Mouse Buying Guide
The Computer mouse has come quite a lo...
Mouse Buying Guide
The Computer mouse has come quite a long way since it's first inception in the early 1960s, but it really wasn't until the early 80's that mice become a common user interface part of the computer system. Since that time it has been an ever evolving creature with new features being added all of the time, but no one yet has actually developed something that will truly replace the mouse as the interface of choice for most users. People have tried to reinvent it but have ultimately failed as it is almost he perfect product for easily interfacing with your computer.
To me a computer mouse is tied in importance with my keyboard in respect to quality and comfort, if you use a computer often you owe it to yourself to have a good quality mouse at your desktop; it can truly make the difference between an enjoyable experience and one that feels like a chore.
Types of Mice on the Market Today:
There are several types of mice popular on the market today, some are niche types that fill a specific gap or need in the market like the gaming mouse, but mice can be broken down into three basic categories by the type of sensors they use.
Mechanical Mice or more commonly referred to as 'ball mice' were one of the first types of mice on the market, these used a rotating ball underneath that slide across your desk and inside the mouse are two rollers that sense movement of the X and Y axis of the mouse, this then tells the computer which way the user is moving. The ball mice has mostly died off because of much better options like the optical and laser versions, but you can still find these shipping today with some computer systems, and they are still available for purchase many places. One of the main drawbacks of these mice are their ability to attract dirt, the dirt, dust etc gets stuck to the ball and then transferred to the roller sensors which in turn degrades the performance of the mouse.
Optical Mice are probably the most popular type on the market today, these offer much better performance, speed and accuracy over the mechanical mouse. Optical mice use an LED, or light emitting diode to illuminate the surface under the mouse allowing an optical sensor to take a picture of the surface that the mouse is on, it can then figure out which direction the mouse is heading and send that information to the computer. Of course this all happens in milliseconds with the help of the on-board optical processor. With optical mice though there are varying degrees of quality, and some are much better than others in terms of accuracy, speed and performance, in most cases with optical mice you truly get what you pay for. It's always better to trust a name brand manufacturer if you want a mouse that performs well.
Laser Mice use an infrared laser diode instead of the LED that optical mice use, this allows them to be much more responsive, quicker and more accurate than optical mice. Laser style mice are becoming more and more popular as cost of the technology decreases over time and will possibly replace the optical mouse one day in popularity. Laser mice also have the advantage of decreased power usage over their optical counterparts.
Sub-Categories of Mice:
3d Mice can be wired or not wired and they can also be broken down into sub-categories as well. Some 3d mice come equipped with additional mini-joystick or buttons that control the all the axis, or what is referred to as 'six degrees of freedom'. Some 3d mice can be used in the air and have sensors inside of them called accelerometers that tell the computer which way the person is moving on the X, Y, or Z axis. This style of mouse is more professional oriented but has become slightly common in gaming as well.
Gaming Mice are mice that are specialized to offer more control to the gamer, professional and non-professional alike. These mice can include many buttons for activating in game features or macros, and they can have adjustable sensitivity levels as well as some that even come with adjustable weight packs. These can also be wired or not wired, but the majority of gamers out there today prefer the wired version over the cordless variety for the faster response times.
Trackballs are basically an inverted mechanical mouse, or at least they started out that way, they now come in the optical and laser varieties as well. A trackball style mouse has a large ball on the top that the user can rest his hand on, moving it all different ways to control the direction of the cursor on the screen. Some mice and even keyboard comes with small trackballs built-into them to facilitate ease of use and quick movements.
The most common mouse today comes with three buttons, right, left and a center scroll wheel that can sometimes act as a third button, but it doesn't end there, depending on the mouse you get you could have upwards of ten buttons on it to do specialized things in gaming and applications.
Cordless versus Corded mice?
There was a time when a cordless mouse was more of a novelty item, but as technology progressed the cordless mouse has become just as good as the corded version in most respects.
There are some people though who will prefer on over the other as they say they can fell the differences or the lag time in the time it takes the mouse and receiver to communicate to each other.
With cordless mice though it's the same as most any mouse, 'you get what you pay for', don't expect an inexpensive cordless mouse to be fast, track accurately and perform as good as a corded one does. It's well worth it to spend the extra money and get a quality, well known and respected brand of mouse.
The Mouse Interface:
The mouse was first connected to the computer via the serial port or RS-232 style interface, this type of connection is very hard to find these days and basically obsolete, the main problem with this style of interface was that, like most new technologies, a standard could not be decided upon and compatibility problems arose.
Along came the PS/2 interface which is still very common and in widespread use today, it has enjoyed being the standard interface for the mouse for many years, but is becoming less and less common in favor of a USB connection. Some computers today will actually come without PS/2 style connections at all for either the mouse or keyboard.
The USB interface, or Universal Serial Bus, is quickly becoming the standard and preferred interface for mice and many other products or peripherals today. The main reasons being speed and versatility, also with a USB connection you can get power from it for the mouse or other product to include additional features that could not be supported or powered with a PS/2 port. The speed of the USB port allows for much faster, and essentially more powerful mice, it allows the processors on-board of the mice to send data very quickly to the computer to eliminate virtually all lag between the users movements and the computer.
Apple Computers, up until recently, even had their own proprietary interface for mice, but have since adopted the USB interface as well.
My advice on buying a mouse is to find one that you are comfortable with using for long periods of time and one that offers the features and performance you specifically need or require. Mice today come in many shapes and sizes, and with all sorts of options to choose from, it's up to you to narrow it down to figure out what you want in your mouse, after all it is essentially an extension of you.
The size of the mouse is also an important aspect in comfort, if the mouse you are using is too large it will be uncomfortable to use for long periods of time and could possibly strain your wrist over the long term. Make sure you get a mouse that fits comfortably in your hand, your hand should rest on it naturally, the mouse should fit comfortably in the 'cup' of you hand, if it doesn't then it's too big for you.
The next piece of advice would have to be 'don't be cheap' when purchasing a mouse, you will regret it in the long run. There are many, many manufacturers of mice in the world today but only a few that make a quality mouse that can offer good performance and longevity of use. It might seem like a great deal to buy that cheap optical or laser mouse, but there's a reason it's inexpensive, it has inferior parts inside of it, it cannot offer the performance and accuracy that a good mouse will. Many people take mice for granted, but they shouldn't, the mouse is an integral part of the computing experience.
Sites like Testfreaks and other product review related websites can help you make an informed decision when buying a mouse, no matter the kind you are looking for. These sites can help you learn the pros and cons of a mouse you might be interested in.
Author: Kristofer Brozio
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