Because not every PC game is compatible with a gamepad and because not all PC gamers like playing with a gamepad, a gaming mouse is an invaluable tool. It’s true that a regular, bog-standard mouse does the job, it doesn’t necessarily do it well. That doesn’t mean you should immediately go and buy the most expensive gaming mouse you can find. More expensive doesn’t automatically mean best. It’s far more important to consider the features the mouse offers and choosing the one that best meets your needs. There are some fabulous high-end gaming mice out there, but there’s some great budget models, too. We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you choose the gaming mouse that best meets your needs.
Sensitivity is primarily measured in dots per inch (DPI) or occasionally in characters per inch (CPI). It describes how much you need to move the mouse in relation to how far the cursor moves. So, the higher the sensitivity, the less distance you need to move the mouse. High DPI gaming mice, ranging from 2,000 to 8,000 DPI + are exceptionally sensitive and require only small movements for the cursor to move large distances. This makes them great for players using large monitors and playing fast-paced shoot-’em-ups or racing games. However, even if you have a steady hand, with this much sensitivity, these mice become pretty much useless for desktop applications and any game or task that requires fine, accurate control. In this instance, a lower DPI is the better option.
We’d recommend going for a gaming mouse that boasts adjustable sensitivity. Additionally, don’t pay for excessive DPI if you just won’t use it. There’s no point and it’s a waste of money. Often, manufacturers and retailers make lots of noise about their super-duper gaming mice that have a ludicrously high DPI, which enables them to charge more. But remember, too much DPI and you won’t be able to exercise proper control. It’ll ruin your gaming experience and lead to a bad case of frustration. So go with a DPI-adjustable mouse and get a feel for what level of sensitivity works best for you in any given game or task.
Some people scoff at the idea that a gaming mouse should be ergonomic. Those people clearly don’t indulge in long PC gaming sessions. It’s crucial that your mouse hand (and arm) sits in a comfortable position with healthy posture – for both the immediate and long-term benefits. Getting an ergonomic mouse is vital to your success as a gamer and your future health. If you hold your hand in an unhealthy posture repeatedly for long sessions, you run the risk of arthritic issues, carpal tunnel syndrome, and a variety of chronic pain conditions that could not only end your career as a gamer, but can eventually severely impact your daily life permanently.
So, what do we mean by ergonomics? We mean the size, shape, and weight of the mouse.
Think about how you grip your mouse. Do you use a palm grip, a claw grip, or a fingertip grip?
image courtesy of gaming-mouse.org
The palm grip places the least amount of stress on the hand and arm, but offers the least movement and button-clicking speed. Your hand essentially lays on the body of the mouse and you use the pads or the whole of your index and middle fingers to operate the left and right buttons. The mouse moves with direction from your arm rather than just your hands or fingers. Your thumb and pinkie, and possibly your ring finger grip the sides of the mouse.
The claw grip increases movement speed but also increases stress. If you use this grip, you’ll find that the heel of the mouse lays beneath the base of your palm. Like the palm grip, the majority of mouse movement comes from the arm. You arch your fingers and thumb and use just the very tips for clicking. This clearly places more stress on the fingers and wrist but allows faster movements.
The fingertip grip provides the fastest mouse operation but also the greatest amount of stress. While you can move your mouse faster, you only connect to the mouse with your fingertips. Often, with this grip, the pinky is held away from the mouse, out to one side, increasing stress. Additionally, the mouse movement comes from the hand and wrist, rather than the arm, which is good for fast movement, but very bad for your body.
image courtesy of Tomshardware.com
So how does this relate to choosing a gaming mouse? Well, your grip determines the shape of the mouse you should purchase. Ideally, you use the palm grip, as this is the most natural positioning. Your hand should comfortably lay over the mouse, with your middle and index fingers over the buttons. You shouldn’t have to stretch your hand or bend your wrist at an uncomfortable angle to operate it properly. Many modern gaming mice are contoured to the shape of your hand, increasing comfort, encouraging healthy posture, and decreasing stress. Size plays an important role here, as well as shape. Larger hands require larger mice, while those with small hands or short fingers need a smaller overall design. Weight is a secondary consideration when it comes to the ergonomics of the mouse, and is a matter of personal preference. Some gamers prefer a lighter mouse for faster movement with less effort, while others refer a heavier model because it gives them greater control.
Opening a program and changing a whole bunch of settings every time you want to play a different style of game or when switching from gaming to general use is a real pain. Therefore, we recommend finding a gaming mouse that stores multiple profiles and offers a fast, easy way to switch between those profiles. This allows you to configure multiple profiles for different scenarios, such as FPS, MMO, and general PC use.
The vast majority of contemporary mice have a scroll wheel as well as a left and right button. While these are programmable, so you can alter their functions, it’s not something that’s done very often. So, when you’re choosing a gaming mouse, remember to subtract those three from the number of programmable buttons the mouse has. In theory, the more buttons, the better, as you can program each button or series of buttons to replace a single keystroke or a keystroke sequence, effectively creating multiple macros. Many gamers prefer replacing hotbar keystrokes with programmable mouse buttons instead, for example.
Acceleration is a feature that moves your cursor according to how fast you move the mouse. This is a particularly useful feature with low DPI, as it enables faster movement when necessary without sacrificing control. Not everyone likes acceleration, and it can take some getting used to, but most gaming mice that offer this feature provide a method of switching it off.
Response Time / Polling Rate
Polling rate essentially refers to how responsive your mouse is. It is the rate at which the mouse checks for and reports new inputs. The higher the polling rate, the more accurate the movement of the cursor, and the more responsive the mouse. A standard PC mouse generally has a polling rate of around 125 Hz, while a gaming mouse has anywhere from 250 Hz to in excess of 1,000 Hz. This means that a regular PC mouse checks for and reports new inputs 125 times per second, while a gaming mouse checks for and reports new inputs up to 1,000+ times per second. While this has obvious benefits, including significantly faster response times, if you’re using a wireless battery, it’s important to note that the higher the polling rate, the higher the battery consumption.
– Katy Willis