Four Keyboards And Four Mice For LAN Party Gamers, Rounded-Up

Evaluating Mice: DPI And Polling Rate

Dots Per Inch (DPI)

The single most common and direct measurement for comparing the sensitivity of a mouse is dots per inch (DPI). This term essentially refers to the speed that a user can manipulate the on-screen cursor. For example, if you pair a 2,000 DPI mouse to a screen with a resolution of 2,000 horizontal pixels, you would only need to move the sensor one inch to completely cross the width of the display.

However, sensitivity levels are typically configurable, which you've likely seen from fiddling around in a driver's corresponding control app or a game's settings. In both cases, the computer either interpolates or extrapolates cursor movement based on the information being fed to it by the mouse. This is a kind of software scaling, and it doesn’t really increase the ability of a mouse to process and transmit more information about its movement faster. 

Modern mice employ tiny cameras that take hundreds of pictures per second while shining a bright light (typically red) on the surface. By analyzing these pictures, a controller in the mouse can figure out where it’s going relative to its former position. It then breaks that information down and sends it to the computer. The DPI setting given by the manufacturer is the maximum pixel/inch ratio that the mouse can reliably operate at. 

However, as many have pointed out in the past, using a super-sensitive mouse won’t necessarily help your game.

So, mouse DPI is also tied to the size of your monitor, in a sense. Crossing 2,000 pixels with a 2,000 DPI mouse only requires one inch of movement, but crossing 4,000 pixels requires you to move that same mouse two inches. The main reason DPI settings still matter has a lot more to do with the fact that monitor resolutions, especially those on gaming rigs with multiple screens, continue to grow. 

Moreover, most gaming mice have one or two dedicated buttons for on-the-fly DPI adjustments, allowing you to tailor sensitivity as needed. In first-person shooters, for example, it’s not always helpful to have sensitivity cranked up to 11. When it comes to sniping through a zoomed-in scope, a slight twitch can really throw you off-target. Lower DPI is often better for those situations.

Instead of dealing with constant adjustment, many folks prefer one low- to mid-speed setting during game time. It's not uncommon for them to move their mouse quickly, pick it up, and put it back down again to get a full rotation. This where polling rate, another critical mouse stat, comes into play.

Polling Rate

Polling rate is simply the interval at which a mouse reports its position to the computer. A 125 Hz rate means information is being communicated to the host 125 times every second. Accurate reporting depends on the number of data points a mouse can produce and send to the computer. Players who prefer lower sensitivity settings may want to set their polling rate as high as possible in order to reduce the likelihood of their movements being misinterpreted. Conversely, if you prefer higher sensitivity settings, you may want to reduce polling rates to avoid random, natural twitches from interfering with on-screen accuracy.

Creating objective tests, and understanding which would actually translate into a substantive difference in terms of game performance, is a bit challenging. All of these mice use the current generation of image sensors, giving them all roughly the same DPI, they all connect with USB 2.0, and they generally include similar features. Keeping all of that in mind, we thought it would be best to instead check for failures. But what could we do, within reason, that would cause a mouse to under-perform?

To start, we used an array of utilities able to track mouse output to the computer, including polling rate data and positions on the X and Y axes. With this data, we should have been able to determine each mouse's ability to report its position without error. That was the plan, at least. In reality, we weren't able to trigger a failure on any of these models. 

  • Hadoe
    "high-quality console graphics"

    Heh, good one Toms... good one.
  • atavax
    i wonder at what dpi's they tested acceleration. It was my understanding that a lot of mice have acceleration issues at different dpi's. I have seen multiple sources that say the G9 has negative acceleration at low sensitivities.
  • samwelaye
    I've had my g9x for quite a while now, love this mouse!
  • Trewyy
    G9x now down to $55 on Newegg :) I should mention that it was a good review, as always!
  • ShadyHamster
    Five programmable buttons near the thumb rest, a mechanical button below the scroll wheel, and a battery indicator set the G500 apart from standard mice.

    That should be DPI indicator not battery.

    And whats up with pitting 1 mechanical keyboard up against 3 membrane keyboards? Before even reading the article i knew that the mechanical keyboard would be the clear winner, who would care about the loudness of the keys at a lan party, 99.9% of people would have headphones.
  • Swordkd
    Before I bought my Razer mouse(Imperator 2012), I read reviews on newegg and decided to discount the issue that they seemed to be having. After a few months of use, the mice would start to double-click from a single "click". Sure enough, less than 6 months of light to moderate use, my mouse now suffers from this malady once out of every 20 clicks or so. Enough to annoy me.

    I will not recommend that brand mouse to anyone ever again.
  • Soda-88
    No 6Gv2?
  • kitsunestarwind
    Logitech G9X is a fantastic mouse, been using mine since they first came out, never a complaint and has led to me having very sharp and accurate aim in games like BF3. Buy one it is worth it!
  • alidan
    das keyboard professional
    razor naga

    that's my setup...

    that said, sound and weight to press are not lower or higher is better... they are prefferences, i personally love the sound that a cherry blue makes and wish it was a bit louder because i make more sound on each key by bottoming them out apposed to activating the switch.

    and weight, i hear it more often than not that for gaming heavier presses are better because its less likely to accidently activate.

    now, impersonally just because of prior things i have had, i can never recommend razor... but at the same time i use a razor because i want that 12 key pad, and Logitech mouse is even smaller than the already small naga, and i cant get use to its bad form factor... its really the only razor anything i recommend just because there is no other competition that i can tell people to go with outside the small logitech and only if they have small hands.

    also, i dont know if it was mentioned, but the razor keyboard from what i remember has such a strict policy, that if you remove a key cap, you void the warranty. there are story's of the s and j key switched, but because of razors warranty, they have to send it in and get it replaced that way, and its a razor product, you know it will fail... the keyboard doesn't have a mounting plate, so its more likely to fail than other mechanical keyboards because of the solder point stress before the keys naturally give out.
  • blubbey
    'The G500 was reported to be too long,'

    I know of course this is personal preference and everyone's different, but either their hands are small or mine are of reasonable size because I can almost cover the entire mouse (fingertips and base of my hand can just about hit the mouse mat at the same time). Unfortunately I don't have much else to compare it to, only random mice however it is larger than any I can remember, so I might just have larger than 'normal' hands.

    Something else you might want to consider that others have found is that the scroll wheel is very 'light' to use. I'm indifferent about it seeing as I'm used to light scroll wheels but a few people have raised that point in reviews that I saw before buying it (~$45 on sale). I've also found that the weights are prety much useless, it's already quite a weighty mouse so an extra few grams really didn't matter for me.