Choosing the right gaming mouse from the many available in the market can be difficult, especially if you are new to pc gaming.
Whether you are looking to play FPS, MOBA, or MMO games, the right gaming mouse can help you improve your aim and move or turn characters with ease. Other in-game actions such as adjusting camera angles and switching weapons are also easy to do with a mouse.
Gaming laptop owners can also benefit from buying a gaming mouse as it is more precise and comfortable to use compared to touchpads.
In this guide, we’ll look at some of the most important factors you should consider when buying a gaming mouse so that you can pick the right one.
Here are some of the things you should keep in mind when buying a gaming mouse:
Games You Intend To Play: Play Styles
When choosing a gaming mouse, taking into consideration the genre of games you want to play is important. Every game genre has different focus and requirements, some focus more on accuracy and precision while others on fast movement.
For First Person Shooter (FPS) games, such as Call of Duty and Doom Eternal, the precision of the mouse matters more than having lots of programmable side buttons. For such games, you want a mouse that’s reliable, precise, and consistent.
On the other hand, if you’ll be playing Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games such as DOTA or Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games such as World of Warcraft, having lots of programmable buttons can definitely make a huge difference.
Programmable side buttons allow you to quickly access important features and skills in games. For example, when playing a Role Playing Game (RPG) such as The Elder Scrolls, side buttons can be configured to impose spells so you don’t have to master complex hotkeys.
Type Of Sensor: Laser vs Optical
When it comes to mouse sensors, gaming mice come with either optical or laser sensors. The main difference is that a laser mouse, as the name suggests, uses a laser beam to illuminate a surface, while an optical mouse uses an infrared LED.
Each type of sensor has its own advantages and disadvantages. In most gaming mice you will find optical sensors.
Optical mice are preferred over laser mice because they are cheaper and are less susceptible to jitter which can throw off your aim. Also, most gamers prefer to game at a lower DPI, making the extremely high DPI offered by laser sensors unnecessary.
A major advantage that laser mice have over optical mice is that they can be used on any surface, including glossy or reflective surfaces such as glass. This makes them a much better portable solution if you travel a lot.
Optical mice can only be used on opaque, flat, non-reflective surfaces, such as mouse pads and wooden desks.
Technically, laser mice are more accurate than optical mice. However, they can be slightly inaccurate during slower more defined mouse movements, resulting in jitter and inconsistency. This is because they tend to overanalyze the surface they are placed on, making them less than ideal for gaming.
With that said, currently, the gap between optical and laser gaming mice is not that significant in terms of both price and accuracy.
Below are some terms you may come across when talking about mouse sensors:
- DPI– a mouse with adjustable DPI is preferable for gaming
- Jitter– jitter, or mouse stuttering, is usually a flaw and is bad for gaming
- Polling rate– get a mouse with a polling rate of at least 500Hz
- Lift-off distance– LOD should be as low as possible
- Acceleration– mouse acceleration should be turned off while gaming
- Prediction/Angle Snapping– turn off angle snapping/prediction when gaming
Here’s what each of these terms mean:
Dots Per Inch (DPI)/Sensitivity
DPI, technically Counts Per Inch (CPI), is a linear measure of how sensitive your mouse is. A high DPI means that moving your mouse slightly will cause your mouse cursor to cover a large distance on the screen.
For example, if a mouse with a 1600 DPI is moved a distance of 1 inch on a surface, the cursor will move a distance of 1600 pixels on the screen. Similarly, a mouse with a 3200 DPI will move the mouse cursor a distance of 3200 pixels when moved a distance of 1 inch on a surface.
Most gaming mice enable you to adjust the DPI, usually through the accompanying software or DPI button. How much DPI you should set your mouse to is a matter of preference. However, most gamers have their DPI set at between 400 and 1600 DPI.
The following video explains how different mouse DPI setting affect gaming:
Jitter (Mouse Stuttering)
In simple terms, jitter is when your mouse cursor makes sudden, strange or random movements on the screen without you purposely making those movements.
