The Gamers Guide to Mice

The Logitech G203
The Logitech G203

In this day and age finding a gaming mouse completely suited to your needs is harder than ever. There are literally thousands of different models coming from dozens of different manufacturers costing anywhere from $15 to a couple of hundreds of dollars. Finding the right one is hard, but it gets easier once you know what to look for.

Do you want one with an optical sensor or one that is powered by a laser one? Do you need a good old corded mouse or do you prefer a wireless mouse? Which size is right for you, and which model is best for your type of mouse grip? And do you like when a mouse is heavy and firm when placed on a pad, or do you prefer a light mouse that can be easily moved around?

All these questions can be answered once you know what is to know about gaming mice and different technologies used in making them. This guide should help you in finding what you need by explaining all there is to know about mice used for gaming so you can find out exactly what to look for. But, in the end, the decision has to be made by you, and only you. So, let us begin.

Optical sensors vs. laser ones

There are two main technologies when it comes to sensors used in gaming mice. You have the good old optical sensors and the more fancy laser sensors.

Optical sensors are here for a lot of years, and they offer excellent DPI values and are preferred by Pro gamers. They feature lower lift-off distance – in other words, they don’t work when picked up from the surface – but that’s a positive for gamers since most of us don’t want for the crosshair to move while we lift off the mouse and reposition it on the middle of the pad.

Optical sensors are favored by professional players because of the lower lift-off distance and because they offer a bit better tracking. Also, laser sensors usually come with higher DPI values, and you will see further in the guide that pro players typically use lower DPI values.

Laser sensors do have their advantages and, if you aren’t a pro player who is a part of tournaments and pro e-sports leagues, they are almost just as good as optical ones when it comes to gaming performance. They offer higher DPI values, can work even when lifted from the surface (up to around 10mm), can accommodate to almost any surface, (great if you own a laptop and need a mouse capable of working anywhere) and most of them offer surface tuning (an option that allows for the sensor to be tuned to work perfectly on different surfaces).

Overall, if you don’t want for your mouse to move the cursor while returning it from the edge of the pad to the middle, and ultra-high DPI values aren’t your thing, pick a mice powered by an optical sensor. Those who own a laptop and who need a mouse that will work on a wide array of surfaces should pick a model with a laser sensor.

Different mice for different games

The Corsair M65 PRO RGB FPS Gaming Mouse.
The Corsair M65 PRO RGB FPS Gaming Mouse.

Gaming mices come in many shapes and sizes, but there are the three main form factors they can be differentiated by. All-purpose mice come with a couple of additional buttons, and they are suited for many different genres. Then we have models made for FPS players, who feature a special “sniper” button that, once pressed, automatically lowers DPI value allowing players to make tough aimed shots, like when they have to snipe someone from a mile away. Finally, there are MMO(RPG) models that come with a plethora of extra buttons to ease spell and ability casting.

If you’re a hardcore FPS gamer, you should get a specialized mouse because that snipe button can really help. You can select lower DPI value in milliseconds, giving you that much-needed extra time and accuracy for sniping, and for performing difficult shots.

MMO(RPG) mice are great for those who not only play MMO games but for who also like to play single player RPG titles. Lots of extra buttons mean you can assign all spell, ability, and buff casting to your mouse, and instead of always hitting the wrong number on the keyboard you will easily find the key you need on the mouse without moving your eyes from the game.

And finally, an all-purpose mouse is great for those who play all kinds of games. You will get a couple of extra keys for mapping grenades, or for a couple of important spells in RPG games, but you will also get a quality, precise mouse for FPS and third-person shooter games.

We should note that there’s one more gaming mouse type that isn’t as known as other three but could be just what you are looking for. Fully customizable models offer plenty of options when it comes to making the mouse perfect for your hand. They come with a moving palm rest; you can adjust their length and width, and can also adjust the resting place for the thumb. They are very expensive and tend to look a bit too futuristic for our taste, but they are completely customizable and should be checked out if you have a high enough budget.

Wired or wireless

Another debate that, like the one about optical and laser sensors, doesn’t have one clear answer. If you looked for a gaming mouse ten years ago, the answer would be simple – get a wired one. Back in the day when wireless mice were a novelty, the technology didn’t offer a fast enough response rate for wireless mice to be used by hardcore gamers.

But, in recent years wireless models offer almost identical response times (the difference cannot be noticed by humans) to wired ones, so the decision boils down to which one you prefer.

If you don’t like cables in general, and you won’t mind putting the mouse to charge its battery from time to time pick up a wireless one. And we advise those who own laptops and need a laptop mouse to also pick up wireless gaming mouse because they work so much better with laptops were cables always get in the way. Also, if you prefer heavier models, a wireless mouse can be a great choice because they are, in general, heavier than wired ones because of the battery. But, do note that wireless mice cost more than wired models.

A wired mouse is great for those who own just a desktop, or don’t plan to use their gaming mouse with their laptop, for those who don’t want to think about charging the mouse, and for those who just like to see a cable coming out from the mouse, a wired model is a better choice.

DPI and polling rate

SteelSeries Engine 3.
SteelSeries Engine 3.

DPI (dots per inch) is the most talked about feature of every gaming mouse. There seems to be an arms race around this value, and for no good reason. The value presents the accuracy of the mouse when moving it around. The higher the DPI value is, the faster and farther a mouse pointer will move when moving a mouse.

Now, you may think that a higher DPI values mean better accuracy, but that isn’t the case. In fact, most pro players tend to stick with 800 DPI or less. That’s because higher DPI values mean the cursor will move a lot even when you move the mouse by one inch or less.

