Laser vs. Optical Mouse – Which One Wins?
For the average computer user, the intricacies of the mouse they are using are not important. As long as it allows one to click around on things across their screen at a good speed, most users are satisfied.
However, there are certain users who require their mice to have special characteristics which suit their use of a computer.
Two of the most common options that you, as a computer user, might be considering are a laser mouse and an optical mouse. Their differences may seem minute at first glance, but they are differences after all and need to be considered.
Hopefully, by the end of this optical vs. laser mouse guide, you will know whether a laser mouse or an optical mouse will suit your individual needs best.
They Are Not So Different…
Something that most people are not aware of is that a laser mouse is also an optical mouse. An optical mouse is any mouse that uses a light source and a light detector to detect movement across a surface. So, while all laser mice are also optical mice, not all optical mice are laser mice.
A laser mouse is a kind of optical mouse that uses an infrared laser diode (as opposed to an LED) to light up and photograph the surface beneath. Basically, all mice are tiny cameras that take photos of the surface they are moving across and use that information to move the cursor.
On the surface, both optical mice and laser mice do the job they are intended for: helping the user move the cursor around on their screen to select and unselect things. Their differences are only highlighted when certain categories of computer users are using them.
The successor to wheeled mice of the olden days, optical mice use LEDs, optical sensors, and digital signal processing. They are a great mouse for autocads.
Light from the LED is shone on the surface beneath the mouse, which allows the mouse to take tiny photos of the surface at a rate of anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 photos per second. These photos help the mouse detect even the tiniest change in the surface so that it can move the cursor accordingly across the user’s screen.
And the LED would usually be visible in the form of a red beam under the mouse. Sometimes the beam is angular so that it is not as visible or annoying. This, however, was before the laser mouse was introduced.
A laser mouse is essentially an optical mouse that uses an infrared laser in place of the traditional LED. The technical term for this laser is vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser diode (VCSEL).
This laser is not visible to the naked eye and is not powerful enough to cause harm to the user’s eyes. However, you should be advised to not stare at the bottom of your laser mouse for minutes on end.
The beauty of the laser mouse over an optical mouse is that the former is much more sensitive to the surface it moves on than the latter. In fact, a laser mouse can detect irregularities beyond and within the surface and use that information to move more accurately.
Also, a laser mouse can also work adequately on glass surfaces, something that regular optical mice fail to do. This is because optical mice detect glass as being clear and believe that there is no surface beneath itself at all, while laser mice detect the tiniest irregularities in the glass and work with those.
Optical mice, therefore, need a matte surface to work on, while laser mice can work on just about any surface.
Laser vs. Optical Mouse
The minuscule differences between optical mice and laser mice will seem like no difference at all to most users. Sure, optical mice do not work on glossy surfaces, but that problem can be solved by placing a mouse pad on top of the glass.
All in all, these two types of mice get the job done quite well. However, for gamers and digital artists, these tiny differences can amount to a lot.
Sensitivity to Movement
Laser mice have a higher rate of dots per inch or DPI. This makes them more sensitive to small movements than optical mice. However, they are not more sensitive by that big of a mark, and an average optical mouse can track tiny movements just fine.
Gamers and digital artists require greater sensitivity in their mice’s movements because a lot of their work on the screen is intricate, and even the smallest movement can make a big difference in their work (or play).
Accuracy of Movement
As you can guess, laser mice are much more accurate than optical mice since they can penetrate the surface they are moving on.
However, this uber accuracy can be a hindrance in the case of users who may need slow movement sometimes. The laser mice’s accuracy can give way to unwanted ‘jitters’ which can ruin someone’s gameplay or digital drawing/painting.
While this aspect of deciding which mouse to buy was one of the most essential back in the day, technological advancements have made it so that even 30 USD can get you a more than a decent silent mouse.
Though laser mice used to cost more than optical mice, that is not the case anymore. Now, both types of mice can be found within the same range of prices.
However, high-end does not necessarily mean better performance. It usually means that an expensive mouse comes with additional buttons that add more features to it. This means that you can get a great laser or optical mouse for 100 USD or much less. Also, features like if it’s a mouse for large hands can slightly impact the price.
As established above, the differences between optical and laser optical mice have only decreased over the years. If you are a user who requires great precision of movement, then you may opt for a laser mouse. But if you are only looking for a good, versatile, and workable mouse, then you can go for either type.