Tips To Choose Between An Optical Mouse Vs. A Laser Mouse for Gaming

The computer mouse is an input device that’s used to convert hand movement to the digital pointer movement (cursor) that moves around on the screen. A mouse is the most commonly used input device for computer peripherals and desktop computers for regular day-to-day use or gaming and makes executing various tasks or in-game actions much easier. If you are on the lookout for a good gaming mouse you will most probably have to look at an optical vs. a laser gaming mouse.

When comparing an optical mouse vs. a laser mouse for gaming choose an optical mouse for competitive games like FPS, MMO, or MOBA games, and choose a laser gaming mouse for RTS. The high tracking performance of a laser gaming mouse can be very useful in FPS and MMO games.

Computer mice work by reflecting light on a sensor. In the instance of the optical and laser mice, both project light at a surface. The reflected light is then measured using a sensor. When the movement is detected, the sensor receives the data and converts it into movement on the screen, seen as the movement of the on-screen cursor. 

In gaming, knowing the differences between a mouse with an optical sensor and one with a laser sensor is imperative when making an informed decision that aligns with your gaming needs. As a gamer, you’re probably familiar with arguments about which mouse is the ideal gaming mouse. Our gaming mice specs guide takes an in-depth look at various features of gaming mice sensors and how to choose the mouse that fits your needs the best. 

The most common online opinion about gaming mice is that an optical mouse like this is better than a laser mouse, like this, for gaming. Is that really true, or is that just a myth? Finding the right mouse for your gaming needs might prove to be a daunting task, but we have looked at the differences between optical and laser mice to make it a seamless experience for you.

When comparing an optical mouse vs. a laser mouse, optical mouse is better for gaming.
Most opinions found online, are in favor of optical gaming mice for online gaming. Image Source: Amazon.

What Is a Laser Gaming Mouse?

A laser gaming mouse is a more advanced mouse introduced in recent years. The laser technology of a laser mouse replaced the LED sensor, thereby making it more precise, stable, and sensitive than the optical gaming mouse. There is no need to worry, though, these laser beams are infrared and not harmful to your eyes. 

A laser gaming mouse is a mouse that is designed with laser tracking technology. Many gamers prefer laser mice because of their stable and predictable connectivity as well as their precise movement and accuracy. The downside to laser mice is that they can be really sensitive, which can affect their performance.

This article from the Optics and Laser Engineering Journal explains how the laser speckle pattern in a computer mouse relays information to the computer.

Although they were once considered expensive, the price gap between laser mice and optical mice has narrowed to a great extent. They’re very useful in company and business settings as well as for gaming. A laser gaming mouse, like this one, is one that’s based on laser tracking technology where the mouse uses a laser beam to light up the working surface. This laser beam penetrates the surface deeply to analyze and track movements. It uses a CMOS sensor to capture images and record reflections from the laser. As a result, a laser mouse can detect very minute differences in the surface, leading to high accuracy and sensitivity. 

Many gamers like laser mice because of their working performance on glossy and reflective surfaces like this. Since they’re highly sensitive, laser mice can function on almost any surface. The laser technology offers top-notch tracking capabilities often sought by FPS and MOBA players. Our article about gaming mouse quality tests offers tips to help you choose the right mouse sensor when using it on glossy surfaces. 

The downside to laser mice is their susceptibility to acceleration problems. Their high sensitivity means that they tend to pick up too much information from the surface, making them overanalyze the mouse movements, especially at slow speeds. This causes speed-related variance accuracy and makes the laser mouse more prone to acceleration. Relative to optical mice, this makes them less ideal for gaming.

Laser gaming mice are much more sensitive than optical mice, and can be used on just about any surface for completing tasks and for gaming.
A laser gaming mouse is more precise, stable, and sensitive than an optical gaming mouse. Image Source: Amazon.

