A good gaming mouse is key to success in competitive games in genres like first person shooter and MOBA style games.
Gaming mice have a lot more powerful hardware and features than regular scroll mouse.
Professional esports players are allowed to bring their own peripherals in tournaments, e.g., gaming mice and keyboards, mainly for the reason that they are used to their own equipment and are able to give their best when using them.
Before discussing what to look for in a gaming mouse, you should first know what are the differences between a gaming mouse and a regular mouse.
Regular Mouse versus Gaming Mouse
Regular computer mice are the kind you will find in an office or corporate workspace. They are for all-around use and are not well-suited for use in a competitive gaming environment.
The key factors differentiating a regular mouse from a gaming mouse are the following:
Sensor : Gaming mice use optical or laser sensors that are optimized for accuracy and high-precision gaming with adjustable sensitivity.
User Customization : Gaming mice offer a variety of factors that can be customized to fit the user’s need or playstyle, for example programmable buttons and adjustable weights.
Durability: Most gaming mice are designed to be rugged because of the lengthy period of use that they go through. They're usually made with high-quality plastics or very light metals like aluminum.
Ergonomics : Gaming mice typically have a unique shape and size that caters to a player's grip style and provides comfort when used for long durations.
Reliability: Because of the differences between sensors and the lack of customization in regular mice, a gaming mouse can be expected to perform reliably and consistently.
Aside from the differences stated above, several other factors affect a player’s decision when choosing a gaming mouse; we will discuss what those factors are.
- Grip Type
- Polling Rate
- Wired vs Wireless
- Programmable Buttons
- Size and Shape
- Weight Customization
1. Grip - Palm, Finger and Claw
There are different ways of holding or gripping a mouse. How a gamer picks a mouse depends on their playstyle and hand size. Knowing your grip and the size of your hand can help you to find the mouse that is going to be the best fit for your hand, maximizing both comfort and performance. Here are the three common grip types:
The palm grip is a typically relaxed grip where the majority of your hand is in contact with the mouse. The index and middle fingers lie flat on the mouse buttons. Mouse movement usually comes from the arm and shoulder, which could cause strain when done over long periods.
This grip gives accuracy and precise glide control while sacrificing agility and rapid clicking. It is ideal for games that require you to track targets and doesn’t make you flick the mouse around as the grip makes sudden micro adjustments a bit more difficult. The palm grip is mainly used by FPS players.
The fingertip grip or tip grip allows only for your fingers to come in contact with the mouse. Your palm does not touch the mouse at all, which leaves your hand in an elevated posture.
This grip enables you to react faster as you are able to flick the mouse around with minimal resistance; however, you will find it a bit difficult when it comes to slow, gliding movements and consistency as it relies on wrist aiming. This grip is difficult to master if used in FPS games; therefore, it is usually used by MOBA and MMO players.
A grip that mixes both the palm and fingertip grip by having your two main fingers arched and positioned on the mouse buttons while having a very small portion of your palm positioned on the edge of the mouse. It combines the dexterity of the fingertip grip and the precision of the palm grip.
Making micro-adjustments with this grip is the best among the three. Rapid clicking is also not a problem; however, this grip is very fatiguing due to the high tension in both the wrist and arm. The claw grip is used by both MOBA and FPS players.
Each grip has its pros and cons, but it is entirely up to the player’s personal preference and comfort. When choosing a gaming mouse, make sure it caters to your grip style.
There are two types of sensors used in gaming mice: Laser and optical sensors. Laser and optical sensors are technically optical sensors, both of which operate under the same principle but have different tracking methods.
Modern computer mice have a light source and a complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) sensor that detects light and operates like a camera. Essentially, the CMOS sensor records thousands of images and compares them with each other to detect if the mouse had changed its position.
The mouse tracks the movement image-by-image and sends the data to the computer for cursor movement.
Here's where optical and laser sensors are different:
- The light source of optical sensors is an infrared light or red light-emitting diode (LED).
- Optical mice work on almost any surface except on highly reflective or glossy surfaces such as glass. This is because the sensor gets overwhelmed by the reflected light and becomes unable to interpret the image/data.
- Older versions of optical mice have their LED pointed straight down, which results in a red beam projected onto the surface. Modern optical sensors project the LED light from an angle, usually resulting in an infrared (unseen) beam.
- Gaming mice with optical sensors work best on non-glossy surfaces such as mousepads.
- As the name implies, laser sensors use an infrared laser as the light source. The infrared laser is not powerful enough to cause eye damage, but it is unsafe to stare at it for prolonged periods.
- Laser sensors have higher sensor resolution compared to optical sensors, which gives it higher sensitivity.
