What To Look For In A Gaming Mouse

In the market for a good gaming mouse, but not sure what features or specifications to look for?

This article is intended to be a straightforward guide to help you know what to look for in a gaming mouse.

We’ll cover how to use your personal play-style to determine what kind of mouse will suit you best, and also break down all the confusing jargon that you might see in the industry.

 

What Makes A ‘Good’ Gaming Mouse?

“Good” is a subjective term, it’s important to realize that a good mouse is one that works well with your personal playing style, and most importantly, feels comfortable to use. What works well for one person may not work for another.

To summarize, a good mouse will bring out your best gameplay and should help you to achieve your best gaming performance.

Here’s how to find a good mouse for you:

Step 1: Determine Your Grip Style

Why it matters: The type of mouse grip you use will determine the shape and weight of mouse that you find most comfortable.

What mouse grip do you use?

There are 3 types of mouse grip that people use: the palm grip, the claw grip, or the fingertip grip.

The three main types of mouse grip. Image Source: Gaming-mouse.org

Palm or claw grip folks generally tend to prefer a heavier, larger mouse. Those who use a fingertip grip are often more comfortable with a lightweight, smaller mouse.

Palm Claw Fingertip
Used For Accurate/precise glide control Rapid gliding and clicking Extremely rapid/agile gliding
Examples Sniping RTS RTS, FPS
Pros Comfortable/Relaxed Stabilized position during rapid clicking Extremely agile gliding
Cons Not as agile Not as comfortable Not as suited to accurate, slow gliding

Step 2: Determine Your Play Style

What type of games do you play?

Why it matters: The type of games you play will determine what kind of features you place importance on in a mouse, and which parameters you are not willing to compromise on (e.g. additional mouse buttons, glide quality, click feel. Mouse jitter matters a lot in FPS, but not so much in MMO).

Different types of games have very different mousing requirements. For example, FPS will require a very accurate and quick tracking. RTS (and FPS) can be heavily dependent on clickspeed. MMOs or RTS gamers may require additional buttons that can be assigned to macros and alternative functions.

 

How do you usually move your mouse around?

Why it matters: The way which you move your mouse determines the importance of features such as DPI, lift-off distance (LOD), and may determine which type of sensor you opt for.

During gameplay, do you find yourself making long sweeping motions with your mouse, or light, small motions? How often do you lift your mouse?

Try to class yourself as a high sensitivity, medium sensitivity or low sensitivity gamer. This style may affect your choice of mouse (though most gaming mice available these days are usually able to be adjusted to suit any style). The DPI recommendations are just a loose guideline, and keep in mind that the implemented DPI can be affected by the scaling in Windows software (mouse sensitivity settings).

Low sensitivity:

Control speed can average around 2m/s (79″/s) and may even reach up to around 4.5m/s (177″/s)

These players tend to use large sweeping motions across large distances by using the entire arm to move the mouse, allowing them to reach very high speeds.

Recommended DPI range:  400- 800DPI

High sensitivity:

Control speed can average around 0.3m/s (12″/s) and top speed around 0.6m/s (24″/s)

High sensitivity players usually use their hand and wrist to make most of their mouse motions instead of moving their whole arm. This results in much less distance traveled and slower mouse speeds overall.

Recommended DPI range: 1000+

Medium sensitivity:

Control speed can average around 1m/s (40″/s) and top speed around 2.5m/s (98″/s)

Many people use a combination of both arm and wrist/hand control, and so fall somewhere between the two extremes – these are classed as medium sensitivity players.

Recommended DPI range: 400-1000DPI

 

Step 3: Pick A Mouse

When it comes to a mouse, technical specifications are not everything. Our philosophy for choosing a good gaming mouse is to:

  • Shortlist a few well-known/respected brands
  • Check out their available mouse products
  • Pick a mouse that looks and feels comfortable, and has any extra buttons/functionality that you need
  • Verify technical specs will suit your needs

Remember, all technical specifications aside, one of the main features of a mouse is how it feels in your hand. The construction of it is a huge determining factor in how comfortable you will feel using your mouse.

If you have found a mouse that is a reputable brand, comfortable, and has all the extra buttons that you want, it is highly likely that technical specifications like DPI, tracking speed, polling intervals and the like are already going to be suitable for your needs (especially if you are looking at ‘gaming’ mouse products to begin with).

Choose the mouse based on feel first, then look at technical specs and other features as a quick sanity check and verification.

Reputable Manufacturer Brands For Gaming Mice

  • Razer
  • Logitech
  • Cooler Master
  • Zowie
  • Corsair
  • Mionix
  • Thermaltake
  • SteelSeries
  • Saitek
  • Roccat
  • Genius
  • Microsoft

Here are some things regarding mouse construction/design that you will want to consider when picking a mouse:

  • Shape/Ergonomic feel – Choose this based on your grip style.
  • Mouse Size – Choose this based on your grip style.
  • Mouse Weight and weight distribution – Choose this based on your grip style and how you like to move the mouse around. Some mice have removable weight plates so you can adjust the mouse to your preferred weight.

