There are a thousand gaming mouse choices out there, and most of them are fine. But only a few are the cream of the crop, and that comes down to more than just how comfortable it feels. The sensor in your mouse can make a huge difference in how accurately it tracks and how smooth the cursor feels as you move your hand. Some sensors are more reliable at higher speeds. The software matters, and certain mice offer more buttons and customization options to fit your taste, whether your play shooters or MOBAs.
The best gaming mouse in 2018, based on our time testing dozens of mice, is the Razer Deathadder Elite, which is currently available on Amazon. It's light, responsive, and doesn't cost as much as many of its rivals—but the key factor for us is the impeccable shape and the button layout. The Deathadder is wired, so if you're looking for more freedom, check out our expert guide to the best wireless gaming mouse options in 2018.
Good gaming mice are built for heavy use, so they'll last for years, and their sensors are more tuned for precise movement than your standard office mouse. They perform best with a good mousepad, and we have you covered there too with recommendations for the best mouse pads for gaming.
1. Razer Deathadder Elite
The best gaming mouse
DPI: 16,000 | Sensor: Optical | Interface: USB | Buttons: 6 | Ergonomic: Right handed | Weight: 105 g (0.23 lbs)
The Razer Deathadder has an all-around fantastic shape for all sorts of grips and hand sizes, and I’ve spent hundreds of hours playing games, using Photoshop, and browsing the Internet with it. Despite years of iterations, Razer never messes with the Deathadder's shape. There's no reason to.
The Deathadder Elite uses a 16,000 DPI optical sensor, but big numbers don't necessarily mean quality. Here's the important bit: for the Elite Razer chose a sensor based on the PMW-3366 developed by sensor company Pixart in collaboration with Logitech, which I've called the best mouse sensor available since it debuted in 2014. Razer's implementation should deliver flawless tracking, even if you move the mouse as fast as you can.
For the majority of games and gamers, the Deathadder Elite is the best mouse. It’s simple where it should be, with two perfectly placed, generously sized thumb buttons, has a great optical mouse sensor that will work on both hard and cloth pads, and has the ultimate body shape for a claw or hybrid claw/palm grip.
2. Logitech G903
The best high-end gaming mouse
DPI: 12,000 | Sensor: Optical | Interface: USB / 2.4GHz wireless | Buttons: 11 | Ergonomic: Ambidextrous | Weight: 110 g (3.88 oz)
The only wireless mouse on this list is here for a reason: not only is it the best wireless gaming mouse, it’s the best gaming mouse you can buy if you're willing to get spendy. The Logitech G903 Lightspeed is expensive, but the only mouse over $100 that I think is worth the price. It can easily be used in wired mode by plugging in the included micro USB cable, making it a fantastic wired mouse, too.
Why is it so great? The G903 Lightspeed is wonderfully light at 107 grams and uses Logitech’s PMW-3366 sensor, which is extremely reliable at low and high DPI settings, with no issues of acceleration or cursor jitter. The G903’s ambidextrous design includes removable thumb buttons for either side, and it fits my medium-large hand perfectly. The G903 also has a one-of-a-kind pivot bar click mechanism which feels better than any mouse I've ever used. Seriously: it's the best click ever. At a lower price, this mouse would be my recommendation to everyone, but as it stands, the G903 is the best high-end mouse you can gift to your hand.
Read the full review: Logitech G900 (a near-identical previous iteration of the G903).
3. Logitech G203 Prodigy
The best budget gaming mouse
DPI: 8,000 | Sensor: Optical | Interface: USB | Buttons: 6 | Ergonomic: Right-handed | Weight: 85 g (3.0 oz)
You can find a lot of decent, no-name brand gaming mice on Amazon for less than $20, but it's worth spending just a little more for the Logitech G203 Prodigy (also called the G102 in some regions). With this mouse you get Logitech's fantastic, reliable build quality, good gaming driver software, and a tried-and-true mouse shape. Since its popular G100s years ago, Logitech has released several mice with a nearly identical small, almost-ambidextrous body, and it remains a comfortable mouse great for the active grip of FPS or MOBA players. And the G203 is damn cheap.