So, we advise you to not look for crazy DPI values. Anything with 3200 dpi should be more than enough for most gamers. When you’re in game, you usually don’t need more than 3,200 DPI. More than that and you will have to make micro mouse movements in order to line up shots. Consider using lower DPIs and making bigger sweeping motions with your arm and locking your wrist, this will increase your accuracy.

If you have a multi-monitor setup, you may consider a higher dpi. I have a multi-monitor setup but I still use 800 dpi these days with very few issues.

We think that a high polling rate is more important than a high DPI value. As we said, a mouse with a 3200 DPI sensor is more than enough for any gamer. But, if you want to get a superb gaming mouse, look for one that has a 1000Hz polling rate.

Polling rate (or reporting rate) represents how often the sensor sends mouse movements to your PC, representing its actual accuracy. A 1000Hz polling rate means that the mouse sends movement reports 1000 times per second, and that’s highly accurate. Contrary to DPI value, you should always set report rate to the highest value. A polling rate is more critical than DPI.

Which DPI values Pro players use

Now, we already said that Pro players tend to use lower DPI values. If you thought they like their DPI as high as possible, we have to disappoint you. Most Pro players use huge mousepads so they can perform wide movements. Combine that with low DPI values, and you got a combination that guarantees high accuracy.

We found three useful links that show DPI (and other settings) Pro players use in three most popular shooters today – PUBG, Overwatch, and CS: GO. As you can see, most of them use DPI values between 400 and 800 DPI. Overwatch players tend to use values as high as 1,800, but most of them are inside of the 800-1,600 DPI range. This shows that you shouldn’t chase high DPI values when looking for your next gaming mouse. Just make sure that the sensor is a quality one (check reviews) and that the polling rate can get up to 1000Hz.

Different grips

There are three mouse grip styles: claw grip, palm grip, and fingertip grip.

The palm grip is the most frequently used, and it means you are holding the mouse by placing the whole palm on it. If you’re the type who prefers a palm grip, you should pick a gaming mouse that’s a bit bigger than average (especially if you have large hands) because you will have a hard time adjusting to a small mouse in case your hand is too big for it.

Claw grip is when you hold the mouse with two fingers, while at the same time the tip of your palm is placed on the edge of the mouse. If this is your favorite grip, you can get a smaller mouse because you won’t hold your whole hand on it while gaming.

And finally, fingertip grip means that you use the mouse with just two fingers, without placing your palm on it. If you use your mouse this way, you can get an extremely small model. Since you use only two fingers, there isn’t a chance the mouse won’t be big enough for your hand.

Weight

The Logitech G502 Mouse
The Logitech G502 Mouse

Some people like their mouse to be light as a feather, especially those who play with low DPI values. This way they can move the mouse freely and without constraint and can achieve wide movements that are needed when you play with low DPI values.

Others like heavy models that are firm and that cannot be moved as easily. They like to feel the weight and to be able to perform short but precise movements.

You probably know what you prefer, but if you want to fine tune weight, pick a mouse that comes with removable weight canisters so you can make the mouse weigh just enough to be maximally comfortable when used. These models are more expensive, but they are worth it, especially if you like adjustable gaming mice.

Mouse pad

Getting a gaming mouse is one part of the equation. The other is getting a decent mouse pad.

You should get one that’s big enough for your play style, so you don’t have to pick up the mouse and place it back on the pad every minute or so, and one that features a silky smooth material so your mouse can travel without any obstacle.

For most people something along the lines of 12.5” (320 mm) x 10.6” (270 mm) should be an adequate size.

There are also higher end mouse pads with stitched edges that won’t fray. I like these a lot for their durability, but they are more expensive.

Illumination

If you like things bright and shiny, pick a mouse that offers a full RGP lighting options. This means you will be able to pick from any color you want and to change into any color once your previous choice becomes tiresome.

Gaming software

Logitech Gaming Software
Logitech Gaming Software

If you want to adjust every part of your mouse, software wise, get one that comes with specialized software. This way you will be able to pick different illumination colors, to fine-tune different DPI settings, to change polling rate, to program every button, to assign a different number of DPI levels, and much more.

Also, if you own a gaming accessory (a headset or a keyboard) from the same manufacturer, picking a mouse from the same brand means you will be able to sync up illumination color combinations on all your accessories, to sync up all your devices and to have easier time adjusting different gaming accessories.

All the major player’s theses days seem to offer their own software. Some are better than others, but most are really good. SteelSeries, Logitech, and Razer all come in Windows and MacOS versions. Corsair however only provides a Windows version. If you are a Linux fan I’m sorry to say there are no official Linux offerings but there a few community-driven efforts.

Final thoughts

Picking a gaming mouse can be hard, very hard. But, with this guide, it should be much easier. Just decide which sensor you want, do you need a wired or a wireless model, and which type of gaming mouse you want.

Next, just cross out models that offer a report rate below 1000Hz. Now, all you have to do is to find out the weight you prefer as well as the size and design. And that has to be done in real life. So go out there, visit your friends, visit brick-and-mortar shops, and try out models that stayed on your list.

The one that fits your hand the best should be the winner, no matter if you don’t really like its design. Because it is better for the mouse to be comfortable to hold during long gaming sessions than to have killer looks.

Keep an eye on the site we have lots of gaming mouse reviews coming out in the following weeks.

A psychologist turned freelance writer and reviewer, Goran is a hardcore gamer with more than twenty years of experience, and interested in all kinds of technology. He also likes Sci Fi novels and basketball.
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