Optical vs Laser Gaming Mouse: A Face Off [Incl. Reddit Poll]

Hey, player one! Finding it hard to choose between an optical and a laser gaming mouse? We’re here to settle the score once and for all.

In this blog, we’ll dive headfirst into the ultimate spec showdown, comparing the two prodigal sons of the classic mechanical computer mouse, the optical gaming mouse and the laser gaming mouse. 

From DPI to polling rate to tracking speed – we’ll compare them all on fronts. Additionally, we’ll ask the Reddit community about their opinion on which gaming mouse they prefer. 

Ready to aim for the headshot? Let the games begin!

Optical vs. Laser Mouse for Gaming: Which is Better? 

Optical gaming mice easily outshine laser gaming mice in most departments. They offer higher DPI, polling rates, and tracking speed. You also get more controlled acceleration with an optical gaming mouse. However, optical sensors can struggle on reflective surfaces. This is where laser mice have a clear edge, as they boast superior sensitivity on glass and glossy surfaces.

A Brief Spec Comparison for Optical and Laser Gaming Mice

SpecsOptical Gaming MouseLaser Gaming Mouse
DPI30,000 DPI and higher8,200 DPI max
Polling Rate8,000 Hz max1,000 Hz max
Tracking SpeedUp to 750 IPSUp to 150 IPS
Acceleration Discrepancies<1%~5%
Lift-off Distance1-2mm1-2mm
Battery Life30-35 hours25-30 hours

Optical and Laser Gaming Mouse Technologies Explained

An optical mouse is a computer mouse that employs optical technology, utilizing a light source, such as a red diode LED (Light Emitting Diode), to illuminate the surface beneath it. While any color diode can be used for this purpose, manufacturers use red diodes specifically because light detectors tend to be highly sensitive to red light, thus providing a faster response. 

The surface illumination allows photodiodes, typically present in the form of CMOS sensors, to capture the surface’s image sequences. Think of these sensors as low-resolution video cameras. The captured images are then processed thousands of times a second to detect the changes in the mouse’s position on the X and Y axes through digital image correlation. 

The key benefit of optical mice is their much higher resolution (DPI), which translates to superior gaming performance. Bear in mind this may not always be the case, though. More on the subject of DPI and higher DPI ratings later.

The biggest limitation of optical mice is their compromised movement detection on highly reflective surfaces. Optical sensors struggle to generate accurate positional data on shinier tops due to the longer wavelength light source they use for surface illumination. However, you don’t have to worry about this if you use a mousepad while gaming. A mousepad can provide better traction and tracking consistency for an optical mouse regardless of the desk surface type. 

In contrast, a laser mouse employs a laser beam as its illumination source instead of an LED. Laser mice use Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser (VCSEL) or infrared laser diodes, which offer superior surface tracking, especially on glass and glossy surfaces. 

These diodes use shortwave laser beams that are invisible to the naked eye, though they appear purple to the laser navigation sensor. The laser illumination interacts with the surface, reflects, and is then captured by the mouse’s CMOS sensor. The rest of the working mechanism is the same as optical gaming mice.

The key benefit of laser gaming mice is their responsiveness on glass and glossy surfaces. They use VCSEL or IR diodes which operate at shorter wavelengths, giving them a superior sensitivity on a wide range of surface types, including highly reflective table tops. 

That said, this higher sensitivity to certain surfaces can cause cursor jittering issues for laser gaming mice. More on this later when we discuss surface compatibility for optical and laser gaming mice. 

Optical vs. Laser Gaming Mouse – The Ultimate Face Off!

With the basics out of the way, let’s take a closer and more in-depth look at the various spec ratings for optical vs. laser gaming mice and explore what each has to offer in different departments.

DPI Comparison

DPI, or Dots Per Inch, is the sensitivity or resolution of a gaming mouse. It represents the number of individual pixels the cursor moves on the screen when you move a mouse in any given direction. In gaming, DPI determines the speed of the cursor, making it crucial for targeting enemies and executing quick maneuvers. 

Optical mouse sensors typically offer higher DPI values than laser sensors. For example, Razer’s Focus Pro 30K, the fastest optical sensor currently available, can reach a peak DPI of 30,000. ROG AimPoint next-gen optical sensor from Asus can go even higher than that. In comparison, the top laser sensor, Avago ADNS 9800, can achieve a max DPI rating of 8,200. 

Verdict: Optical mice have a clear advantage over laser mice when it comes to DPI. However, it’s important to note that DPI alone doesn’t make or break a gaming mouse. In fact, most gaming monitors today don’t have the screen size or resolution to support the higher DPI ratings gaming mice have to offer. Additionally, you must consider how a mouse’s sensor achieves those higher DPI numbers. So while having a higher DPI isn’t inherently bad, it may not always lead to better gaming performance.

