Gaming Mouse Guide

Gaming Mouse Guide

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Often lauded as the sole reason for favouring PC over console, a gaming mouse almost instantly transcribes our split-second decisions to an on-screen reaction with pin-point precision. As a PC gamer’s primary input, choosing the right gaming mouse is crucial. Here’s a comprehensive guide of which gaming mouse features to carefully consider.

How do you grip your mouse?

There are typically three ways to grip your mouse: palm, claw and tip.

Palm grip lays your entire palm against the mouse, including your fingers.

Claw grip is primarily controlled using spindly, arching fingertips, partly resting against your palm. Instead of manipulating your wrist for smaller adjustments, you shift the mouse around using your fingertips.

With tip grip, your hand is recessed behind the mouse, only the fingertips touching the surface.

Claw grip

Your grip preference will largely determine your purchasing decision. If you’ve become accustomed to a palm grip, you’ll ideally want a larger mouse to comfortably conform to the entire length of your palm. For claw grip, something on the smaller side for easier manoeuvrability. For tip grip, the size doesn’t matter as much.

Of course, consider the physical dimensions of your hands too. Bigger hands, bigger mouse. You don’t want to awkwardly cramp your fingers over a poorly fitting mouse. If you can’t test fit a mouse in person, you can make crude comparisons using measurements on the mouse’s spec sheet. This won’t accurately account for the mouse’s curves and contours, but it’s a good enough starting point.

Palm grip

Fortunately for left-handed users, most mice are designed ambidextrously. However, their button placements tend to be sub-optimal, favouring the right-handed user majority. Just make sure you don’t accidently pick up an exclusively right-handed mouse.

Weight

Weight is the most contentious debate currently surrounding gaming mice. On one hand you’ve got featherweight mice which skid uncontrollably if they’re barely breathed on. On the other there are chunky units with some serious heft, with a deliberate shove needed to get them moving. Of course, offering up an in-between solution are mice with adjustable weights, letting the user decide. Each weight category has their own positives and negatives, here’s a quick rundown of each.

At present, the lightweight gaming mouse easily dominates the market. Whether it’s a short-term marketing gimmick or a fundamental change for the foreseeable future, these devices are heavily demanded. The gaming mouse manufacturers are waging an ongoing war for the lightest, greatest gaming mouse crown.

Striving to achieve their goal they’ve deployed some interesting designs, to say the least. Flicking through our catalogue of gaming mice, you’ll quickly notice mice with cheese grater-like extrusions. Frankly, they may look a bit ridiculous, but these are the obsessive lengths manufacturers go to. Meticulously poring over every piece of plastic and shaving down or outright removing any material deemed unnecessary.

Why is weight so important?

It’s important for manoeuvring the mouse using the slightest possible adjustments and regaining control as fast as possible after an impressive flick. A lighter mouse means less friction against your gaming surface, making it easier to perform miniscule twitches. The initial force required to move a heavier mouse would make this difficult, you may overshoot your target entirely. For flicks, the higher inertia once a heavier mouse gets going makes it harder to catch. With a lighter mouse, you can stop it near-instantly on a dime. A lighter weight also reduces strain on your arm muscles. Peripheral ergonomics is a serious issue, especially during drawn-out gaming sessions.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference. Despite the admittedly one-sided fondness for a lightweight gaming mouse, some rightfully prefer a heavier mouse for the exact opposite reasons. The weight can help you be smoother over distracting, jittery movements. A more substantial weight in your hand is reassuring, knowing your mouse isn’t going to slide all over the desk.

Wired vs Wireless

Following up weight, the next important consideration is whether you opt for a wired or wireless gaming mouse. Using common logic, you may be inclined to believe wireless mice are vastly inferior where responsiveness is concerned. However, wireless gaming mice find themselves in a completely different league compared to bog-standard wireless mice. They’ve improved considerably over recent years. Their lightning-fast solutions convincingly rival or even exceed their wired counterparts.

If performance isn’t a concern, why wouldn’t you choose a wireless mouse? It partly boils down to weight again. Batteries are heavy, taking up a significant portion of the mouse’s total weight. If you want the lightest mouse possible, a wired one is highly likely.

Modern wireless mice are ridiculously efficient, some lasting over a hundred hours on a single charge. Though, they’ll inevitably run out of charge, potentially at the most inopportune moment. If you’d rather not worry about hastily hot-swapping batteries amid an intense battle or accidentally forgetting to top-up your battery, a wired gaming mouse may be the optimal choice.

For some, these are worthwhile trade-offs as wires are frankly annoying. They messily sprawl across your desk, tangling together for a cable management nightmare. Wildly flicking the mouse around, a cable is prone to dragging and catching, seriously interfering with gaming. A wireless gaming mouse eliminates these issues entirely for uninterrupted movements.

DPI

The first all-important technical specification you’ll likely encounter across all gaming mice is their DPI (dots-per-inch). This is essentially the mouse’s hardware-level sensitivity. The higher the DPI, the faster the mouse cursor moves on-screen. DPI’s primary purpose is for printers, to describe how many ‘dots’ a printer can fit in an inch. It’s frankly an odd, ill-fitting term for a gaming mouse, but basically one ‘dot’ translates to one pixel.

