Best Gaming Mouse 2018 Buying Guide

As far as PC gaming is concerned, there are two essential peripheral devices, the choice of which should not be left to chance: the keyboard and the mouse. Today we will be discussing the computer mouse, a device which has already been around for 60 years – dating back to Douglas Engelbart‘s initial demonstration. These primitive devices did not have very much in common with the devices now being offered by manufacturers, especially with regard to today’s gaming mouse.

Beyond marketing

As is often the case, the gamer label is used to sell just about anything – making useless marketing gimmicks seem like indispensable innovations. Our goal is to guide you through the confusing array of products by discussing the features of some of the mouse that we found most interesting.

This initial overview does not pretend in any way to be exhaustive. Moreover, we have decided to limit our selection to a specific range of prices. On the one hand we will discuss some models of mouse which retail for under 50 euros. On the other hand we will be mentioning some models which retail for between approximately 50 to 80 euros.

Of course, in the future we will update this guide with the aim of listing more models as well as with the goal of listing some “luxury” models which retail for over 80 euros.

Buyer’s guide: the things that you should be aware of

As we already mentioned in the introduction, the first computer mouse – those from the 60s – have almost nothing in common with modern mouse. Their aesthetic appearance has obviously changed, but in addition, modern mouse have become veritable concentrates of advanced technology. Of course, some models are more complete than others in this regard, but before discussing the various currently available models, it would be a good idea to briefly discuss some of these technical considerations in order to answer some essential questions. The answers to these questions will appear in the following pages.

Buyer’s guide: design, size and weight

Pay attention to a mouse’s shape

When choosing a mouse, ergonomics is a key element to keep in mind and a mouse’s ergonomics is highly dependent on its shape. Nowadays, there are three main shape categories: those geared towards right-handed users, those for lefties and those that attempt to satisfy both demands. A word of caution however, many ambidextrous models loose some of their functionality if they are used by left-handed users – the SteelSeries Rival 100 for example can indeed be manipulated with the left hand, but its user will no longer be able to access the side buttons – unless he/she is particularly flexible.

Gaming Mouse

From left to right, the three ways of holding a mouse: palm grip, claw grip and fingertip grip

In addition to being geared towards right or left-handed users, a mouse’s shape also influences the way it is intended to be held. Once again, this criterion defines three different categories of mouse: palm grip, claw grip and fingertip grip. This way of holding a mouse depends on two factors. Both the mouse’s physical shape and the user’s personal preferences are factors in determining the way in which a mouse will be held – some gamers are more comfortable with resting the entirety of their hand on the back-side of the mouse (palm grip). Generally speaking, users should not try to adapt themselves to a position which feels unnatural to them, but should instead choose a mouse belonging to the category with which they feel most at ease.

Please note that the way in which you hold a mouse will depend on the size of the mouse, but also on the size of your hand. This is why we are unable to establish a list of mouse in function of the way they are intended to be held. You will therefore need to refer to the size data that we will be including in the description of each of the models that we will be discussing (refer to our tables).

Modifying a mouse’s weight: is it really useful?

Gaming MouseGamers are demanding users…but, are they really that picky? At any rate, it seems that the possibility of adjusting a mouse’s weight is becoming an increasingly popular feature among gamers since more and more manufacturers are integrating a system of variable balancing weights into their products. Oftentimes, this variability does not exceed 30 grams, which, however, seems to be enough to significantly alter the in-game experience.

At Tom’s Hardware, we still have our doubts concerning this new trend. However, given our limited ability for playing the most popular eSport games, we will avoid criticizing the preferences of other users, especially since we ourselves have noticed how uncomfortable it can be to use mouse weighing in excess of 160 grams.

We do however consider that it would be a shame to reject an ideally shaped mouse just because it weighs-in a few grams too light. If you do opt for a mouse with variable weight, we highly recommend that you make sure that the weights are easily interchangeable and that the access latch will not spring open in the middle of your gaming sessions.

Buyer’s guide: interface and sensor

Wired or wireless?

Wireless technology is very popular in many technological fields these days and the world of computer mouse is no exception. For some users, having a wire stretching over their desk is a real nuisance. That is why there are just about as many wireless mouse being offered as there are wired models. However, gamers still tend to prefer the latter and wireless mouse as generally more geared towards office use.

