A gaming mouse is essentially a standard PC mouse with extra bells and whistles. They're covered with more buttons, have more accurate positional tracking, more flashing neon lights and are designed for comfort over longer play sessions. They're made with precision in mind rather than to fade into the background in an office environment.
If your performance has plateaued of late, a good gaming mouse suited to your specific playstyle can give you the edge you're looking for. If you spend an inordinate amount of time wandering Azeroth, storming the Summoner's Rift or sniping on Dust2, it might be time to consider upgrading to a gaming mouse.
Gaming mice, like games themselves, can be divided into broad genres. Depending on your gaming tastes, you'll want to consider these options.
All-rounder mice: If it's not obvious from the name, all-rounder mice are less specialised and will do a decent job of just about everything. If your gaming tastes are eclectic and diverse, this is your best option.
FPS mice: If you play Overwatch, Counter-Strike or Call of Duty, consider an FPS-focussed mouse. They're not encumbered with unnecessary buttons, have adjustable weights allowing you to find the perfect hand feel and let you switch DPI (more on that later) on the fly so you can have twitchier movement while running-and-gunning and then instantly flick to a steadier, slower setting for looking down your scope and lining up headshots.
MMO mice: If Azeroth is your second home, you should grab an MMO mouse. These have up to 12 customisable buttons along the thumb side flank of the mouse, allowing you to hit all your individual cooldown abilities without moving your hand. This means you won't have to hover over your keyboard hotkeys in the heat of a raid.
MOBA mice: MOBA mice are a relatively new development, but they also work well for old-school RTS games. While they have flank buttons like MMO mice (though generally fewer), the focus here is on the main left and right mouse buttons, which are balanced to give you the highest possible actions per minute (APM).
Wired vs wireless gaming mice
Wired mice are generally considered more responsive and reliable than their wireless cousins, though this is becoming less true every year as wireless tech is improved. We're talking about fractions of seconds here, but if you're looking for a competitive edge it all adds up.
Wireless connections can be notoriously flaky in certain environments, too, so if you need something guaranteed to work every single time, wired is the lower risk option – especially if public tournament play is on the cards for you. Wired mice are also cheaper.
However, if you're not playing at the highest level competitively and don't like unnecessary clutter, wireless is a solid option. They look better and take up less desk real estate, but it's worth keeping in mind that wireless mice will need charging or fresh batteries, depending on the model.
How to compare gaming mice
Now that you've chosen what genre of mouse suits you, and weighed up between wired and wireless options, there are still a number of important factors to consider.
Size and comfort
You're going to be holding your gaming mouse for potentially thousands of hours of play, so comfort is crucial. While shape and materials play a part, it's the size of the mouse relative to the size of your hand that matters most so if you have large hands, you'll want a larger mouse.
As a general rule, if your hand is smaller than 17cm in length (measured from the base of your palm to the top of your middle finger), consider opting for a small mouse. If your hand is between 17cm and 20cm, opt for a medium one, and if it's longer than 20cm, then opt for a large one. You want your mouse to be around 75% the size of your hand, if not larger. You'll be able to find the exact dimension of any gaming mouse on its manufacturer's website.
Mouse sensitivity is measured in dots per inch (DPI). The higher the DPI, the more sensitive the mouse is to being moved. However, a higher number doesn't automatically equate to "better". In games that emphasise precision over speed of movement, a lower DPI can be advantageous. First-person shooters are generally better using lower DPI so you can dial in headshots without sliding past your target with an accidental hand twitch. For example, most Call of Duty pro players use DPI settings of between 400 and 800. MOBAs or RTS games, on the other hand, in which you need to make large sweeping motions, can benefit from higher DPI settings.
Ultimately, if you're going to be playing different types of games, what you want is the versatility to experiment with settings. All gaming mice will let you switch DPI using software but some even let you switch on the fly with a dedicated button.
Optical versus laser tracking
This refers to the type of light the mouse shines onto a surface to track movement. Optical mice use LEDs while laser mice use, well, lasers. You can use a laser mouse on more types of surfaces, like glass desks, whereas optical mice really need a decent mousepad to function properly on anything other than a solid, non-glossy desk. However, laser mice can pick up divots in a desk or uneven fibres in a mousepad, resulting in judder and poorer performance. Most pro players prefer optical mice.
Polling rate is a measure of how often a mouse reports its location back to the computer. Higher polling rates reduce input lag and increase accuracy. We'd recommend aiming for a gaming mouse with at least a 500Hz polling rate.
Four things to consider
A mouse is only as good as the surface you use it on. If your desk isn't conducive to accurate tracking, consider buying a quality mousepad.
Keep in mind that if you have an ultra-wide monitor or a multi-monitor set-up, you'll need to move your cursor even further than usual, so a higher DPI setting might be beneficial for you.
You can get a very good mouse for between $60 and $200. Anything more expensive than that and you're probably paying for customisation options you don't really need.
If you're left-handed, you might struggle to find an ergonomic mouse. However, some of the best gaming mice are ambidextrous by design (just avoid ergonomic right-handed models).
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David Milner is an award-winning games journalist, former editor of Game Informer magazine, and regular contributor to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Embarrassingly, he only completed The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the first time in 2019. Bloodborne is his favourite game ever.
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