be used.

While wireless technology can add to the cost of an output device, the convenience and flexibility often justify the extra expense for many users. Examples of popular wireless output devices include wireless speakers, wireless printers, wireless headphones, and wireless monitors, all of which eliminate the need for physical cables.

Output Devices vs. Input Devices

An important purpose of an input device like a keyboard is to allow users to enter data into a computer for processing.

In contrast, an important purpose of an output device like a monitor is to take the processed data and convert it into a usable form.

The primary difference between an output device and an input device has to do with the direction of data flow. Input devices send in data, whereas output devices send processed data out in a form that can be understood and used.

Types of Output Devices

Output devices are often categorized by their function or by the type of output they provide.

Visual Display DevicesPrintersAudio Output DevicesTactile Output DevicesMultimedia Output DevicesSpecialized Output Devices

Monitors: View textual, graphical, or video content on a liquid crystal display (LCD), light-emitting diode (LED), organic light-emitting diode (OLED), or Plasma display.

Projectors: Project images or videos onto large screens.

Virtual Reality Headsets: View immersive visual and audio output.

Heads-Up Displays (HUD): Display visual information on transparent surfaces.

Augmented Reality (AR) Glasses: View digital content inserted into real world settings.

Holographic Displays: View lifelike three-dimensional images without the need for special glasses.

Medical Imaging Devices: Such as magnetic imaging resonance (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scanners that output images of the inside of the body for diagnostic purposes.

2D Printers: Print documents and images on paper or some other substrate by using inkjet, laser, or thermal printer technologies.

3D Printers: Create three-dimensional objects layer by layer.

Plotter: A type of 2D printer that uses a pen or other marking mechanism to draw images on large-format paper.

Copy Machine: Scans or receives a digital image of a document and then reproduces it as a physical copy.

Speakers: Convert digital audio signals into sound waves.

Headphones and Earphones: Provide users with a personal listening experience from earbuds or headphones.

Sound Cards: Internal computer components that output sound to speakers or headphones.

Braille Display: Converts text into Braille characters for visually impaired users.

Haptic Devices: Provide tactile feedback through vibrations.

Graphics Cards: Render images, videos, and animations for display on monitors.

Video Cards: Specifically designed for outputting video signals to monitors and projectors.

Digital Signage: Electronic signs used to display multimedia content; used for advertising and making announcements.

Examples of Outdated Output Devices

Over the years, many types of output devices have become outdated due to technological advancements and changes in user needs. Here are some examples of output units that may have ended up in a recycling program:

CRT Monitors

Cathode-ray tube monitors were the standard for desktop computers for many years. They have largely been replaced by LCD, LED, and OLED monitors, which offer better picture quality, are more energy-efficient, and take up less space.

Dot Matrix Printers

These printers were popular for their ability to produce carbon copies and for their low printing costs. Today, dot matrix printers have been largely supplanted by inkjet and laser printers, which provide faster, quieter, and higher-quality printing.

Daisy Wheel Printers

Similar to typewriters, these printers were used for high-quality typed outputs. They have been replaced by laser and inkjet printers.

Applications Of Output Devices

Output devices serve a wide range of applications and enhance productivity, communication, entertainment, and accessibility across a large number of industry, public, and private sectors. Here are some notable use cases for output devices:

Education and TrainingProfessional WorkplacesHealthcareEntertainmentAccessibilityArt and DesignRetail and AdvertisingRetail and Advertising
  • Projectors and digital whiteboards are used in classrooms and training sessions for presentations and interactive learning.
  • Printers provide hard copies of educational materials and assignments.

  • Medical imaging devices assist in diagnosis and treatment planning.
  • Braille printers generate tactile materials for visually impaired individuals.
  • Speakers and headphones deliver audio for music, movies, and games.
  • VR headsets virtually transport users into simulated environments.
  • Screen readers and braille printers help visually impaired users by converting text displayed on a screen into audible speech or braille.
  • Haptic feedback devices can enhance the user experience (UI) in gaming.
  • Digitizer tablets and touch displays allow artists to draw directly onto a screen.
  • Plotters are used for large-format architectural plans and engineering drawings.
  • Digital signage displays advertisements, information, and promotions in retail environments, airports, and public spaces.
  • Receipt printers are essential in point-of-sale systems for providing customers with purchase receipts.
  • Home printers enable users to print photos, documents, tickets, and other paper outputs.
  • Gaming monitors and soundbars can enhance the gaming experience with high-quality visuals and sound.

      Pros and Cons of Output Devices

      Output devices play an important role in human-computer interactions, so it’s not surprising that many output devices are designed to be modular and function as peripheral devices.


      • Modular design allows for customization and flexibility in computing environments
      • Users can upgrade or replace output devices without replacing the entire computer or game console
      • Peripheral devices cater to diverse needs, such as high-resolution monitors for designers and immersive haptic devices for gamers


      • Limited space can create logistical issues when setting up multiple output devices
      • Cable management can be complex and restrict device placement flexibility
      • Additional power sources or adapters may be required for multiple peripherals
      • Disposal of old output devices poses environmental challenges, requiring responsible recycling programs

      The Bottom Line

      The bottom line when it comes to output device meaning is that this type of built-in display or peripheral device bridges the gap between data and useful information.

      Moreover, the output device definition continues to push the boundaries of innovation in order to continually provide better quality outputs and user experiences.


      What is output device meaning in short terms?

      Why do we need output devices?

      What are the 5 input and output devices?

      What are the output devices of my computer?


      Related Questions

      Related Terms

      Margaret Rouse

      Margaret jest nagradzaną technical writerką, nauczycielką i wykładowczynią. Jest znana z tego, że potrafi w prostych słowach pzybliżyć złożone pojęcia techniczne słuchaczom ze świata biznesu. Od dwudziestu lat jej definicje pojęć z dziedziny IT są publikowane przez Que w encyklopedii terminów technologicznych, a także cytowane w artykułach ukazujących się w New York Times, w magazynie Time, USA Today, ZDNet, a także w magazynach PC i Discovery. Margaret dołączyła do zespołu Techopedii w roku 2011. Margaret lubi pomagać znaleźć wspólny język specjalistom ze świata biznesu i IT. W swojej pracy, jak sama mówi, buduje mosty między tymi dwiema domenami, w ten…