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What to consider carefully when choosing your next PC mouse

Mice and keyboards are important peripherals for any PC setup. Whether you're a budding typist or serious gamer, these input tools are paramount in order to get things done. The mouse is a personal purchase, while we've recommended some mice for certain situations, it still boils down to what you prefer. We've compiled a list of factors here that should help you out, should you be undecided as to which mouse to purchase next.

Type

Mouse Sensor

Depending on what you're after and what the PC will be used for, it's worth checking out the different categories of mice available. The main types we'll be looking at are gaming, portable and ergonomic mice.

Gaming: Fairly self-explanatory, these mice are designed and built for gamers. You'll be able to find super-accurate sensors, massive array of extra function buttons and the ability to create complex macros.

Portable: Portable mice are the perfect companions for any laptop (or Windows tablet) owner. They are small, light, and may even have some cool features like retractable cables.

Ergonomic: These naturally designed mice are specifically built for those seeking the most comfortable experience when it comes to point and click. While the actual comfort of a mouse is entirely subjective, these solutions do tend to be ideal for those who suffer from repetitive strain injury and more.

Price

Corsair Scimitar

Corsair Scimitar Pro RGB (Image credit: Windows Central)

Sure, you can hold the argument that a $10 mouse will suffice and won't cause any issues for general use, and to that I would agree, but when you're using a PC for countless hours each day and/or enjoy some games, you'll need to invest some more funds. It's surprising just how much of a difference a more expensive mouse makes when moving up from the super-affordable segment. It's not required to spend upwards of $100, but going for something that isn't at the bottom of the barrel will automatically improve your experience.

Basic mice also lack some handy features. You're likely to have less accurate sensors, no function buttons, less comfortable ergonomics, and in most cases the mice themselves are less durable. Quality mice from top-rated vendors can start from as little as $50, with wireless options costing slightly more for the benefit of not needing to be plugged in with a cable..

Cables

Razer Mamba

To wire or not to wire? That is the question that has long be answered with "Always go cable." Wireless mice — and the technology that connects them to devices — have come a long way in recent years. Should you not be a fan of being hooked up to your PC, it is now possible to invest in a solid-performing wireless pointer. There are various benefits of using a wireless mouse too.

The most obvious being the ability to use a wireless mouse some distance away from the receiver (or your PC if connecting via Bluetooth). Another is the removal of cabling, which helps with desk/lap clutter. The two types of connections are Bluetooth and RF (Radio Frequency). The former is widely supported by many portable Windows PCs, helps free up USB ports, and can even help increase the life span of a single charge.

These wireless mice, however, tend to be more expensive than their wired counterparts.

Cables

A downside is actually setting the Bluetooth mouse up and waiting for Windows to establish a connection on boot up. RF on-the-other-hand can prove to be slightly more expensive than Bluetooth counterparts, but does have some advantages like plug-and-play, thanks to the included dongle that needs to be plugged into a USB port. But that leads to a port being used up, so you'll need to weigh up your options between the two should you decide to go wireless.

It's also worth noting that a wireless mouse is one more thing you'll have to keep charged or swap out batteries.

Feel

In order to choose a mouse on its ergonomics and/or size, you first need to have a think about how you hold and use a mouse. Matching up a mouse that complements the way you prefer to use the pointing device can not only make for a more accurate experience, but also helps avoid the development of repetitive strain injury (RSI). The goal is the ability to use your mouse for long duration without feeling any kind of strain in the wrist.

As for the type of grip, there are three kinds:

Palm Grip

Palm Grip — Arguably the more popular way to hold a mouse by resting the entire hand on the mouse and using the palm to move. It's possible to enjoy increased speeds with this grip, but the flip side is a lack of accuracy with quick reactions in games that require both speed and precision. Mice like Razer's Mamba are suited to this form of grip.

Claw Grip

Claw Grip — This grip is the "does exactly what it says on the tin" by which your hand resembles a claw while cradling the mouse. With this form of grip, fingertips rest on various forward points, while the palm sits on the rear. A combination of wrist, thumb and pinky movements provide accurate control over the pointer and makes it convenient to pick up from the mouse mat.

Tip Grip

Tip Grip — Finally, we have the Tip Grip, which is similar to the Claw but removes the palm from the rear of the mouse. Only the fingertips have contact with the mouse and are not only in full control of input, but also movement as well. It's argued to be the most accurate grip and is ideal for gaming, but can cause strain through long sessions.

The above grip types are mere guidelines. Everyone's hands are different and the above may not completely work out for you, it may be the case that you need to hold it in a unique way, or utilize a combination of the grip types. The size of the mouse is equally important when considering the size of your hands. Having larger-than-normal sized hands may eliminate some mice from the short list.

The absolute best form of advice would be to head out to a local computer store to test drive some mice and compare the different types. It's easy to read through specifications online, check out reviews and even look at options that fit within your budget, but until you actually slap your hand on the mouse, you'll not be absolutely sure it's a perfect match. And if you order online, make sure you're buying from a store that allows free returns in case your hand and your new mouse just don't agree.

