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Optical vs Laser Mice

Author:  Artiom Bell
Date:  2008.04.07
Topic:  Hardware
Provider:  Razer
Manufacturer:  Tagan

Optical vs. Laser Showdown

All Mice are Not Created Equal:

A Mouse is a Mouse Right? Since the dawn of time, well at least since the invention of optical mice there has been much controversy over which one is better: mechanical or optical. People argued that optical mice were way too expensive, no one needed so much precision, and above all, just that there was no need to bother getting one. Nevertheless optical mice won that war, hence most computers we would see in a store today come with an optical mouse as a standard.

Now we face another revolution in computing precision: optical vs laser? Here, the die hard users are asking the same questions. Is laser better? Do you need that much precision? Why are they so expensive? Why bother getting one if the one I have works well enough? The answer to all these questions is yes it is true that currently there are not many needs that specifically call for laser mice, however, that also holds true for the optical mice when compared to the standard mechanical ones.

The Optics Behind Optical Mice.

The reason why optical mice are called optical is because they use light to detect movement. The light is produced by a light emitting diode otherwise know as a light emitting element. Basically when electricity is pumped into this element, it excites the electrons into higher orbits. When electrons come back to their original orbits, they emit energy in form of light. This process happens over and over again billions of times per second, so the result is a steady beam of light. What happens when you operate an optical mouse is that the mouse itself uses that light to take pictures of whatever it is sitting on. It then tracks the location of the pointer on the screen based on the relative position of the new image compared to the old one. The reason why most mice use red light is because it the lowest wavelength in the visible spectrum. Higher wavelengths would consume more energy as well as produce extreme amounts of heat. This means the higher the frequency, the smaller the wavelength; thereby more exact the beam would be. The frequency is inversely proportional to wavelength. If we would pick green light instead of red for optical mice we would get ridiculous amounts of precision in the 10000- 20000 DPI range.

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