SpecOptical MouseLaser Mouse
DPI30,000 DPI and higher8,200 DPI (Max)

Polling Rate Comparison

The polling rate is the frequency at which a gaming mouse’s sensor transmits its location to the computer. Measured in Hertz (Hz), it indicates how frequently the mouse syncs with your computer each second. A higher polling rate can result in smoother gameplay due to reduced input lag.

Optical mouse sensors typically offer superior polling rates. For example, the Razer Focus+ optical sensor in Razer Viper 8K can deliver a polling rate of 8,000 Hz. On the other hand, the Avago ADNS 9800, the best laser mouse sensor on the market, has a polling rate of 1,000 Hz. 

Verdict: Once again, optical mice come out on top! They offer higher polling rates than laser mice. However, the key thing to remember is that higher polling rates can yield diminishing returns once you hit a threshold. The difference between 1,000 Hz and 8,000 Hz may sound substantial on paper but may feel insignificant to most people when playing games.

SpecOptical MouseLaser Mouse
Polling Rate8000 Hz (Max)1000 Hz (Max)

Tracking Speed Comparison

Tracking speed refers to the rate at which a mouse pointer moves across a screen. It is measured in IPS or Inches Per Second. Like DPI, a higher tracking speed helps you make quick in-game movements.

Once again, the tracking speed of laser sensors falls behind that of optical sensors. Most laser sensors typically provide a tracking speed of around 100 to 125 IPS, with the top-of-the-line Avago ADNS 9800 reaching a peak of 150 IPS. On the other hand, Razer’s Focus Pro 30K optical sensor can achieve a tracking speed of 750 IPS.

Verdict: A win for optical gaming mice! Tracking speed is crucial for gamers, especially eSports players who require swift and precise mouse movements. The superior tracking speed of optical sensors is one of the main reasons they are commonly used in high-end gaming mice.

SpecOptical MouseLaser Mouse
Tracking SpeedUp to 750 IPSUp to 150 IPS

Acceleration Comparison

Acceleration in gaming mice refers to the speed-related discrepancies in cursor tracking influenced by surface and sensor technology. It is measured in percentage and can vary among different sensor types.

Optical mice generally fare better on the acceleration front than laser mice, producing less than 1% variance. This is because an optical sensor uses a light source with longer wavelengths to track mouse speed and direction. Longer wavelengths produce minimal noise, especially on a less reflective surface.

Meanwhile, a laser sensor uses a light source with a shorter wavelength for tracking. Shorter wavelengths pick the slightest of surface variations, which can sometimes produce inaccurate 1:1 tracking. Laser mice can have a 5-6% tracking variation.

Verdict: Optical mice win yet again! They offer lower acceleration and minimal cursor tracking discrepancies compared to laser mice. 

SpecOptical MouseLaser Mouse
Acceleration Discrepancies<1%~5%

Optical vs. Laser Mouse Sensors for Gaming

An optical mouse sensor provides superior resolution, polling rate, tracking speed, and acceleration characteristics than a laser mouse sensor. All these are crucial for a good gaming experience.

Also, optical mouse sensors tend to be more technologically advanced than most laser mouse sensors for gaming.

On the flip side, laser mouse sensors exhibit higher sensitivity on most surfaces, especially glass or glossy tops. However, this may come at the cost of noticeably higher variances in tracking. 

Verdict: Optical mice beat laser mice on the sensor technology front.

Grip Style Options for Optical and Laser Gaming Mouse

Grip style is the way users hold their gaming mice, determined by the mouse design, button placement, and the overall weight distribution. It is an important consideration as it directly affects comfort, control, and the overall gaming experience.

There are primarily three grip styles: palm, claw, and fingertip. With the palm grip style, your entire hand rests on the mouse. Meanwhile, the claw grip lets you hold a mouse with your fingertips and palm’s base. Lastly, with a fingertip style, you only hold and move the mouse with your fingers.

Both optical and laser gaming mice offer flexibility to accommodate different grip styles. 

Verdict: Draw! You can find palm, claw, or finger grip styles for comfort and control in both optical and laser gaming mice.

Lift-Off Distance Comparison

Lift-off distance refers to the distance a gaming mouse can be lifted off a surface while still registering movement. Measured in millimeters (mm), it’s an important factor for gamers who use low mouse DPIs for better accuracy and frequently lift and reposition their mice during gameplay.

Both laser and optical mice offer adjustable lift-off distances, which can be configured from the settings. The lowest lift-off distance can be set at around 1-2 mm.