Summary of Laser Mice Pros and Cons

Laser Gaming Mouse Consideration Pros Cons
Illumination source It has a laser diode as its source of illumination None
Imaging It makes use of CMOS image sensors None
Surface compatibility It doesn't have a specific required working surface None
Price You get what you pay for A laser gaming mouse is  more expensive than an optical or mechanical mouse
Sensitivity It’s very sensitive and accurate The sensitivity could affect gaming performance
Price-Quality ratio You will pay more  The price-quality ratio is not as great as with optical mice
Surface type It works on different surface types, including reflective and glossy ones, like glass and mirror, without a mouse pad None
Acceleration  Has a higher acceleration rate Although its high sensitivity might be useful in some instances, it makes the mouse more prone to the problem of acceleration
Scan depth and penetration type It has deep penetration due to its laser technology and can scan valleys and tiny ridges on a surface None
Performance at low speeds Can be used at low speeds It overanalyzes at low speeds and doesn’t have the best operation performance
Resolution It has a very high resolution, usually between 6,000 and 15,000+ DPI It is very sensitive
Price-Performance ratio You get what you pay for  Compared to an optical gaming mouse, a laser mouse doesn’t have the best price-performance ratio

Are you having trouble with your mouse? If so, be sure to read our related article explaining how to fix a gaming mouse that's not working

What Is an Optical Gaming Mouse?

An optical gaming mouse is one that’s used by a large percentage of the world’s population today for different purposes, including work, study, gaming, and other computing activities. 

An optical gaming mouse has infrared LED light to illuminate the surface it is moved over. Choose an optical gaming mouse for its high speed and responsiveness which are necessary for FPS games. An optical gaming mouse cannot be used on glossy or reflective surfaces like glass and mirrors.

The optical mouse has LED (visible or infrared) light technology and a CMOS imaging sensor, which acts similarly to a camera. Unlike the older optical mice that shine a red light beam directly onto the surface, the LED light in recent models like this one, is usually unseen (infrared) and projected at an angle onto the surface, helping the mouse track movements.

When the LED light illuminates the surface, the CMOS sensor analyzes this surface to determine the speed of the mouse movement and indicate where the signal is headed. These mouse types are suitable for gaming and home computer settings.

Optical gaming mice are suitable for gamers, especially FPS players, because of their fast speed and responsiveness. However, some gamers don’t like them because of one major downside - they can’t be used on glossy or reflective surfaces like glass and mirrors. This is because they can’t penetrate beyond the surface tops on which they are placed. Unless you move around a lot, all you need is a mouse pad to ensure optimal performance of your mouse. Optical mice are excellent choices for both gaming newbies and pro gamers. Our article about gaming mouse accessories lists the most popular and helpful mouse additions that can improve accuracy and comfort when gaming. 

When choosing a mouse for work or for gaming remember that an optical mouse is sensitive enough to use on any type of surface but a laser mouse can only be used on specific surfaces.
An optical gaming mouse is suitable for FPS games, because of its fast speed and responsiveness. Image Source: Amazon.

Summary of Optical Mice Pros and Cons

Optical Gaming Mouse Feature Pros Cons
Illumination source It has an LED light as its source of illumination None
Imaging It has CMOS image sensors None
Surface compatibility It works well on certain surfaces It’s unsuitable for surfaces with glass and mirror finish as it doesn’t work well on highly lacquered and reflective surfaces
Price It’s affordable and is, therefore, the perfect mouse for gaming newbies You get what you pay for
Sensitivity Is sensitive enough on the right surface It’s not very sensitive, and lacks the sensitivity and accuracy of a laser mouse
Price-Quality ratio It generally has a great price-quality ratio You get what you pay for
Surface type It can work very well on specific types of surfaces It must be used on a non-reflective and non-glossy surface, therefore works especially well on a mouse pad

Acceleration problems
Compared to its counterpart, it’s less prone to the problem of acceleration None
Scan depth and penetration type None It has surface penetration and can only scan the surface since LED light isn’t that penetrative
Performance at low speeds It has smooth operations at low speeds None
Resolution None It has a resolution of around 3,000 DPI which is considerably less than that of a laser mouse
Price-performance ratio In the current mouse market, the optical gaming mouse has the best price-performance ratio None

Advantages of Using an Optical Gaming Mouse

Optical and laser mice are great substitutes for mechanical mice, with a metal or rubber ball underneath. The mechanical mouse wasn’t the most durable or accurate peripheral device and has since disappeared from the modern workspace. 