Gaming Mouse

There are two possible explanations for this tendency. First of all, wireless mouse need to be recharged. While it is true that batteries are usually able to supply enough power for several weeks of sustained usage, gamers can be somewhat paranoid in this regard…a trait that is needed to survive on the virtual battlefield! That having been said, the main reason is more down to earth: buying a mouse with a good-quality wireless sensor costs a little bit more. However, the technology being incorporated into wireless gaming mouse is becoming truly excellent.

Optical or laser: which one should you choose?

Just a few years ago, the question of the type of sensor was a hotly debated issue among gamers. At that time, the major manufacturers made great efforts to impose the dominance of laser technology over the aging optical technology. However, it you take a look at the product line-ups of these same manufacturers these days, laser technology has now become the slowest. In theory, lasers are still more precise than the LEDs of optical mouse, and should provide a more precise pointing experience.

In actuality, what may have been true seven or eight years ago no longer applies. We challenge you to find a laser sensor which is more precise than a good-quality optical sensor. Moreover, the more susceptible laser technology often experiences difficulties coping with the re-positioning of the mouse. Lastly, laser mouse behave poorly on certain types of surfaces (namely glass), and, while it depends on the specific model, as a general rule we tend to prefer optical mouse.

Gaming Mouse

On the above, the diagram of an optical sensor and its LED; on the below that of a laser sensor

Buyer’s guide: polling rate and DPI

The polling rate should not be overlooked

For years no one really paid any attention to what is now called the polling rate. This rate is however an essential characteristic… ultimately much more important than a mouse’s DPI value – something which we will discuss later on. To put things simply, the polling rate is the frequency with which the mouse communicates with the computer. By default, Windows sets this value to 125 Hz, that is to say that it communicates with the mouse 125 times per second in order to determine the location of the pointer – once every 8 ms.

For gaming purposes, this value is truly inadequate – and for once this is not simply a claim being made by marketing departments in lack of inspiration. It is also interesting to remark that all manufacturers seem to have come to an agreement on a single reference value: 1 ms or 100 Hz, depending on the way in which the value is expressed. Under real-life conditions, a polling rate on the order of 500 Hz seems to be adequate, but as you will see, almost all presently available models are able to achieve a rate of 1000 Hz.

Gaming Mouse

The BlurBusters website explains one of the major advantages of using a polling rate of 1000 Hz: avoiding (or at least minimizing) cyclically occurring cursor micro-jerks. These specialists even suggest that a 2000 Hz rate would be required to make these interruptions to the cursor’s movement imperceptible.

2000 Hz? It’s already possible! We tested the only mouse to officially be able to handle this polling rate: the Asus ROG Spatha. Other mouse can be overclocked to 2000 Hz. Moreover, we took advantage of this opportunity to verify once and for all the amount of CPU usage at different polling rates. Here are our results, which show that the explosion in CPU usage mainly concerns the Windows Desktop:

Gaming Mouse

DPI rating, mainly for marketing purposes

The DPI rating of mouse is THE biggest joke for people in the know. All manufacturers are trying to provide an ever increasing DPI count. DPI is the acronym for Dots Per Inch. In theory this value determines the sensor’s sensitivity – the higher the value, the more responsive the mouse should be. In this day and age it is not uncommon to find models offering 8000 DPI, 12000 DPI or even 16000 DPI. Let’s be clear about something: for all practical purposes, these values do not mean a thing and most professional gamers continue to make use of 1600 – 2800 DPI mouse.

Gaming Mouse

Even within their own advertising, manufacturers allude to the lack of value of these technical achievements. They explain that 16000 DPI mouse are especially geared towards use with 4K definition displays or with surround-gaming configurations.. meaning a three display setup. And, even with the most demanding of this type of configuration, a resolution of 5000 to 6000 DPI would be sufficient to avoid the need for excessive mouse movements in order to move the pointer from one end of the display to the other.

Be careful not to fall into the DPI marketing trap and do not reject an otherwise good mouse just because it “only” has 6000 DPI resolution.

Buyer’s guide: buttons, macros and software

Buttons everywhere!

The number of buttons that a mouse has is a much more important consideration than its DPI resolution since it will enable you to control many more things with your mouse. More and more mouse are making it possible to for users to program the functionality of the built-in buttons. While it is possible to get along without any of these capabilities, they are undoubtedly convenient. After all, it has become standard practice to be able to program keyboard buttons within the majority of computer games.

