Technology Explained

The Computer Mouse Guide: 8 Things to Know When Buying a Mouse

Andy Betts Updated 13-07-2018

When you’re thinking about the best ways to upgrade your computer, you probably don’t give much thought to your mouse. All mice are the same, right?


Well, not quite.

It’s one of the most-used pieces of hardware with your PC. You shouldn’t be stuck with the same cheap piece of junk you’ve had for years. Replacing your mouse can help you get better at work and play, plus it can help prevent damage to your wrists and fingers.

Read on to find out what you need to know before you buy a new mouse.

Also check out these wireless mouse and keyboard combos The 7 Best Wireless Mouse and Keyboard Combos for All Budgets These affordable wireless keyboard and mouse combos will help you work and play without extra clutter on your desk. Read More .

1. Choose a Mouse That Suits Your Needs

Razer Gaming Mouse
Image Credit: Razer


For most users, the standard three-button mouse (where the scroll wheel functions as a third button) will do the job just fine. But for specific tasks, look into specially designed mice.

Gaming Mice

Gamers should always invest in a dedicated gaming mouse. It won’t make you a better player, but it will make your gameplay a whole lot easier.

The best gaming mouse will offer ergonomic benefits, making it more comfortable for lengthy sessions of play. It’ll have a higher-quality sensor, which improves its accuracy.

And best of all, it will have buttons that you can configure to make repetitive tasks easier. Need to pull up your sniper rifle, or use a medkit? A simple click can do it. You can even assign complex macros to a single button.


A lot of gaming mice, including the UtechSmart Venus, have DPI switches that you can use to toggle between a higher DPI setting (for faster cursor speeds) and a lower DPI setting (for smoother, more accurate control). More on that later.

UtechSmart Venus Gaming Mouse RGB Wired, 16400 DPI High Precision Laser Programmable MMO Computer Gaming Mice [IGN's Recommendation] UtechSmart Venus Gaming Mouse RGB Wired, 16400 DPI High Precision Laser Programmable MMO Computer Gaming Mice [IGN's Recommendation] Buy Now On Amazon $32.99

Travel Mice

The other main type of specialist mouse is the travel mouse. Most are just standard two or three-button units shrunk for compactness. Most are wireless, though some use short or retractable cables. They’re also usually affordable enough that you can easily replace them if you lose one.

The main point of a travel mouse is the ability to fit inside a tight space—such as a laptop bag or a purse—and they often aren’t designed with ergonomics in mind. They’re great if you’re on the road a lot, but they aren’t suited for heavy use.


2. Ergonomic Mice Are Better for Heavy Use

Logitech MX Master 2
Image Credit: Logitech

Ergonomic mice are designed to fit in your hand What Kind of Ergonomic Mouse Should You Buy? 6 Wrist-Friendly Mice When you imagine a computer mouse, you probably think of the traditional mouse with two buttons and a scroll wheel. An ergonomic mouse looks entirely different -- and it can decrease the strain on your... Read More in a more natural way, reducing strain on your fingers and wrist. They also tend to have extra buttons within easy reach of your digits.

How comfortable they are depends on many conditions, including the kind of grip you prefer. Some users like to hold their hand flatly, while others prefer a more claw-like grip.

Size is a factor when it comes to comfort, and while many mice come in both right and left-handed versions, not all do. As a result, if you’re in the market for an ergonomic mouse, test a few out first. Or at least buy from somewhere with a good return policy. Also, consider getting a vertical mouse, a special type of ergonomic mouse. Here are our top choices for ergonomic vertical mice.


The other comfort factor often overlooked is noise. When you’re hard at work, most mice produce an incessant clicking sound. Even if it doesn’t annoy you, it may annoy others nearby. Get a noiseless mouse like the VicTsing Silent Mouse to solve that problem.