Extras

Mouse Buttons

Optical or Laser?

The two types of sensors for mice today are laser and optical (no, we're not going to even consider trackballs — what are we, animals?). There's actually not a massive difference between the two as they work in a similar fashion. Lasers are deployed for more precise tracking, while optical sensors use LEDs. The former can lead to issues with "mouse acceleration" where the laser actually picks up too much data through travel, but they can be used on a variety of surfaces.

MOAR DPI PLS

Going against the whole notion that bigger is better and all that, and while DPI values are used in mouse marketing, you don't actually need over 9000. So what exactly is DPI? Dots Per Inch is essentially the measurement of how sensitive a mouse is, as well as how fast the cursor on-screen will move in correlation. So, why isn't higher DPI simply better? Surely a mouse with a DPI of 16,000 will be able to detect minute movements and be superb for accurate gaming, right? Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Mouse DPI

Firstly, depending on the mouse you're considering to purchase, while the DPI can be cranked all the way up, the mouse's circuitry may not be able to properly handle the increased levels of sensitivity. This will lead to the cursor bouncing all around the screen, which would not be good for gaming. While some people may enjoy higher levels of DPI, don't be fooled by mouse manufacturer marketing. There's no sweet spot for DPI, so be sure to have a play around with settings to see what you're most comfortable with.

Extra buttons

Some mice, notably those specifically designed for gamers can sometimes sport a grid of extra buttons located on the side (for Massive Multiplayer Online games mice). Other function buttons may be located on and around the mouse that unlock further capabilities without having to reach for the keyboard. Macros can also be created in dedicated suites bundled or supplied by mice manufacturers that can be altered and personalized to carry out tasks.

