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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

What is L.A.S.E.R.?

The term itself is actually not a word but an acronym consisting of the first letters of the term "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation ". The radiation emitted from the mouse will not harm a regular person, however it should never be pointed in they eye as it can cause blindness. Laser mice produce beams that are much more concentrated and narrow with a higher frequency than that of an optical mice. Because of the laws of physics, the energy of a laser is much higher than the energy of light that is emitted by optical light, which serves further increases the precision of the laser mouse.


Even though it it nice to know about the whole concept behind the laser and optical mice, unfortunately the world we live in does not rate things in wavelengths. If you were to go into any store, you would never find something like "Get the latest laser mouse rated at 100 micrometers (um)." That is just not going to happen. Instead what you might find is a bunch of specifications on what kind of buttons are available on the mouse and a number with "DPI" at the end. DPI, or dots per square inch, is exactly what it sounds: the number of dots you could fit into a square inch.". Latest laser mice have as much as 4000 DPI, while typical standard optical mice have up to 1000 DPI.

Lets find out the what the difference is in wavelength. Since wavelengths are measured in centimeters, I am going to be using centimeters. An inch is 2.54 centimeters (cm) big. A square inch would be 6.45 cm. If we divide 6.45 by 4000 we would get the wavelength of the laser that is being used in this mouse. This wavelength happens to be 160 um while the optical at 1000 DPI mouse falls at 645 um. As seen by this calculations the laser mice are much more precise.

Advantages of Laser Mice

This precision carries over into the effectiveness of the mouse. Because this mouse is so precise, it is not affected by the changes in colors and textures. Laser mice can be used on many more surfaces that optical mice can not be used at. Laser mice are also more efficient in terms of power consumption. While that is not important for people using corded mice, those who like being wireless would appreciate longer battery lifetime of the mouse.


Laser mice provide significant advantages to those using regular mice in terms of sensitivity and versatility, but is it really worth the extra 20-40 bucks? That would depend on what you are using the mouse for. 4000 DPI, or even 2000 DPI, while great to have, is way too sensitive every day normal computer use. If you are a gamer or a graphics designer, that may be a different story, that extra sensitivity could mean that you get that head shot from across the map in Call of Duty 4. Most laser mice are considered for gamers, however, most do come with the option of dialing down the sensitivity of the mouse for other non-gaming uses. This of course doesn't mention all of the other uses that you can get out of the all the extra buttons and all the other features that come with laser mice that you would generally find on the optical ones. So, if you have an extra 20 - 40 dollars to spare, why not go for the best of the both worlds and get a nice laser mouse with a dial down feature?

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