VicTsing Silent Wireless Mouse, Computer Mouse Slim VicTsing Silent Wireless Mouse, Computer Mouse Slim Buy Now On Amazon

3. Higher DPI Is Not Always Better

One of the main specs you’ll see to advertise a mouse is DPI, or dots per inch. In the simplest terms, this is a figure that shows how far the mouse pointer will move for every inch that the mouse itself physically moves.

Take a 4K display, for example, with a 3840 pixel width. You’d need to drag a 400DPI mouse nearly 10 inches across your desk to move the pointer from the left edge to the right. How far for a 3000DPI mouse? About an inch and a half.

But while the general rule of tech specs is that higher numbers are always better, that isn’t true here. DPI shows how fast the mouse pointer moves, and faster isn’t always better.

These are our recommendations:

  • Most “normal” users don’t need to worry about DPI at all.
  • High DPI is great for high-resolution displays or multi-monitor setups. It enables you to traverse the screen quicker.
  • For gaming, high DPI allows you to act and react more quickly. Lower DPI gives you greater control and precision. Gamers need a mouse with adjustable DPI settings.
  • For Photoshop or other apps that need a high level of precision, a lower DPI can be better.

4. Polling Rate Is Only Somewhat Important

Another key spec you’ll see reported for mice is the polling rate. This is a figure, measured in hertz (Hz), that shows how many times each second that mouse reports its position to the computer. A higher number means greater accuracy and smoother movement.

At least in theory.

The leap from 500Hz to 1000Hz may sound large, but in reality it’s a move from two milliseconds to one millisecond. It’s unlikely your eyes will even notice.

Gamers should go no lower than 500Hz, but everyone else can ignore polling rate altogether.

5. Optical vs. Laser Mice Differences

The two most common types of mice are optical and laser mice, which are actually variations on the same technology. The main difference is that an optical mouse uses an LED to reflect off the below surface, while a laser mouse uses a laser to track movement.

For this reason you can only use optical mice on flat and opaque surfaces. Most laser mice work on a wider range of surfaces, including glass.

Laser mice are more sensitive. They can reach higher DPI ratings, which means they can track movements more precisely and also move across the screen quicker (so you may need to turn your mouse sensitivity down).

This can result in a problem called “acceleration.” This is where the mouse pointer travels further when you move the mouse quickly than it does when you move it slowly. It’s a nightmare for gamers, many of whom prefer the steadiness of an optical mouse over the increased precision of a laser one.

6. Wireless Mice Are Much Better Now

Wireless mice have caught up with their wired counterparts Wired vs. Wireless Peripherals: What You Really Need to Know Not all devices are equal. There are some things you need to know before deciding between wired or wireless. Sometimes wireless is a no-brainer -- or it could be the worst move you make. Read More to the extent that their positives now outweigh any downsides.

Lag is all but gone—although gamers may still prefer the absolute consistency and reliability that comes with a wired option. If you pick the right model, it’ll be years before you need to replace the battery.

The main benefit of wireless mice is convenience. There’s no clutter from the cable, and if you use a Bluetooth mouse it won’t take up a USB port. Wireless range is also much better. This enables you to control a computer attached to a projector or TV, for example, from as much as 30 feet away.

7. Bluetooth Is Best for Wireless Mice

RF Mouse with dongle

When buying a wireless mouse, your choice is between radio frequency (RF) or Bluetooth models. RF mice may be slightly more responsive, and are much easier to set up—simply plug in the dongle that comes with it.

The downside is that the dongle hogs one of your USB ports, and is near-impossible to replace if you lose it. RF devices are also more prone to interference.

Bluetooth is more convenient. It won’t use a precious USB port, and battery life can easily run to a year or two. It’s also a lot easier to share a single mouse between several computers.

Setting up a Bluetooth mouse How to Turn On or Fix Bluetooth on Windows 10 Need to pair a Bluetooth device with Windows 10? Here's how to turn on Bluetooth on Windows 10 and troubleshoot any issues. Read More requires a few extra steps, and you have to wait for it to reconnect when you boot or wake your computer. But for the most part, Bluetooth is now the way to go.

