I think the hardware in gaming mice has progressed to the point where it’s nearly irrelevant to most gamers. Now that may sound odd coming from a hardware enthusiast who loves having cutting edge stuff, but then again I’m still using an old Logitech MX518 despite having reviewed most of the high-end mice currently available.
Are these now irrelevant?
Features such as DPI, response time/polling rate, and the type of sensor found in most modern mice have become so advanced that you can use the mouse on nearly any surface in any condition.
The thing is, you’re not using the mouse on just any surface. 9 times out of 10 gamers will have a specialised mouse pad that allows the mouse to function at its best. So if you’re not about to haul out a glass mouse pad at the next LAN, why do you need a mouse that will work on glass?
Similarly, the polling rate is all but irrelevant. Many gamers swear by the MX518 I mentioned earlier, but that only has a 125Hz polling rate as opposed to the 1,000Hz polling rate found on modern mice. Nearly every mouse nowadays comes with a 1,000Hz polling rate out of the box, so it’s not something you should pay much attention to.
The important features
So if all of the above isn’t really important, what is? Well comfort for starters, and features that you can actually notice in game.
I still rate mouse comfort as the most important feature of any gaming mouse. Making sure buttons on the mouse are easily accessible and preventing hand cramps is more important than an extra 1,000DPI at the end of the day. This is why many swear by the MX518, both because of its comfort, and because getting used to a new mouse takes time.
This may be why the Saitek Cyborg range of mice is so successful (at least from what I’ve seen at local LANs). No single mouse will appeal to everyone, but the ability to customise the body to find your perfect grip is as good as things get. Personally, if my MX518 had to break tomorrow, I’d replace it with a Thermaltake Black – a cheap as chips gaming mouse that is short on features, but big on comfort.
A range of programmable buttons is also a huge bonus for modern gamers, especially those playing RTS and MMORPGs. The two standard thumb buttons may be great for your average FPS gamer, but now specialised mice such as the Razer Naga and Logitech G600 offer more buttons than the average gamer can use.
Most mouse manufacturers also offer built in memory in mice that remembers your settings even when changing to a new PC; great for the gamer who may game on multiple systems (a home PC and work laptop for example) or those who format regularly.
Lastly, a weighting system is quite useful for those who may prefer a lighter/heavier mouse. Some may prefer light mice that fishtail due to the cable; others prefer throwing a weightier device around. Either way, a weight system is a great feature to have, especially one that allows you to customise the weight of various areas in the mouse.
Ignore the hardware specifications of dedicated gaming mice. Chances are that if the mouse is from a respectable brand, it’ll probably be good enough for your average gamer. Rather focus on features that will have a larger effect on your day-to-day gaming. An extra 1,000DPI might miraculously help you get an extra frag, but a hand cramp will ensure you miss many more.