The G203 Prodigy doesn't use Logitech's top-end sensor, but testing has shown that the Mercury sensor (developed by Logitech) in this mouse is so good, you probably won't notice the difference. It supports up to 8000 DPI and has no issue with jitter or acceleration. Unless you need insanely high DPI settings, the G203 is a killer mouse for a budget price. And if you decide you really like the shape and can spend a bit more, consider a step up to the Logitech Pro, which does include that top-of-the-line sensor.
4. Razer Naga Trinity
The best MOBA and MMO mouse
DPI: 16,000 | Sensor: Optical | Interface: USB | Buttons: 19, 14, or 9 | Ergonomic: Right handed | Weight: 120 g (0.26 lbs)
The form and function of Razer's Naga mouse has come a long way over the years. Its latest version, the Naga Trinity, is the best yet: a small, comfortable mouse with a high quality sensor and three interchangeable thumb grips with button arrays ideal for MOBAs, MMOs, or general use. The MOBA array is the best, offering seven buttons in a circle around your thumb. There are enough buttons to map multiple abilities, but not so many that they become an overwhelming samey blob. The 12 button array, designed for MMOs, has that problem for me, but anyone who wants a whole number pad under their thumb will appreciate the option.
The Naga Trinity's side panels snap into place with strong magnets and don't wiggle a bit when gaming. Otherwise, the Naga Trinity is the same as the Naga Hex before it, with a comfortable palm grip shape that includes a small pinky rest. The Naga Hex is a bit on the small side for larger hands, with more of a squat shape than some gaming mice. It's comfortable in the relaxed grip suited to MMOS, but will still do the job if you play MOBAs, shooters, or any other active games.
5. Steelseries Sensei 310
The best ambidextrous gaming mouse
DPI: 12,000 | Sensor: Optical | Interface: USB | Buttons: 8 | Ergonomic: Ambidextrous | Weight: 92.1 g (0.20 lbs)
The updated version of this Steelseries mainstay, the Sensei 310, subtly reinvented a classic mouse. It needed it. Almost everything is new except the Sensei's ambidextrous shape, and that's exactly how it should be. Thanks to a new plastic, the Sensei is grippier and can shrug off a sweaty palm. And Steelseries is using its own custom version of one of the best gaming sensors around, ensuring the Sensei 310 won't suffer from any tracking issues.
The Sensei 310 fits in your hand just like the old Sensei, and is a great shape for either left- or right-handed gamers looking for a midsized ambidextrous mouse. That means it has a pair of identical thumb buttons on the left and the right, a common issue for ambidextrous mice—it can be far too easy to accidentally click the wrong side's buttons as you grip with your pinky. In my hours of testing the Sensei 310, that hasn't happened once. The size and shape of the thumb buttons has been tweaked, making it easy to rock your thumb upwards to press them but keeping them out of the way of accidental pinky clicks. Anyone looking for a small, light, or ambidextrous mouse: this should be your first stop.
6. Logitech G502
The best heavy gaming mouse
DPI: 12,000 | Sensor: Optical | Interface: USB | Buttons: 11 | Ergonomic: Right handed | Weight: 121 g (0.26 lbs)
The Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum is a 121 gram monster (that’s with its weights removed, and not counting the cable), slightly longer than the Deathadder, and built to look vaguely like some kind of futuristic weapon. It's an update of Logitech's classic MX 518 and G500 mice, with a fantastic 12,000 DPI sensor. It's a cozy palm grip shape that's stood the test of time, and it has some real premium build quality touches like its weighted metal scroll wheel, which has a super satisfying notched scroll and an option to switch to a free-spinning mode.