Rich Edmonds
Rich Edmonds

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

34 Comments
  • No love for lefties? :(
  • I'm left handed but use my right hand for the mouse. :) I been using a iHome IH-M126LR mouse for 9 years now. Its still working like new.
  • I own a logitech G900 and a left handed friend bought one too after trying mine, saying it was probably the best left handed mouse he had ever handed (it's actually usable for both hands as it features a symmetrical design). Now i wouldn't know this as I am right handed so I never use left handed mice, but you could give it a try. I know this particular mouse is extremely expensive but for me the exceptional wireless gaming experience was totally worth it, I absolutely hate being restricted by a cord when it concerns my mouse. I just plug the receiver in the usb feed through of my keyboard (corsair strafe RGB silent, also an awesome product) which makes plugging in the cable for charging (about once every 7-10 days) less of a hassle. I also hate high latency, and with this mouse I honestly cannot detect a difference between wired and wireless mode.
  • You all can keep your hand movement mice. I'll stick to my Logitech Trackman thumb trackball mouse. Accurate, responsive, and doesn't wear on your wrist and elbow. I'm deadly accurate with it in FPS's too.
  • The trackball just would wear like crazy on my thumb. Not sure what wear a laser mouse would cause to my elbow, and the wrist would take more of a beating from thte keyboard than the mouse for me, so neither complaint makes sense to me there.
  • I doubt it, I've used on off and on for nearly 10 years. It's got plenty of scratches from use over the years but the trackball is the one part that looks brand new.
  • Likewise, though I'm partial to Logitech's Trackman Marble. Love that thing. None of that annoying pick-up-and-reposition nonsense, and works equally well for either hand and the fingers of your choice. If it came in a wireless version I'd have one in my bag.
  • I agree. Great for limited space. I do  not know how good it would be for gaming. I use for AutoCAD which is much more "mouse" than keboard and find it comfortable for hours. You can not jugde this by 5 minutes of use. (especially of a non function device.)
  • That's so funny. I'm more of a console game now but when I was a pc gamer I used to use a Microsoft thumb trackball mouse and was pro at the quick spin 180 head shot. I'm talking old school TFC sniping skills. Everyone thought I was crazy for using it but I didn't care because it worked great for me. I actually still own the mouse. Right now though I'm in the market for the Microsoft Sculpt ergonomic keyboard and mouse combo. I'd like this combo for my work pc.
  • Mx master here. Worth every penny for work and some gaming. And if you are using more then one computer it is no brainer. Still it is somehow expensive Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • What is wrong with trackball mice? I like them best. I just need to know a good one for gaming
  • You're never going to find a good trackball for gaming. It's just an unquesitonably inferior method of input for fast-twitch stuff, like action gaming. I guess it would be OK for something like and RTS, but you'd get destroyed in a competitive FPS with a trackball, most likely. This was even discussed in a previous Windows Central article, where a popular DOOM player was interviewed and explained that he switched from a trackball because he couldn't compete (I believe with his brother).
  • I play things like Portal, some RTS stuff, not much twitch stuff. Not much of a competitive gamers. Closest thing I've had to an FPS is probably an MMO like Star Wars.
  • as long as you get a wired mouse with a decent sensor, the only thing you should care about is how it feels in your hand. This is what makes or breaks it for you. Psychologically it will make you either rule or suck in a game. It must feel really good in your hand.
  • Just get the Logitech MX Master. It is one of the best mice for everyday use and every button is completely customizable. You can pair it with up to 3 different bluetooth devices and easily switch between them, or use the included USB dongle. It is also great for video editing with the horizontal scroll wheel that you can control with your thumb. Unless you are a gamer, the MX Master is the mouse to get (or if you want portibility get the smaller MX Anywhere 2).
  • I already had the original MX Anywhere for my desktop, and absolutely love it, especially because it works just fine on my glass desk. When I was shopping for a new mouse, I first tried a Microsoft Sculpt mouse, but the B/T connection kept dropping from my ACER Windows 10 laptop. Returned it and bought the MX Anywhere 2 for some $20.00 more. Tried the B/T first with the same result, so I connected the receiver to one of my there USB ports. Perfect results - not drops, works on any surface, and has a great customization app. Cannot recommend Bluetooth due to unreliable connections, but USB is just fine. If you buy this for a desktop, you can connect up to six Logitech devices to the one receiver - another nicety.
  • For Bluetooth, check Device Manager for your Bluetooth adapter, Properties, Power Management tab. Make sure the box that allows the device to be powered off is not checked, as this can cause disconnections.
  • Only thing about the master I don't like is the hard line on the left side, feels wrong and not comfortable for me. The first gen though I have an absolutely love it.
  • I have never understand the need of such high dpi levels, I use around 400 for fps, why would u need 9000 for example?
  • I use my mouse on a big TV, and hate navigating over large distances at low DPI settings. I also hate having to pick up my mouse like it's a carridge return on a typewriter. At 400 DPI, I think it'd take me 2-3 times as long to get my mouse somewhere.
  • I just adjust the tracking settings and I'm good to go. However, Microsoft really needs to update tracking settings to be display aware, and adjust automatically when you change displays on the fly.
  • I've gone through several bluetooth and wirless mice, I found that my favorites so far are: (Bluetooth) Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse Surface Edition. Doesn't lose connection, is compact and folds up into a flat easy to carry device. I love it! (USB Wireless) Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Mouse. It doesn't fold up but the feel and look is great. Feels great in the hand and I love the extra Windows button along the side. Those are my two choices, and I have gone through about 5-6 others that just didn't last that long or consistently dropped bluetooth connections. Tip: Buy fom a store and keep your receipt and test the mouse out for awhile before deciding to keep it as your daily driver.
  • I recently bought the Arc Touch Bluetooth to pair up with my SP4 and love it. One thing I noticed though... The Arc Touch BT mouse comes with a 3-yr warranty while the Arc Touch BT Surface Edition comes with a one-yr warranty. There is absolutely no difference between the two. ​I had an early iteration of the Microsoft Mouse with sensor bar instead of wheel and it behaved irratically. This one seems to be much better. I'm still getting used to tapping on the front or back of the bar to scroll a page at a time, but overall, it's very responsive. Pairing just required opening the BT settings so it could be found, but I recommend snagging the app from the Windows store to really customize it.
  • #1 thing I care about in my mouse nowadays: Forward and Back buttons. If your mouse lacks these, I won't even consider it. #2: Scroll wheel lock. Never seen seomeone other than Logitech offer it, but it's definitely a major quality of life improvement to me. Scrolling large pages/documents is so much easier with it. It's such a differentiator that I don't think I'll ever buy a non-Logitech mouse ever again, unless the competition adds it to their stuff. I currently have a G700s, love that it's got the wheel lock, is wireless, includes and Eneloop battery, and charges over micro-USB.
  • Microsoft rodents have always had scroll wheel lock. Press down on the wheel to toggle on/off.
  • EVOLUENT VERTICALMOUSE! Best ergo mouse for neutral arm/wrist/elbow posture. Has a mouse utility too to set up custom buttons and macros, and has a hardware button to change DPI without software. I use it for daily photo editing work, as well as playing FPS. And yes they even have LEFTY models!
    https://evoluent.com/
  • Still rocking the Logitech Performance Mx, once it dies and it's time to upgrade it'll probably be the Logitech Mx Master
  • Nothing beats my old Microsoft IntelliMouse Pro. If you've ever used one you know exactly what I mean. It's got substance, heavier than most mice, and a really comfy feel. Only downside is having to take the ball out and clean the mechanism occasionally. And it uses PS/2 so my USB ports remain available.
  • That is a classic, damn fine mouse! I know exactly what you mean.
  • Great mouse. But it's been a long time since I've seen a PS/2 port.
  • Very happy with the Microsoft Arc Surface edition! Well designed and shuts down when you straighten it. Very easy on battery also.
  • Using G402, best fit for my hand.
  • Surface Mouse, I do.a fair bit of travelling and it is great paired with my SP3.
  • I use a Logitech Marble Mouse. It's great for gaming and for general use and it's very ergonomic. It has a small footprint as well.