Verdict: Even steven! Optical and laser mouse sensors provide similar lift-off distances.

SpecOptical MouseLaser Mouse
Lift-off Distance1-2mm1-2mm

Customization Options Comparison

When we talk about customizing a gaming mouse, you get a lot of options these days. They may include programmable buttons, adjustable DPI, polling rate, lift-off distance, customizable RGB lighting, and the ability to assign macros.

Customization enables gamers to optimize and tailor their gaming mice to their specific gaming style. The availability of customization options depends on the brand and model of the mouse, and both optical and laser gaming mice offer the same level of customization.

Verdict: All square! Optical and laser gaming mice offer similar customization options.

Which Has More Onboard Memory, Optical or Laser Gaming Mouse?

Onboard memory is the internal memory of a mouse, reserved for storing user profiles. This onboard memory can be either volatile (DRAM) or non-volatile flash memory (NAND), with capacities ranging from as low as 512KBs to as high as 4MBs.

Volatile memory loses its data when the mouse is unplugged or the PC is turned off. When the PC restarts, the mouse’s software reloads the settings into the onboard memory. In contrast, mice equipped with non-volatile memory can retain their data, allowing them to be used on other PCs without reconfiguration.

Both optical and laser gaming mice feature similar onboard memory. 

Verdict: Evenly matched! Optical and laser gaming mice both offer comparable onboard memory storages.

Optical and Laser Gaming Mouse Surface Compatibility

Surface compatibility refers to the performance of a sensor on different surfaces. A mouse with better surface compatibility will operate better on mouse pads as well as glossy and transparent surfaces.

In this regard, laser mice have a distinct advantage. Their shortwave laser beams can penetrate specularly and diffusively reflective surfaces more effectively than optical sensors. When used on shiny or grooved wooden surfaces, the latter often struggle with wavefront variations.

Unfortunately, the short wavelength of laser sensors can also result in “jittering” issues. These sensors tend to pick up unintended “noise” from surface reflections.

Verdict: Laser mice for their first win! They have a clear advantage on uneven, slick, soft, sticky, or loose surfaces. Optical sensors perform best on smooth surfaces like mousepads.

Connectivity Options for Optical and Laser Gaming Mouse

Connectivity refers to how a gaming mouse communicates with your computer. It includes two primary options, wired and wireless. Wired connectivity is self-explanatory; you simply connect the mouse’s USB cable to an available USB port on your PC.

Wireless connectivity can be established via Bluetooth or 2.4G radio technology. Bluetooth offers convenience as you can easily pair the mouse with any Bluetooth-compatible device. However, it has the drawback of significantly reduced polling rates (125 Hz or lower).

On the contrary, a 2.4G radio requires a separate USB dongle, which some may find inconvenient. However, 2.4G radio technology can match the performance of a wired gaming mouse, as proven by Logitech’s LightSpeed technology found in Logitech G Pro. 

Verdict: A tie! Both optical and laser gaming mice come in wired and wireless models. However, optical mice are more commonly available in wired or 2.4G wireless technologies. Meanwhile, Bluetooth connectivity is more common in laser gaming mice.

Optical vs. Laser Mouse: Battery Life Comparison

Battery life is how long a wireless mouse with an integrated battery lasts. It’s a function of sensor type, battery capacity, as well as features like RGB lighting.  The better the battery life, the longer you’ll be able to play games without recharging the mouse. 

Optical mice use LEDs which are generally more power efficient than laser diodes. On average, optical gaming mice can provide a battery life of 30 to 35 hours, while laser mice typically offer a battery life of 25 to 30 hours.

Verdict: Optical mice judge edge laser mice here with a slightly superior battery life.

Weight Comparison

Weight refers to the heaviness of a gaming mouse. It primarily depends on the mouse’s construction material and chassis. Both optical and laser mice come in different weight measurements. 

You have the SteelSeries Rival 650 optical mouse and the ASUS Rog Spatha laser mouse on the heavier side, weighing a minimum 121 grams. On the other, much lighter end of the spectrum, you have the Cooler Master MM720 optical mouse and the G Wolves Hati S gaming mouse, weighing a combined 97 grams.

Verdict: It’s a draw! You can easily find a lighter or heavier gaming mouse in both optical and laser models.

RGB Lighting Options Comparison

RGB (Red Green Blue) lights are the programmable LED lights integrated into most modern gaming mice. These lights can be programmed to display different color patterns and various lighting effects. 

Both optical and laser gaming mice offer similar RGB lighting options, including customizable lighting zones, colors, and patterns. 

Verdict: It’s a tie once again! Optical and laser gaming mice both offer similar RGB lighting options. 

