For most people, a mouse is just a mouse, but if you are looking for a perfect mouse, you know it is much more than that.
As I have already written in my guide about mechanical keyboards, there is no single product on which everyone will agree: everyone has their own preferences and, today more than ever, there are mouse for all tastes and budgets.
The most important factors when choosing a mouse are:
- Grip, shape and size
- Number and placement of buttons
- Sensor (type, resolution, etc.)
- Type of connection and response times
- Quality of components
- Extra features
- Price (you cannot find a good mouse for less than 30 dollars)
The choice of the kind of grip is absolutely a personal one. There are 3 possible kinds of grip, and they all come with pros and cons. A good part of mouse are suitable for all grips, some are adjustable, while others are meant for only one grip. Put your hand on your mouse and choose wisely the grip that suits you the best.
If you use the mouse with your left hand, make sure that you will be able to do it with the new mouse as well (it is always specified in the characteristics).
It is the most natural and widespread kind of grip. Your hand is resting completely on the mouse. It is the most comfortable grip, and allows an excellent horizontal control (but not vertical). Suitable mainly for FPS games.
Only your fingertips and the lower part of the palm touch the mouse. This grip allows a better vertical control than the palm grip, but it comes with a worse horizontal control. It is suitable primarily for RTS games and other games where you do not need to aim.
Only your fingertips touch the mouse. It is the least comfortable grip, and the one used by grandmas all over the world.
Shape and Size
A mouse that is too small or too big can turn out to be quite uncomfortable if you use it for a long time. It all depends on the kind of grip you like and on the size of your hands.
For a palm grip, a tall, big mouse with an average slope is preferable, whereas for a claw grip it is better to have a smaller mouse with a very curved hump.
Some mouse have concave buttons, thus improving the grip. It is more useful than it sounds.
Number and positioning of buttons
The number of buttons depends both on personal preferences and on the kind of videogames you will be playing. For people who prefer FPSs (shooters), three buttons are enough; if you like RPGs, strategy games or MOBAs instead, the more buttons the better.
The positioning of buttons is all down to personal preference: The “ambidextrous” mouse have buttons on both sides, ergonomic mouse have buttons only on the side on which you rest your thumb.
A lightweight mouse is less tiring for your hand and allows quick movements, but lacks some precision; a heavy mouse, instead, feels more solid and favours precision, but is much more tiring to use and harder to move quickly. Usually people who like heavier mouse like them to be more sensitive to make up for it.
Usually mouse come with a couple of weights you can put inside them to make them heavier if you do not like a lightweight option.
The average weight of a gaming mouse is between 110 and 140 grams.
The sensor is the most important part of your mouse. The most important characteristics are:
- Max Speed
Resolution (DPI or CPI): beware of the scam!
Resolution stands for the number of pixel (dots) covered by the pointer for every inch of movement (which is why it is shortened in DPI – dots per inch – or CPI – counts per inch): a higher the DPI value only boosts sensitivity to small movements (e.g. a mouse with a resolution of 1920 DPI covers horizontally a screen with a resolution of 1920×1080 when you move it by an inch). Do not let yourself be fooled by marketing strategies: resolution has nothing to do with precision.
Sensitivity is a personal preference, but values above 2000 DPI are practically useless.
Usually, the definition of “low senser” applies to people who use low DPI values (below 600 DPI) and “high senser” applies to people who like higher values better (above 1600 DPI). Personally I use a 800 DPI mouse on a 1080p screen.
All gaming mouse have a resolution of at least 1200 DPI.
The mouse software allows you to set your own resolution, varying speed without losing precision.
Do not mistake it with setting mouse speed through Windows, which will make you lose some precision!
Remember, the last thing you need to do when you are looking into buying a new mouse is DPI. Do not let marketing strategies fool you!
Laser or optic sensor?
Since laser mouse came to the market in 2004, the “war” between laser mouse and optical mouse supporters never ended.
Without getting into much detail about their actual functioning, optical mouse can be recognised by the typical red light on the bottom, whereas laser mouse use infrared tech and emit no visible light.
At present, both technologies are absolutely precise: the main difference is that an optical mouse allows higher max speed but, as they get faster, optical mouse lose precision whereas laser mouse do not. Furthermore, laser mouse work on shiny or transparent surfaces as well, and have a higher resolution but, as we have already seen, resolution is only marketing.
Max speed (malfunction speed)
If you are using an optical mouse, try moving it very quickly: you will notice that the pointer will just about go all over the screen. If you try to do the same thing with a laser mouse, instead, the pointer will simply move more slowly than your hand.
Malfunction speed means the speed at which the mouse will stop registering your movements correctly.
Basically all modern mouse have a high max speed – definitively higher than what you will ever need playing a videogame. If you have a high resolution screen (e.g. a 4k monitor), you will notice this kind of limitation more frequently.
Unfortunately manufacturers do not always write down the actual value of this limitation, but they usually provide a max acceleration (normally between 40 and 60 G): if you do not have any kind of more detailed info, the higher the acceleration value is, the better.
If you are “low sensors”, look for mouse with the highest possible malfunction speed.
There are no technical data to measure precision, which means you are going to have to trust reviews, especially user reviews. There are a few things to note, though.
A precise and accurate mouse will move consistently with its resolution, independently from movement direction and speed (as long as it is below max speed).
Practically all mouse above 40€ offer high precision and accuracy; do not forget to deactivate mouse acceleration, though, as it will make you lose a lot of in-game precision, together with increasing input lag.