8. What About Mouse vs. Trackpad?

Instead of a regular mouse, you could consider a standalone touchpad similar to what you get on a laptop. It isn’t suitable for tasks like gaming and image editing, but some users find touch-based systems more intuitive, especially now that desktop software is often designed with touch in mind.

Ergonomically, the flatter design may not work for everyone, although some products get around this cleverly. Microsoft’s Arc Mouse curves into whatever shape you find most comfortable.

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A handy compromise is a mouse with touch support, like the Logitech Zone Touch Mouse or Apple Magic Mouse 2. These are normal mice with a touch-sensitive panel on top that enables you to use the gestures supported in your apps.

Logitech Zone Touch Mouse T400 for Windows 8 - Black Logitech Zone Touch Mouse T400 for Windows 8 - Black Buy Now On Amazon $45.90 Apple Magic Mouse 2 (Wireless, Rechargable) - Space Gray Apple Magic Mouse 2 (Wireless, Rechargable) - Space Gray Buy Now On Amazon $78.70

How to Choose a Mouse: Now You Know!

When choosing a mouse, think about what you want to use it for. Designers might prefer the comfort and precision of an ergonomic laser mouse, gamers the stability of a wired optical mouse, and general users might find the gesture support of a touchpad the easiest to use.

Once you’ve found the right one, getting it set up properly can make it even better. Check out our guide to customizing your mouse in Windows 10 How to Customize Your Mouse in Windows 10 Your mouse cursor may be the last thing you considered customizing on your Windows 10 computer. We'll show you how to change its look, speed, and functions. Read More for your next steps.

And if you need a new carrier for your computer as well, take a look at these anti-theft computer bags The 10 Best Anti-Theft Laptop Bags Anti-theft backpacks keep your gadgets and other belongings safe while on-the-go. Here are the best anti-theft backpacks for you. Read More .

Related topics: Buying Tips, Computer Mouse Tips, Hardware Tips, Touchpad.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Gary
    January 4, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    Contrary to what the article says, an RF mouse generally has longer battery life than a bluetooth mouse.

  2. Mike Walsh
    July 28, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    For my money, the Logitech ZoneTouch T400 just has to be the best mouse I ever invested in.

    Although originally used under Windows, and making use of their mouse software (how does anybody justify 80 MBs worth of software just to control a few mouse functions?), it nevertheless works brilliantly under Linux, thanks to the Solaar Logitech mouse software that works with the Unifying receiver.

    I've had mine for getting on for 5 years now, and you can tell; there's definite 'grooves' in the edge of the rubber surround from where I hold it! If, however, they're still available, I shall be grabbing a replacement before they completely disappear off the market..... Never found a more comfortable mouse; it fits my grip 'like a glove', and is perfectly weighted, too.

  3. Yanislav IrinkovHristov
    July 17, 2018 at 5:21 am

    Heeey, what about trackball mice

  4. Mike
    July 16, 2018 at 5:48 pm

    i have to disagree with polling rate point - first of all, not many mouse go into 500 or 1000 hz modes - they stick at 125hz - so 8 ms, and still get advertised for gamers.
    Same happens with keyboards with usb connector Btw. Shortly, unless the mouse/device forces higher polling rate, Windows will stick to 125hz

    when it comes to optical vs laser - kind of true, but keep in mind that "bluetrack" is also laser one, albeit different, and more accurate on glossy surfaces - due to shorter wavelength than both optical and "red' laser - meaning smaller 'gaps' in surface can be found and tracked.

    Also, acceleration happens in every mouse, it's mostly software update designed for big screens. Can be turned off, though. I can only tell you that in comparison to any Windows basd platform with high-res display, Apple iMacs require really big mousepads/areas since their software acceleration curve is insufficient for 5k resolutions - and A5-sized mousepad requires you to lift mouse at least once while moving from edge to edge

  5. pmshah
    July 15, 2018 at 5:35 am

    Why do you call $10/- mice as crappy? I can buy original Microsoft or a Logitec mouse for less !! There is nothing crappy about either.