What Types of Computer Mice are There?

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Updated November 18, 2022

If you are new to the world of computer accessories, you may wonder what types of computer mice are out there. Even the best computer mouse may not be the best fit for your specific workflow, but there are plenty of types to choose from. So what are the main types of computer mice, and which is right for you? Keep reading to find out.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • There are plenty of different types of computer mice out there to suit just about every user and computer port, such as the USB port.
  • Optical mice and laser mice both use light and cameras to track locational data and deliver this information to the mouse cursor.
  • Mechanical mice are completely analog, using wheels, making them a great choice for pro gamers.

Mouse Types

There are plenty of different types of mice out there if you are looking for the finest wireless gaming mouse or any other type of mouse. For serious gamers, look at the top-rated wired mouse. If you are concerned about strains and injury, look into a premier ergonomic mouse. On the topic of ergonomics, you can also compare a vertical mouse to a regular mouse.

Insider Tip

No matter which type of mouse you choose, be sure to clean and maintain it regularly for optimal use.

As you can see, there is an embarrassment of riches even when comparing a standard wireless mouse to a Bluetooth mouse. Each major manufacturer tends to specialize in multiple mouse types if you are looking for the best Roccat mouse. Each mouse type boasts its own feature sets, seen below, so you can compare a 500 vs 1,000 polling rate for a mouse.

Trackball Mouse

This old-school mouse design set the world on fire throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and even the 2000s. There is no light involved here, just some simple mechanics and the aforementioned trackball for locational data. They look sort of like an upside-down optical mouse, though the trackball mouse came first. However, modern trackball mice are different beasts from their ancient cousins.

Generally speaking, these mice also include features that move the cursor on the screen as you move the trackball. They are available in both wired and wireless models, though you’ll have an easier time finding a wireless trackball mouse.

Reasons to Buy

  • Trackball mice are easier to move around than other types due to the trackball.
  • These mice are also great for scrolling, as you can do that right on the trackball instead of relying on a dedicated scroll wheel.
  • They are just about the only type of mouse that works with some older computers and older gaming consoles.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • The trackball is a magnet for dust and debris and can easily become clogged.
  • Response time is decreased when compared to optical mice and other gaming mice.
  • Not many opportunities for programming, as a trackball mouse typically maxes out at one or two buttons.

Tips for Buying a Trackball Mouse

  • Try to purchase new ones, as there are some stark differences between retro trackball mice and newly-manufactured models.
  • Not all trackball mice are created equal, so look at various specs and features before making a purchase.
  • Remember to choose between wired and wireless mice here, as both offer unique pros and cons.

Optical Mouse

Nowadays, the standard design has moved from the trackball to optical sensors. An optical mouse uses cameras to sense light that is converted into locational data and mouse movement. These offer precision and efficiency without the need for many internal moving mechanical parts.

Optical mice are available in both wired and wireless versions and have found popularity in offices throughout the world, including home office setups. Additionally, they are fairly popular for gaming but not for competitive gaming.

Reasons to Buy

  • This is a tried-and-true design that just works, making it the perfect type for most casual users.
  • This mouse type is available in wired and wireless formats for increased versatility.
  • The lack of mechanical parts makes this type of mouse easy to clean and maintain, with little risk of internal damage.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • Optical mice work on most surface types but struggle on glass and any reflective surface.
  • The response time is perfect for casual use but not fast enough for pro gamers.
  • They are precise, but the cameras are not quite as precise as the kinds of lasers found with laser mice.

Tips for Buying an Optical Mouse

  • These mice can get expensive, so perform due diligence and comparison shop before making a purchase.
  • If choosing a wireless optical mouse, make sure it integrates with your computer (Bluetooth vs RF).
  • Don’t buy this kind of mouse if you primarily use a computer on a glass or reflective surface.

STAT: A wired mouse connects directly to your desktop or laptop, usually through a USB port, and transmits information via the cord. (source)

Laser Mouse

This type of mouse started as a subset of the optical mouse but has since grown to its own category due to innovations in the space. As the name suggests, laser mice use lasers to provide locational data to the cursor but also use a similar camera system to the optical mouse. This gives them a “best of both worlds reputation.”