The advantages of using optical gaming mice are fewer acceleration problems, optimal performance at slow speeds, and affordability. 

In this article, by Managing Office Technology, we learn that modern gaming mice like laser mice and optical mice have been properly designed to meet the increasing ergonomic concerns of gamers and other computer users. Check out our related article for tips to choose an ergonomic gaming mouse for more information about choosing a mouse for comfort.

Optical mice and laser mice have become so popular that you’ll find one of these mice on most computer desks. Although both optical and laser mice have been accepted as an upgrade to mechanical mice, both have some unique features. They’re better than each other in some aspects and are lacking in others. Our article that provides tips for choosing a cheap gaming mouse discusses how to select a suitable gaming mouse when you’re on a budget. 

The illumination source of both mice is the most notable feature that constitutes the way they work. A laser mouse like this has a laser beam that shines on working surfaces, while an optical mouse like this typically has an infrared LED light as its illumination source.

An optical mouse has an LED light that reflects off the surface that you are using it on.
An optical mouse performs optimally at low speeds and ensures accuracy. Image Source: Amazon.

Check out these advantages of using an optical gaming mouse:

Advantage 1. An Optical Gaming Mouse Has Little to No Problem With Acceleration

Many gamers prefer to use optical mice for gaming because laser mice have high acceleration. Acceleration happens when the on-screen cursor doesn’t move in sync with your mouse movements. Optical mice have fewer chances of acceleration problems because their sensors aren’t as sensitive as those of laser mice. The sensors don’t pick up unnecessary details from surfaces on which they’re placed. 

Optical mice are great to use when precision is not entirely necessary in a gaming situation. Contrary to what most people believe, some models of optical mice are also susceptible to acceleration, although they don’t show signs of acceleration as frequently as laser mice do. This article from the Sensors and Actuators A: Physical Journal explains the effects of illumination and acceleration that can occur when using an optical mouse. 

Advantage 2. An Optical Gaming Mouse Performs Optimally at Slow Speeds

Although LED light isn’t as precise as laser beams, this factor gives optical mice a top-quality, smooth performance at low speeds. With the LED sensor, the chances of overanalyzing working surfaces are almost non-existent, causing the mouse to function smoothly and optimally, especially at slow mouse movements. Our tips to choose gaming mouse DPI for optimizing gameplay explain how to adjust the sensitivity for various gaming scenarios, if necessary. 

Advantage 3. An Optical Gaming Mouse is More Affordable Than a Laser Mouse

When it comes to affordability and gaming budget needs, optical mice have always been the go-to option. More often than not an optical mouse like this is affordable and costs less than a laser mouse. Recent trends have seen the development of advanced optical mice with extra buttons and aesthetic RGB lighting. These optical mice tend to have slightly higher prices than the normal ones. Professional graphic designers and gamers may need these additional mouse features for specific purposes. The affordability of optical mice makes them a favorite among beginners and pro gamers.

Disadvantages of Using an Optical Gaming Mouse

Some gamers may find optical mice undesirable for their gaming needs due to some drawbacks in their features. The optical mouse has issues in several areas, including energy usage. A laser mouse uses friction and the movement of a tracking sensor, therefore its energy usage is substantially lower than that of an optical mouse.

The disadvantages of using an optical gaming mouse are more power consumption, and incompatibility with glossy and reflective surfaces, and lower tracking speed.

Consider these disadvantages before going out and buying an optical gaming mouse:

Disadvantage 1. An Optical Gaming Mouse Requires More Energy

Optical mice typically use a lot of energy. This makes them an undesirable option for gamers who have lots of high-energy-consuming equipment. You should also know that wireless optical mice like this consume a lot more power than wired models like this

Speaking of wireless and wired mice, be sure to check out our article that talks about wireless gaming mice vs. wired and how to choose the right one for you.  

Disadvantage 2. An Optical Gaming Mouse Cannot Be Used On Glossy and Reflective Surfaces

Optical mice have surface illumination. This means that they can only scan the top of the surfaces on which they’re placed. This is disadvantageous for an optical mouse as you can only use them on certain surfaces like non-glossy and non-reflective ones such as a mouse pad like this one or a laminated desk like this one. Since it uses light for illumination, it would be inaccurate and unable to work well if used on glossy or highly reflective surfaces like mirrors and glass. 

