The mouse is a simple tool: Point and click. That’s it.
And yet you’ll know if you need a gaming mouse. Pushing virtual paper around on your desktop isn’t the same as fragging bots and shooting zombies. (Not even remotely.)
Likewise, picking the right gaming mouse is an intensely personal decision. Every little detail—its overall shape and size, its buttons’ shape and placement, its cable (or lack thereof), its weight, its materials—can change how you feel about it. More than any other peripheral, the mouse is the hardest to recommend, because there is no perfect mouse. Everyone’s hands are different.
That said, we can guide you on your search. Below are our recommendations for gaming mice, built on years of experience first and foremost as gamers, and second as writers here at PCWorld. The list starts with the most popular mouse of the modern era: Logitech’s brilliant G502.
Best general-purpose gaming mouse
The Logitech G502 is an easy recommendation: It ranks as one of the most comfortable mice we’ve ever used. It handles a wide range of palm and fingertip grippers with aplomb, though people with extra-wide hands (or who prefer resting their whole hand on the mouse) may find its right-handed scoop shape a bit narrow.
Of course, comfort is only part of what makes a great gaming mouse. Logitech bills the G502 as supremely customizable, and for good reason. The G502 sports an excellent optical sensor (Pixart’s PMW3366), which offers a dpi range of 200 to 12,000 and will handle anything you throw at it with pinpoint accuracy. Eleven buttons include a tilt wheel and two that allow for on-the-fly dpi adjustments. A twelfth, non-mappable button switches the metal scroll wheel between notched and smooth-gliding modes. Flip the mouse over for the option of tossing some extra weight in the bottom, thanks to five removable 3.6-gram weights.
If you want a wider or lighter mouse, the G502 may not end up as your cup of tea, but it’s still a great start for figuring out what suits you. According to Logitech, it’s pretty popular—the NPD Group lists the G502 as the highest-grossing mouse worldwide.
Best gaming mouse with lots of buttons
The era of “the more buttons, the better” has mostly passed, what with MMOs having fallen somewhat out of fashion. Instead, MOBAs like League of Legends and Dota 2—and their comparatively simpler but much faster controls—dominate in popularity.
But maybe you’re planning to re-up that World of Warcraft subscription, or you just have a soft spot for an unthinkable amount of mouse buttons. If that's the case, you can take your pick between the Razer Naga and the Roccat Tyon's different design principles.
The Naga rocks a classic “numpad stapled to a mouse's side" design. With 19 buttons (12 of which are available at the tip of your thumb), it's enough to satisfy any button fanatic. That said, it won’t win a beauty contest, nor is it the easiest layout to adjust to. It's also a bit plasticky-feeling.
The Roccat Tyon, on the other hand, represents a philosophy of “cover the whole mouse in buttons." With only twelve buttons and an analog paddle, the Tyon doesn't quite match the Naga's raw button count, but it's a beast. One of the thumb buttons is actually a modifier key, which Roccat calls Easy-Shift Technology. Using it effectively doubles the number of buttons at your beck and call, and it's an intuitive approach that balances out the key's questionable placement on the mouse's thumb rest. If you’re lazy and let your thumb relax, though, you might inadvertently press it when you don’t mean to.
Best gaming mouse for large hands
If our other recommendations are too narrow for your mitts, the Mionix Naos 7000 is worth a look. Our 2014 review refers to it as “a whale of a mouse,” and it’s not an exaggeration—it's huge.
But if you’ve got the hands to handle it, the Naos 7000 is an amazing feat of ergonomics. It’s geared toward people who want their whole hand to rest on the mouse, palm and all. And I do mean your whole hand. At 3.9 inches wide, this mouse is more than an inch wider than most of the devices we've reviewed.
And yet, it's still impressively comfortable. With grooves for both your ring and pinky fingers, wide mouse buttons, and a small thumb rest, the Naos 7000 is the full-size luxury sedan version of a mouse. It even has a soft-touch rubber coating. The Naos 7000 can feel cumbersome relative to its smaller peers, but it won't cause you to lose a game. It glides smoothly and has a perfectly capable Avago 3310 sensor inside.