Usually, it indicates a flaw in the mouse sensor. However, it can also be caused by dust covering the lens at the bottom, placing your mouse on an uneven surface, or faulty software.
Polling rate is a measure of how often your mouse reports back to your computer in hertz (Hz). If your gaming mouse has a 250 Hz polling rate, it means it reports its position 250 times over a duration of 1 second.
A good mouse should have a polling rate of at least 500 Hz. One thing to keep in mind is that a mouse with a high polling rate will use up more CPU resources than one with a low polling rate.
Lift-Off Distance (LOD)
Lift-off distance refers to the point at which an optical or laser mouse sensor stops tracking movement after you pick it off a surface.
A low lift-off distance enables you to recenter your mouse, if for example, if you’ve reached the edge of your mouse pad, without making unintended movements on the screen. It is especially useful if you prefer to play with your gaming mouse set at a low sensitivity/DPI.
Mouse acceleration increases the travel distance of the cursor on your screen based on the speed at which you move your mouse. As a result, you are able to reach your target faster and with less mouse movement.
The problem with mouse acceleration when gaming is that it makes it hard to build up your mouse memory and improve your aim. This is because it makes it harder to gauge the speed of your movements on the screen and develop consistency when gaming.
It is therefore a good idea to turn off mouse acceleration when gaming. Acceleration can be introduced by your mouse sensor, drivers, in-game settings, or the operating system.
Angle snapping refers to when your mouse sensor, with the help of software, tries to ‘predict’ the movement you want to make in order to smooth out your path. This process usually involves ignoring any other direction you would have taken.
While angle snapping is a good thing for graphic designers and digital artists, it can be bad for gaming as it interferes with your aim and movement, especially for first-person shooter games.
Considering your grip style when choosing a gaming mouse is important because it determines the shape, size, and weight of the mouse that will feel most comfortable in your hands. There are three main grip styles:
- Palm grip
- Claw grip
- Fingertip grip/tip grip
The palm grip is considered the most relaxed and natural way of holding your mouse. It allows most of your palm and fingers to rest on the mouse. This makes the mouse more of an extension of your arm and is perfect for gliding motions.
A gaming mouse suited for this grip style needs to be wider and longer to provide your hand with enough resting area. An ergonomic mouse that fits well in your hand works great for this grip style.
In the claw grip position, your index and middle fingers are arched to form a claw-like shape leaving only the bottom of your palm resting on the back of the mouse. This provides you with more wrist control than the palm grip.
Mice fitted for this grip style tend to be shorter and are rounded at the back. A short, ambidextrous mouse with a high profile works well for this style (high profile means the mouse is ‘tall’).
The fingertip grip is achieved by maintaining a slight arch in the hand to keep your palm up and off the mouse with only the tips of your fingers resting on the mouse. Unlike the palm grip, there’s very minimal contact between the mouse and your hand.
This means you can make very fast movements or lift the mouse with little strain on your wrist and hand. A light-weight mouse (under 100g) with a low profile works well for this style (low profile means the mouse is ‘short’).
Connection: Wired (Corded) vs Wireless
The next thing to consider is whether you need a wired/corded or wireless gaming mouse. Both types of connections come with their own pros and cons.
Wired Gaming Mouse
Wired gaming mice are the most popular amongst gamers and connect to your computer through a cable. The cable serves two purposes: to power the mouse and transmit signals from the mouse to the computer.
With wired mice, you don’t have to worry about replacing or charging batteries. They are also less susceptible to outside signal interference and hence offer a stable connection. In addition, they cost less and offer a slightly faster response time (lag-free) than wireless mice.
However, they are not without their drawbacks. One problem is that cables can sometimes get entangled with other peripheral cables hence require a bit of cable management. The use of cables also means you can’t use the mouse away from your PC desk.
On the other hand, wireless mice send signals to your PC through Radio Frequency(RF) technology, thus eliminating the need for wires. They have a built-in transmitter and a separate receiver (the matching USB dongle) that connects to your computer through a USB port.