Disadvantage 3. An Optical Gaming Mouse Has Lower Tracking Speed

Optical mice, like laser mice, use a CMOS imaging sensor to take images of the working surface. The resolution of these images is measured as dots per inch or DPI. Optical mice typically have DPI values ranging between 3,000 to 4,000. This means they have lower sensitivity and tracking speed when compared to laser mice. However, this low sensitivity is good because you get smooth and optimal performance at low speeds or slow movements with few acceleration problems.

A wired optical gaming mouse needs less energy to function normally, than a wireless option.
An optical gaming mouse requires more energy than a laser mouse. Image Source: Amazon.

Advantages of Using a Laser Gaming Mouse

Laser mice come in great designs, with excellent aesthetics, and unique features that make them a popular mouse option among gamers. A laser mouse also has features that make it better to use than an optical mouse.

The advantages of using a laser gaming mouse are surface compatibility, high sensitivity, better tracking speed, low power consumption, and better accuracy.

The following advantages make a laser gaming mouse a great option for gamers:

Advantage 1. A Laser Gaming Mouse Can Work on Any Surface

The laser mouse doesn’t need a specific surface to work optimally and can even work on glass and mirrors. The laser mouse can work on any surface as the laser beam technology provides it with deep illumination and penetrative power. It’s able to scan tiny peaks, ridges, and valleys on a surface. However, this high sensitivity can be a problem in terms of speed-related variance accuracy, making a laser mouse like this more likely to have acceleration issues.

Advantage 2. A Laser Gaming Mouse Has High Sensitivity

Laser mice have laser diodes that light up surfaces. This illumination source makes it possible for the mouse to detect tiny details on the surface, resulting in high sensitivity. This high sensitivity, however, can be a problem, especially at slow speeds, because the laser mouse picks up a lot of unnecessary information, causing input lag and slow response time. Although it’s highly sensitive, you can control the resolution of the mouse. A laser mouse is ideal for gaming, especially when high sensitivity is required. Our article that discusses how much a gaming mouse costs looks at the features that affect the price of a gaming mouse and the sensor quality to help you choose a mouse that fits your needs. 

Advantage 3. A Laser Gaming Mouse Has Better Tracking Speed Than an Optical Mouse

A typical laser mouse like this one can have a resolution of 6,000 DPI, with fancy and expensive ones like this having a DPI value as high as 15,000 or even more. Since laser mice have high DPI values, this means that they have better tracking speed when compared to optical mice. You should bear in mind that high DPI values mean higher sensitivity and slower response time (more processing time and more input lag). This can be a big issue for gamers because it’s important to have reasonable control of your mouse’s movement, which is why most gamers opt for mice with lower DPI values. 

Advantage 4. A Laser Gaming Mouse Consumes Less Energy

With the global concern for energy consumption, it’s important to work with gadgets that don’t consume too much energy. Laser mice generally consume less power compared to optical mice. 

Advantage 5. A Laser Gaming Mouse is More Accurate

This is an important factor when considering which gaming mouse to choose. The extent to which the mouse can accurately analyze the surface on which it’s placed is vital for gamers looking to get a gaming mouse. When looking at accuracy, there’s a noticeable difference between an optical mouse and a laser mouse. The laser is a more precise and sharper light beam than the LED light of an optical mouse like this, making the laser mouse more accurate than the optical mouse. As a result, it can penetrate surfaces on which it’s placed and analyze data in great detail.

Disadvantages of Using a Laser Gaming Mouse

As great as laser gaming mice seem to be, they also have some disadvantages. A laser gaming mouse is quite pricey compared to an optical mouse. Also, they have acceleration problems from time to time.

The disadvantages of a laser gaming mouse are the acceleration problems they can sometimes experience, and the price. The most common issue with laser-based mice is that they can be overly sensitive, picking up irrelevant details like every bump on a surface. This can be problematic since it results in jitters on the on-screen pointer.