Make sure to get the Naos 7000 and not the Naos 8200. Yes, the number on the 7000 is lower, but it features a much nicer optical sensor than the 8200’s so-so laser sensor.
Best gaming mouse for small hands
Logitech's G303 Daedalus Apex has an odd shape, but it's great for smaller hands. Rarely do we see a more compact mouse offering, especially when it comes to gaming-oriented devices.
The G303 packs in all of Logitech’s higher-end features—surface tuning, the beloved PMW3366 sensor, ultra-responsive mouse buttons, RGB lighting, on-the-fly dpi switching, the whole gamut. This mouse remains dainty, though, weighing a mere 87 grams and measuring 2.5 inches at its widest point.
Given that the G303 is actually less than 2.5 inches for most of its 4.5-inch length, it's perfect for people who find the standard gaming mouse recommendations too wide and unwieldy. It’s also perfect for people who just want an ultra-light claw-grip mouse.
If you can't stomach the weird shape, you can try the Logitech’s G Pro. It has the same sensor and similar measurements, with a standard scooped design inherited from the old Logitech G100s. So it's still good for smaller hands, just not quite as much as the G303.
What we evaluate
To find our favorites, we put a small herd of gaming mice through their paces. Everything from ultra-budget to ultra-customizable to ultra-small to ultra-packed-with-buttons is in the running here, and then some.
What paces, you ask? First. we assess a mouse's skills in general use and gaming—from browsing Reddit to video editing to perusing Spotify to playing through Watch Dogs 2 and Battlefield 1.
We also consider the preferred grip. You probably don't consciously think about how you grip your mouse—it's like which sock you put on first or whether you hang your toilet paper over or under. But it’s important.
People largely fall into three different grip types: Palm, Claw, and Fingertip.
Palm Grip: This is probably the most common grip, and it’s what most mice are designed for. Your entire hand makes contact with the mouse at the same time, with your arm driving most of the movement. This is the most ergonomically comfortable grip, with the mouse shaped specifically to fill and complement your palm.
Claw Grip: Claw grippers arch their fingers more, creating separation between the hand and mouse but keeping the fingertips and rear of the palm in contact. This allows for quicker button pressing and slightly quicker movement, but puts more strain on your wrists.
Fingertip Grip: The most agile grip also puts the most strain on your wrists. Fingertip grip, as the name implies, involves guiding the mouse with only your fingertips—no palm contact at all.
Generally, a mouse that works for a Claw grip will work for a Fingertip grip. The main distinction is between Palm and Claw grips.
Other things we consider
Button count: You’ll pretty much never find a three-button gaming mouse. Even the budget-friendly devices we’ve tested have five to ten buttons. The award for “Most Buttons” still goes to the Roccat Tyon, with 14.
Sensor: Dots per inch, or dpi, is a measure of how many pixels the mouse moves on-screen per each inch of desk you move it across. Some people prefer to make large, sweeping motions with a lot of precision, necessitating a low dpi. Others want fast, jerky motions that start and stop on a dime—high dpi. The latter group will want to pay particular attention to each mouse’s limit.
At this point, the dpi arms race has become largely meaningless. Manufacturers push numbers that are so high as to be impractical for most people’s day-to-day use. Is that 16,000-dpi mouse actually more useful to you than the 12,000-dpi mouse? Probably not.
Shape: There are three main categories here, too: right-handed, left-handed, and ambidextrous.
We’ve looked at right-handed and ambidextrous mice because our testers here are right-handed. Some right-handed mice (such as the DeathAdder) have left-handed variants, but these are a rarity. Most southpaws will probably end up with an ambidextrous mouse, like the G-Skill Ripjaw MX780 or the Razer Diamondback.
Let’s get to it. We’ll keep updating this story with new products, too, so let us know if we’ve missed a personal favorite—we’ll try to get it in for testing.