Arguably the most important piece of equipment in a gamer’s arsenal (other than the computer itself) is the mouse. Naturally, if having a good mouse really can affect gameplay as much as they say, you will want to pick the best possible mouse you can in your budget. If you are planning on switching from a stock mouse to a more specialized gaming mouse, you have come to the right place. Picking the best gaming mouse is largely a matter of personal preference, but a lot of people don’t know what they prefer, and as a result have no idea where to start. We’ll break down a few of the stats that matter, and give you some tips on what kind of mouse might suit your play style. This article is NOT intended to tell you specifically what mouse to buy, though we may throw some suggestions in here and there. We always recommend doing your homework, and trying a product if possible before you buy it.
If you have absolutely no clue where to start – this section is for you. First, we will want to determine what kind of games you want to play. As a general rule, FPS gamers prefer minimal buttons with a DPI switch to allow for precision when needed. MMO and RTS players, on the other hand, tend to prefer lots of buttons, lots of customization, and macro support. If you fit into either of those categories, there are some awesome products out there for you. If you, like myself, play a wide variety of games, you may prefer a happy medium between the two – something with a few extra buttons and some macro support. If you fall into that category, you might not care as much about having multiple macro profiles with onboard storage.
To a lot of us, how we hold the mouse isn’t really something we think about – but it does matter and it does vary from person to person. Spend some time figuring out how you prefer to hold your mouse. Do you prefer a claw grip or a palm grip? Over time, you will get to know what build shape feels most comfortable in your hand. Until then, we suggest reading some reviews to see how other people with your same grip like the mouse you’re looking at. If you can, go to a brick and mortar store and test a few out to see what feels best. Once you know what you like, we still suggest buying online, as you tend to get better prices that way.
Once you know what feels comfortable to you and what style of mouse you’re looking for, you will want to know what actually makes a good mouse good from a technical standpoint. As with a lot of other products, there are a lot of numbers floating around on mouse spec pages. Some of them matter, some of them really don’t matter at all. Typically, these numbers are pretty comparable across the board when it comes to gaming mice. Your biggest decision point will be in shape and features, not in tech specs. There are still, unfortunately, some terrible products out there, so this is still good information to have.
If you’ve been around gaming much, you probably think I’m about to tell you to get the highest DPI mouse you can find, because they are more accurate. Well – that’s really only partially true. DPI affects mouse sensitivity – not accuracy. It affects how quickly you can move your cursor on your screen. Now of course there are software features that control this as well, but the sensor in your mouse can and will limit how sensitive you can ultimately make your mouse. Does this matter? The short answer is yes, but not as much as people say it does. From a numbers perspective, most modern gaming mice have sensors that allow for DPI of 5000 or more, up to 8000 or even 10000 (which is complete overkill). Most gamers find their comfort zone well below that, usually closer to 1000 DPI than 8000. The most important feature you will want to look for in this area is adjustable DPI. Some mice only have one DPI setting, some have a few, and some allow for incremental changes from 1 all the way to 8000.
*As a general rule, optical sensors are bad, usually only offering top end DPI of 400-800. Stick to laser sensors, they’re better.
Polling Rate –
Polling Rate is something that is (for some reason) talked about a lot less than DPI is. I find that very strange, since it determines how often your mouse senses movement. What does that mean practically speaking? Better polling rate means better accuracy. As with DPI, the most important thing to look for is adjustable polling rates. Usually you will see polling rates at 100, 500, and 1000Hz – and hopefully the option to switch between all three whenever you want to.
Acceleration isn’t measured by a number, but it is probably the most important thing to make sure you don’t have. Acceleration makes your mouse dynamically increase and decrease in speed based on how quickly you are moving the mouse at any given time. This not only completely messes with accuracy, but all but removes muscle memory from the equation and forces gamers to make on the fly adjustments based on what they see on the screen. As much as you probably don’t realize it, especially in fast paced games, muscle memory plays a huge role. At the very least, your mouse should have the ability to disable Acceleration.
So what mouse do I buy already?
Like we said from the start, our intention here is to educate, not to hand you a quick answer to an irrelevant and unanswerable question of what the “best” mouse for you is. With so many options out there for gaming mice, and so much variety in features, do your homework. We certainly have our own favorites, but ours may be (and likely are) different than yours. You may go through a few mice before you find the perfect one for you, and that’s okay.
That being said, If you are looking for brand recommendations, check out Logitech, Razer, Steel Series, or Roccat.
Ben is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PCGR. He writes much of the content, manages the site, and does other editorial things that would bore you to tears.