The following disadvantages may deter you from using a laser gaming mouse:

Disadvantage 1. A Laser Gaming Mouse Has High Acceleration

Acceleration occurs when you move your mouse, and the cursor doesn’t move in synchronization with your mouse movements. Laser mice are more prone to acceleration because their sensors pick up a lot of details from the surfaces on which they’re placed. This can affect their tracking capability, leading to unwanted movement, especially at fast speeds. Our guide on how to quickly fix a gaming mouse that’s slow discusses how to resolve a stuttering mouse and other issues. 

Disadvantage 2. A Laser Gaming Mouse Is More Expensive

The price of a laser mouse is an essential factor to consider when choosing a gaming mouse. In the past, laser mice were reserved for high-end gaming. In recent times, the price gap between laser and optical mice has narrowed significantly and is almost non-existent. Despite this development, you might find that an average laser mouse is costlier than the average optical mouse and may be very expensive for gaming newbies.

Although laser mice are seemingly pricey, according to this article from the ACM Digital Library, technology has made provision for new gaming devices for FPS games. These gadgets aren’t as affordable as laser mice and keyboards which are common alternatives among gamers. 

Comparison of Optical and Laser Gaming Mice

Even though a laser gaming mouse and an optical gaming mouse look the same for the most part, some key differences are important to note, especially when choosing the mouse that works best for you. Check out this YouTube video by GamingScan that compares an optical mouse vs. a laser mouse 

Some of the key differences are listed below: 

Summary of Optical vs. Laser Gaming Mouse Features

Mouse Feature Optical Mouse Laser Mouse
Type of illumination  LEDs (visible or infrared) Laser diode
Surface compatibility Doesn’t work on all surface types and might require a mouse pad. Performance is better on non-glossy, non-reflective surfaces  Doesn’t need a specific surface and can be used on all surface types without a mouse pad
Acceleration Less prone More prone
Price Very affordable More expensive but the price gap has improved
Accuracy Less accurate compared to laser mice Very accurate
Sensitivity Moderate sensitivity High sensitivity
Design Usually has a red (sometimes blue or green) light, which is typically uncomfortable to the eye in a dark room or at night Has a rich design featuring extra buttons and built-in RGB lighting
Scan depth Scans only surface tops as LED light doesn’t have a lot of penetrative power Capable of scanning tiny ridges and valleys on surfaces as lasers are highly penetrative
Tracking speed and response time Slower response time compared to laser mice Good tracking speed as a result of its high resolution
Resolution Has around 3,000 DPI with high-end models having up to 4,000 DPI Usually between 6,000 DPI and 15,000 DPI although some expensive ones can have higher resolutions
Performance at low speeds Performs very smoothly at low speeds Performance gets unpredictable at low speeds
Illumination type Surface illumination Deep illumination
Product example from Amazon  Logitech G203 Lightsync Wired Gaming Mouse Razer Basilisk V3

Are Optical Mice Better Than Laser Mice?

With more accuracy and great tracking speed, optical mice provide what many gamers require in a gaming mouse. However, optical mice wouldn’t be an ideal option if you travel often since they can’t be used on many surfaces.

When choosing between an optical mouse vs. a laser mouse, consider the gamer's own preferences as well as the type of games played. Optical mice are good for their accuracy which is vital for gaming, but not great for a lot of surfaces. Laser mice are preferred for their surface compatibility, but their high sensitivity can affect gaming performance.

Laser mice have the advantage of surface compatibility and can be used at home or on the go. Overall, it boils down to your gaming needs, the type of mouse you are used to, and the gaming environment.

Summary of Which Mouse To Use for Different Types of Gaming

Type of Gaming or Scenario Recommended Mouse 
Sandbox Razer Naga Pro Wireless Gaming Mouse
Logitech G600 M M O Gaming Mouse
Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) Logitech G 502 Proteus Spectrum
Razer Naga Hex V2
Shooters (FPS and TPS) SteelSeries Sensei 310 Gaming Mouse
Razer Viper 8KHz Gaming Mouse
Role-playing (RPG) Razer DeathAdder Essential Gaming Mouse
Real-time strategy (RTS) Logitech G Mx518 Optical Gaming Mouse
Razer DeathAdder Essential Gaming Mouse


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