- Unlike LEDs used in optical mice, infrared lasers can penetrate deeper into the surface texture, which enables it to provide the CMOS sensor a more detailed image.
- Laser sensors can track mouse movement even on glossy surfaces or glass.
Laser mice, by default, offer high sensitivity (6,000 DPI and up). However, depending on the surface you're using it on, the high accuracy in laser sensors could result in on-screen cursor jittering.
Meanwhile, optical mice originally have low sensitivity (3,200 DPI) before but allow for accurate movement. Advancements on optical sensors, however, have raised this DPI limit to 16,000 and even 20,000.
Laser mice were initially very expensive, but the price difference between laser and optical mice have gone down significantly over the years.
3. Polling Rate
The polling rate is the measure of the responsiveness of your mouse, measured in Hertz. A high poll rate is required when using high DPI settings. If the poll rate cannot keep up with the DPI setting, this would result in inaccurate tracking of the mouse and cursor.
Typical polling rates found in gaming mice are:
- 125Hz - Tracks every 8 ms, default on regular computer mice
- 200Hz - Tracks every 5ms
- 250Hz - Tracks every 4ms
- 333Hz - Tracks every 3ms
- 500Hz - Tracks every 2 ms
- 1000Hz - Tracks every 1ms
There are gaming mice available that have built-in buttons or downloadable software that allows configuration of the polling rate. The difference 1ms may not be so recognizable between 500Hz and 1000Hz. However, professional FPS players prefer to use 1000Hz to remove any possible disadvantages regarding latency.
Keep in mind that your computer can slow down if your processor cannot keep up with the poll rate you are using. It’s best to upgrade your processor or find a middle ground between your typical DPI setting and polling rate to avoid this problem.
The AtomPalm Hydrogen currently holds the highest polling rate at 8000Hz.
4. DPI (Dots Per Inch)
DPI is a measure of spatial dot density, the number of individual dots or pixels in a one-inch line. One dot is equal to one pixel on your monitor, so if you set your gaming mouse to 400 DPI, you will have to move your mouse by four inches so it can travel 1600 pixels. Dots Per Inch (DPI) is also called Counts Per Inch (CPI).
Gaming mice mostly come with customizable sensitivity by adjusting the DPI. Some gaming mice have integrated buttons to adjust the DPI settings, while other brands require you to download software to adjust the DPI.
You’ll commonly find these settings for DPI on your gaming mouse:
- 200 DPI
- 400 DPI
- 800 DPI
- 1200 DPI
- 1600 DPI
- 3200 DPI
The latest gaming mice are capable of a much higher DPI, with some brands reaching 16000 DPI on optical mice. The highest DPI setting possible right now is 24,000 DPI on the Tarios RGB gaming mouse.
High DPI is advantageous when you want to cover more pixels during fast mouse movement.
DPI between 400 to 1200 is widely preferred by professional FPS players and streamers, while 1200-3200 DPI is usually favored by MOBA, RTS, and MMORPG players.
Adjusting the DPI to fit your in-game need (especially in FPS titles) would be highly beneficial. Additionally, having DPI greater than 3200 is also useful when you are navigating high-resolution monitors.
5. Wired or Wireless
Wired gaming mice are predominantly used by the casual and professional gaming community. This is because wired mice have a physical connection that minimizes input lag; however, advancements in wireless technology have been able to bring down latency to almost wired mice levels.
On average, a wired gaming mouse has a latency of ~1-2ms, while a wireless mouse will tend to have a latency of ~2-3ms. These values take into account interference between the mouse and the computer.
An example of the improvements in wireless technology is exemplified by the Corsair Harpoon RGB Wireless, boasting 1ms latency when using its 2.4Ghz Slipstream Wireless technology.
Today most wireless gaming mice can be plugged into the computer with a USB-C cord that allows for a wired mouse experience, which doubles as a means to recharge the battery.
While the price difference between wired and wireless gaming mice has decreased over the years, wireless models are still relatively expensive.
6. Programmable Buttons
The latest gaming mice typically come with three extra buttons, one for on-the-fly adjustment of the DPI settings, and the other two located at the thumb area. Usually, these buttons are used for switching between preset or customized profile settings for the mouse.
Programmable buttons are highly beneficial for MMO players and are of little to no use to FPS players. The added weight for accommodating the extra buttons is considered detrimental to the performance of professional FPS players.
Currently, Logitech’s G600 MMO gaming mouse has the most programmable buttons at 20, which topped Razer Naga’s 19 programmable buttons.
