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Gaming mouse History

In the late ‘90s and early ‘00s gaming was starting to become mainstream and more popular. Gamers required more precision, higher accuracy and better response from their peripherals than general computer users. Originally there were a number of mice and keyboards that gamers preferred; these products were not specifically aimed at gamers but they provided performance that (at the time) was ahead of the pack.

Microsoft introduced the first mainstream optical mouse in 1999, the Intellimouse Explorer. While many users rejoiced since it never needed cleaning and tracked well on most surfaces, it suffered from an extremely low malfunction speed. This meant it was unusable for low sensitivity users. Luckily low sensitivity was not overly popular at the time and it gained quite a following after release.

Logitech had a popular mouse called the Mouseman Wheel.

Razer also introduced their first gaming mouse in 1999 to address the lack of gaming specific gear. It was a more traditional ball style mouse and was available in 1000 and 2000 DPI flavours. The Boomslangs shape was very unconventional and aimed to place the mouse ball at the center of your palm, rather than under your fingertips like most other mice (both now and then). It was plagues with problems, some users reporting wrist pain, high failure rate and generally being a little too weird for most gamers tastes. However it was the stepping stone that Razer needed to bigger and.. more reliable products.

From these roots grew an industry that churns out new products every six months with continually bigger and better DPI, buttons and software.

The same progression occurred with headphones and micemats. Gamers used what was available and several years later specifically designed products appeared on the market. These were sometimes hit and miss, quite often pointing to lacking design teams. Why would a gamer want a mouse that malfunctions during high speed movement?

Gaming Mice Brands

The market for gaming mice is rather competitive with the big names (Microsoft and Logitech) as well as many gaming specific start ups (Razer, Steelseries, Roccat to name a few) throwing their hats into the ring. This has created a market that offers a wide variety of choice for the hardcore gamer, however it is not without its pitfalls. It almost seems that mice manufactures do not understand the requirements of their customers, the gamers. An example of this is acceleration. Acceleration occurs when mouse input speeds up as the user moves the mouse faster. This is frowned upon by most gamers as they believe it can lead to lower accuracy. This is turned on by default in most Microsoft Windows installations and can be removed with a simple patch that many gamers apply straight after a fresh install of windows. However some gaming mice have shipped with acceleration that cannot be removed, or even worse, negative acceleration, where the mouse slows down as it accelerates.

Another problem commonly encountered by gaming mice, and mice in general is a low malfunction speed. Malfunction occurs when the mouse moves too quickly and cannot track accurately. It manifests most frequently as reversed control followed by control switching back and forth quickly. Because this occurs at high speed it affects low sensitivity users – to turn a large distance they need to move their mouse a long distance. Low sensitivity has been popular among better FPS gamers for a long time, yet "gaming mice" are still shipped with low malfunction speeds.

Lift off distance, Z-Axis Problem.

The distance above the mouse mat the mouse stops registering. A low lift off distance is preferred otherwise the mouse may register movement in the air as the gamer resets it to the middle of their mat. Lower is better in this case, no matter what.

Angle snapping, correction or prediction

Angle snapping, correction or prediction is a hardware feature that attempts to correct small variations in movement. It is obvious when drawing straight lines with some mice – the lines are extremely straight, often not deviating off a single pixel even when there is significant Y axis movement over the entire length of the line. Correction can also be observed when drawing circles in a pain application – the top, bottom and sides of the circle will appear to be flat.

This has only come to light in gaming circles in the last 3-4 years, however it has been latched on to by gaming mice companies and pushed as yet another "bad thing". Many mice have options to disable correction in drivers or via firmware updates. The problem is that older Logitech mice had correction and old Microsoft mice did not. A breakdown across decent Quake3 players over the past decade show that some used it and some did not, simply based on their mouse selection. One could argue that correction is a placebo and most gamers could play with either setting acceptably.

So what is the best gaming mouse?

Interestingly for many years the "best" gaming mice (and possibly even today in many uses opinion) were non-gaming mice from Microsoft; not only non-gaming, but low budget non-gaming models. The venerable Microsoft Intellimouse Optical 1.1 and Microsoft v3 ran at 400dpi. Logitech was the competition at the time and their MX500/MX518 were super reliable as well. One of the common features trotted out by gaming mice brands is insanely high DPI. 1000. 1800. 3500. 5600. DPI continually increases yet many of the best gamers use low sensitivity which benefits so minimally from high DPI that it is not worth bothering with, and depending on the mouse can have a negative effect. This is one of the major reasons the old Microsoft mice had such a long shelf life – they were reliable, had a high malfunction speed, low lift off distance, no prediction and no acceleration of any form. Sure the MS 1.1 without side buttons occasionally scrolled its mousewheel when moving it but that was a sight better than the trash that could not track correctly at all.

Today choice is a little better (ie more than 5 models) but many still exhibit problems. From a malfunction perspective(probably the major gripe) a gamer with sensitivity up to 20cm per 360 can select any mouse they like. Lower sensitivity gamers can select from any of the major brands, however please conduct adequate research prior to purchasing. The one recommendation we can offer is the Razer Deathadder.

Keep an eye here for keyboard and headphone information in the future!

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