Laser vs Optical Mouse For Gaming – The Difference? (Jan. 2018)


One of the prime specifications you should look for when buying the best gaming mouse for you is sensors. Sensors play a significant role in any gaming mouse and many times the type of sensor used is one of the factors that decide the performance of the mouse. Most gaming mice today are advertised as either optical and gaming mice and the common myth is that an optical mouse sensor is always better than a laser one.  Although largely true, does it mean you should go for an optical mouse without even a tad bit of research? No. Let us break down to you the difference (even though minor) between these two sensors that gives rise to the laser vs optical mouse argument.

laser vs optical mouse
Mouse sensor illuminating red light

Let us start with an overview of each of the sensor.

What is an Optical Mouse Sensor?

An optical mouse sensor works with the help of a light-emitting diode (LED) to track movements on the surface of the gaming mouse. The sensor detects relative movement on a surface and this it renders in the cursor movement on the monitor screen.

To elaborate in detail, an optical sensor uses complementary metal–oxide semiconductor (CMOS). CMOS has active pixel sensors that capture about one thousand images one or more per second one after the other. Each image will differ from the previously captured image by pixels. It is proportional to how fast you move your mouse.

What is a Laser Mouse Sensor?

In place of an LED to illuminate the surface and detect movement, a Laser mouse uses an infrared laser diode.  This surface tracking by Laser mouse is better than that done by an optical mouse sensor. Hence, it tracks more DPI (dots per inch) on surfaces like glass planes, but lags behind an optical mouse which is on a mousepad.

The Razer Naga gaming mice have laser sensors.

Being the newer technology and having a higher DPI, one would only assume Laser is the better sensor. The answer is, no.

Laser Vs Optical Mouse

Let us compare laser vs optical mouse.

In respect to tracking relative movements on the surface, the two sensors differ and the laser vs optical mouse question arises. But remember that this tracking varies with surfaces. So where does one sensor defeat the other? The answer is accuracy. The laser sensors have a very high DPI, but the optical mouse sensor has a higher perfect tracking speed than a laser one. This is because variation in tracking speeds for a laser mouse is about five percent or more, while for an optical mouse it is less than one. Thus, reliability is another factor where a laser mouse loses to an optical mouse.

Another point to note is that the laser sensors have an inconsistent acceleration. Consistency is one of the key factors in gaming. I mentioned on the Best Gaming Mouse Guide page about acceleration in detail.

Laser mouse users often complain about the buzzing noise their mouse makes while gaming. This is because the laser mouse sensors pick up too much noise in their image as they track the mousing surface and relative movement.  When you move a mouse, there’s only one right direction for the sensor to read. This is the direction you are currently moving along. The reason the sensor buzzes or rings because of slight deviations in the one direction movement, for example if you move the mouse to the right or left.

Another advantage of an optical mouse over a laser mouse is the price. An optical mouse is almost always cheaper than a laser one.

An optical mouse has a low polling rate as compared to a laser mouse. The polling rate of a mouse is the frequency with which it reports a computer its postion. A polling rate of 500 Hz means that it is reporting its position to the computer 500 times per second. A higher polling rate is good as it means less lag in the cursor’s movement as you move the mouse. This might be the specification where a laser mouse has an advantage over optical mouse. However, it is important to note that a higher polling rate also means that the mouse uses more CPU resources.

A mouse that is very precise and has no lagging, stuttering or other inconsistencies at high DPI values should be any high sensitivity gamer’s priority. This is where optical mouse is perfect for you.

Recommended gaming mouse –

You have probably heard of the Logitech G502. It remains one of the top-rated gaming mice in the world.


The following Slideshare image pretty much distinguishes the two mouse sensors.

laser vs optical mouse for gaming
Slideshare Source

The answer?

MyGamingMouse’s answer to the much-debated laser vs optical mouse query is an optical mouse. An optical mouse is better than a laser one, and to those who game for like once a month, the difference is negligible. But for someone who games everyday, the sensor plays a significant role. For this, we recommend an optical mouse.

When and where to use a laser mouse?

If the conventional mouse pad is not quite the surface for your mouse and you have to use various surfaces or just like them, you should go for a laser mouse.

Where to next?

If you have been thinking of buying a gaming mouse and want it to be the best one for you (one of the reasons you would look for the laser vs optical mouse differences and read till the end of this post), you should consider other categories and narrow them down to what suits you the best.

For starters,