7. Size and Shape
When figuring out the size of the gaming mouse you should buy, you first need to measure the size of your hand. The length and width of your hand will help determine the size that you should get. The measure from the base of your palm to the tip of your middle finger is the length, while the width is measured from the end of your palm to the thumb while keeping your fingers together.
Listed below is a guide to determining the size of the gaming mouse you should get depending on the length of your hand:
- Small mouse: under 17cm
- Medium mouse: 17 to 19cm
- Large mouse: 19cm and up
The size of the mouse that you get does not need to follow the values listed above. Grip style and nuances in personal preference and comfort should be taken into account. For example, if you have large hands but prefer to use the fingertip grip, you can go for a medium-sized mouse.
Aside from the size, the shape of the gaming mouse should also be compatible with your grip style. Avoid making the mistake of buying an ergonomic mouse designed for palm grip use when the grip you use is the fingertip grip. Choosing the right size and shape would greatly contribute to how comfortably you hold the mouse.
For gamers who switch between different grip styles depending on the game they play, e.g., palm grip for FPS, fingertip grip for MOBA, an ambidextrous shaped mouse is a good option.
Mouse movement in games varies depending on what you play. For example, if you mostly play first-person shooters, you can choose between a heavy or a lightweight mouse. A heavy gaming mouse is great for slow and consistent target tracking when playing FPS games like the Sniper series. A lightweight mouse is good for making quick and sudden movements or adjustments, making it great for playing games like Call of Duty or CS:GO.
If you mostly play MMOs or Real-time Strategy (RTS) games like World of Warcraft or StarCraft, a gaming mouse with programmable buttons is a good choice to consider. Selecting, toggling, and assigning macros, control groups, and alternative command keys will be easier when using a gaming mouse with extra custom buttons.
The weight of a gaming mouse varies on the design and material being used. Wired gaming mice, in general, weigh less compared to their wireless counterparts, mainly because wireless mice need to accommodate the battery. Additional customizable buttons also play a role in increasing the weight of a gaming mouse.
Listed below are the weight classes of gaming mice:
- Lightweight - Less than 90g
- Light-Middle - 91-110g
- Middle-Heavy - 111-130g
- Heavy - 130g and up
For gamers looking for a multi-purpose gaming mouse, there are gaming mice that have custom weights that could be added or removed to change the mouse weight. Examples of this include the Logitech G502 series, SteelSeries Rival 650, Logitech G903, and Corsair M65 Elite.
To reduce the weight of the mouse, some brands utilize a “honeycomb” design on the body such as the Glorious Model O (67g), Cooler Master MM710 (52g), and G Wolves Hati S (48g).
The weight of your mouse should also correspond with your grip style. Palm and claw grip users can opt for a light-middle to middle-heavy gaming mice, while fingertip grip users are suggested to use a lightweight mouse to reduce wrist strain.
9. Materials and Durability
Gaming mice are mostly made of high-quality plastics, while some are made with lightweight metals like aluminum. The ASUS ROG Spatha, for example, has a chassis frame made of magnesium alloy. This results in a heavy (183g) but incredibly durable gaming mouse.
Gaming mouse manufacturers have two ways of improving the grip on their mouse. Corsair and SteelSeries, for example, add textured rubber grips to the sides of their gaming mice. While brands like BenQ and Roccat use an anti-slip coating to mitigate slippage from sweaty hands, Razer and Logitech employ both methods on their range of gaming mice.
Avoid buying a gaming mouse with glossy plastic since they are slippery when your hand gets sweaty or moist. A mouse with anti-slip coating, a matte finish frame, or textured surfaces will help keep your fingers on the mouse.
10. The Cost
Depending on the model and brand, a gaming mouse could cost from $30 to $200. The cost of a gaming mouse is affected by these factors:
- Wireless capability - High-end wireless mice are capable of very low latency performance when using USB with Bluetooth as a back-up connection.
- Rechargeability - Rechargeable wireless mice such as Logitech G502 Lightspeed and Razer Viper/Basilisk Ultimate come with their charging docks. The G502 Lightspeed even has an option for a wireless charging mousepad.
- Sensor - High-end gaming mice utilize the latest optical and laser sensors which ensure maximum precision. Examples include Razer’s Focus+ optical sensor and TrueMove3+ dual optical sensor of SteelSeries.
- Customizable buttons - Particularly favored by MMO and MOBA gamers, customizable buttons add versatility and ease at a cost. The Corsair Scimitar RGB Elite for example comes at a price of $170 on Amazon.
- Adjustable weights - Custom weights make way for tuning of weight and balance of the mouse, but it also raises the price by a small percentage. An example of this is the Logitech G502 series.