Mice routinely boast ridiculously high DPI values, though in practice you’ll rarely, if ever, use these upper limits. However, what makes a gaming mouse stand out in comparison to a generic mouse is the DPI adjustability and multiple DPI profiles.

Plugging in a generic mouse, you’re stuck with a fixed level of DPI with no way to change it. On a gaming mouse, however, the DPI is usually freely adjustable meaning you can hone your sensitivity. A higher DPI is favourable for twitchy, fast-paced games where actions-per-minute are key, like the strategy and MOBA genres. For competitive first-person shooters, a lower DPI enables more deliberate moments to precisely track a target’s head. You may also want a dedicated DPI for comfortably browsing the desktop.

Instead of having to manually adjust your DPI each time you switch genres, gaming mice tend to have a DPI button built-in for quickly switching between values assigned in the mouse’s accompanying software.

Sensor

Gaming mice should adhere to a strict no-tolerance policy against angle snapping, mouse smoothing, acceleration and other unwanted characteristics which routinely plague non-gaming mice sensors. These ‘features’ try to predict the user’s intentions, an unmistakeable warning sign for gamers.

You’ll usually find what sensor a mouse is using in the product description, though a Google search is only a few clicks away if it isn’t. You can cross-reference this sensor with a list of ‘flawless sensors’ available online. A flawless sensor shows no signs of these flaws, making it perfect for gaming.

Polling rate

The polling rate determines the how frequently the mouse polls its position to a computer. Currently, most gaming mice operate at 1,000Hz, or 1,000 polls-per-second. We’re starting to see mice with higher polling rates, while wireless mice leverage lower polling rates in power-saving modes.

A higher rate is always preferred for the least amount of delay between your mouse movements and an on-screen movement. This is one of the clear distinctions separating gaming mice as conventional non-gaming mice tend to only operate at 125Hz, a pitiful fraction of the speed. Polling rate becomes increasingly important as your monitor’s refresh rate increases, as if you’re using a lower polling rate than your refresh rate, there’d technically be new frames with no new mouse reports.

Number of buttons

One of the defining characteristics of gaming mice are their generous abundance of programable buttons. The standard selection you’ll find on most gaming mice is a couple of side-mounted buttons, placed beside your thumb for effortless use. Two buttons may not sound like a lot, but they’re truly transformative.

Even before hopping into a game, they cut down significantly on unnecessary mouse navigation by intuitively acting as page back and forward on internet browsers for instance, speeding up repetitive, menial tasks.

Think of the overwhelming amount of in-game actions games demand from players. They’re mechanically dense, requiring multiple simultaneous inputs – movement, interactions, melee, grenades and more.

Ideally, your keyboard hand should stay firmly planted on and never stray too far from the all-important WASD clusters, but other actions demand your attention. Not only are you awkwardly spawling your fingers across the keyboard mid-battle, but you’re also lifting off from the movement keys, limiting your capabilities.

Gaming mice with programmable buttons help alleviate this issue, as you can re-bind frequently used actions to mouse buttons instead. This keeps you in control at all times, elevating the skill ceiling and improving your performance.

How many buttons you require is heavily dependant on what games you play. Effectively leveraging a couple of side-mounted buttons is advantageous enough for most, though there’s gaming mice available with densely packed clusters of buttons bolted to the mouse grips for MMO and RTS power users.

RGB

Of course, we mustn’t forget RGB when discussing gaming peripherals. While it doesn’t directly affect the functionality of the mouse, the inclusion of it is practically a given nowadays. Implementation ranges from superficial lightshows, to smartly illuminating much-needed functions.

For instance, the RGB can clearly indicate the current DPI when changing levels. To preserve as much battery life as possible, you may want to smartly disable any unnecessary RGB on wireless mice.

Mouse pad

After carefully deliberating over your brand-new gaming mouse, you’ll want to pair it up with an equally matched mouse mat. It’s crucial you don’t skimp out on this step. A mouse mat ensures reliable tracking, even during erratic flicks. Without a mouse mat, your gaming mouse is exposed to the tiny imperfections of your desk. This wreaks havoc on the mouse’s ability to accurately track targets.

A mouse pad should be a consistently smooth surface, so the mouse performs predictably across its entirety and won’t lose tracking in game-changing moments. The less resistant material makes gaming mice effortlessly glide over its silky-smooth surface. Admittedly, it’s simply satisfying swiping back on forth on a high-quality mouse mat. It’s a marked improvement over a raw desk scratching the mouse feet and clogging the sensor with bits of dirt.

Mouse mats are mainly categorised by their size. You’ve got small ones perfect for portable play, up to full-on desk mats comfortably housing all your gaming peripherals. It’s ultimately down to personal preference again, but the bigger the better is our recommendation.

It’ll give you more than enough space to experiment and fine-tine your ideal sensitivity, instead of quickly running out of room. Plus, a squishy mouse mat provides your wrist with some much-needed respite from the unforgiving edges of a desk.

Find your ideal mouse

There’s no one ‘best mouse’, as everyone’s personal preferences are different. Hopefully, you can regularly refer back to this guide to help you whittle down your own shortlist of gaming mice contenders. Check out Ebuyer’s bountiful selection of gaming mice, here.

Also, check out last week’s round-up. Reportedly, remasters of the PlayStation 2 trilogy of Grand Theft Auto games are in development. Which one are you looking forward to most?