Laser vs. Optical Mouse

Laser vs. Optical Mouse: Which Will Work Best for You?

A reliable mouse is essential to the modern-day computer setup. This holds true whether you’re a gamer, coder, or desk jockey.

When selecting a reliable mouse, there are a number of different factors to consider, especially if cursor sensitivity and predictability are important to you (e.g., you’re a professional gamer or a graphic designer).

One crucial factor in your selection process is the type of technology that runs your mouse. Here we’ll be discussing laser vs. optical mouse models — their function, price, pros, cons and more.

Key Differences Between Laser vs. Optical Mouse Models

Before diving into the pros and cons of laser vs. optical mouse models, it’s important to recognize that they’re quite similar. In fact, both use light as a reference point. 

Specifically, both include a CMOS sensor, the same type used in digital cameras to detect light. However, these models differ in the type of light applied in their functionality. 

Here are the main technical differences between laser vs. optical mouse models:

  • Laser models generally have a higher dots per inch (DPI) than optical mice. This amounts to 3,000 DPI for optical mice, while laser models commonly operate at over 6,000 DPI. More DPI typically means greater mouse sensitivity. 
  • Laser mice have greater sensitivity than optical models, letting users operate them across non-conventional surfaces like glass and mirrors. 
  • Optical mouse models face fewer acceleration faults compared to laser alternatives. 
  • An optical mouse functions more smoothly at slow speeds compared to laser options. 
  • The laser mouse sensor detects movement deeply in a surface, while optical mice only detect the top of a material. 

Laser Mouse Basics 

As the term suggests, laser mice use a laser as the source of light for tracking movement. The laser makes these models more sensitive than optical alternatives. Laster mice generally function between 6,000 to 15,000 DPI (dots per inch). 

Laser Mouse

Cons of Using a Laser Mouse

Although laser mice are generally more responsive than optical variants, they have some issues when moved at slower speeds. These include sudden jerks and accelerations that cause inaccuracies or poor accuracy variance. 

In such cases, you’ll need to slowly navigate your cursor to the intended target, which is a largely ineffective process. Acceleration issues make it difficult to guide a cursor to its original spot when displaced.  

The Most Popular Laser Mouse Brands & Models

The top brands for laser mouse models include Razer, Logitech, and Microsoft. Some of the leading laser mouse models:

  • Razer Pro Click | Amazon ($99.99) – This mouse functions at an impressive 16,000 dpi, with eight independently programmable buttons to optimize your computer navigation. Additionally, you may connect the mouse to multiple devices, driving faster and more efficient multitasking.
  • Logitech MX Anywhere 3 | Amazon ($79.99) – Logitech MX Anywhere 3 is a highly portable laser mouse with six buttons ready for configuration. Its key features include a long battery life that typically lasts over 70 days, making it highly suitable for portable use with a compact device. It also features soft silicone side grips for comfort.

Read More: The Best Wireless Mouse of 2022

Optical Mouse Basics 

Optical mice use LED light as a movement tracking source. They typically have a lower DPI (roughly 3,000) than laser models. 

Cons of Using an Optical Mouse

Due to the lower DPI, optical mouse models usually function well only on specialized (such as specially manufactured mousepads) or non-glossy materials since tracking only senses the top of a surface. 

The Most Popular Optical Mouse Brands & Models

Like laser alternatives, the most popular optical mouse brands include Razer, Microsoft, and Logitech. The most popular models as of the time of this writing include:

  • Razer Viper 8K Mouse | Amazon ($79.99) – Razer is known for taking optical sensor models to the next level, as proven with the Viper 8K, which runs at 20,000 dpi. While costly, it’s worth every dollar since it provides laser-model precision with near-zero input latency. 
  • Logitech MX Vertical | Amazon ($99.99) – The Logitech MX Vertical is an unusually shaped ergonomic model that complements the shape of the human hand for maximum comfort and reduced wrist strain. MX Vertical features 4,000 dpi and six programmable buttons, and we recommend users get a speedy monitor to reap the full benefits of this specialized mouse. 

Read More: The Best Gaming Mouse of 2022

Are Laser and Optical Mouse Interchangeable?

Laser and optical mice are interchangeable for the average user since the technical differences are often unnoticeable. However, if you’re a professional gamer or graphic designer, your operations and tasks may require greater mouse sensitivity or polling rates (i.e., the speed at which your mouse communicates with your computer). 

However, in such cases, the question should center on a choice between advanced and basic models rather than selecting laser or optical designs. 

Laser vs. Optical Mouse FAQs

Sensor Close Up

Choosing between laser vs. optical mouse models raises some pressing questions that affect the overall experience. We’ve rounded up the most common concerns and considerations to help you choose the ideal device. 

1. Which type of mouse do gamers generally prefer? 

Most gamers prefer optical models since they provide more stable and predictable movement, which is necessary for high-speed reactions. A high dpi from laser mouse models may cause acceleration in first-person shooters, which causes in-game aim to go off mark. 

2. Which mouse type is more energy-efficient?

The energy consumption rate of mice varies regardless of optical or laser options. However, wireless models consume more energy than wired alternatives in most cases.  

Read more: Wireless vs. Wired Mouse

3. Which is better: laser vs. optical mouse?

While laser mice may have been superior to optical versions when they first emerged on the scene, times have changed. Manufacturers continue to improve their designs, resulting in many effective optical models that lack the precision issues commonly associated with laser mice. 

4. Which model type is usually heavier? 

The weight of a mouse depends on its materials, design, and components, not so much their sensors. Therefore, optical and laser models generally weigh about the same.

5. What type of mouse works best on non-conventional surfaces?

Laser mice work best on unconventional surfaces such as glass and wooden tables since the technology picks up the slightest grooves and curves on a material. 

However, the extra sensitivity makes it difficult to control the cursor under normal circumstances and might lead to some frustration for users. 

Should You Buy a Laser or Optical Mouse?

Ultimately, choosing between a laser vs. optical mouse depends on your main purpose and how it’s used. A laser model with a higher dpi will probably suit you better if you’re a professional gamer or designer.

While there have been price gaps between the models in the past (with laser models costing significantly more than optical alternatives), these have narrowed with the accessibility of technology. You should be able to get either mouse type between $10 to $45, while specialized models can cost much more depending on the number of added features. 

However, there’s no noticeable difference between models for average computer users, except that laser mice work well on almost any even material, whether it’s wood, laminate, plastic, and so on.

Ultimately, mouse models that use light should fulfill all basic functions, although you’ll need specialized designs for more detail-centric processes.