When people decide to build a serious gaming setup the gaming mouse is usually one of the first peripherals on the list. It makes sense, too. Your mouse is what you use to aim with, and you’ll want that instrument to be as precise and flawless as possible. Whether you’re a PC gaming beginner or you’re a veteran with years of experience under your belt: you’ll want to make sure that you get a mouse that is comfortable for you and translates your movements on the mousepad to the gameworld with perfect precision.
But what makes a good gaming mouse? The answer, to be honest, is that it depends. There are a few factors that can be used to objectively rate a gaming mouse, but whether or not a certain mouse is right for you will depend on a couple of subjective factors. Manufacturers keep bombarding people with all sorts of marketing terms, and with so many options out there on the market currently it can be quite difficult to see the forest for the trees. In this article we’ll try to give you a clear view on what makes the difference between a good gaming mouse and a bad gaming mouse.
In order to get a better view on this problem we polled our users (and the users of the subreddit /r/mousereview) on what kind of grip they use and what they find important in a gaming mouse. Any statistics you see in this article will be taken from the results of that poll.
What makes a gaming mouse good?
What is, aside from the sensor, the most important aspect of a gaming mouse for shooter games?
Leaving aside the fact that subjective stuff such as shape and size are among the most important factors of a gaming mouse it’s not all about that. You can have a mouse that’s perfectly molded to your hands but if it doesn’t perform ingame it’s not going to help you at all and it might even do the opposite.
The sensor is arguably the most important part of a mouse, at least for the games that we are covering here at ProSettings where precise aim is of critical importance. A bad sensor can mess up your aim in multiple ways; by introducing acceleration or angle snapping, or by jittering from the get-go. In short: a good mouse sensor should translate whatever moves you make on your mousepad to your PC with pixel-perfect precision. This is less important for games where precise aim isn’t required (such as turn-based strategy games) but it’s still a good idea to go for a mouse with a flawless sensor regardless. These days most major peripheral manufacturers use flawless sensors in their mice, but it’s always a good idea to check out reviews and breakdowns prior to committing to a purchase, doubly so if you’re buying a budget mouse, since those usually skimp on the sensor.
Note: high DPI counts are often used by peripheral companies to promote their mice as if a high DPI = better performing player, but this isn’t the case. Less than 3% of our analyzed pros use a DPI higher than 3200.
Build quality is another one of these factors that we can objectively judge. A mouse can’t be considered a great gaming mouse if the scroll wheel flat out stops working after a couple of hours, for example. In our reviews, mice also get tested on smaller details such as whether or not there are any rattling parts on the inside when swiping or tapping. This usually doesn’t have any influence on the performance (and if it does it obviously gets mentioned) but it might get annoying for some people. A mouse with a good build quality shouldn’t have any loose or rattling parts inside and should be able to stand up to regular usage situations (such as accidentally slamming it against a keyboard etc.) without fail.
The cable is less important for some, but it’s still something that we can rate with relative ease. A mouse cable should be flexible and light so that you barely notice that it’s there when you’re gaming. Cable drag can become a real annoyance when you’re gaming, and if the cable is too stiff and heavy it can impact your performance. A mouse bungee can help alleviate cable drag issues, but a thick and braided cable still isn’t something that we like to see on a gaming mouse.
Buttons and scroll wheels can also range from ‘fantastic’ to ‘trash’. We’re not talking about button tensioning here (some people prefer heavier buttons while others like them to be as light as humanly possible) but rather the implementation of buttons. You want your buttons to actuate with a crisp click so that you have a consistent clicking experience when using the mouse. If there’s a lot of pre or post travel it can lead to late clicks, which can mess up a crazy flick shot. Buttons also shouldn’t travel to the sides. This doesn’t impact performance too much but it can definitely get annoying when they’re too loose. In the same vein a scroll wheel can feel too loose or rattly. The amount of steps and how much definition you like there to be is personal, but if a scroll wheel misses steps or overall feels inconsistent it can definitely ruin the experience.
Mouse feet are often disregarded as unimportant, but if you encounter a pair of bad feet you’ll definitely notice. How fast or slow a mouse should glide is (again) down to personal preference, but what you don’t want are badly finished or uneven mouse feet. These can ‘dig into’ your mousepad, causing an inconsistent glide or they can cause your mouse to feel unbalanced when swiping, and that’s not great for your gaming experience.
What makes a gaming mouse good for YOU?
What kind of grip style do you use?
If a mouse passes all the criteria we’ve listed above it doesn’t mean that you automatically have to slap your wallet on the table. It still needs to fit you.
Shape and size are two of the most important factors when it comes to deciding on a gaming mouse. You’re going to be using this device for hours on end so it’s of critical importance that it fits your hand and grip style. You are pretty much the only person who knows whether or not a mouse will suit you. Reviewers can give recommendations based on grip style and hand size (and we do just that in our reviews) but do remember that those are still guidelines. There are professional gamers with huge hands using extremely small mice, and vice versa. Use these ‘this mouse is ideal for hands between X and X cm and for grip style Y’ statements as what they are: a guideline, not a definite statement. Every person is different in this regard.