Laser mice are considered to be highly accurate and the next evolution for casual users over optical mice. In other words, this type of mouse is perfect for remote workers or those tied to a physical office.

Reasons to Buy

  • It offers increased accuracy when compared to standard optical mice, making them a decent choice for gamers.
  • Available in both wired and wireless designs to suit different tastes.
  • The included laser allows this type of mouse to perform admirably on glass and other reflective surface types.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • The cost here can be prohibitive due to the modern nature of the design.
  • You need a lot of free space to operate a laser mouse, so not for cramped desks.
  • Not much here by way of ergonomics, so exercise caution during long use sessions.

Tips for Buying a Laser Mouse

  • These mice can get expensive, so wait for sales when purchasing a brand-new model.
  • If purchasing a wireless mouse, make sure it integrates with your specific computer system.
  • Some laser mice boast additional programmable buttons, which is worth considering.

Mechanical Mouse/Gaming Mouse

Mechanical mice are all the rage in pro gaming spaces, which is why they were given the sub-designation of gaming mice. This type of mouse includes plenty of features to suit modern gamers, including multiple programmable buttons, increased accuracy, a design that prioritizes long-term use, and lower latency when compared to other mouse types.

As the name suggests, mechanical mice use wheels and other analog components instead of lasers, infrared beams, and cameras.

Reasons to Buy

  • There is really no better choice for competitive gamers and professional gamers.
  • The decreased latency and increased precision also make this a great option for casual users.
  • Mechanical mice work on all surface types, not using light or lasers to operate.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • The wheels and other mechanical parts are susceptible to repair issues caused by dust and debris.
  • Mechanical mice are not budget-friendly and tend to be the most expensive kind of mouse on the market.
  • Some parts will have to be replaced after a year or two of heavy use.

Tips for Buying a Mechanical Mouse

  • This type of mouse is available in both wired and wireless formats, but the wired option is your best bet for serious gaming.
  • Make sure the mouse ships with well-regarded driver software that allows you to quickly swap out hotkeys and change button configurations.
  • This is an expensive type of mouse, so don’t be afraid to bargain shop.

Ergonomic Mouse

If you are looking to increase comfort and reduce the risk of injuries due to strains and repetitive muscle movements, go with an ergonomic mouse. These mice are designed to assist the human body go about various computing tasks without any risk of repetitive strain injuries.

Ergonomic mice are available in both wired and wireless designs to suit different tastes, but the major common factor here is the body-friendly design.

Reasons to Buy

  • We sit at computers for long periods at a stretch, and this type of mouse helps protect our bodies.
  • They’re available in both wired and wireless designs, with wired versions offering plenty of cable length for more give.
  • Despite being built for ergonomics, these are still highly accurate mice with low latency.

Reasons Not to Buy

  • They do look pretty funky and take up a lot of room in your workspace.
  • There is a learning curve when using any ergonomic mouse, particularly sub-designs like vertical mice.
  • If you are looking for a cheap mouse, shop elsewhere. These are expensive.

Tips for Buying an Ergonomic Mouse

  • If you can, try before you buy. This is not a universal design, as different ergonomic mice offer completely different shapes.
  • For maximum ergonomics, go with a wireless mouse here, as the cord can get in your way and force some unnatural positions.
  • These are fairly expensive, so comparison shop and look for deals.

Computer Mice FAQs

Which one should I get?

There are plenty of types to choose from, so decide based on individual needs. Also, don't forget to purchase an accompanying mouse pad.

Who invented the mouse?

The mouse was invented in 1963 by Douglas Englebart at Xerox. Since the original invention, the design has expanded to include USB mice, mouse ports, and more, in addition to the standard mouse.

What are the uses of a mouse?

Mice work great on any flat surface and, depending on the type of mouse, excel with many tasks. Traditional mice are great for computing, while mechanical types of mouse designs are great for gaming.
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