Wireless Gaming Mouse
Wireless mice are powered by a replaceable or rechargeable battery and this makes them a bit heavier than wired mice. They are the better option if you want to keep your desk clean or use your mouse while seated farther away from the screen.
The lack of cables also makes them a more portable solution. The downside is that they are slightly more expensive, slower to respond, and are more susceptible to interference. Batteries also need to be replaced from time to time.
With that said, for most gamers, a wired gaming mouse will provide more value for the money. They are more affordable, perform better, and need no maintenance. The issue of cable management can be solved by getting a mouse bungee.
However, if you want to keep your desk cable-free and portability is a priority for you, then a wireless gaming mouse is the best option.
Shape: Ergonomic vs Ambidextrous
The shape of a gaming mouse is important because it determines how comfortable it feels in your hand. It also determines if a mouse is suited for left-handed or right-handed gamers.
A mouse with a shape that forces your hand to stay in a certain position would be very uncomfortable to game with for long hours.
While an oddly shaped mouse would feel comfortable in one gamer’s hand, it can feel very strange in another’s hand. Therefore, shape in most cases is a matter of personal preference. There exists to two main designs:
Ergonomic Gaming Mice: Great For Comfort
Ergonomic gaming mice are designed/shaped to fit naturally into the user’s hand, thus reducing muscle strain and discomfort. Ergonomic mice have grooves on their sides that allow your thumb and fingers to rest comfortably on them and strengthen your grip.
Mouse buttons are also placed strategically so that your fingers can rest easily on them. This makes them a better option if you are planning on gaming for long hours.
When picking an ergonomic gaming mouse, it is important to ensure that it fits your hand perfectly. Also, keep in mind that ergonomic mice for right-handed and left-handed people are designed differently.
Ambidextrous Gaming Mice: Suited For Both Right-handed And Left-handed Users
Ambidextrous mice are symmetrical in shape which makes it possible for both right-handed and left-handed users to use them comfortably. If you are among the few people who are comfortable using both hands, an ambidextrous mouse can allow you to switch hands during long gaming sessions and reduce strain on one arm.
Despite the comfort features provided by ergonomic mice, some gamers still prefer ambidextrous mice as they find it easier to move their wrist while gaming. The main thing to avoid is a mouse shape that forces your hand into a position that does not feel natural.
Weight: Light vs Heavy
The weight of a gaming mouse is also worth considering. On average, gaming mice weigh about 100 grams, but lighter ones can weigh as low as 80 grams while heavier ones weigh up to 165 grams.
A light gaming mouse works well if you prefer to set your mouse at a low DPI/sensitivity, but still want to be able to make hard glides.
For example, in FPS games such as CS: GO and Overwatch, a low DPI enhances your aim while a light mouse enables you to shift your aim and move characters with little effort.
A heavier mouse works well where precision is less crucial and a high DPI is preferred. This is usually the case when you are playing MMORPG, RTS, and MOBA games such as Starcraft, DOTA, and World of Warcraft.
In such cases, the added weight makes your mouse steadier and prevents it from shifting easily from the slightest amount of force. However, due to the effort needed to move a heavy mouse, it can start to feel uncomfortable after you’ve been gaming for extended periods.
The good thing is that gaming mice with removable weights are available. They allow you to customize the weight of the mouse so that it suits your needs.
The size of the gaming mouse you pick should mainly depend on the size of your hand and personal preference. A small sized mouse can feel strange or uncomfortable in the hands of a user with large hands, and vice versa.
Also, a gamer with small hands might find a bigger mouse more comfortable, or the other way round. So there is no problem with a mouse being slightly smaller or larger than your hand as long as you feel comfortable using it.
Build Quality And Color
With regards to the build quality, we are talking about the quality of the materials a gaming mouse is made of. Most gaming mice are made from plastic with a matte or glossy finish.
