When you’re trying to improve your performance in-game, one of the first things that you should look at is your peripheral setup.
Even if you have the most powerful rig in the world, you won’t get far if you’re playing with a five-dollar mouse and a membrane keyboard that feels too mushy.
In this guide, we’re going to settle the debate that has raged for ages: laser vs optical mouse gaming.
Each side has its die-hard supporters, but how do you figure out what kind of mouse works best for you? Well, we’re about to cover all of the most relevant differences between these mouse types.
How Does an Optical Mouse Work?
The first type of mouse we’re going to discuss (and the more common of the two) is the optical mouse.
An optical mouse works by shining an LED light against the surface that it’s on and then using a CMOS sensor (like the kind that’s in your digital camera) to determine how the mouse is moving.
Because of this, an optical mouse needs to be able to “see” the surface that it’s on. Therefore, this means that it will be ineffective when used on something reflective like glass.
As a result, you’re going to need something like a mousepad that can help ensure that the surface you’re working on is sufficiently opaque.
One of the main benefits of optical mice is that they tend to be more prevalent than laser models. Since they’re so much more common, optical mice are more affordable than laser models of comparable quality.
While it’s possible to find cheap laser mice, they’re usually worse than budget optical models.
Optical mice also tend to overanalyze less than laser models. A laser mouse will sometimes look too closely at the surface that it’s on and detect movement when there is none.
This manifests in the form of a jittery cursor. But this is less likely to happen with an optical mouse unless something is obstructing the sensor.
How Does a Laser Mouse Work?
Up next, you have the laser mouse, which operates similarly to the optical variety, but it uses a laser instead of an LED.
This laser is still detected after it hits the surface beneath the mouse, but it penetrates deeper into the material. Therefore, it makes it through the clear surface of something like glass and still being detected.
Laser mice will often be more precise when it comes to their tracking because of how closely they examine the surface below them. While an optical mouse will have a speed that is +/- 5%, a laser mouse will only have a rate that varies by 1%.
In addition, laser mice historically had a higher dpi than optical models (meaning they were faster and more sensitive), that is no longer the case, especially with ones built for gaming.
Of course, some gamers will still prefer the feel of a type of mouse over the other one, as experienced users will be able to notice the differences. For instance, in our FPS mouse guide we saw almost the entire top made up of laser mice.
However, one of the downsides of laser mice is that they’re a little more niche than optical products and they don’t have as much of a market share.
This means that high-end models are usually more expensive, and if you want superior build quality, you’ll have to be willing to spend a little more money.
Which Type Should You Choose?
Picking the right kind of mouse is usually a personal matter, but we can give you a few tips that can help you decide.
The first thing you’ll have to determine is your budget. If you’re trying to save money, then you’ll find plenty of reliable optical mice available that perform better than laser models at the same cost.
On the other hand, if you’re willing to spend more on superior tracking quality, a high-end laser mouse will still be your best choice. You’ll also have to consider the kind of surface that you’re working on and whether or not you prefer to use a mousepad.
If you work on glass without a mousepad, then a laser mouse will be necessary, as an optical one won’t be able to detect the surface. For portable mice where a mousepad won’t always be available, a laser mouse can handily transform any surface around you.
For users that need as much precision as possible, a laser can sometimes be too finicky. In the end, an optical mouse will usually be the best choice for most buyers, mainly due to their superior value for money over laser models. This also applies to a trackball mouse where users are often looking for precise movements. See our best trackball mouse guide to see a selection of mice using both laser and optical.
Optical mice and laser mice have a few key differences, but there are more important things to stress over when it comes to your gaming computer. We hope that our guide has helped you pick out the right mouse for your needs.