Weight is a difficult one. There is obviously an upper limit to weight (you cannot properly and comfortably aim if you have to drag around a 300 gram brick) but there isn’t really a ‘magic line’ if you’re asking us. Nowadays some people seem to believe that any mouse that weighs over 100 grams is automatically useless, but that’s a bit too drastic. Some people prefer heavier mice, and while most shooter players will tend to gravitate towards lighter products there’s nothing wrong with using a heavier mouse if that’s what you like to use.
This can also depend on the games that you most often play. In games where you constantly need to be flicking your mouse around and pixel-perfect aim isn’t of absolutely paramount importance it can be handy to have a light and nimble mouse, whereas a heavier mouse could be better for slower-paced games where angles and crosshair placement is the name of the game. Our analyzed CS:GO professionals, for example, aren’t all flocking to the latest ultralight mouse to be released which could indicate that a heavier mouse is better for stability. We’re just theorycrafting here though, so by all means do use what you prefer.
Some people also like to have extra features on their mouse, such as additional side buttons, a free scrolling wheel, a ‘sniper button,’ and so on. This is something that you have to decide for yourself, obviously. A mouse with a bunch of extra functions might not sit well with a certain person, but that doesn’t mean that it makes the mouse objectively bad. Of course, if these extras are implemented badly or limit the competitive performance of a mouse that’s a different issue entirely.
Looks. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that also rings true for gaming mice. Most of the staff here are of the opinion that looks don’t matter for competitive gaming gear but for some people they obviously do, and that’s okay. We wouldn’t recommend skipping out on a mouse that looks perfect in every way except for the color or something like that, but whether you want a black mouse with no RGB or a little Las Vegas casino in the palm of your hands is completely up to you. Never let anyone knock you down for your personal tastes.
On grip, shape, and size
On mouse grip type
It is often said that we can divide users into three different distinct categories when it comes to grip type but our research learns us that this is an oversimplification. There are a number of problems with using this simplified way of approaching something as personal and unique as a grip style, one of them being that it’s impossible to have just three categories.
In the image above, we’ve listed the way many sources traditionally differentiate the different types of grip (the blue parts indicate the areas of your hand that touch the mouse) but this is, as mentioned, very simplified. Most people don’t seem to follow these templates and everyone has a unique grip. It’s a good idea to use these graphics as a guideline to determine what your grip most closely resembles so that you can better categorize the way you hold a mouse (this can be handy when checking reviews and so on) but there’s no need to follow any of this to the letter. Hold your mouse the way you feel comfortable.
Best mouse grip and size
A lot of people seem to be pinned on the idea that certain hand sizes have to use mice that fall in a certain size category, or that one grip type is better than another. These things are all, to put it bluntly, bogus. There are professionals out there with huge hands who ‘should’ be using the largest mice they can find but end up competing with a small version of a certain mouse, for example. Some of the best aimers in the world use palm grip (which is often touted as ‘the worst’ grip) too. In the end it’s simple: it boils down to what you prefer.
That being said: don’t feel restricted by that either. It’s perfectly possible that your preferences and grip evolve over time, so if you see a review for a mouse that sounds like it’s maybe a bit too small for you but you love absolutely everything else that you read about it you shouldn’t be afraid to try it out (if your budget allows for it) since you never really know if it could become your favorite mouse. In the end it’s not really possible to determine what you like beforehand. If you don’t have any experience with gaming mice it’s best to go to a physical store or somewhere where you can grab a bunch of different mice to see what you like.
Ambidextrous vs ergonomic
Simply speaking, gaming mice are divided into two major different shapes, namely ergonomic and ambidextrous. When talking about gaming mice, an ergonomic (‘ergo’) mouse simply means that it’s shaped and contoured in a certain way to fit the natural flow of one certain hand (usually the right one) whereas an ambidextrous (‘ambi’) mouse has a neutral shape that feels the same whether you’re holding it with your right hand or your left hand. Some ambidextrous mice have side buttons on both sides but that’s not necessary for a mouse to be called an ambidextrous mouse as we’re really only talking about shape here.
Once again: one isn’t better than the other. What you prefer is entirely up to you, and while you will obviously aim better with a mouse that fits your preferences you shouldn’t feel forced to go for a certain shape because someone told you so or because your favorite pro is using that shape.
Every person is unique so it’s very important that you figure out what works for you. No person can accurately predict whether or not a mouse is going to be right for you based on just grip type and hand size. Of course there are general guidelines (such as, for example, recommending a mouse with a higher backside for palm grippers, or steering fingertip grippers towards smaller ambidextrous mice) but in the end everyone is different so don’t be afraid to experiment a little and, most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you things like ‘mouse X is the best’ or that you should use a certain grip type because it’s ‘better.’ A mouse can have all the best specs in the world but if the shape doesn’t sit right with you it’s not going to be good for you even though it might be absolutely perfect for someone else.
With all of these marketing terms and crazy promises going around it can be hard to see the forest for the trees, especially if you’re new to the world of gaming mice, but hopefully this article has helped you see things a bit more clearly. If you have any questions or remarks we encourage you to reach out on Twitter or Discord or post a comment on one of our reviews.
Thanks for reading!