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Two examples of mouse geared towards MMORPGs, the Trust GXT166 and the Havit HV-MS735

As a general rule, all gaming mouse these days have two main buttons, a clickable scroll-wheel and two side buttons for thumb access. For gamers, this is the strict minimum, and it is not uncommon for gaming mouse to have two more buttons behind the scroll-wheel as well as a third button for thumb access. Some more specialized models go much further still – mouse exclusively geared towards MOBA and MMO games can have up to 12 buttons for thumb access.

Armoury, Swarm, Synapse: the software is of critical importance

One last thing that we would like to discuss before proceeding to the heart of the matter is the mouse’s software which is becoming increasingly important as mouse become ever more sophisticated. It goes without saying that, due to their USB connectivity, all currently available mouse are instantly recognized by the Windows operating system. And, while the built-in Microsoft drivers are often capable of modifying the pointer’s displacement speed or the number of lines of text that the scroll-wheel is able to scroll through, their control over these mouse stops there. These built-in drivers are totally incapable of varying the mouse’s LEDs or modifying the infamous polling rate.

These features – as well as many others – can only be controlled by software programs specific to each brand of mouse. For this reason, the assessment of the software which comes provided with a mouse is part of the evaluation process of said device, and the absence of any such software – as is the case with the HyperX Pulsefire FPS – necessarily reflects poorly on the mouse. Moreover, simply offering a software program is not sufficient. Depending on the brand, the program which is offered will be more or less light-weight: for example PNY’s software has a file size of only 5 MB whereas Razer Synapse is 25 MB and Roccat Swarm is 125 MB in size…when, in theory at least, the functionality of each of these programs should be essentially the same.

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Two of our favorite software interfaces: on the above the Logitech gaming Assistant, and on the blow, Roccat Swarm

What features do they offer? We already mentioned the ability to adjust the polling rate. You should however be aware that this ability will be more or less precise depending on the program, which might offer 3, 4, or 5 possible settings. Several sensitivity profiles can also be predefined – very practical for people who prefer to use a 3200 DPI resolution for playing RTS games and 1600 DPI for FPS games for example. You will also be able to turn your mouse’s RGB LEDs on or off during your gaming sessions. Lastly, these programs usually have a full page of options dedicated to personalizing the mouse’s buttons and to the creation of macros. Macros make it possible to associate a series of commands with a single mouse action.

We have already alluded to the fact that not all these software programs are equally good. While HyperX does not offer software of any kind, the user interface of Speedlink’s software has much room for improvement. The 5 MB size of PNY’s software is explained in part by the absence of any macro interface. However, this manufacturer has succeeded in making all of the options fit onto a single page whereas users are required to switch between four different tabs when using Razer’s software. In this regard, Roccat offers an ingenious favorites system which groups together all of those features that the user deems most important. This is one of the reasons why Roccat’s software is among those that we prefer – along with Logitech’s Gaming Assistant.

Tests: models retailing for under 50 dollars

We will begin our tests by taking a look at some lower priced gamer mice. These models are already a notch above the entry-level models that can be found in supermarkets for instance, but they are still very affordable – retailing for under 50 euros. These mice already have all of the essential functionality required by most gamers: a polling rate of 1000 Hz and a sensor with a resolution in excess of 3000 DPI.

Corsair Harpoon RGB

Optical sensor / Maximum resolution of 6000 DPI

Corsair Harpoon RGB

What we like

  • It is very small and easy to manipulate
  • Exemplary ergonomics
  • Good functionality given its price
  • Very precise optical sensor

What we don’t like

  • Exclusively for right-handed users
  • The scroll-wheel is a little bit too rigid
  • The thumb-accessible buttons could be better

Verdict

As Corsair’s lowest priced model, the Harpoon RGB is proof that a large manufacturer is entirely capable of offering a quality product at an affordable price. What’s more, Corsair even incorporated RGB backlighting into this mouse to give this otherwise sober looking device a touch of fantasy. The Harpoon RGB is an excellent entry-level mouse, and while its functionality is somewhat limited, it takes full advantage of all of the manufacturer’s know-how. This is the perfect mouse for gamers looking to spend their money on games rather than on hardware. It has an almost perfect quality to price ratio.