Due to the design and placement of its buttons, and its size and heavy weight, the G502 isn’t as great an all-around mouse as the Deathadder. A couple buttons by the left-click are a bit awkwardly placed and prone to occasional misclicks. But for gamers who love a heavy mouse, the Logitech G502 Proteus Spectrum is the mouse to get. It's a great mouse at a great price, and continues to be a hugely popular model for Logitech. So much so, that the company has even updated the G502 with its new top-end Hero sensor in a new model, the G502 Hero. Get that model if you want the absolute top-of-the-line in mice sensors—but you're likely not going to notice the difference, so sticking with the Proteus Spectrum is a good way to save some money.
Read the full review: Logitech G502
Testing gaming mice
I’ve used enough gaming mice to have a good feel for build quality, button placement, and shape. My opinions on those aspects of mouse design are naturally subjective, but they’re also well-informed. The tricky part of testing gaming mice is analyzing the other part of the equation: tracking performance, jitter, angle snapping, acceleration, and perfect control speed, and determining how each of those issues affect the experience of using a mouse.
What do all those terms mean? If you’re deeply interested in the intricacies of gaming mice, you can read this amazingly thorough guide on Overclock.net. But here are some basic definitions that will help you understand why each of these terms are important issues.
Grip refers to how you hold the mouse. The most common grips are palm, claw, and fingertip. Here's a good example of how each grip works.
CPI stands for counts per inch, or how many times the mouse sensor will read its tracking surface, aka your mousepad, for every inch it’s moved. This is commonly referred to as DPI, but CPI is a more accurate term. The lower the CPI, the further you have to move the mouse to move the cursor on screen.
Jitter refers to an inaccuracy in a mouse sensor reading the surface it’s tracking. Jitter often occurs at higher mouse movement speeds or higher CPIs. Jitter can make your cursor jump erratically, and even slight jitter could wreck a shot in an FPS or make you misclick on a unit in an RTS.
Angle snapping, also called prediction, takes data from a mouse sensor and modifies the output with the goal of creating smoother movements. For example, if you try to draw a horizontal line with your mouse, it won’t be perfect—you’ll make some subtle curves in the line, especially at higher sensitivities. Angle snapping smooths out those curves and gives you a straight line instead. This is generally bad because it means your cursor movements won’t match your hand’s movements 1:1, and angle snapping isn’t going to be useful in most games. Thankfully, almost all gaming mice have angle snapping disabled by default.
Acceleration is probably the most reviled, most scrutinized issue with gaming mouse sensors. When a mouse sensor exhibits acceleration, that means that your cursor will move faster the faster you move the mouse; this is often considered bad, because it means moving the mouse slowly six inches across a mousepad will move the cursor a different distance than moving the mouse rapidly the same distance. This introduces variability that can be hard to predict.
Perfect control speed, or malfunction rate, refers to the speed at which the mouse can be moved while still tracking accurately. Most gaming mice will track extremely accurately when moved at slow speeds, but low CPI players will often move their mice large distances across the mousepads at very high speeds. At high speeds, and especially at high CPIs, not all mouse sensors are able to retain their tracking accuracy. The point at which the sensors stops tracking accurately will differ between CPI levels.
Lift-off distance is still a popular metric in mouse enthusiast circles, though it's not one that affects most gamers. LOD refers to the height a mouse has to be raised before the sensor stops tracking its surface. Some gamers prefer a mouse with a very low lift-off distance because they play at a very low sensitivity, and often have to lift their mouse off the pad to "reset" it in a position where they can continue swiping. With a low LOD, the cursor isn't going to be moved erratically when the mouse is lifted up.
I used a piece of software called MouseTester to see if I could spot any glaring issues with the mice I used. In every gaming mouse I tested, though, angle snapping and acceleration were disabled in the mouse drivers by default (though a mouse can still exhibit acceleration that comes from issues with the sensor itself) and I never encountered any glaring performance issues.
Like in audiophile circles, there’s a small group of people who can notice and care deeply about the most minute differences in mouse sensors. But for most gamers, including myself, the differences are hard to pick up on in everyday gaming. I’m more concerned with the design of the mouse, the placement and quality of its buttons and its driver software, as long as jitter and acceleration don’t crop up in my FPS and MOBA matches.
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