How to select your next mouse
You can’t do much at all about the trackpad on your laptop in terms of usability and sensitivity for the most part, but what you can do if your trackpad won’t cut it – or if you just want more features or don’t like selecting with a flat pad – is buy yourself an external mouse to control your PC or Mac.
Now, the reality here is that you could drop less than $10 and pick up the cheapest options available, which will work (at least for a time). But if you’re smart, you’ll buy a mouse that meets your needs for years to come. Everyone’s needs with a mouse are going to be a little different, but here’s what you should consider when making your choice beyond the simple matter of your budget:
- What sensitivity do you want or need? Typically expressed as DPI (dots per inch), the sensitivity of a mouse directly relates to how frequently the optical sensor reads the surface below it, which translates into both the accuracy of its movement and the speed at which your operating system moves it around the screen. Higher end mice – especially gaming-centric mice – may offer variable DPI switches so you can go from fast to slow as your needs suffice. That’s not just a gaming play, however; if (for example) you’re doing photo editing the ability to more precisely tune your mouse’s output can make them much easier to work with.
- How many buttons do you want? Every mouse will come with two, but that’s just the start of what’s feasible with a good quality mouse. Again, gaming mice tend to dominate in the multi-button space, but with configuration options open to you it’s feasible to configure additional buttons for macro functions to meet your needs.
- Wired or wireless? A wired mouse should offer dependable connectivity without the need for batteries or recharging, but it also brings with it cable clutter – and of course you’ve got to have a spare USB port to plug it into. Wireless mice can be had at surprisingly affordable prices, but again you’ve got choices to make, typically between 2.4Ghz wireless mice that require USB receivers to operate, and Bluetooth mice that don’t.
- Do you want your scroll wheel rough or smooth? Rather like peanut butter, it’s possible to get mice with the central scroll wheel that runs with a smooth action, or with a rougher, more ratcheted action. Again, look to gaming mice if you want both options; some users find a more granular approach fits their mousing style, while others prefer an infinitely spinning wheel.
- PC or Mac? These days most mice will work just fine across either Microsoft’s Windows 10 or Apple’s macOS Catalina, but if you are buying a fancier mouse for use with a Mac, check that it has specific drivers for macOS. What typically happens here is that macOS will identify any mouse with more than two buttons as a “keyboard”, and unless you’re able to run specific software to configure those buttons, it’ll drop to only looking to the primary left/right button configuration.
- Ergonomic? Lightweight? Heavy? Cheap mice tend to opt for a simpler oval shape, but there’s near infinite variety in the way that better mice will take your hand grip. If you’re left-handed, there are options for mice that will fit you a little better than the assumed right-hand shape. If you want the lightest mouse touch option, some specialised mice come in at under 100 grams, while others allow you to add weights to make your mouse work the way you want it to – although predictably, you’ll pay a little more for those.