SteelSeries Rival 100

SteelSeries Rival 100

Optical sensor / Maximum resolution of 4000 DPI

What we like

  • The optical sensor’s quality
  • Nice shape and overall design

What we don’t like

  • Not truly ambidextrous (due to the positioning of the buttons)
  • Could be lighter

Verdict

The simplest of the SteelSeries gaming mice, the Rival 100 should delight fans of sober looking mice. This device has a rare elegance and it is a shame that its ability to be used by both right and left-handed users is spoiled by the fact that the thumb-accessible buttons only appear on the right-hand side. This is especially regrettable since the Rival 100’s form factor – which is relatively compact – allows it to be used by a wide variety of users since it does not impose any particular way in which it must be held – although palm-gripping this mouse is somewhat difficult due to its small size. Obviously, this SteelSeries mouse does not have all of the same advanced functionality as higher-end models, but it still has 6 programmable buttons as well as RGB backlighting. The sensor used by this manufacturer is a conventional 4000 DPI optical sensor which has proven to be quite sufficient and which is quite precise. Even the software which comes supplied with this mouse belies its low price. The Rival 100 is sure to satisfy any gamer who does not want to invest too much in a mouse.

Asus ROG Strix Impact

Asus ROG Strix Impact

Optical sensor / Maximum resolution of 5000 DPI

What we like

  • Truly ambidextrous mouse
  • Good-quality sensor
  • Perfectly suited to small hands

What we don’t like

  • Only four programmable buttons
  • Small size
  • The backlighting is hidden during use

Verdict

A worthy representative of the Republic of Gamers product line, the Strix Impact is not the cheapest mouse in the lineup, but it still retails for a reasonable price – even though Asus could probably have offered users a little bit more for their money. Since their desire was to offer a truly ambidextrous mouse, the manufacturer did somewhat neglect the number of buttons it included (only 4). It should also be mentioned that the Strix Impact is not recommended for users with large hands since they will find it rather uncomfortable to use. Otherwise, users with small hands should find it very comfortable. We really enjoyed the sensor’s precision, the quality of the outer surface material as well as the positioning of the anti-slip pads. Asus did very good work in developing this mouse, although we wondered why it bothered to incorporate RGB backlighting since the logo will necessarily be covered whenever the mouse is being used!

HyperX Pulsefire FPS

HyperX Pulsefire FPS

Optical sensor / Maximum resolution of 3200 DPI

What we like

  • Sober and efficient design
  • The quality of the buttons
  • The comfort of the scroll-wheel

What we don’t like

  • Exclusively for right-handed users
  • HyperX does not supply any software
  • Very pronounced bulge

Verdict

Contrary to what its shape might suggest, the Pulsefire FPS is exclusively reserved for right-handed users. The presence of (very enjoyable) thumb-accessible buttons on its right-hand side as well as its slight curvature do not leave any room for doubt as to its right-handedness. It should also be mentioned that this relatively inexpensive mouse has a very rounded shape and its pronounced bulge will incite users to adopt a palm grip, which may not be to the taste of everyone. It is quite a good looking mouse, elegant, and with a comfortable exterior coating. It also has large anti-slip pads on the bottom which help to stabilize the mouse. Some people might be surprised when they learn how low its sensor’s resolution is: 3200 DPI. In real-life conditions, this is not a problem at all, since most gamers do not even bother to set the resolution of their mice that high. The scroll-wheel deserves special recognition, it is enjoyable to use as well as being precise, which is why it is a real shame that there is no dedicated software for this device. In actuality, it is impossible to program the mouse’s buttons or other functions, except – of course – within the game you are playing. Pity.

Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum

Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum

Optical sensor / Maximum resolution of 12000 DPI

What we like

  • Very comfortable to hold
  • Comfortable scroll-wheel with adjustable precision
  • 11 buttons
  • Adjustable weight
  • 2 meter cable

What we don’t like

  • Exclusively for right-handed users
  • Quite heavy

Verdict

Logitech is undeniably one of the most reputable manufacturers of computer mice and its G502 Proteus Spectrum can only contribute positively to this manufacturer’s reputation. Indeed, this is one of the best models that we have ever tested. Its ergonomics, its finishing and the position of its buttons are all excellent. Logitech definitely did not skimp on this last point either: it has no fewer than 11 programmable buttons! In addition, its scroll-wheel is multidirectional, and although there is something of a learning curve involved in mastering it, once you get the hang of it, it is a real pleasure to use. It is worth mentioning that its weight – which is adjustable (145-163 grams) – is quite significant and that the G502 is not suited to left-handed users. These are two small drawbacks to what is essentially an excellent product, one which has the added advantage of being controllable through Logitech’s excellent software. This is unquestionably one of our favorite mice.

