It’s a great idea to put some thought into buying your gaming mouse. After all, these gaming peripherals don’t necessarily come cheap. Whether you’re looking for a laser gaming mouse or an optical gaming mouse, you should know that the market is filled to the brim with them, making it so easy to just be overwhelmed.
You already know you’re going for a modern mouse because you don’t live under a rock and you already know that the mechanical ball type is already obsolete and as a gaming mouse it wouldn’t even rise to the occasion. But between optical and laser, do you know what you’d choose?
How does a modern mouse work?
First off, you have to know that all modern mice are technically optical mice. They all make use of optical data that determines the speed and the direction with which they move on a surface. Your mouse is basically a camera that relies on a CMOS sensor. It takes a thousand (or more!) pictures of the surface it’s on every second. Once you move it, it calculates the next locations by comparing these thousands of pictures of the surface by the offset between these pictures. Cool, huh?
Laser vs. optical: What’s the difference?
Most brands that market optical mice are actually selling optical red LED mice. So from here on after, when you read optical mouse in this article, you can just go ahead and think about the optical mouse that uses red LED or infrared light. On the other hand, a laser mouse is an optical mouse that uses – you guessed it – laser infrared light.
An average user may not notice any difference at all between a laser and an optical mouse, but gamers, especially the hardcore ones, and graphic designers might be able to tell the difference.
LED vs. LASER
In the past, you can easily tell between a LED and a laser mouse just by flipping it around. An optical LED mouse would have used a red LED light that became its distinctive feature. On the other hand, the laser light used on laser mice is invisible to the naked eye. Nowadays, many optical mice use invisible infrared light that helps them work on more surfaces.
When it first came out, laser mice cost a lot more than optical mice. Now you could get a laser gaming mouse for the same price as the optical one, with price ranges a lot closer than it used to be. You can pick any reasonable price range, and there would be a number of laser and optical gaming mice that you could choose from.
DPI and Acceleration
Mouse acceleration is said to be responsible for the difference in the distance traveled by the cursor when a mouse is moved at different speeds. It’s really the wrong term to use, but it has definitely caught on. This means that moving your mouse from point A to point B faster could make the cursor travel a longer distance. Usually, a mouse with a higher DPI (dots per inch) resolution would make your cursor travel longer distances compared with one that has a lower DPI resolution.
Many gamers rely on a mouse’s precision. First-person shooting gamers benefit greatly from muscle memory and precision, so you can probably already guess why this so-called acceleration on the OS-side isn’t a desirable feature for most gamers. With this mouse setting turned off, if you move your mouse an inch, no matter the speed, your cursor will always move the same distance.
Nowadays it’s very easy for both laser and optical mouse to have a resolution of up to 12,000 dpi. Many optical and laser gaming mice nowadays have adjustable DPIs, but laser mice usually still have higher default settings and are thus more sensitive.
It’s true that optical mice have smaller acceleration variants than laser mice. You can say that optical mice are far more accurate because of this, but this has always been a subject for debate. Accuracy is based on a lot of other things as well, such as the mouse’s weight and physical design.
There’s no relevant connection between a mouse’s tracking technology and battery life. If you want to go wireless and concerned about battery life, you’re only going to have to consider fancy lighting, polling rate and DPI.
Polling rate determines how often your CPU and your wireless mouse talk to each other. There isn’t really a need for manufacturers to produce a mouse with a polling rate higher than 1000 Hz, and its difference to a mouse with a 500 Hz polling rate would be barely noticeable.
With that said, if you’re concerned about power consumption, you can literally take tracking technology out of the equation.
Without a proper mouse pad, you may have a bit of a problem with an older model of an optical mouse. This isn’t that big of an issue with more modern optical mice. While white and glass surfaces are still out, a modern optical mouse could now work on light and glossy surfaces.
A laser mouse could work on light, white, glossy surfaces, and even glass. You can even use your leg as a mouse pad, and it would still work perfectly. You’d find that a laser mouse would be a better fit if you use your laptop in a variety of places. You won’t have to bother with bringing a mouse pad anywhere you go.
With both technologies catching up to each other, your decision might only depend on which surface you’re planning to use it on. Even that distinction is only separated by glass or no-glass, which is a pretty easy decision to make. You can get them for virtually the same price nowadays, you can get them either wired or wireless, and you can adjust both their DPIs. When it comes down to choosing the best gaming mouse, you can go with either an optical gaming mouse or a laser gaming mouse. It’s really only a matter of preference and, if possible, just give them a try before you buy.