The type of finish determines whether the mouse feels soft or rough to the touch. A mouse with a glossy finish can feel slippery or sticky when your hands get sweaty. Also, avoid a mouse with a finish material that can peel off easily.
Furthermore, pay attention to how the buttons feel, this is mostly dependent on the type of switches used in the mouse. Omron switches are by far the most used in most gaming mice. The type of switches used determine whether the clicks feel soft or stiff.
For fast-paced games (RTS and MOBA), you want to have less tension in the clicks (softer clicks). For FPS games where precision is important, having more tension in the clicks helps avoid accidental shots that can give away your position.
The travel distance of a switch is also important because it determines how far a button travels into the shell before it registers.
A large travel distance means a button travels a longer distance before it registers. A low travel distance is preferred as it takes less time and effort to register an input.
When it comes to color, you want a color that matches the theme of your gaming PC setup. Additionally, keep in mind that a lighter colored mouse will always show dirt more easily than a dull-colored one.
Mouse feet, also known as mouse skates, are small pads at the bottom of your mouse that determine how much friction or drag you experience when you glide your mouse over a surface. They are mainly made of PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) commonly known as Teflon.
Most gaming mice come with stock feet that are pretty good in terms of durability and performance. However, eventually, they wear out and can be replaced easily with the same or other types of mouse feet.
For example, you can replace stock mouse feet with Hyperglide feet which are very popular amongst gamers.
Mouse feet should be chosen based on how you like to move your mouse. The larger the surface area of the feet the more drag you will experience, and vice versa.
The arrangement of feet varies, some gaming mice can have four small feet while others just two. If you are planning on using a soft mouse pad avoid getting a mouse with sharp-edged feet because they can restrict movement or dig into it, creating small tears.
Cable: Braided vs Rubber
If you opt to go with a wired gaming mouse over a wireless one, you need to pay attention to the type of cable used. You have the option to choose between braided cables and rubber cables.
Braided cables differ from rubber cables in that they have a protective sleeve that runs along the cable to offer extra protection to the wires. This makes them a bit more durable than normal rubber cables.
Also, because the protective sleeves come in different colors and patterns, it is possible to find a color that matches your PC build. The only downside of having braided cables is that the added protective layer makes them less flexible than rubber cables.
Customization And Lighting (Illumination)
If you want to go heavy on customization, there are a few gaming mice that allow you to do exactly that. They come with a set of removable pieces that have different textures and shapes and this enables you to change the look and feel of your gaming mouse.
The level of customization can range from light to heavy. For example, The Mad Catz R.A.T. 8+ gaming mouse is among the few heavily customizable gaming mice.
RGB lighting is also another factor to consider. Some gaming mice are more flashy than others, but the ability to adjust the brightness, color cycling, breathing and synchronize the color with multiple devices is more important.
As mentioned earlier, if you are going to be playing lots of MMO and MOBA games then having programmable buttons can make a huge difference.
These buttons enable you to perform complex moves with the single press of a button so you don’t have to master complex keyboard shortcuts. Generally, for MMO and MOBA games you want to have at least 6 programmable buttons.
Some gaming mice specifically designed for FPS gaming will usually have fewer buttons. Sometimes they’ll also have an on-the-fly DPI button that allows you to instantly lower your DPI so that you can aim with better precision.
Price and Warranty
Finally, you want to ensure that a gaming mouse’s price is within your budget and includes a warranty. Having a warranty allows you to get your gaming mouse fixed or replaced at no extra cost within the duration which the warranty covers.
Below are some of the most popular gaming mouse brands:
- BenQ Zowie
- Mad Catz
Conclusion- Gaming Mouse Buying Guide
This guide covered in length the most important things you should look for when picking a gaming mouse. Paying attention to each factor will ensure you make an informed and better decision.
Comfort and performance should be your top priorities, most of the other things are mostly a matter of personal preference. Sometimes you may have to try out different gaming mice over time before you actually get the right one for you.