If there is no acceleration option in your mouse settings, you can deactivate it from control panel > mouse > pointer, unselecting the check mark next to “enhance pointer precision”.
Some mouse – bad laser mouse in particular – have sensors with integrated acceleration: avoid them (read the reviews!).
Finally, make sure that the mouse has no jittering issues or that the pointer does not move even when you are not moving the mouse.
Type of connection and response time: do not go wireless!
Differently from keyboards, using a mouse connected through PS/2 instead of USB makes no difference.
You would be brought to think that the only disadvantage of a wireless mouse is the need to change batteries, but that is not the case at all: wireless mouse have a much higher input lag compared to wired mouse (if you are used to a wired mouse you will notice the difference), and batteries make them heavier and unbalanced. If you are serious about it, go for a wired mouse!
Response time means the time that passes between when you move your hand and when the pointer moves on the screen.
For a wired mouse, unless you use a high frequency screen, the lag is about 17ms (1110/R, where R stands for the screen frequency, usually 60Hz), plus the additional mouse lag, which is about 1000/F, where F stands for polling rate (or refresh rate). the best mouse have a frequency of 1000Hz; higher values do not make a difference.
The default Windows refresh rate is 125Hz for all mouse, which adds a lag of 8ms, so remember to set it higher in your mouse settings!
Scroll and button quality
Unfortunately there is no easy way to evaluate the quality of these components, and you will have to trust user reviews. This is how you can tell god mouse from bad mouse.
A low quality button can get too hard or to easy to press after using it for a while; in the case of low quality buttons, you could have circuit problems (visible with dragging issues and with single clicks mistaken for double clicks and other things like that).
A low quality scroll can be easily recognised when is not very “defined”, or when, if you move it up and down, it does not always register a tick, or registers more than one or, in the worst case scenario, it registers both a tick upward and a tick downward. Another important thing to note is when a two-dimensional scroll almost cannot be moved horizontally without accidentally clicking the scroll button.
Logitech mouse are usually impeccable for what regards this kind of issues, and quite often you can also unlock the scroll to be able to use it more fluidly and quickly.
Before buying a mouse, check what kind of software you are going to have to use to configure it. You need to avoid software which is too complex or eye-catching, as they usually hide bugs and technical issues under the hood.
If you are switching mouse, remember to uninstall any previous software to avoid conflicts!
Integrated profiles, multiple functions for the same button, etc.
Even if these function could sound appealing, you will never use them. Ignore them when you are evaluating a mouse.
Design, extra bright LED, display, etc.
Design is not only a personal preference: avoid mouse with a lot of lights, as they will blind you, and do not buy mouse with customisable displays: all these functions will make the price go up without adding value, on top of being quite kitsch and tacky.
Remember as well that aggressive design is the number one weapon of marketing, and absolutely do not buy sponsored products: you are paying more only to have ads on your mouse.
Steelseries Sensei: why do you need an LCD display under the mouse?
Modern mouse, especially laser mouse, can work on any kind of surface, but that does not mean that every surface is suitable for the mouse. It is important to choose a surface with little friction, and in which the difference between the coefficient of static friction and dynamic friction is not too high, so as to avoid cursor jittering every time you start to move the mouse. In addition, with the right surface, you will increase the precision of your mouse and you will avoid ruining the pins.
To choose a mousepad you have to take into account:
- Materials (stiffness, friction, etc.).
- Price (a good mousepad is not under 20 dollars)
Cheap mousepads -probably you all will have seen them – have the bottom made with some sort of synthetic foam with high static friction that allows it to stand still on the desk, and the top made of thin plastic, flexible, rough to the touch and with little friction. These mousepads are to be avoided.
Quality mousepad always have a bottom part made of rubber, which provides much more grip than the foam mentioned a moment ago. The top varies, tough.
If you do not want to spend too much, mousepads made of fabric have the best value for money. they offer excellent sliding and precision, and they are very thin, but they wear out quickly (even after a year you notice signs of wear).
If you’re willing to spend a little more, then opt for a rigid mousepad: these have the top made of plastic or even metal, provide even less friction than those of fabric and are more durable.
The software of some mouse allows you to scan the surface and, in theory, improve precision. From my personal experience, it makes no difference with regard to precision; in return, maximum speed (malfunction speed) is drastically reduced, thus reducing the precision in rapid movements. Leave the default settings on.
Examples of quality mouse
Probably the best mouse for quality / price ratio.
10,000 DPI Optical Sensor, 8 buttons, USB cable, rather large, 108 of weight (mouse without cable), palm grip, only the right hand.
Another great mouse, but slightly more expensive than the G400.
6400 DPI optical sensor, 5 buttons, USB cable, rather large, 105g of weight, claw grip, only the right hand. Design a bit too bright.
Do not be fooled by the ugly design of these mouse, as there is a reason for it: they are fully adjustable to your grip (as long as you use the right hand). Mad Catz produces mouse with both optical and laser sensors; but be sure to take a wired model!
Another adjustable mouse, but with better design, is the Logitech G9X, in production since back in 2009.
3200 DPI laser sensor, 9 buttons, USB cable, average size, weighing only 90g, adjustable handle, only the right hand.
Honourable mention: Logitech G502
The G502 is one of the best mouse with laser sensor, very robust, balanced, and not too expensive.
If you find the G502 at a good price, do not miss it.