Customizable RGB lighting used to be one of the factors that raised the price of a gaming mouse but have been gradually integrated into most gaming mice. If you are working on a limited budget, there are brands like Redragon which offer good quality gaming mice that have customizable buttons and adjustable weights. Brands like Logitech, SteelSeries, and Corsair also have a budget or entry-level gaming mice.
Popular gaming mouse brands offer a wide selection to cater to the different needs of their customers while taking different approaches to their products. Here is a list of popular brands and what they have to offer:
Established in 2005, Razer is one of the leading brands in the gaming peripherals industry. They are known for their sleek and stylish designs, innovative features, and comfortable ergonomics. They have a variety of gaming mice that are minimalistic for FPS gamers, and gaming mice that have extra customizable buttons for MMORPG and MOBA gamers.
Notable products: Razer Basilisk V2, Razer Viper, Razer Deathadder V2, Razer Naga, Razer Naga Trinity
Logitech has been around since 1981, and they have a long history in the computer industry, manufacturing home and office components. Their gaming mice line-up is a jack-of-all-trades type, offering a good balance of functionality, design, and performance. They mostly offer ergonomically shaped mice that have a subtle professional look. Logitech began their gaming peripherals line in 2005.
Notable products: Logitech G502 Hero, Logitech G Pro, Logitech G903, and Logitech G600 MMO
SteelSeries was established in 2001 and joined the gaming peripherals industry after Razer and Logitech. SteelSeries offers minimalist mice with amazing tracking performance, a feature that helped grow their popularity. Their product line is targeted at professional eSports players, which means their products are made with robust materials making them durable.
Notable products: SteelSeries Rival 600, SteelSeries Rival 3, SteelSeries Sensei 310, and SteelSeries Rival 650
Corsair was established in 1994 as a manufacturer of power supplies, RAM, etc. They joined the gaming peripherals market much later than Razer, Logitech, and SteelSeries. Their gaming mouse range is well-known for their high performance at an affordable price point. Corsair is still new to the gaming mice market and they are still expanding their gaming mice selection.
Notable products: Corsair M65 Elite, Corsair Harpoon, Corsair Ironclaw, and Corsair Nightsword RGB
5. Cooler Master
This Taiwan-based company established in 1992 is known for its cooling fans, power supplies, and CPU coolers. Cooler Master joined the gaming mouse market with affordable ergonomically designed mice. Cooler Master has the most affordable line-up as of today compared to the previous companies mentioned. Their best-sellers are the MM710 and MM711, which utilize honeycomb holes on the frame to reduce weight.
Notable products: Cooler Master MM710, MM720, Cooler Master CM310, and Cooler Master MasterMouse MM520.
Established after the rise of the gaming mouse industry in 2007, ROCCAT entered the market with outstanding ergonomics and noteworthy stylish designs. Their product line mainly features a number of extra buttons and textured side grips. ROCCAT boasts of their Owl-Eye optical sensor which performs on par with many of the acclaimed brands.
Notable products: ROCCAT Kone Aimo, ROCCAT Tyon, ROCCAT Leadr, and ROCCAT Kain 200 Aimo
7. BenQ Zowie
Zowie was established in 2008 and was later acquired by BenQ following their success in the industry. Zowie’s initial line-up consisted of gaming mice that did not require installing software which made it a pure plug and play gaming mouse. BenQ Zowie has maintained its minimalist design that doesn’t utilize RGB lighting as they are focused on delivering high performance.
Notable products: BenQ Zowie EC2, BenQ Zowie FK2, BenQ Zowie ZA13, and BenQ Zowie FK 1 eSports
Aside from the companies mentioned above, Cougar, HyperX, and ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG) are also worth mentioning for their performance. Cougar is known for its futuristic and ergonomic design. HyperX has great ambidextrous gaming mice. Well-balanced but mid-heavy mice are an ASUS staple.
A gaming mouse is a powerful tool when used correctly. High-performance gaming mice are a worthy investment of both time and money. Make a list of gaming mice that you would potentially buy and start shortlisting them. Once you have shortlisted your options, if possible, try them out to get a feel of how they fit your hand.
If you are looking for a budget gaming mouse, prioritize choosing the mouse with the right shape and size for your hand while also being compatible with your grip style. Budget gaming mice such as Cooler Master and Redragon offer great sensitivity, adjustable DPI, and good performing sensors.
The best gaming mouse is the one that is comfortable in your hand, fits your playstyle, lets you go all-out, and enables you to deliver consistently and reliably. It’s a balanced mix between the right specs and your personal preferences (grip style and comfort).