November 01, 2021
The Ultimate Gaming Mouse Buying Guide
Learn more about gaming mice features, gaming mice for FPS and MMO games, compare optical vs. laser, wired vs. wireless gaming mice and more with our guide.
Losing is no fun, we can all agree. When it comes to gaining an edge over AI or a particularly braggadocious young competitor, having the best gaming mouse can make all the difference. To be fair, there is no substitute for diligent practice and grinding. However, the features and functionality offered by gaming mice offer you better odds at being the last player standing or successfully slaying the final boss.
Purchasing a new gaming mouse can be a daunting task, especially when you can’t test the mouse in person. Luckily, there are distinct features and types of gaming mice you can learn more about to help you make a better-informed decision. Use these tips to choose the best gaming mouse in 2021.
Gaming Mice vs. Average Mice
Playing competitive online games often requires a more detailed level of precision and customization. While a basic mouse will typically have a left and right click along with a scroll wheel, gaming options tend to feature added side buttons or other inputs. These extra buttons make gaming more comfortable and increase immersion while streamlining inputs in competitive online gaming.
One of the most significant benefits of using a gaming mouse for gaming compared to a traditional mouse is the software support. Depending on the device and software you choose, software can be used to quickly and easily reassign buttons, adjust sensitivity or even set RGB lighting options. Not all gaming mouse software is created equal, so make sure to check the available features before making a final purchase!
Optical vs. Laser Gaming Mice
Gaming mice will either have an optical or laser sensor. The difference between these two mice is the light source: optical mice use LED light and laser mice use, well, a laser. Whether optical or laser mice are better is a matter of intense debate in the gaming community.
The average laser mouse will be more sensitive than the average optical mouse and have higher DPI (2x to 5x of an optical mouse). Laser mice can pick up on smaller movements than optical mice, allowing for fast twitch, accurate movements. Additionally, laser mice have a higher polling rate, which basically means it tells your computer when it changes position more frequently than optical mice, making them more responsive. Laser mice can work on any surface, whereas optical mice typically need to be paired with a mouse pad when used on a glossy or glass surface.
Optical mice typically cost a bit less than laser mice, and many in the gaming community prefer them over laser mice. One opinion from Fatal1ty, one of the best professional first-person shooter gamers in the world: “I advise optical as the way to go right now till the bandwidth on laser mice is improved so it can keep up with your moves.”1
Many top-tier gamers report acceleration issues with laser mice, meaning if you move a laser mouse too fast, the laser mouse sensor won’t detect the movements, and the mouse cursor/aiming reticle will desynchronize with your mouse. This can cause unpredictable, inconsistent cursor behavior.
If you plan on playing a game where moving your mouse quickly is vital, and don’t mind having to get a mouse pad, optical mice are worth your money.
Wireless vs. Wired Gaming Mice
Unlike the optical vs. laser mouse debate, there seems to be a clearer consensus in the gaming community that wired mice are superior due to better responsiveness. There will always be a greater delay with a wireless device between the time you provide input and the output on the screen.
Additionally, wireless mice tend to be laser mice (which carry their own set of advantages/disadvantages) and have weighty batteries (if mouse weight is a factor for you).
Some argue that with wireless gaming mice with 2.4Ghz technology can almost identically match the performance of wired gaming mice. If you don’t plan on competing with top-tier gamers on a regular basis, it comes down to personal preference. Particularly if your game of choice is PvE (player vs. environment), this choice is not critical in the least.
Gaming Mice Features
Before you can start comparing different types of gaming mice, it will help to better understand standard mouse specifications and what they mean. No two devices are the same, but by learning some similar terms and features, you can easily understand how a gaming mouse might perform before purchase. Here are some of the most common mouse specifications to consider for as you make your purchase.
When you think of PC gaming, one of the first things that comes to mind might be RGB lighting. Almost every "gaming" peripheral has some form of addressable lighting, and mice are no different. While this feature has no direct effect on performance, it makes your gaming mouse look like something abducted from an alien spaceship. Oftentimes RGB gaming mice will be slightly more expensive than their plain-Jane counterparts.
Lighting options can range from under-glow to scroll wheel illumination and anything in between. It is not uncommon for a gaming mouse to have more than one area of addressable RGB lighting. Gaming mouse software allows for the coordination of various RGB lighting across an entire gaming PC.
Having additional inputs is one of the most essential features of any gaming mouse. With added buttons, you can more evenly distribute controls between your hands to improve efficiency and comfort. This input flexibility might just give you the competitive edge you need in your next ranked PVP match—or it can simply make playing your favorite games for comfortable than when using a traditional mouse without extra buttons.
Gaming mice can have anywhere from two to ten or more added buttons, and most can be set to any input via software. For games such as RPGs or MMOs, the more mouse inputs, the better. In specific titles, mouse buttons are a necessity because they allow players to move with WASD and still use inputs on their mouse hand freely.
