When we talk about the polling rate of a mouse or other peripheral we’re talking about how often the mouse reports its position to the PC it’s connected to. This is measured in Hertz (Hz) and not to be confused with DPI.
Polling rate in practice
When you’re gaming it’s of critical importance to have your gear respond as quickly as possible. If you’re being showered by enemy bullets and you need to wait even half a second before your mouse reports your movement to your PC you might already be dead before you’ve been able to get out of dodge.
That’s why gaming mice advertise fast response times. The faster a mouse responds and reports your movements the less you’ll suffer from input lag.
The polling rate of a mouse is simply an indication of how many times (per second) a mouse reports its position to the PC. If you’ve got your mouse set to a polling rate of 500Hz it’s going to be reporting its position 500 times per second, or every two miliseconds.
Most modern gaming mice let you choose the polling rate of the mouse, and you can most often choose between 125, 250, 500, and 1000Hz. Logic dictates that a higher polling rate = better, but with a higher polling rate also comes a higher stress on your system (more precisely on the CPU) so depending on your setup it might not be advisable to just set and forget your mouse to the highest polling rate it can handle. We do notice that the vast majority of our analyzed pro gamers use a polling rate of at least 500, so we don’t really recommend going below that.
In the table above we’ve listed the 4 most ‘popular’ (i.e. these are the 4 levels of polling rate you can usually choose between) polling rates and their corresponding response time. These days, there are mice that go up to 8000Hz in polling rate, but they’re still relatively rare. These polling rates also aren’t compatible with any game, so it’ll take some time before this becomes the standard.
Different polling rates also feel different, so it’s perfectly reasonable to be a bit more comfortable on 500Hz as opposed to 1000Hz, as is evidenced by the fact that a sizable part of our analysed professionals still use 500Hz as opposed to 1000Hz.