TL;DR – Optical still wins over Laser, if your using a mouse pad on a desk, however the accuracy of Laser has improved considerably in 2018/19 and laser tracks better on multiple different surfaces.
Analog mice with trackballs are LONG GONE (hands up who remembers de-fluffing a mouse ball when gaming…), paving the way for laser and optical options. Both options come in the same shape and design, but the internal tracking technology has some critical technical differences. Laser and optical sensors have some similarities, for a start both are optical sensors. But, the mode of illumination is different. Optical mice use a red LED or infrared for illumination, whereas laser mice utilize vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) for the same. Both optical and laser sensors work by taking thousands of pictures every second for comparison to determine the direction and distance that your cursor moves about the images. Read on for detailed comparisons in our optical vs laser 1v1 battle to the death… Who will win the best gaming mouse sensor type…
To track movement, both mice shine a light and then depend on the complementary-metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) sensor to record a pattern. The sensor then repeats the process to compare the next pattern to the previous image, which happens thousands of times within a second. With these images, the sensor determines the direction and distance of movement. Typically, LED light isn’t strong enough to go through surfaces. For this reason, optical mice will work best on non-glossy surfaces.
Lasers easily permeate different surfaces. This feature makes them capable of working on different types of surfaces, including glass. However, this capability still works against the functionality of a laser sensor – going deeper into surfaces results in it picking up excess information, which increases inaccuracy, especially if you are working at high speeds. For instance, if you quickly swipe a laser mouse across the desk in a straight line, you should be able to get the cursor back to the starting position slowly. As laser mice pick up a lot of surface information, returning in the same direction would be difficult. It will result in about five times the level of tracking discrepancy between low and high speeds than what you will see when using an optical mouse.
Dots-Per-Inch (DPI, Errrr… CPI Actually) and Polling Rates
Dots-Per-Inch (DPI) is the unit of measuring the sensitivity of your mouse – the higher the DPI, the less movement is required. With a high DPI setting, you can move your cursor further on the screen than you would with a lower calibration for the same hand movement. Most modern sensors on high-end mice can work with accurately on any DPI, given the improved accuracy that comes with the advancement of technology. Laser mice generally come with higher DPI options, though you can still find some of their optical counterparts with high DPI/CPI options.
Polling rates refer to the average response time, if your mouse comes with a 400Hz rating, it means that the device transmits its position to your computer 400 times per second. A high polling rate translates to increased accuracy in tracking, but If your CPU can’t handle the higher Hz, it may not be able to sustain high polling rates.
Both laser and optical mice are available at different polling rates depending on the purpose. Low-end mice come with polling rate of 125Hz, and mid-range mice offer 500Hz. Gaming mice have the highest polling rate, with most rocking 1000Hz for optimal performance. You have to part with some extra cash if you want to go for higher polling rates. Regardless of whether you are working with a laser or optical, high-end options will allow you to toggle between the ideal polling rate and DPI.
The battery life depends on a couple of factors regardless of whether you are dealing with a laser or optical option. These factors include the source of power that the manufacturer uses and a mouse’s specifications. A high-end laser mouse should perform better than a standard optical in the battery department. On the other hand, a high-end optical should outlast a standard laser mouse. For both types of mice, you will need to replace or recharge the batteries more frequently if you work with high polling rates, more DPI, and RGB lighting. A standard mouse with no special features should last for months without needing a battery change. Ensure you do plenty of research regarding each mouse you come across if you want to go home with something that has excellent battery performance.
Laser mice used to cost more than their optical counterparts did, but the price discrepancy is not that clear at the moment. For instance, you may purchase a high-end SteelSeries Rival 100 optical for around 30 bucks. Similarly, you can buy the equally competitive Redragon M801 Mammoth at around the same price, which is not a significant price difference. Both of these mice offer a great gaming experience despite utilizing different tracking technologies.
Price difference currently boils down to additional features rather than the tracking technology used. Other features include extra lighting and buttons to enhance the functionality. For example, hard-core gamers and individuals into heavy multimedia editing are likely to appreciate additional side buttons. Others may prefer extra lights to match with their keyboard’s or tower lighting.
Laser VS Optical Mouse for Gaming
Optical, if you have to choose… but it really depends on the surface your gaming on and the brand. Both optical and laser mice do their jobs well in 2019. Laser mice have an edge over optical options when it comes to surface options since it quickly adapts to different materials. Given the surface versatility of laser tracking technology, more high-end mice opt for this option over optical. Nevertheless, the overall accuracy of an optical mouse is TYPICALLY HIGHER. So, if your at your desk using a decent gaming mouse pad then we crown optical sensors the champion for 2019.