The mouse is a simple tool: point and click. That’s it. But if you’re a PC gamer, you know that pushing virtual paper around on your desktop isn’t the same as fragging bots and shooting zombies. (Not even remotely.)
Gaming mouse cheat sheet
Our quick-hit recommendations:
- Best general-purpose gaming mouse:Logitech G502 Hero[amazon.com]
- Best wireless gaming mouse:Logitech Powerplay Wireless Charging System[amazon.com]
- Best gaming mouse for travel:Logitech G603[amazon.com]
- Best gaming mouse with lots of buttons:Roccat Tyon[amazon.com]
- Best gaming mouse for large hands:Mionix NAOS 7000[bestbuy.com]
What’s more, picking the right gaming mouse is an intensely personal decision. Every little detail—its overall shape and size, the shape and placement its buttons, its cable (or lack thereof), its weight, its materials—can change how you feel about it. More than any other peripheral, a mouse is the hardest to recommend, because there is no objectively 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.
Updated 11/30/18 to include our review of the Razer Mamba Wireless gaming mouse. This 2018 iteration focuses on the fundamentals and gets it right. See the bottom of this article for all of our gaming mice reviews.
Best general-purpose gaming mouse
Some iteration of Logitech’s G502 mouse has been on this list ever since it first released back in 2014, and for good reason. It’s still, four years on, one of the most comfortable mice I’ve ever used. It also packs a ton of buttons in smart places, with three thumb buttons, two more arrayed along the side of the standard left mouse button, and a tilt wheel. That wheel also switches between notched and smooth navigation modes, while the bottom pops off to accommodate five 3.6 gram weights—although you might not need them, given that the G502 already weighs 121 grams to start with. The hefty weight is the sole complaint I’ve seen leveled against the G502, breaching the magic 100 gram standard prefered by some FPS players. Personally I like a heavier mouse, so to each their own.
The latest overhaul is 2018’s G502 Hero ($80 on Amazon), so named for the sensor inside. Logitech’s replaced the beloved PWM3366 with its new flagship Hero sensor, designed to mimic the top-tier performance of its predecessor while being slightly more power efficient. That latter point doesn’t matter much here because...well, it’s a wired mouse. Hero is excellent though, seemingly just as precise as its forbear, so there’s really no downside in buying the latest version—especially since the G502 Hero also adds Omron switches, rated for 50 million clicks (as opposed to 20 million on the former model). The slimmer cable is a welcome improvement as well, less prone to kinks or gathering dust.
That’s it, really! Not much changed for 2018, but not much had to. Here’s to four more years of G502 dominance.
Best wireless gaming mouse
This is a first for PCWorld. We’ve never (at least as long as I’ve been here) recommended a wireless mouse for gaming purposes. Why? Well, a couple reasons. Latency, interference, reliance on batteries—they’ve all been problems in the past.
But the future is here, provided you have a few hundred dollars on hand. Logitech’s new Powerplay technology is revolutionary, allowing you to charge your wireless mouse while you’re using it—without wires. By building inductive charging (similar to that used in phones) into a mouse pad ($100 on Amazon), Logitech is able to trickle-charge compatible mice even as you move them around.
It works! And it’s turned me, a pry-the-wires-from-my-dead-hands skeptic, into a wireless believer. I’ve been using Powerplay for a few months now and have never seen a mouse dip below 85 percent charge. No more scrambling for a charging cable mid-game because I forgot to plug my mouse in the night before.
The catch: Only two mice are currently compatible with Powerplay. The G703, at $100 (or $93 on Amazon), is the lower-end option, with a familiar scooped shape, five-button setup (and a DPI cycler), and Logitech’s beloved PWM3366 sensor. The G903 keeps the PWM3366, but opts for an ambidextrous shape, better feet (for a smoother glide), a dual-mode mouse wheel (clunky or smooth), and a few extra buttons—for $50 more (or currently, $127 on Amazon).
If you’re more a fan of Razer’s mice, it might also be worth checking out the Mamba Hyperflux and Firefly Hyperflux combo. The conceit is the same. It’s a wireless mouse that you don’t need to worry about charging. Razer’s implementation is even more futuristic though—the Mamba Hyperflux is a wireless mouse without a battery.
Instead the Mamba Hyperflux is powered directly from the Firefly Hyperflux mouse pad, with a capacitor in the mouse storing about 20 seconds of charge—enough to lift and adjust the mouse, but not a battery in the usual sense.
And it works! Mostly. There are some drawbacks. For one, it’s not very portable. No battery means your fancy wireless mouse has to go wired whenever you’re away from your desk. The charging field also doesn’t cover the entire mouse pad, and I occasionally ran in to issues where I moved the mouse to the corner, left it while watching a YouTube video, and came back a minute or two later to find the mouse dead. It takes upwards of five seconds for the mouse to reconnect after a full shutdown, which can be annoying.
At $250, it’s more expensive than Logitech’s Powerplay mouse pad with a G703. So yeah, mostly drawbacks here and Logitech still has the stronger overall system. As I said though, if you’re a fan of Razer’s mice this is a perfectly workable alternative. (Read the full review.)
Best gaming mouse for travel
For years, I threw any old wired mouse into my bag for trips, but these days I stick with Logitech’s G603. Mimicking the G403 and G703’s scooped shape, the G603 nevertheless manages to squeeze two AA batteries under the single-piece removable lid that doubles as its left and right mouse buttons. It’s a slick bit of engineering, as long as it can stay reliable long-term.
That said, the G603 manages 500 hours off those two AA batteries thanks to Logitech’s proprietary HERO sensor, designed to match the performance of the famed PWM3366 sensor without draining as much battery.
This is one of the highest-performing wireless mice I’ve ever used, and you’ll never need to recharge it while on the road. If you travel a lot, toss one of these in your bag for those hotel room gaming sessions. (Read our full review.)
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, the Roccat Tyon will serve you well.
With 12 buttons and an analog paddle, the Tyon is 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. (Read the full review.)
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. (Read the full review.)
How we evaluate mice
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.
Button count: You’ll pretty much never find a three-button gaming mouse. Even the budget-friendly devices we’ve tested have five to 10 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.
Best gaming mouse: All of our reviews
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.