As a rough guideline, here are some generalized recommendations based on grip type that most people tend to prefer:

Palm Claw Fingertip
Mouse Shape High arch, may have thumb indent Medium arch Flat arch
Mouse Size Medium to large. Wide and long Medium. Shorter length Small. Very short
Mouse Weight Heavier Medium to light Very light
Common Mice Razer DeathAdder

Mionix Naos 7000

Logitech G500s

Logitech G700s

Zowie ZA

Zowie EC

 

Logitech G502 Proteus Core
Razer Abyssus

CM Storm Spawn

Mad Catz R.A.T.9

Zowie FK

Razer DeathAdder

CM Storm Spawn
Logitech G502 Proteus Core
SteelSeries Rival

Logitech G303

Razer Orochi

Razer Taipan

  • Materials it is made from – Plastic versus metal, smooth or glossy textures versus rough. Some mice can get undesirably slippery with sweaty hands.
  • Glide quality – Choose this based on how you like to move the mouse around. How much friction do you prefer? The bottom surface or feet of the mouse will determine how much drag there is when you move your mouse around. This quality is specified as a coefficient of friction (the lower the number, the more frictionless it will be). The surface or mousepad you use will also play a role here.
  • Extra buttons – Choose this based on the type of games you like to play or if you need extra buttons during gameplay. Pay attention to their positioning – you don’t want to be clicking buttons without meaning to due to their poor placement.
  • Type of wheel encoder (scroll button) – Choose this based on the functionality that you desire around the scroll wheel. Some have ratchet stops or can freewheel, or horizontal and vertical motions.
  • Stiffness of buttons – Choose this based on how intensive your clicking is during gameplay. Some may prefer a more rigid/tactile button feel.
  • Wireless or Cabled – A wireless mouse can be less reliable and may add lag, as the input signal needs to be broadcast over wireless. Wired mice seem to be more popular for gaming purists, but there are also hybrid options available.
  • Lights/overall look – These are purely aesthetic, but may be an important selection criteria for some people.

Step 4: Verifying Technical Performance

Once you’ve selected a prospective mouse that you think you like the look and feel of, it’s time to verify its technical specifications to ensure it will perform to your needs.

As previously stated, it’s rare that you will run into any problems at this stage. Most gaming mice are well and truly over-specced, and can generally handle all types of gameplay. But, if you still want to do your own research, it’s time to find out what all of those technical terms mean.

Understanding Mouse Specifications

Below is a list of mouse specifications often considered to be important to the gamer when selecting a mouse. We break down what these mean.

It’s also important to understand if these features are software or hardware controlled. If controlled by configurable software, you can customize, but if they are features of the hardware or firmware on the mouse, you may find that you are stuck with those settings.

Technical Mouse Specifications Gamers Should Consider

  1. Sensor type (laser or optical)
  2. DPI – determined by your sensitivity and screen resolution
  3. Sensor position (usually preferred to be centered, so as not to exaggerate movements based on how you may move your mouse)
  4. Maximum tracking speed (AKA perfect control speed)
  5. Any settings the mouse has, and if they can be configured/turned off (angle snapping, LOD)
  6. If the mouse has any known flaws (jitter, acceleration, etc.)

Sensor Type   (Hardware)

There are two different classes of sensors – laser and optical. Information in this area is a little confusing; both types have their pros and cons, and selection seems to come down to personal preference.

Laser type sensors have a high accuracy when it comes to tracking, but need to be used with smooth hard surfaces. They can issues with their lift off distance that may affect mouse tracking for some users.

Optical type sensors seem to be more forgiving when it comes to type of surface used, and also track reliably enough for gaming purposes.

In short: sensor type comes down to user preference, though non-laser mice seem to be preferred in the industry as they are more suited to general use and have good performance on many surfaces.

 

Dots Per Inch (DPI)  (Hardware)

Also known as: resolution      Related: Counts per inch (CPI), sensitivity

DPI relates the number of pixels your screen cursor will move per inch of movement of the mouse itself. Therefore the screen size you use will affect the DPI you are after – those with a large screen will more likely need a higher DPI mouse. A higher DPI will result in a larger mouse movement on the screen per inch of movement of the mouse.

“The higher the better” is not true for DPI. It is more a matter of matching DPI to your particular user style, the game you are playing, and your screen size. Your sensitivity style (high, medium or low) will largely determine what DPI range you will feel most comfortable using.

Mouse ‘sensitivity’ is also used to describe DPI, but there is a small difference. DPI refers to the mouse hardware and capability of the sensor in the mouse. Whereas sensitivity is a software-adjusted setting. Adjusting mouse sensitivity this way can give you the same effect as a having a different DPI mouse, which is why some people use the terms interchangeably.

High sensitivity users (who prefer to move the mouse a small distance to cover the whole screen) will prefer a high DPI.
Low sensitivity users (move the mouse in long, sweeping motions) will prefer a lower DPI. This also depends on your screen size.

Low and medium sensitivity users may also want to consider maximum tracking speed (inches per second).

