It's all very well creating elaborate benchmarks for mice, but how much performance do we really need from them? Aren't mice built well enough that you don't need to worry about things like their top speed? On this page I want to figure out how much performance is enough.

If you haven't seen a top gamer play, take a look at mew_playing_06.avi where you can see Finland mew doing some practice runs around a map. The video shows his screen as well as his constrols in front, so you can see how quickly he needs to move the mouse to play. The sleeve on his arm is a smooth cloth that reduces the friction on his hand. In this video mew is using a MX300 @ 500Hz and he moves 55cm for a complete 360 degree turn.

Top Speed
When a gamer moves their hand, they move their mouse. The mouse needs to track these movements and translate them accurately into on-screen movement. We looked at the question of "What is the fastest speed that a gamer will want to move their mouse while playing?"

Most games let you to change the mouse sensitivity in the options. This means you can turn the sensitivity up so that a small mouse movement results in a large response, or turn it down so that you have to push the mouse a long way to get a result. Everyone has their own favourite sensitivity, but I'll summarise the range as High, Medium or Low.
High Sens: Top speed of 0.5 m/s
High sensitivity players don't tend to move the mouse very far when they're playing so they can make do with small mousepads. They have to keep a very firm grip on the mouse because the slightest movement translates to huge swings on the computer screen. High sensitivity players don't need to move their mice very fast.

Low Sens: Top speed of 2 m/s
Low sensitivity players tend to have huge mousepads because every movement is a full sweep of their arm. Many top Counter-Strike professionals use ultra low sensitivity. When they want to turn around 180 degrees it often takes two huge sweeps of their arm, and they need to execute that movement as quickly as possible. Low sensitivity players can hit very fast speeds of up to 2 m/s (78"/s) and sometimes beyond.

Medium Sens: Top speed of 1 m/s
Medium sensitivity players are somewhere in-between, and make up the majority of players. They can play on the standard small pads, but a larger mousepad can make gaming more comfortable. Medium sensitivity players can move the mouse quite fast at times, but not at ridiculous speeds.

There are some players that use even lower sensitivites than mentioned here, for example moving the mouse up to one whole metre (40") to turn 360 degrees. I would consider this quite extreme, but it should be taken into account so that test results go beyond what you might consider fast speeds.

Resolution (DPI)
New gaming mice tend to be released with high DPI counts, but how much DPI is really needed to play games? Higher DPI obviously seems better. Like the steering wheel in a car you want continuous and smooth control over turning. The difference is that game graphics is made up of pixels, rather than the real world which has much more detail. At some point, having more DPI becomes unnecessary because the actual bottleneck is the screen. But how much DPI is enough?

I will use the example of playing an FPS game. If you are playing on a screen resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels, then we can roughly work out the number of pixels in a full horizontal rotation of 360 degrees. We multiply the number of pixels across the screen by 4 (since each screen is about 90 degrees viewing angle).

Pixels in 360 degrees = 1024 * 4 = 4096

Now we need to work out how far we want to move the mouse for a full rotation of 360 degrees. This distance changes depending on the gamer, because changing the game sensitivity changes how far you need to move the mouse for the same effect. By dividing the total number of pixels by the total distance (in inches), we get a rough idea of how much DPI is useful.
High Sens: 360 degrees in 0.1 m (4"), roughly 1000 DPI needed

Medium Sens: 360 degrees in 0.25 m (10"), roughly 400 DPI needed

Low Sens: 360 degrees in 0.50 m (20"), roughly 200 DPI needed

While 3D games don't need you to turn a whole pixel before the screen changes, this is a sensible way to work out when more DPI resolution stops being useful. What we find is that standard 400 DPI mice are ok if you have a low sensitivity, but there are times when more DPI can improve the game. If you have a High Sens and a huge 2560 x 1600 panel to play on, our formula says that our ideal mouse resolution is a whopping 2500 DPI!
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