Gaming mice have broken the shackles of boring beige peripherals and having a proper, RGB lit, high-performance gaming mouse has become virtually mandatory for PC gamers. To help you sort the wheat from the chaff, we put together a comprehensive guide to the best gaming mouse (opens in new tab) you can find, and we’ve assembled a hardware team to test all the tech, mice included, that the modern gamer needs to complete their arsenal.
We live with every single rodent that passes our desks before they make their way into any of our guides. That means we’ve had weeks of working and playing with a device before we consider what our readers need to know about it. That way we can ensure we never recommend something we wouldn’t want to actively use ourselves. So what’s that process like?
Performance is king…
For most average desktop users or office workers, a pretty standard mouse like the sort you find packed in with any new PC is probably sufficient. But gamers require a higher level of precision and performance, and a lot of features that might be meaningless for ‘productivity’ become essential when considering a mouse for gaming. We test each mouse’s sensor to see that it lives up to the stated level of CPI and IPS, to ensure that they’re not only exceedingly precise but that they won’t drop tracking when you start hurling them furiously around a pad during frantic Overwatch sessions.
We’re looking at how gaming mice perform under a range of different genres. That means we use faster first-person shooter and action titles to test:
- Sensor accuracy
- Debounce and repeat actuation
- Lift-off distance
However, we’re also checking all additional side buttons and programmability in both faster titles and slower strategy and simulation games, looking for:
- Number of custom commands / number of programmable buttons available
- Design and placement of additional buttons
- Button travel distance
- Ease of onboard profile switching
…but not at the cost of comfort
A high-performance mouse is basically a dense package of electronic trash if it actively makes you uncomfortable while you’re using it. Hands are complex, delicate things, so mouse ergonomics are incredibly important to ensuring that whether you’re a claw gripper or palm rester you don’t end up with aching joints or gnarled fingers.
We test each mouse extensively to ensure that it doesn’t just feel nice the first time you pick it up, but that it’s still comfortable to push around after hours of intense usage. And it’s not just the curvature of the chassis and the placement of buttons – the materials a mouse’s surface is comprised of make a surprising difference in determining not only how nice it is to hold, but also how easy it is to grip and slide around.
We test a gaming mouse’s comfort by using it extensively for both work and play, stress testing the shape, texture, weight, and layout during longer sessions as well. When testing, we’re always looking out for:
- Fit and comfort after extended periods of use
- The type of grip each mouse is designed for
- How the mouse tracks across a surface, paying attention to weight and feet
- Natural finger placement and how well that tracks with buttons available
- Any cable dragging and how well the cable slots into a bungee
- Level of resistance behind each button and the scroll wheel
A gaming mouse that lasts
It’s true, we don’t have the scope to test gaming mice for months at a time. However, we do keep these mice alive well after our reviews are published. That means we can accurately report back on how well a pointer fares over time, noting any durability concerns in updates to our reviews and buying guides to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.
We do, however, assess the build quality and construction during our initial testing period. A flimsy mouse will feel cheap from the moment you take it out of the box, after all. Before testing, we note:
- Materials used and the thickness of those materials
- Form factor
- Any protruding parts that could be knocked
However, we’re also keeping a close eye out for any red flags during our testing, watching out for common indicators that a gaming mouse might not last through heavy use. While putting each mouse through its paces we’re also testing for:
- A click or button becoming softer or spongier
- Any pinging noises from springs
- Any scuffs or scratches that occur from standard everyday use
- Whether the surface texture retains oils or smudges
- Any wobble or loosening of scroll wheels or buttons
- Any connectivity issues
- Any rapidly depleting battery issues
- RGB fading or inconsistencies on startup
- Cable fraying
Great hardware requires great software
Given the increasing complexity and customizability of modern gaming mice, a properly robust software suite has become a serious factor in quality. Having a bunch of CPI settings is pretty useless if none of them match the feel you’re looking for, and RGB lighting can go from a nice extra to an annoying headache if it’s not in the color or pattern you want or keeps changing on you sporadically.
We test to make sure that software isn’t only fully featured but that’s it’s easy and intuitive to use. The best software packages let you get in, punch in the settings you want quickly, and get back to gaming in the shortest time possible. This is one of the first steps we take when testing a gaming mouse, opening up the full feature list and customizable options to check:
- Overall ease of use and navigation
- Macro programmability
- Preset and onboard loadout assignments and switching
- Integrations with other services and games
- RGB customization options
- Any performance customization options (lift-off distance, acceleration, etc.)
As always, value trumps price
It may be tempting to scan a mouse’s price tag and make a snap decision about its build quality or design, but the very best mice offer as much value per dollar as possible. We certainly don’t ignore price when we’re evaluating products, but we also don’t rule out a mouse just because it’s expensive. If it can back up the sticker price with great design, performance, and a full suite of strong features, we’re happy to recommend it even if it does climb outside of the median price range.
Similarly, a cheap gaming mouse will be considered in the context of its budget design – so you can still find the right device for all price points.
We test gaming mice against competitors within the same price bracket first, and then against the wider market. We’re always cross-referencing features and performance against models that are both cheaper and more expensive than the gaming mouse we’re testing to make sure that price tag is justified.
For more information on how we test all the tech that appears on GamesRadar+, check out our full Hardware Policy.