Mice, trackballs, touchpads and other pointing devices, ranging from the very cheapest ones up to extremely sophisticated models that will cost you an arm and a leg. Popular manufacturers are Pat Says Now, Logitech, Razer, Microsoft, Mionix and Ace.
Over time, a wide range of computer mice have evolved, and for being a pretty simple accessory they can differ quite a lot. Depending on if you want a small travel mouse or a fast gaming mouse, the price can also differ quite a lot.
Here we’ll guide you through the most important features to consider and why.
Three main types
There are generally speaking three types of computer mice- gaming, ergonomic and travel mice.
The gaming category focuses on extra high performance, quality and many buttons. They often come with laser sensors, are made of high-performance parts, and the software to customise all buttons and lights is included.
The ergonomic mouse is designed for maximum comfort and to reduce the stresses that cause repetitive strain injury. Many models have an ergonomic design to relieve the strain on hand and elbow, often with additional buttons to ease use of the operating system, browser, and the like. What distinguishes them primarily from the gaming category is that less focus is on performance and more on comfort.
Travel mice are smaller, simpler models that take up as little space as possible. There is no focus on performance or comfort, it's all about creating small, lightweight products that can easily be placed in a pocket or in a bag. Most models are wireless, but there are wire-connected models with cable winders to reduce the size.
Size and ergonomics
Many people choose according to how you prefer to hold the computer mouse. Some models are specially designed for the entire palm of the hand to lie against the top of the computer mouse, others are more suitable for fingertip use. There are also models that work best with fingertip use when the knuckles are slightly bent, so the fingertips are faced downward.
Smaller models that are designed to be simple in both design and easy-to-carry are generally made for fingertip use. Larger models are primarily made to put the entire palm on. There are also special models with ergonomic design that reduce the risk of, for example carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury.
It is also important that you choose a model adapted for the hand you want to use. The vast majority of models on the market are made for use with the right hand, but there are also many so-called ambidextra variants for both left and right hand.
Cable or wireless
The connection of the mouse to the computer is done either via a cable or wirelessly. There are also models that support both methods by using a detachable usb-cable.
The advantage with a wireless mouse is that you won’t need a lead. In general wired models aren’t a problem if you sit by your desk, but if you travel a lot a wireless model could be better. This means that you either get a small radio receiver that is placed in a USB port or you use the computer's built-in Bluetooth support when connected.
A wireless computer mouse uses built-in batteries. Thus, you always have to keep track of the battery level so you don’t get stranded with an unusable computer mouse. Thankfully, there are computer mice that can be used for several months before the batteries need to be replaced or recharged.
Unlike wireless computer mice, you do not have to worry about battery life and radio reception if you have a wired mouse. Just connect to a free USB port and you get power through that way. You also avoid the risk of interference if you have many wireless devices nearby.
However, you do not have the same freedom to move the computer mouse as you like if your desktop is loaded with things and it's wired. It's not as much a problem for smooth USB cables, but if they have any kind of texture, they get stuck in the mousepad or the table edge.
Extra buttons and the scroll wheel
The most common models have between two and five buttons. In some cases, they can have as many as 20 buttons when the model is specifically designed for computer games. How many you need depends entirely on what it will be used for. Try it out and see what's best for you.
If there is only one additional button, often placed at the left side of the thumb, it is usually used to go to the previous page in the browser. It is standard in the Windows operating system, but may differ slightly depending on the model and operating system. If there are more buttons, software is most likely included with which you can decide what the buttons should do.
There is also a scroll wheel with which you can move in the documents and web pages in the browser. This can also be used in games for example to change weapons. The scroll wheel can often be used as an additional button, both by pushing down and sideways. The wheel often has clear ratchet when it’s spun to give better control and feel, but some computer mice have free spinning scroll wheels without a ratchet.
Optical or laser
At the bottom of the computer mouse is an optical sensor or laser that reads the surface.
Optical sensors use a red, blue or infrared LED that reads the surface to relay the information to the computer so that the pointer moves correctly over the screen. An optical sensor sends light to the substrate that is reflected on a small camera that takes pictures several hundred times every second. Each individual image is analysed to identify changes that show that the mouse has been moved. Optical sensors are good on uneven surfaces, for example, if there is no mouse pad, and when you often lift the computer mouse from the table.
Laser uses a laser diode instead of LED light. It provides faster reading of the substrate and the mouse pointer can respond more quickly to movements than with an optical sensor. It is best for situations of fast motion, such as when playing computer games. Laser works optimally with mousepads and when you rarely raise the mouse from the substrate.
How quickly the sensor or laser should work against the substrate and send to the computer you usually set up using the supplied software. Sometimes there is also a button on the computer mouse when you do not want to go to the settings. Some models have two buttons to switch up or down, others just one to go forward. Check if you need programmable adjustment or if you are satisfied with the preset.
Computer mouse versus touchpad
Everyone who has used a laptop knows how a touchpad works. And there are occasions when one is preferable to a traditional computer mouse. In gaming and photo editing where precision is paramount, the computer mouse works better.
There are also computer mice with built-in support for gesture control. The Apple Magic Mouse and Magic Mouse 2 are two models that support gesture where you sweep your hand over the front click area to control the mouse pointer. Even the Dell Wireless Touch Mouse has similar functionality.
Among the frequently supported gestures are the ability to zoom in on images and the browser with your fingers, rotate images, show shortcuts, and minimise all open windows in the operating system, and close applications. What is supported depends on the touchpad or computer mouse functionality.
Keep in mind that support for gesture management is often platform-dependent. If the model is specifically adapted for Windows or Mac OS, there is no guarantee that it will work with others.