Tests: models retailing for under 80 dollars

We will now briefly discuss some models of mice which belong to a category of product situated somewhere between entry-level models and high-end models. These mid-level models retail for between 50 and 80 euros, approximately. Investing a few euros more can often allow a user to purchase a mouse with extra accessories and functionality: for example, adjustable weight or extra buttons.

Razer Naga Hex V2

Razer Naga Hex V2Laser sensor / Maximum resolution of 16000 DPI

What we like

  • It is of a rare elegance
  • The precision of the laser sensor
  • Very comfortable to hold
  • No fewer than 14 buttons

What we don’t like

  • Exclusively for right-handed users
  • It’s large size will be a problem for some users

Verdict

Evolved from the Naga Hex which has already been around for more than five years, this V2 version is in keeping with Razer’s other products: its lines are elegant, its finish is impeccable and its build-quality is irreproachable. Anyone who looks at it will immediately notice the circle of 7 buttons on its side, and this mouse’s 14 (!) buttons are all programmable via Razer’s software. This product isn’t the most ergonomic mouse that we have ever used, but it does the job quite nicely. You should know that the Hex V2 is a particularly large mouse which even has enough room for you to rest your ring finger on it. Unsurprisingly, Razer has remained faithful to laser technology and this mouse’s laser sensor is able to increase its sensitivity up to 16000 DPI – even though there is no real use for such a high resolution. Nevertheless, the responsiveness of the sensor is very good and its precision is excellent. This is an excellent mouse which is more geared towards MOBA / MMO players due to its 7 button “wheel”.

Roccat Kone EMP

Roccat Kone EMP

Optical sensor / Maximum resolution of 12000 DPI

What we like

  • Remarkable ergonomics
  • The precision of the sensor
  • Sober and elegant
  • Easy Shift feature
  • Multidirectional scroll-wheel

What we don’t like

  • Exclusively for right-handed users
  • It can feel a little bit too lightweight
  • The thumb-accessible buttons are placed a little too far back

Verdict

Roccat is one of the most respected gaming mouse manufacturers and its Kone EMP is undeniably a very good product. Exclusively reserved for right-handed users due to its shape and the positioning of its buttons, it is recommended for those users who enjoy large mice. Roccat has equipped this mouse with an excellent optical sensor capable of reaching a high resolution – 12 000 DPI – as well as 9 buttons which can be programmed via its excellent software: Swarm. It is worth mentioning that its scroll-wheel is multidirectional – which is still a rarity – and that this mouse has also incorporated an extra bit of technology – the Easy Shift function which allows users to double any of the mouse’s other commands by simply pressing a button. This feature is both ingenious and very effective.

Speedlink Omnivi

Speedlink Omnivi

Laser sensor / Maximum resolution of 12000 DPI

What we like

  • Very responsive and precise laser sensor
  • Very enjoyable scroll-wheel
  • Heavy, but well balanced

What we don’t like

  • Exclusively for right-handed users
  • Quite heavy
  • Exaggerated backlighting
  • Aggressive silhouette

Verdict

By the introduction of ever more ambitious products, Speedlink has been trying to win a spot in the hearts of gamers. Its Ultor keyboard managed to seduce us, however we found the Omnivi to be less convincing. The mouse has a good laser sensor which is precise and responsive, but which suffers from the drawbacks associated with this technology (can only be used on non-reflective surfaces, the mouse struggles to recover after having been lifted off the surface). Even more bothersome, Speedlink really let loose when designing this mouse and its silhouette is overly aggressive and its backlighing is somewhat exaggerated. Fortunately the software that comes with the mouse allows users adjust the backlighting settings as well as to program its six buttons. It is also unfortunate that this mouse is not ambidextrous, and that its significant weight – which is not adjustable – may be a handicap for some gamers. Thankfully this mouse slides very well and its buttons feel quite solid – even though the placement of some of them is far from optimal.