Lindsay Handmer gets his hands all over the latest gaming mice.
You could be forgiven for thinking that mouse technology hasn’t advanced much since the first optical sensors, but behind the scenes there’s actually been a veritable arms race of specs. The gaming mouse market is a hotly contested one and tech-wise they’re all about precision; in fact, there are entire companies dedicated to building the perfect super sensor. High dpi counts are a bit like five-bladed shavers, though: the idea looks great on paper and works fine, but in reality it’s total overkill. Aside from ever-increasing tracking sensitivity and accuracy, modern gaming mice have actually gotten extremely sophisticated. It used to be that a bit of stray dust could send your pointer whizzing about, whereas now most mice work equally well on a pad, desk or even your cat.
The very latest additions to gaming mice are about getting the most from your buttons for intensive new games. This is often done via software where you can customise endless settings. Many mice even let you program how high off your mouse pad you can lift them before they stop tracking the surface. Having a known brand that will constantly improve and update its mouse software can be a big win, as updates can lend new life to an older mouse.
You might also expect to see more wireless gaming mice, but the technology has largely been shunned by gamers. In our testing there’s little to no appreciable lag when using a wireless mouse, but many gamers remain unconvinced. If you crave a wireless gaming mouse, there are a few models available, although the market is still largely dominated by wired versions.
Let the mouse pick you
Shopping for a new mouse can be a bit of an ordeal, with countless acronyms and specs that often mean nothing to the average user. Most gaming mice use optical sensors while some use laser setups, and a rare few combine both. Both technologies offer excellent accuracy; however, optical mice are better suited to use on mouse pads and can have issues with shiny surfaces, while laser mice generally handle a variety of surfaces well.
The resolution of the sensor is measured in dpi and higher numbers mean smoother tracking. For most people, anything over a few thousand will be more than adequate. Adjustable dpi lets you vary how far the cursor moves compared to you moving the actual mouse.
The ips (inches per second) rating is the speed at which the mouse can move and still track the surface. This is often also reported in metric as metres per second. This matters because some FPS players like to turn the dpi down very low and use very large mouse movements to improve accuracy.
It’s also very important to consider the physical size and weight of the mouse -- larger hands on a smaller mouse result in the ‘claw’ hand grip, where the palm is clear of the mouse and the fingers do the work. A larger mouse or smaller hand lets your palm rest on the back of the mouse. Most mice are right-handed in design so if you’re a leftie, make sure the shape is ambidextrous.
Almost all mice have programmable buttons, but the best store the profiles on the mouse; in the latter case, if you use your mouse on a new computer, the buttons still work as originally programmed.