The size of a gaming mouse does not directly relate to the weight of said device. There are no standards among different types of mice when it comes to shaping, and many various brands feature hyper-stylized designs that neither hinder nor aid performance. Lighter gaming mice are considered quicker to aim with, while heavier options offer increased control. Realistically, this specification is all about personal preference—but you will find that FPS mice tend to be on the lighter side.
Dots per inch, or DPI, is a common specification used when discussing gaming mice. To put it plainly, this is how far your cursor will move on the screen in accordance with how far you physically move the mouse. The lower the DPI, the slower the mouse will move on the screen. When looking at DPI, you will always see a range rather than a specific number. That is because different games or tasks can require wildly different DPI. Many gaming mice support a wide range of DPI settings and can even switch between them with the press of a button.
Note that high DPI for a gaming mouse doesn’t necessarily mean a better gaming mouse. In fact, lower DPI is often preferred since the mouse has less work to do and less chance for anomalies with the higher degree of precision. Plus, it is very difficult to even tell the difference when you get to the higher DPI ranges and higher DPI is basically useless once you get to a certain level.
Typical pro gamer DPIs fall into the 800-1600 range, with some outliers due to personal preference. For instance, a sniper would typically want lower DPIs so they can keep on target, but a close comba melee character would want high DPI to adjust their targets quickly.
The way your mouse connects to your computer is a commonly overlooked specification. Almost all wired mice will interface with your PC via a standard USB-A connection. What is not uniform is how that cable connects back to the mouse. Integrated cables are common and affordable, while detachable USB-C cables can be customized or easily exchanged if damaged. Other options include wireless connections, which either utilize a Bluetooth or 2.4Ghz wireless connection.
Almost every gaming mouse will offer some form of software support. If not, the device still might have some programmable features via built-in onboard profiles. The benefit of using software, however, is that it allows for the reprogramming of buttons and quick adjustment of sensitivity. Gaming mouse software can also work to manage addressable lighting or any other device features. Different brands utilize different software, so make sure that a mouse supports the features you are looking for before finalizing a purchase.
Types of Gaming Mice
There is a wide range of gaming mice on the market today. While there are many highly specialized options available, most will fall into one of four types of gaming mice: FPS mice for aim and agility, MMO mice for utility, all-purpose mice for a bit of both, or customizable mice for more specialized situations.
Devices in these categories will not be identical by any means. However, they will share some designs and strive to accomplish similar tasks. Read below for more detailed definitions of each type of gaming mouse and why you might want to use each.
FPS Gaming Mice
FPS games are some of the most popular in the world. These games pit players against each other in intense online battles and require the utmost precision. FPS gaming mice are typically lighter than alternatives and boast wide DPI ranges. Something that makes an FPS mouse unique is the inclusion of a sniper or slow down button. When pressed, it can quickly and drastically reduce DPI to help you aim as accurately as possible.
MMO Gaming Mice
The main goal of an MMO mouse is to alleviate the number of inputs on the left hand while gaming. These mice are typically heavier than others and feature as many additional buttons as possible on the sides of the mouse. When using WASD to move, these mice can allow players to bind and use a multitude of skills or abilities with their mouse hand for maximum comfort and efficiency. Software support is crucial for MMO mice, because different players will require drastically different key bindings.
All-Purpose Gaming Mice
While some might consider all-purpose mice cheaper alternatives, that is not the case. What makes a mouse an all-purpose mouse is the combination and proper utilization of multiple features of other types of mice. These devices feature smaller ranges of DPI but come in all shapes, sizes, and weights.
Most often, all-purpose mice will have two side buttons (typically on the thumb side), which can be reprogrammed via software. If a device doesn't support software, it will likely have dedicated buttons to increase or decrease DPI.
The goal of an all-purpose mouse is to be viable for any game, so most features are not too extreme in either direction. All-purpose mice are great for more casual or first-time gamers who play a wide variety of games.
Customizable Gaming Mice
When FPS or MMO mice don't cut it, there are customizable gaming mice. These devices are hyper-specialized and come packed with finely tuned features. Examples of customizable mouse features include adjustable weights, multiple connection types, or interchangeable ceramic mouse feet. Not every high-end mouse will come with all of these features, so be sure to decide which features matter most to you before diving into the expansive world of customizable gaming mice.
Your mouse is arguably the most important peripheral in your gaming setup. While there are many variations on the market today, most share a standard set of specifications and features that can be used to compare them easily.
The best way to get an idea of what gaming mouse is best for you is by thinking of the types of games you like to play. FPS titles require the utmost precision, while MMOs require more inputs with every update. Ultimately, it's up to you to determine which features best support the games you like to play.
We hope this gaming mouse buying guide has helped you find the best mouse for you. By learning about the different types of gaming mice and their common uses, you can make the most educated purchase possible for your next device.