Choosing a Gaming Mouse


By: NT56erbx
June 27, 2014

This How-To will help you decide which gaming mouse is right for you.

As you know, becoming a better PC gamer starts with having the right equipment. On console, each player has pretty much the same equipment, that is, the same controller. PC gaming is completely different. There are hundreds of different mice to choose from, and with all of the statistics like DPI, Refresh Rate, IPS, Latency, Laser/Optical, and Form Factor, choosing the right one can get pretty confusing. Hopefully, after you read this How-To you will be better informed to make the decision.

DPI (Dots per Inch)

DPI is probably the most commonly used statistic in gaming mice. Many manufacturers will make DPI seem like it is the precision of the mouse, and that a higher DPI is always better. This is not necessarily true. DPI is actually the sensitivity of the mouse. Having a higher DPI means your cursor will move more depending on how much you move the actual mouse.

Let’s assume that the smallest distance you could move the mouse at a time is 1 mm. Now, the most precision that you could ever want in a mouse would be for it to move the cursor 1 pixel every millimeter of real movement. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to tell if the cursor is actually moving or not.  Any lower sensitivity (or DPI) would result in you having to do too much work to move just one pixel. Any higher sensitivity, and you would be moving possibly 2 or more pixels per millimeter, which would prevent precision.

Personally, the most DPI I ever use is 4000. Most medium grade mice will go up to this ($40-60). You can get higher end gaming mice ($75-150) that can range from 8000-10000. Some people may be able to move their hand (and thus the mouse) in smaller increments than others, and may benefit more from a higher DPI mouse.

However, having a higher DPI isn’t entirely useless. You should always use the highest DPI your mouse offers, then turn down the sensitivity in-game. You have to think of the mouse signal kind of like you would treat a video. Having a low DPI is like compressing the video, which cannot be undone. It is better to ‘capture’ the ‘video’ or input, at the highest possible quality, then downgrade it as necessary in-game. In addition, capturing more dots will allow for errors to be corrected for more easily, which is often caused by irregularities in the surface you are using the mouse on.

Refresh Rate

Refresh Rate is measured in Hertz (Hz) for mice. It is the number of times the mouse actually sends a signal to the computer with new information. Naturally, higher refresh rate will allow for higher accuracy in-game.

The highest refresh rate I’ve seen on the market is 1000 Hz, so you should definitely look for this when choosing a gaming mouse.

IPS (Images per Second)

To understand IPS, you must first understand how a mouse works. Basically, an LED (or Laser) is shined on the surface below the mouse, and this is picked up by a small camera. The IPS of a mouse is basically how often the camera in the bottom captures the image. Generally, having an IPS higher than your Refresh Rate won’t do much for you, since it can’t actually send the new data it’s collected to the computer.  Having a higher IPS could help prevent errors in captures. If, say, it captures at the same rate it sends data, the one image might be faulty, and thus you would bet bad input. Whereas, if you capture, say, 10 times every time it sends data to the computer, errors are much less likely.

Latency

Latency is the amount of time the mouse takes for it to send data to the system, and for that data to actually be received by the system. Most mice will have a latency of >1ms. Generally speaking, wired mice will have less latency than wireless mice, as they do not have to deal with interference.

PS/2 interfaces do tend to have slightly lower latency than USB mice for two reasons. One, if multiple USB devices are running at the same time, bottlenecking could occur. Two, because USB ports can send so many different types of data, the computer takes longer to process and interpret all of the data to determine exactly what is being sent to it. On the other hand, PS/2 ports are exclusively reserved for keyboards and mice, and thus are much easier for the computer to figure out what the signals are for.

The opposite is true when the PS/2 signal has to be converted from USB. Active conversion is when a chip decodes the USB signal, then encodes it as PS/2. This would only be used if you did not have a USB port. This would NOT be beneficial for gaming. Passive conversion, on the other hand, would not directly increase latency. Passive conversion is when a chip passively sorts, or ‘filters’, out the USB signal, allowing the PS/2 signal to traverse freely. It will, on the other hand, take more time for the mouse to generate both the USB and PS/2, which could possibly increase the latency indirectly.

Using a USB 3.0 for your mouse could help alleviate the first cause of extra latency, bottlenecking. Because the system takes 2.0 and 3.0 signals separately, you wouldn’t get much bottlenecking.

Laser vs. Optical

This one is fairly simple and straightforward. Optical mice use an LED, whereas Laser mice use a laser. Most mice are Optical, as it is less expensive. Lasers are only used in mice that have DPIs of over 10000.

Form Factor

Form factor is essentially the design of the mouse. There are two major types, Symmetrical and Ergonomic. Symmetrical is better for those who hold the mouse with their fingertips, called ‘Claw’ style. Ergonomic is best for people who hold the mouse by lying their entire hand on it, called ‘Palm’ style.

Summary

In the end, the best way to find your perfect gaming mouse is to just try several out. Most stores offer at least a 72 hour return policy, so purchase several, and just send back the ones you don't like.


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