Buying a Mouse: DPI, Sensors and More

No matter your needs or usage scenarios, there’s a mouse out there that suits you.

Today, we’ll be going over how to find that mouse, namely the aspects you should be taking into consideration when doing so, primarily the sensor and grip, as those are the two most major factors to consider. The rest will be covered in more detail throughout the article.

buyingamouse-sensor

There are two primary kinds of mouse sensors on the market today: optical and laser. Technically, “laser” sensors are optical and use a different kind of LED, but let’s not get into that.

The primary differences between optical and laser sensors are as follows.

“Optical” sensors are more accurate than laser sensors at the price of poorer surface compatibility (increasing the necessity of a specialized surface or mousepad) and a significantly lower DPI range.

“Laser” sensors have a higher DPI capacity than optical and are compatible with more surfaces at the price of true accuracy. More on that in a little bit.

DPI does not equal accuracy. DPI stands for “Dots Per Inch,” and while it is related to accuracy, having a high DPI isn’t the same thing as having a high accuracy. Laser sensors have inherent mouse acceleration which cannot be disabled, as it’s a limitation of the hardware. Optical sensors do not have this weakness, but in turn they are limited to lower DPIs.

I’ll cover DPI some more later on. For now, let’s move on to mouse grip.

buyingamouse-grip

Another important aspect to take into consideration when buying a new mouse is what mouse grip you’re used to. As laid out in the photo above, there are three main mouse grips: palm grip, claw grip, and fingertip grip. Most people use palm grip, though claw and fingertip grip also have their niches and are generally favored by gamers.

Primarily, you should be concerned with what grip already suits you. If you’re a palm grip user, like myself, maybe learning a new grip could help in-game performance, but in truth, it’s really what you’re most comfortable and efficient with.

In any case, I’ll give a quick overview of each kind of mouse grip.

  • Palm grip is considered the most “natural” way to hold a mouse and is generally the version people learn. Using the whole finger to push mouse buttons (plus requiring whole-hand mouse movements), however, can result in slight delays compared to other grips.
  • Claw grip involves your hand being arched over the mouse, using only fingertips to press mice buttons and using less of your hand for mouse movement. This performance enhancement comes at the cost of quicker fatigue since you aren’t simply resting your hand, and actual real-world differences aren’t recorded fairly well.
  • Fingertip grip is the rarest grip, and a further evolution of claw grip designed to use only your fingertips and not your palm at all. This means you aren’t resting your hands at all and are controlling your mouse entirely with your fingers which is easier to do with light mice. This also causes the most fatigue.

That being said, you really shouldn’t be buying mice based on what grip they are designed for. You should buy a mouse based on the grip you already use.

When it comes to mouse marketing, “DPI” is perhaps one of the most deceptive buzzwords used to confuse users into thinking that they’re buying the best, most high-end mouse on the market.

Have you ever tried using a 6,500 DPI mouse? The most minute movements on your part can send your cursor flying across the screen, and there’s a reason behind this. DPI isn’t about how accurate your mouse is; it’s about how far your cursor moves in relation to how far your mouse is moving. A higher DPI will move your mouse further across the same distance than a lower DPI, but it does not affect the overall accuracy of the movement itself.

When it comes to accuracy, all mice are actually just about even unless they have bad sensors. You’ll know when your mouse has a bad sensor. However, an accurate sensor with a respectable DPI won’t improve your in-game performance if you have mouse acceleration enabled.

“Mouse acceleration” is the reason that I (and many others) recommend against using laser sensors. Mouse acceleration is essentially what your mouse does to predict mouse movements. However, in video games, especially FPSes, this removes consistency from your aim and will decrease your performance in turn.

Mouse acceleration is enabled by default in most mice and needs to be manually disabled. In laser mice, however, there is additional hardware mouse acceleration that can’t be disabled.

buyingamouse-synapse

A staple of gaming mice everywhere is something called “mouse software.” Mouse software essentially allows you to control functions of your mouse in software. This means adjusting your DPI, binding special functions to mouse buttons, setting up profiles and controlling mouse acceleration. For the common user, there isn’t really a reason to meddle with mouse software. For the gamers, however, they are already covered by the options on the market today so long as they remember to keep their software and drivers updated with the latest from the mouse manufacturer.

buyingamouse-weights

Mouse hardware is a different, more interesting story. By “mouse hardware” I’m referring to additional buttons and endless scroll wheels, and also things like adjustable mouse weights. While extra mouse features outside of additional buttons – which can have a very large effect on your user experience – aren’t usually taken into consideration, customizability featuring in-mouse hardware is always welcome and becoming increasingly more common.

Extra buttons on a mouse can serve the same function as back and forward keys in a browser. For instance, having two extra mouse buttons is so popular that every mainstream browser supports using them for back and forward operations. Extra buttons aside from that can be used to create macros for specialized functions or to be treated as extra mice buttons themselves by games and software, useful as push-to-talk buttons and more.

Mouse weights are also interesting, allow you to turn a light mouse into a heavy one or removing them for the opposite function. Everyone’s comfortable with a different weight class in mouse, after all.

Overall, you should ask yourself the following before buying a mouse:

  • Do I value accuracy or surface compatibility?
  • Palm, claw or fingertip?
  • How high can the DPI go? Does it matter? (It doesn’t.)
  • Does the mouse have the extra features I’m looking for?

After reading through this article and taking a close look at mice in your price range that have caught your interest, you should have the answer to all of these questions. If you have any more, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments!