How to Choose a Computer Mouse: 7 Factors
We use our computer mouse three times as much as our keyboard. A good mouse can make all the difference in comfort and productivity. But choosing the wrong one can lead to shoulder, wrist, and finger pain, reduced efficiency, and even long-term damage. That's why selecting the right mouse for your needs is crucial.
Read on to learn what you need to know before buying a new mouse and picking one right for you. We'll guide you through the vital purchase factors, including:
- Wired or wireless
- Laser or Optical
- DPI sensitivity
Choosing the right mouse can help alleviate strain. Mouse arm or carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a repetitive strain injury (RSI). The symptoms when working at your computer are pains in your:
1) Ergonomics: Is it comfortable?
You require a mouse that fits your hand like a glove because we move our mouse a distance of up to 100 kilometers and over 2 million clicks in a year. An ergonomic mouse with the right fit will position your hand more naturally and reduce hand and wrist strain.
Proper ergonomics are crucial to prevent carpal tunnel and repetitive stress injuries, but finding a comfortable mouse can be challenging. Although manufacturers may claim their device is ergonomic, this doesn't necessarily mean it's right for you.
Ergonomics focuses on the comfort and usability of the mouse. Size is a comfort factor:
- Your pinky finger shouldn't stretch to hold the mouse on the right side. It's okay if your pinky rests on the table.
- Your fingers should comfortably reach the buttons and scroll wheel without having to strain or stretch.
- Your thumb should easily reach any side buttons or a side scroll wheel in a natural movement.
- The mouse should support your entire palm to reduce strain and add comfort.
- Ensure the mouse is fitted to your dominant left or right hand and comes in that version.
- Test a few mice out.
By paying attention to these ergonomic factors, you can select a mouse to help prevent RSI and ensure you can work comfortably and efficiently for extended periods.
2) Choose a mouse for your needs
For most users, the standard three-button mouse should be fine, but also consider:
A. Travel-Sized Mice
A smaller, more portable mouse may be a better option if you frequently work on the go. These travel-sized mice are typically lightweight and compact, making them easy to pack and transport.
B. Gaming Mice
Gamers have specific needs when it comes to computer mice. Look for a mouse with a high DPI (dots per inch) for quick and precise movements and programmable buttons for customized controls. Gaming mice often feature a more ergonomic design to reduce hand fatigue during long gaming sessions. Read our guide to choosing the perfect gaming mouse.
C. Ergonomic Mice
Spend long hours using a computer mouse. An ergonomic design helps prevent RSI and increases comfort. Look for a mouse that supports your entire hand and has customizable buttons and settings to fit your unique gaming needs.
D. Trackball Mouse
A trackball has a stationary ball on the top. You use your thumb to navigate the ball that moves the mouse. A trackball requires less wrist and hand movement, making it more accessible.
2) Connectivity: Wired vs. Wireless Mouse
Wired or wireless: the age-old question when choosing a computer mouse. A wireless mouse frees you from tangles but does come with the potential risk of running out of batteries unexpectedly. Here's a breakdown:
Wired Mouse Pros:
- No need to worry about batteries dying mid-use.
- They are typically more reliable, with fewer connection issues.
- No lag time between movement and response, which can be crucial for gamers who need precise movements.
Wired Mouse Cons:
- Limited range of movement due to the cord.
- A cord can be a hassle, getting tangled or caught on objects.
- Less aesthetically pleasing.
Wireless Mouse Pros:
- More freedom of movement with no cord to restrict your motion. Perfect for a TV media center.
- Sleek with fewer cords cluttering up your workspace.
- It can be more comfortable to use, as you don't have to worry about the wires.
Wireless Mouse Cons:
- Requires batteries that need replacing periodically.
- May experience lag or connection issues if the signal is weak.
- Wireless mice are typically more expensive than wired options, especially for high-end models with advanced features
Ultimately, the decision comes down to your needs and preferences. A wired mouse is a way to go if you value precision and reliability. But a wireless one may be better if you prefer mobility and aesthetics.
