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Optical v Laser Gaming Mice

Most PC gamers these days have no idea that many years ago we didn’t have the decision of laser or optical mice, we had a trackball mouse and that was it! Long gone are the days of having your cursor stutter across your screen because of a rouge crumb, weeks of dust collecting on the ball or the nightmare of a jammed ball. Thankfully we no longer have those “joys” to contend with.

If your looking for the short answer then your in luck, kinda. A Laser gaming mouse is more sensitive and can be used on almost any type of surface, making it ideal for those that travel with a gaming laptop, they will also be a little more accurate – but not always. Optical mice on the other hand can be just as accurate, a little less sensitive (usually not a deal breaker) and a lot more cost effective. An optical gaming mouse will tend to feature more in the best sellers and value for money as generally speaking they will be cheaper. I personally use an optical gaming mouse as my daily and gaming mouse and love it.

If your in the market for a new mouse then be sure to check out our complete gaming mouse buying guide where we share the best in laser and optical gaming mice.

Did You Know… ?

Optical Vs Laser Diagram [Source]

All mice are optical. Yep even a mouse that are marketed as laser are still just optical mice, but with a small difference.

All mice have what is called a CMOS Sensor, which is basically a tiny camera, two lenses and some sort of light source – not forgetting the fancy RGB, buttons and everything else a gaming mouse comes with these days. The Optical mouse will use infrared or a red LED that will light up the surface while you use the mouse. This light is then picked up by the lenses and CMOS sensor and sent to the computer at the advertised polling rate – more on this in a later post.

The difference the laser mouse has is the type of light, it will use a low powered laser instead of an LED. This laser is safe for use around the house and being within the infrared spectrum means you will not even see the laser. These lasers mean the accuracy is often “higher” with a laser mouse… Well, that was the case until true the optical mouse improved over time and became slightly cheaper!

When the laser mouse were first released they were considered the top dog, especially for gaming. They were meant to give a gamer more accuracy and better control when gaming. Over years though the gap between optical and laser is next to nothing, with many optical mice being better than there laser competitors!

Difference between Optical and Laser mice

Sensitivity

The sensitivity of a mouse is the measure of how fast your cursor moves across the screen as you move the mouse. More sensitive a mouse is the less your hand has to move, but the less sensitive a mouse is then the more your hand has to move. Sensitivity is measured in DPI (Dots per inch) and can range from 1000 to 12000. Many gaming mice will allow you to change the sensitivity using either buttons on the mouse itself or software installed on the computer.

Accuracy

This is a complicated topic. Accuracy is important, especially in fast paced games such as first person shooters. The real short answer is Laser is more accurate. The longer answer though, is most of the time it can be too accurate. The great thing about using a laser is it will track a lot better and with that it means micro movements will be picked up and tracked back to your game. This can mean your cursor will shudder around with micro movements instead of a smoother movement that most optical mice will achieve, being “less” accurate.

This is a topic that many people will have different opinions on but based on the laser mice we have used and tested over the years I always find myself using a good quality optical mouse instead.

Value For Money

If it was 2010 then we would be talking about optical being massively cheaper than laser but in 2018 there is less of a gap. Generally speaking there is a small price difference and with the marketing of gaming mice pushing “more accurate” as a good thing (read above if you haven’t already) then there will always be gap. That being said these days it really does come down to personal preference.

I will always suggest optical as in my opinion they are the true value for money and for most gamers they might not even notice a difference between laser and optical mice!

What should I choose for Gaming?

Again, this is 100% personal preference but generally speaking I, like many, lean towards the optical side of the argument. A laser mouse is still decent but they can be too accurate to the point where it become annoying and jarring to use. Optical mice will generally track to more than acceptable accuracy level for even competitive gamers. They only caveat is you may need a nice mouse mat depending on your surface.

 

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