Optical Vs Laser Mice – Which Is The Best?

by | Jul 30, 2019 | Beginner Guides

How Do The Mice Sensors Work?

It is a good idea to find out how each sensor works. This will give us a general idea of how each sensor operates, and what their limits are. Fundamentally, both these sensors rely on the same concept, being able to analyze the surface is on, and being able to update its position x amount of times a second.

The amount of times it updates itself per second refers to the polling rate of the mice. Modern mice and gaming mice of today come at 125,250,500,1000 polling rates. If you pick up a gaming mouse, you are most probably able to change the set polling rate in the gaming mouse software.

How Do Optical Mice Work?

An optical mouse works by projecting a light via an LED(Light-Emitting Diode) onto the surface it is on so it can reflect back into a sensor (Photoelectric cell) which maps the area it is on. The Photoelectric cell has a lens to magnify the image it is reflecting to increase mouse accuracy. The lens makes the optical mouse respond to the finer movements and without it, the mouse will be extremely inaccurate.

How Do Laser Mice Work?

Now, laser mice and optical mice use the exact same technology, instead of using an LED(Light-emitting diode), laser mice use laser diodes. Laser sensors also tend to work on all surfaces you can throw at it, even glass.

Which Is More Accurate?

Both optical and laser mice nowadays are very accurate, but there are slight differences that need to be discussed here.

Unlike optical mice, laser mice actually penetrate the surface it is on. It does this to get extreme details optical mice cannot achieve. I wouldn’t say this makes a laser mouse more accurate, more like extremely sensitive. The laser will pick up useless information resulting in overanalyzing the user’s movement.

Due to this, laser mice do not have true 1:1 tracking, and this will result in a jittery cursor which is not what you want when gaming, or using software that requires precision.

Optical mice, on the other hand, do not over-analyze the surface it is on because it simply does not dig that deep. I would say optical mice are a perfect balance between accuracy and sensitivity.

The Sensitivity Of These Sensors

Back in the day, optical vs laser mice never used to be a thing. Laser mice were more superior due to having higher DPI and better precision. However the tables are turning, and optical mice technology has improved significantly since then. There are some optical mice reaching DPIs up to 16000 which is absolutely crazy.

Optical sensors scan only top layer of the surface it is on whereas, laser mice penetrate the surface and starts scanning the imperfections aka the ridges of the surface. This is why laser mice jitter when performing slow movements.

What Can Work On More Surfaces?

Here is where laser mice shine. Optical mice are not able to work on transparent and reflective surfaces. The CMOS sensor in an optical mouse needs to pick up data from the surface it is on, unfortunately, the LED diode will shine directly through any glass surface not picking up data to relay back at the same time.

Laser diodes, on the contrary, can pick up imperfections in glass surfaces far better than optical sensors. The mouse will pick up any imperfection and use it as data to map the mouse’s position.

If you’re going to game on an optical mouse, make sure you pick up a non-reflective mouse pad and you will be fine.

Conclusion, Which Is Best For Gaming?

In terms of pure accuracy, reliability, and consistency, optical mice are better. If you play a lot of FPS/Shooter games, you will thank yourself for picking up an optical mouse. I know how important consistency and precision is in FPS games, and laser mice just don’t keep up with optical mice in this aspect.

If you find portability important, then a laser mouse would be a better choice. You will not have to carry a mousepad around as the laser mouse can work on nearly any surface you give it. Also if the games you play do not require you to be super precise, alongside with being portable, a laser mouse can be a viable choice for gaming.

Steelseries gaming mouse

Optical Mice Pros & Cons

Optical Sensor
  • More precise & better quality tracking.
  • Cheaper.
  • More consistent.
  • Cannot work on as many surfaces as Laser Mice.

Laser Mice Pros & Cons

Laser Sensor
  • Work on reflective surfaces, even clear glass.
  • Higher DPI.
  • Too precise, over anaylzing data.