3) Receivers: Radiofrequency (RF) vs. Bluetooth
If you're using a wireless mouse, the receivers come in two types:
- Radiofrequency (RF)
RF connects with a USB dongle, while Bluetooth communicates with your computer's Bluetooth receiver.
RF Mouse Receivers Pros:
- Generally, it offers a more robust and more reliable connection than Bluetooth.
- Typically have a more extended connectivity range.
- RF provides lower latency than Bluetooth.
RF Mouse Receivers Cons:
- Require a USB port to connect, which can be a hassle if you have limited ports available.
- May experience interference from other devices using the same frequency band.
Bluetooth Mouse Receivers Pros:
- Connect wirelessly without requiring a USB port.
- Can connect to multiple devices simultaneously, which is ideal if you use multiple devices or want to switch between them.
Bluetooth Mouse Receivers Cons:
- May experience more connection issues, especially if the Bluetooth signal is weak.
- Typically have a shorter range of up to 30 feet.
- Battery life is generally shorter.
Check if your computer has integrated Bluetooth before purchasing a Bluetooth mouse, as it may not come with a receiver.
4) Sensor type: Optical vs. Laser Mouse
When choosing a computer mouse, consider whether you want an optical or laser sensor. An optical mouse uses infrared LEDs to reflect and works well on flat surfaces. A laser mouse uses a laser beam to track movement, making it more versatile across a broader range of surfaces.
Optical Mouse Pros:
- The Optical mouse is generally more affordable than laser options.
- Works well on most surfaces, including mouse pads.
- Lower power consumption.
Optical Mouse Cons:
- Not as sensitive as laser mice, making them less ideal for precision work.
- Can struggle on glossy or transparent surfaces.
Laser Mouse Pros:
- Higher sensitivity than optical mice, making them ideal for gaming and precision work.
- Works well on a wide range of surfaces, including glossy and transparent ones.
- Often has additional features, including adjustable DPI.
Laser Mouse Cons:
- Often more expensive.
- Higher power consumption.
- Maybe janky on soft mousepads.
5) DPI and sensitivity
A computer mouse tracks movements in dots per inch (DPI). DPI measures how far the screen's pointer moves for every inch the mouse moves physically. DPI determines your mouse's sensitivity, and a higher DPI means that the cursor will move more quickly across the screen.
If your screen has a high resolution of 4000 pixels, you'd need to physically move a 400 DPI mouse 10 inches to move the cursor across the screen. However, with a 4000 DPI mouse, you'd only need to move it about an inch.
Optical mice track between 400 and 800 dpi, while a laser mouse is more than 2,000 dpi. A higher DPI doesn't necessarily mean better, as it depends on your intended use.
Generally, you don't need to worry about DPI. However, a high DPI is ideal for:
- High-resolution displays.
- Multi-monitor setups.
However, a lower DPI may be better for precision work like Photoshop. Gamers benefit from adjustable DPI settings to balance precision and quickness.
6) Programmable Buttons
When it comes to computer mice, you're familiar with:
- Left-click button.
- Right-click button.
- Scroll wheel.
However, some models offer additional programmable side buttons that you can customize. You can program them for functions like your browser's "Back" button. These can be useful to streamline your work and boost productivity. The Predator Cestus 350 has 9 buttons for eSports.
When purchasing a computer mouse, the price typically reflects its complexity and features. Less expensive models often have fewer features. More precise and advanced mice with programmable buttons and high DPI can cost upwards of triple digits.
Here's a general price range breakdown and what you can expect:
- Under $30: The most affordable that offers basic functionality with limited features. It can still be wireless or offer up to 2,000 DPI.
- $30-$75: The mid-tier includes wireless gaming and ergonomic mice with optical or laser sensors and customizable buttons.
- $75-$100: This tier includes complex and advanced customizations such as fast-scrolling or adjustable DPI.
- $100+: The professional gamers tier with advanced ergonomics and high-end features such as 25,000+ DPI, wireless charging, and long battery life.
Now that we spend more time clicking and scrolling than ever, the humble computer mouse is essential to our daily lives. When choosing a mouse, consider what you want to use it for. Then, select a comfortable and functional mouse to improve your comfort and productivity and prevent RSI.
Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.