Noise Level Comparison

Noise levels refer to the sound produced by a mouse when a button is pressed or ‘clicked.’ The mouse switches are responsible for generating this noise. Both optical and laser gaming mice can be equally loud or quiet. 

Verdict: Even-steven! FWIW, the first-ever silent gaming mouse to be produced had an optical sensor inside it.

Price Comparison

Speaking strictly from the sensor’s perspective, LEDs used in optical mice are generally less expensive than VCSEL or infrared laser diodes found in laser gaming mice. However, the final price of a mouse is determined by various other factors, such as build quality, connectivity, and additional features.

On average, a high-end optical gaming mouse costs between $75 and $125, with laser mice costing around $100 to $130. Not that big of a difference, tbh. 

Verdict: No clear winner here!

Optical vs. Laser Gaming Mouse – What Redditors Have to Say

We also asked Redditors in a quick optical vs. laser gaming mouse Reddit survey to see the local community’s stance. A total of 194 votes were cast. A whopping 86% of the majority chose optical gaming mice over laser gaming mice. 

Optical vs laser gaming mouse reddit poll with 86% voting in favor of optical mice

Choosing Between an Optical and a Laser Gaming Mouse

To wrap it up, optical mice emerge as the superior option for gaming. They outgun laser mice in some of the most important aspects, namely DPI, polling rate, tracking speed, acceleration discrepancies, battery life (only by a small margin, though), and sensor advancements. Laser mice, on the other hand, come out on top when surface compatibility takes preference. They work on all surfaces, including glossy, reflective gaming desk tops.

That’s also why you see a lot of wireless, compact, portable mice come equipped with laser sensors, as it can be challenging for users to carry around a mouse pad while traveling. 

While laser gaming mice may lack the high-end specs of optical mice, they can still offer decent gaming performance.

Lastly, there are many areas where both optical and laser gaming mice fare equally well. These include grip style, lift-off distance, customization options, on-board memory, connectivity options, weight measurements, RGB lighting options, noise levels, and pricing. So, if you’re particularly concerned about these things, feel free to choose an optical or a laser mouse for gaming.

Key FeaturesOptical Gaming MouseLaser Gaming Mouse
Polling Rate
Tracking Speed
Acceleration Discrepancies
Sensor Advancements
Grip Style🤝🤝
Lift-off Distance🤝🤝
Customization Options🤝🤝
Onboard Memory🤝🤝
Surface Compatibility
Connectivity Options🤝🤝
Battery Life
RGB Lighting Options🤝🤝
Noise level🤝🤝

What is Angle Snapping in a Gaming Mouse?

Angle snapping is a feature in some gaming mice designed to assist gamers with precise movements by reducing cursor or crosshair deviation when moving the mouse at certain angles. When enabled, it can help you track opponents as they move across the field, allowing you to keep your aim steady and take precise shots without inadvertently veering off target.

Both optical and laser gaming mice offer angle snapping. However, it may only be common to some models.

Here are some best gaming mouse brands and their popular optical mouse models:

  • Razer Viper V2 Pro by Razer: The best Razer optical mouse featuring the latest Focus Pro 30K optical sensor. Good for 30,000 DPI, 750 IPS tracking, and offers a polling rate of 4,000 Hz. 
  • Scimitar RGB Elite by Corsair: An optical mouse popular among MMO buffs, featuring PixArt PMW3391 sensor. Good for 18,000 DPI and 250 IPS tracking. Has a polling rate of 1,000 Hz. 
  • Aerox 9 by SteelSeries: Aerox 9 is another optical gaming mouse that is an excellent choice for MOBA players. Features SteelSeries’ in-house TrueMove Air sensor. Good for 18,000 DPI and 400 IPS tracking, with a polling rate of 1,000 Hz. 
  • Logitech G Pro by Logitech: The ultimate wireless optical mouse featuring Hero 25K optical sensor with a peak DPI of 25,600, 400 IPS tracking speed, and a polling rate of 1,000 Hz.
  • ROG Charkram X by ASUS: A tri-mode (2.4G, Bluetooth, Wired) gaming mouse featuring ROG AimPoint optical sensor featuring 30,000 DPI and up to 8,000 Hz polling rate in wired mode.
  • Kain 202 by Roccat: A compact gaming mouse from Roccat featuring an Owl-Eye optical sensor rated for a peak of 16,000 DPI, 1,000 Hz tracking speed, and wireless connectivity.
Ed has fond memories of the times when he played games on an 8-bit console. If you want to make him talk for hours on end, just ask him about Valla from Heroes of the Storm. Eddie despises hackers and gamers who do not take the game seriously. He sees RealGear as a place where he has the freedom to express his viewpoint regarding PC and console games and put his journalism skills into practice.

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