Finding a mouse that achieves the perfect balance between sensitivity and precision seems impossible. Mice that use lasers provide high sensitivity, but they tend to cause vibrations. On the other hand, the optical mouse uses LED technology with lower sensitivity, allowing for more precise movement.
Choosing the best mouse for you can be a challenge. Fortunately, we can help you decide based on your budget, the surface you’re using and the type of activity you’ll need a mouse.
Guess what? All mice are optical
Modern mice are basically cameras. They are constantly taking pictures, although instead of photographing your face, they take pictures of the surface below. These images are not intended to be posted on social media, but instead are converted into data to track the peripheral’s current position on a surface. Finally, you have a low resolution camera in the palm of your hand, otherwise known as CMOS sensor. Combined with two lenses and a light source, they track the peripheral X and Y coordinates thousands of times per second.
All mice are optical, technically, because they take pictures, are optical data. However, those are marketed as optical models based on infrared LEDs or red LEDs that shine light on the surface. This LED is typically mounted behind an angled lens, which helps focus the light into a beam. That beam is reflected off the surface, through the “image” lens that magnifies the reflected light and enters the CMOS sensor.
CMOS sensor collects light and converts light particles into electric current. This same data is then converted to 1s and zeros, resulting in more than 10,000 digital images being captured per second. These images are compared to produce the exact position of the mouse and then the final data is sent to the parent PC to position the pointer every 1 to 8 milliseconds.
On older LED mice, you’ll see an LED pointing straight down and projecting a red beam on a surface visible to the sensor. Jump further years later, and the LED light is projected at an angle – and often invisible (infrared). This helps the mouse track its movement on most surfaces.
The laser mouse uses an invisible, precise beam
While, Logitech takes credit for introducing the first mouse to use a laser in 2004. More specifically, it is called a vertical cavity surface emitting diode laser (or VCSEL) used in laser pointers, optical drives, barcode readers, etc.
This infrared laser replaces the infrared / red LED on “optical” models, but don’t worry. It won’t harm your eyes because the laser used by the mouse isn’t strong (however, don’t squeeze your luck and stare at it for a few minutes). They are also in the infrared – outside of the visible spectrum – so you won’t see an annoying red light emanating from below your mouse.
At one time, laser models were said to be far superior to “optical” versions. However, over time, optical mice have improved and now work in a variety of situations with great accuracy. The superiority of the laser model stems from the higher sensitivity of the mouse using LEDs. Unless you’re a PC gamer, though, that’s probably not an important feature.
Comparison: Optimal surface
Okay, both methods use surface anomaly to track the position of the peripheral. But the laser can go deeper into the surface texture. This provides additional information so that the CMOS sensor and processor inside the mouse can be merged and transferred to the parent PC.
That makes sense in situations where the surface may not be ideal for all mice. For example, although the glass is transparent, there are still extremely small anomalies that can be monitored with a laser (it’s not always perfect, but enough for basic mouse manipulation). Meanwhile, we could put the newest optical mouse on the same surface and it couldn’t track any movement.
This makes laser-based mice better for glass tables and highly lacquered surfaces, depending on where you want to use them.
The problem with laser-based mice is that they can too Exactly, gathering useless information such as invisible hills and valleys on the surface. This can cause problems when moving at a slower speed, causing “flickering” on the cursor on the screen, also known as acceleration.
The result is an inaccurate 1: 1 tracking number derived from useless data incorporated into the overall tracking mix used by the PC. The pointer will not appear in the exact position at the exact moment your hand intended. While the problem has improved over the years, a laser mouse is still not ideal if you are sketching out details in Adobe Illustrator. They also tend to perform better on simple surfaces that don’t have a lot of information to scan and transition.
However, this issue gets more complicated when you look at the installation options. The resolution of the CMOS sensor in a laser mouse is different from a camera because it is motion-based. Sensors include a number physical pixels aligned in a square grid. Resolution derives from the number of individual images captured by each pixel during a movement of one physical inch across the surface. Since it is not possible to resize the physical pixels, the sensor can use image processing to divide each pixel into smaller sections.
That image processing can be adjusted, which is what the mouse’s sensitivity setting does. So, for example, if you have a laser mouse collecting too much data and dancing around the screen, you can reduce the sensitivity and help minimize that effect. So while the laser mouse may be too sensitive to some surfaces, this can be minimized, helping to balance the playing field for both mice.
Comparison: Game play
If you look at the Logitech G branding, you’ll notice that Logitech mainly focuses on LED-based mice when it comes to PC gaming. That’s because that customer base typically sits on a desk and can even use mouse pads designed for the best tracking and friction. They want simple and highly accurate results with absolutely no cursor stuttering, so this makes sense.
But Logitech’s biggest competitor, Razer, lists Some laser-based mice are exclusively for gamers in its online store. Razer prefers laser technology because it gives more sensitivity for lightning-fast motion in games. On the right surfaces, laser mice can be surprisingly accurate, so this makes sense too!
Overall, we don’t think the optical or laser technology itself is enough to recommend any particular mouse for gaming.
When laser mice were first introduced, they were significantly more expensive than optical mice. Nowadays, there isn’t much of a difference between the prices, especially since the mouse has so many different levels of features, customization, ergonomics, etc.
This reduces differentiation, especially in the high-end segment. Buying a premium mouse will cost you between $ 50 and $ 100 no matter what sensor you choose. On the other end of the market, the most affordable laser mice still tend to be between $ 5 and $ 10 more expensive than optical mice. Not a big difference, but noticeable.
So which one is better?
An essential consideration, if you’re struggling to choose between an optical mouse and a laser mouse, that’s how you want to use the product.
The laser mouse is generally a preeminent choice for companies, as it is versatile and can be used on a variety of surfaces. Chances are you will never have a problem if you happen to switch desks at some point.
You can also use the laser mouse to use it while on the go or at home. It can be easily transported, which makes it an excellent choice for laptop users.
On the contrary, you can get great, very reliable results with an optical mouse on the touchpad. They are also a bit more budget friendly. You can use these mice for gaming, for your stationary home desktop, and in other similar situations where you’re not moving.
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