Some mice have an adjustable DPI setting in software or via extra buttons which can allow you to adjust DPI on the fly. This may suit some advanced gamers who find they prefer a different sensitivity setting in different gameplay situations.

Higher numbers will mean your mouse is capable of higher maximum tracking speeds, but too high a DPI can make your mouse intolerable to use as it will appear to be way too sensitive.

 

Counts Per Inch (CPI) (Hardware)

 Related: Dots per inch (DPI), sensitivity

Counts per inch are a more accurate description of mouse hardware than DPI. CPI refers to the physical resolution of the camera used in the mouse sensor and represents the sampling rate per inch. The CPI represents how many pixels can be imaged by the sensor over 1 inch of distance.

The difference between DPI and CPI is embedded into the software algorithms of the mouse itself. The CPI can be converted to a DPI by further splitting pixel sizes using software algorithms. Therefore DPI will always be greater than or equal to CPI, and is often in multiples of 4. Unfortunately this software splitting can result in extra noise, so an insanely high DPI is not necessarily always better.

 

Sensitivity (Software)

Mouse sensitivity refers to a software adjustment factor. Adjusting the mouse sensitivity in your operating system basically scales the number of counts registered by the mouse and translates the counts registered by the mouse into a number of pixels moved on-screen.

For a 1:1 ratio of mouse counts/dots to on-screen pixels, select a Windows sensitivity setting of 6/11.

Mouse sensitivity

 

 

Maximum Tracking Speed (Hardware)

Also known as: perfect control speed, inches per second 

Maximum tracking speed is the fastest speed that the mouse can move across a surface and still track its position correctly without flaws. It is related to the DPI of the mouse; a low DPI will result in a lower maximum tracking speed.

You will want to check that the maximum tracking speed of your mouse exceeds your expected maximum operating speeds (particularly important for low sensitivity players).

Poll rate (Hardware/Software)

Also known as: responsiveness

The poll rate of your mouse is basically how often it reports its position to your computer. It is measured in Hertz, so for example a polling rate of 500Hz means the mouse is being polled 500 times per second, or every 2 miliseconds.

Higher polling rates are claimed to be more accurate, but in reality the 1-8 milliseconds difference is negligible compared to your human response times and internet latency (which can both be in the hundreds of milliseconds range).

Too high a polling rate can actually slow down your computer unnecessarily because your processor is constantly updating the cursor position of the mouse, so it’s good to seek out a happy medium.

In general, a higher polling rate is required when you have a higher DPI. If not polled often enough, the larger number of counts reported by your mouse could possibly be missed which can cause an undesirable cap in the maximum tracking speed.

 

Prediction (Hardware/Software)

Also known as: Angle snapping, correction, drift control

Prediction or angle snapping is designed to increase the stability of your cursor on the screen, but it’s a feature that many gamers don’t like because it can interfere with things like precision aiming.

It basically works by ‘snapping’ your user input to a particular angle within tolerances, as seen in this example:

Angle snapping on mouseUsually if a mouse has this feature it can be turned on or off in software, but it pays to check as there are some mice which seem to have a hardware implemented prediction.

 

Acceleration (Hardware/Software)

Also known as: pointer ballistics

This describes the characteristic where your cursor may move a larger distance depending on how quickly you are moving the mouse. It is usually configurable in software, and user preference to have acceleration varies greatly between individuals.

For example, if you move the mouse at a rate of 5 inches in 1 second, it might move your cursor 2000 pixels. If you make the same movement but in half the time (5 inches in 0.5 seconds), it may move your cursor 3000 pixels.

Maximum acceleration is also a specification on many gaming mice and refers to the physical acceleration that the mouse can withstand. Often quoted in “G”s, which is a multiple of the earth’s gravitational pull. It is pretty much physically impossible to exert more than around 8Gs of acceleration when using a mouse, and many specs often exceed this greatly.

Lift Off Distance (LOD)  (Hardware/Software)

Also known as: lift distance

Lift distance refers to the distance which you need to lift your mouse from a surface for it to stop reading. A large LOD can result in nuisance cursor tracking when you are trying to reposition your mouse.

Laser type sensors seem to suffer from this issue more than optical/infrared-type mouse sensors. Some mouse have a configurable LOD. Another popular DIY ‘fix’ is to apply tape to half of the sensor to make it less sensitive to LOD issues.

 

Flaws

Flaws occur any time the mouse cursor does not track on the screen true to the user input. Flaws that compromise mouse accuracy can include jittering, stuttering, skipping, drifting, etc. Unpredictable acceleration or prediction may also be classed as flaws, as the mouse is not behaving as it is expected to.

 

Other features to consider

Additional features like user profile saving (where your settings are saved on the mouse itself) may be desirable to some gamers.

The mouse configuration software package should also be considered, as well as warranty information and customer support.

 

To Summarize

User comfort is one of the most important aspects when choosing a gaming mouse. Most products available will have suitable technical specifications to suit your needs, so we recommend to choose a mouse based on its construction and feel first.

Gamers will want to also consider additional features such as software, number of buttons, responsiveness and sensitivity. In most cases for mice, it does come down to a case of ‘try it and see how it feels’.

 

 

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