In its most basic form, a computer mouse is simple hardware—a sensor on the bottom, two buttons and a scroll wheel on top—that lets you interact with programs as though they were extensions of your own hand. But while a mouse is simple in concept, the market for them is a scattered field of mouse genres, prices, and designs. You need to know a little about the landscape when you go shopping for a new model.
Over time, distinct classes of mice have evolved, each made for different computing situations. The most common of these is the mainstream desktop mouse, designed for use with a desktop or laptop PC at a desk or table. Aside from the inevitable right and left mouse buttons, the usual features are a clickable scroll wheel and, in some cases, additional thumb buttons that let you navigate forward and back in your web browser.
MMO title), you may see a variety of specialized features.
our gaming mouse roundup for much more detail on the nuances of these mice.
What’s the Best Ergonomic Mouse?
Ergonomics-first designs put all of the typical mouse functions into a form factor that places your hand in a neutral position. Designed to reduce the stresses that can lead to carpal tunnel and repetitive strain injury, ergonomic mice may look unusual and take some getting used to, but they do alleviate some very real problems. Some have a vertical design; others may have one-off sculpts.
our guide to the best ergonomic mice for more about the nuances of these very variable mice, in addition to a discussion of trackballs.)
Not Just USB: Mouse Connectivity
The simplest way to hook up a mouse to your PC is through a wired USB connection. Computer mice are usually plug-and-play devices, with no additional software to install (with the exception of higher-end gaming mice), meaning that plugging in the cable is all the setup you’ll need to deal with. Unlike wireless alternatives, a wired device will draw its power over USB, so there are no batteries to worry about. Wired connections are also preferable for serious gaming or esports use (no battery to conk out in the midst of a match), though some high-end wireless mice are indistinguishable, from a response-time perspective, from wired ones.
If you want more freedom and less cable clutter on your desk, however, it’s hard to beat a wireless mouse. Instead of a wired connection, wireless mice transmit data to your PC through one of two primary means: an RF connection to a USB receiver, or via Bluetooth. (Some mice actually support both, but this is less common than supporting just one.) Both have their pros and cons, but if you want to reduce the number of cables on your desk and gain the flexibility to use your mouse unhindered—or even from across the room—wireless is the way to go.
wireless mice connect to the host computer via the same 2.4GHz wireless frequency used by cordless phones and some Wi-Fi Internet bands. A dime-size USB dongle—small enough to plug in and forget about—provides the link to your PC. Know, however, that only in some isolated cases (such as with Logitech’s Unifying-branded gear) can a single USB dongle provide connectivity to more than one device. That means that unless the vendor specifically notes otherwise, you can’t use the same adapter for your wireless mouse and keyboard. You may need to devote two USB ports to separate mouse and keyboard USB dongles.
Bluetooth options, in contrast, don’t monopolize a USB port, and the stable, easy-to-manage connections are ideal for use with mobile devices, such as ultraportables, tablet PCs, and 2-in-1s. In regular use, a Bluetooth connection gives you roughly 30 feet of wireless range, but a Bluetooth mouse may not match the battery life offered by devices with an RF-based USB dongle. New innovations, such as motion sensors tied to power and connection management, can improve the battery life versus older Bluetooth devices, which maintained an always-on link that drained battery relatively quickly. But you’ll want to look at the vendors’ estimated battery life on a charge (as well as whether the mouse uses an internal battery you recharge, or disposables).
Understanding Mouse Sensors and Sensitivity Specs
Most of today’s mice use one of two types of light-based motion sensor: optical/LED, or laser. Unlike mechanical tracking options of yore, light-based sensors have fewer issues with dust and dirt, and the absence of moving parts means fewer failures.
Optical sensors pair a glowing LED beam—often red, blue, or infrared—with a small photo sensor, tracking movement by repeatedly imaging the surface below the mouse, translating any movement of the mouse into cursor movement. (The frequency of this imaging is called the “polling rate,” expressed as hertz, or hundreds of instances per second.) Because of the imaging sensor used, optical mice are a little less prone to problems caused by lifting the mouse when in use or by mousing on an uneven surface.
February 4, 2021