Optical vs Mechanical Switches on a Mouse

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Updated November 28, 2022

If you’re shopping for a top-rated computer mouse, you may wonder what wins the optical vs. mechanical mouse switches debate. Finding the ideal switches is critical for reaction speed and tactile feedback, especially for high-end gaming mice. A consistent-feeling switch contributes to an efficient work or gaming experience, but many users wonder which type of switch is best. So, stick around to understand the optical vs. mechanical switches on a mouse discussion.


  • Optical switches use infrared light beams to communicate key presses to your PC and feature a light actuation force.
  • Mechanical switches offer better tactile and audible feedback but do not press as quickly as optical models.
  • Mechanical switches are standard in most computer mice and are more affordable.

The top-rated silent gaming mouse should use advanced gaming technology and silent switches to minimize the audible click sound while working or gaming. In contrast, a great mouse for Chromebooks might feature a mechanical design for louder feedback.

Insider Tip

Users needing spammable buttons for shooters or action titles should choose a mouse with lighter switches.

Compare plastic mouse pads vs. cloth models to ensure a good surface for your mouse. A reflective surface can disrupt an optical mouse, so ensure you understand the optical vs. laser mouse discussion before making a final choice.

While a gaming mouse might sound ideal, some game genres play better with a controller or joystick. For example, the War Thunder mouse vs. joystick debate is usually about competitive online play, while the Star Citizen joystick vs. mouse discussion is more about immersive gameplay.

Optical Mouse Switch vs Mechanical

Optical mouse switches use infrared light beams to communicate key presses to your computer. A shutter opens when you press the key to reveal light from the optical switch. Unlike a traditional switch, nothing needs to make physical contact to register an input.

A mechanical switch features moving parts that use a metallic contact to communicate key presses to a PC. The most popular computer mouse switches are mechanical due to their excellent feedback and low cost.

Strong Feedback

Mechanical and optical mouse switches provide lots of feedback, but in slightly different ways. A mechanical switch can provide loud or subtle feedback while remaining quiet. Optical switches deliver louder feedback than mechanical models but lack a tactile response when pressed.

Light Actuation

Finding the most comfortable mouse buttons often comes down to the actuation method. Optical buttons feature faster actuation times than most mechanical switches. Since optical switches use the speed of light, they register inputs faster than mechanical models.


Optical switches are more durable and last longer than mechanical mouse switches. For example, Razer Optical switches are rated up to 90 million clicks, while most regular mice usually last about 50 million clicks.


Do not use an optical mouse on a glossy surface because the reflected infrared light beam will interfere with cursor accuracy and tracking.


Mechanical mouse switches are generally more affordable than optical models. Optical switches are a niche product that caters to competitive gaming, while mechanical switches are the standard option.

STAT: A 2021 Pew Research Center survey showed that internet usage among 65+ Americans increased by 29% between 2011 and 2021. (source)

Optical vs Mechanical Switches FAQs

Are laser mice and optical mice the same thing?

Laser mice and optical mice are similar but use different types of light sources. Laser models use a laser beam for navigation, while optical mice utilize an infrared LED.

Can I change the default switches in my mouse?

Most mouse models do not have hot-swappable switches. On most models, you would need to deconstruct the mouse and resolder new switches.

How do you clean optical mice?

Clean the top of the mouse with a damp cloth or alcohol wipe. Next, wipe the bottom of the mouse with a dry cloth, and use a Q-tip to detail the optical sensor. Do not use a cleaning solution on the optical sensor or apply too much force with the Q-tip.
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