Gaming mice are a pretty hot topic. Apart from the eternal debate on whether the keyboard and mouse combo is better than a gamepad, there’s also a civil war regarding the mice themselves. As with keyboards, mice have been adapted for gaming apart from more prosaic purposes. Early mice used balls, were pretty laggy by modern standards, and only had up to three buttons. As games took advantage of the mouse, gaming itself started pushing these devices. MMOs created a market for specialized mice with umpteen buttons. Competitive shooters lit a fire under mouse makers to turn them into razor-sharp fragging tools. So if you’re in the market for a top gaming mouse, what’s to think about?

The Laser Question and What’s a “DPI”?

While ball-based mice are thankfully dead and gone, there’s still an important choice to make with modern mice when it comes to how they measure movement. You’ll see regular optical mice and laser mice advertised, but what’s the difference? All optical mice use a camera to take pictures of the surface the mouse is moved over. The changes from one picture to the next let it calculate how the mouse is being moved. Regular optical mice use an LED to light up that surface so that the camera can see. Laser mice use a laser instead, which is a more uniform and energetic light source.

In practice, this means that laser mice tend to have higher DPI numbers. That’s Dot’s Per Inch. The more dots per inch the mouse can resolve in the image of the surface, the more finely-grained the movement can be. Mice sporting 6000 DPI and up are almost all laser mice, in my experience. So if you absolutely need those high DPI numbers, it’s the only way to go.

But do you need those high DPI numbers? Unless you’re a big-money pro gamer, probably not. Even if you are, between 800 and 3000 DPI is probably where most people play. So forking out for a 6000 to 16000 DPI laser mouse might not be worth the premium. The bottom line is that features like size, comfort, and button ergonomics are more impactful than DPI. If your perfect mouse happens to be a high-DPI laser mouse, great. However, I wouldn’t let that sway me away from a mouse that is otherwise superior.

Wireless or Wired?

The answer to this question used to be pretty straightforward – wired mice all the way. Wireless mice were just too laggy for use in gaming, regardless of whether you played just for fun or competitively. Today, that’s not the case any more. There are wireless gaming mice that have the same sort of latency as their wired equivalents. Heck, I even game with a modern general purpose office mouse and have no issues with latency, although I’m sure a serious competitive player would notice.

I prefer wireless peripherals, but wired is the only 100% reliable option. There are no batteries to go flat, signal interference, or any of the other issues that can crop up with a tailless computer rodent. Of course, wired mice are less neat; you have to manage the cable and perhaps even use a cable bungee to prevent snags. If you are looking to play competitively it’s safer to go with a wired mouse. If you just want to play, wireless gaming mice are a fine choice these days.

Size it Up

We humans have variable body part shapes and sizes; this makes it hard for people who design mice to make one that will work for everyone. If you have hands that are very small or very large, the most important factor you have to take into account is the size of the mouse. You want a mouse that fits your palm well without causing strain or forcing you to perch your hand on top of it. I don’t think people give enough attention to mouse size and then end up disappointed when that good-looking mouse doesn’t feel right at all.

Razer Mouse

Sinister or Dexter?

If you are one of the few people who are left-handed then I really feel sorry for you in the computer peripheral world. Almost nothing is made for left-handed users, and that includes gaming mice.

Many mice are now, thankfully, ambidextrous. However, ambidextrous mice have to give up some comfort to please both types of users. It’s worth checking whether the company that makes the mouse you want also sells a left-handed version of that model. It might not be advertised widely, but you may be able to get one!

Programmability and Adjustability

As the needs of gamers on PC have become more sophisticated, the abilities of some gaming mice have grown as well. For example, a common feature is a switch on the mouse that lets you change between different DPI levels – one for shooting from the hip and a less sensitive one for lining up sniper shots, perhaps.

The software that comes with the mouse can be pretty important here. It may allow you to deeply customize how the mouse works, set up different profiles, and even allow for macros. Of course, if you don’t need any of those features you should not be paying for them.

Then there’s the issue of physical adjustability. This is becoming more common in high-end gaming mice. You now get mice with interchangeable weights so you can adjust how heavy the mouse feels as you move it around. I’ve even seen mice that have adjustable shapes and sizes; with a screwdriver you can move the body panels around and get the mouse to fit you exactly. Roccat pioneered that approach a few years ago. Most gamers probably don’t need this sort of customization, but just as with elite gamepads, there’s a market for this sort of technology.

Button Madness

For Windows and Linux users, three buttons is the standard for mice. Mac users might still think one button is all you need, but for gaming this can never be the case. Typical mice have a left and right button, with a mousewheel in the middle that can be clicked.

Most PC games are designed for this, but having more buttons can be really useful. I have always enjoyed having two extra buttons under my thumb for common functions such as melee attacks or throwing a grenade. Let’s not forget about MMO mice, which can have dozens of buttons!

The point is, don’t just settle for the three standard buttons, when you can get so much more.

Which Mouse Gets the Cheese?

Apart from these prime considerations, the rest is really up to you. Looks and things like RGB lighting have no real effect on performance. You might care about materials like metal vs plastic, but once again that’s not a core performance issue. The most important thing is whether it feels good and then whether it plays good. Everything else is secondary. For some good suggestions, go check out my gaming mouse reviews, and then get clicking!