By Cooler Master Staff • September 15, 2014
Sensors: Optical, Laser, Triple Helicopter Photon Emitter (ok, we made up that one)… Mouse sensor technology can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to choose between. CM University has assembled these often foreign concepts into easy to digest explanations below so that can turn your focus back to tailoring your computing experience fitting your needs.
Optical sensors offer users a constant stream of tracking data to detect movement relative to a surface image. There are precision benefits to this, as there is no re-calibration done when the mouse is lifted up, keeping a consistent feel to movement in gaming. However, optical sensors are much more reliant on surfaces due to the LED used to track movement. In other words, using an optical LED on your couch or leg probably isn’t going to give you the best tracking; CM Storm gaming surfaces would be the optimal choice.
Designed for precision, laser sensors are able to track and accurately report mouse movement on practically any surface available to you. Laser sensors allow for higher DPI settings which translates into much more precise tracking. Primarily pro gamers or computer artists are able to benefit from these extreme sensitivities provided, in that often times they need to move slightly to aim at that enemy from afar or work on very fine graphical details within a project.
Single Lens and Dual Lens
A mouse sensor typically comes with a single lens to view the LED or laser so the mouse can track movements. Some mice have come out with two lenses, which conceptually is more accurate in tracking the mouse movement thanks to depth perception, but can lead to erratic movements if something were to obstruct one of the lenses.
Dual lens sensors allow independent control of your X and Y axis for total control of your movement in games. An example would be that you can increase or decrease your Y axis sensitivity to compensate for recoil while maintaining your normal horizontal movement.
Common Terms Demystified
CPI aka DPI
DPI stands for Dots per Inch. It’s a measurement of particle density commonly seen in printing. It’s taken a place in computing primarily for monitors and input devices as a measurement for resolution compared to physical space. On that note, DPI is not a 100% correct term to use for mice and computing. This is where CPI, or Counts per Inch comes into play. For mice, it’s a measurement of how many counts, or steps, the mouse will track per inch of movement. The higher the CPI/DPI, the further your cursor will travel for every inch you move the actual mouse. If your mouse is set to 1600 DPI, the mouse will clear the height of your 1080p display in less than an inch of mouse movement, but it won’t quite make it across the 1920 pixel width in an inch. It will go 1600 pixels in that inch.
But isn’t that just my mouse sensitivity?
Almost. Sensitivity is a multiplier that’s applied to the DPI of the mouse through the software being used. The above scenario would only work as explained at a sensitivity setting of 1 (which is notch #6 in the Windows settings, by the way). A sensitivity of 2 would have a 1600 DPI mouse moving the cursor 3200 pixels in an inch of mouse movement. A 0.25 sensitivity would mean 400 pixels per inch.
So… why not just up my sensitivity instead of getting a higher DPI mouse?
Remember, it’s a multiplier. That means instead of going every one pixel, you’re going every two, three, or some rounded up number based on the collected decimal amounts. In short, sensitivity adjustment can lead to the mouse losing precision. If you want to hit pixel #3, but you’re on a sensitivity of 2, your cursor will be moving to pixels 2 and 4. Bringing it down to 1 means hitting every pixel, and any lower could additively skip a few every so often as the decimals add and round up or down.
This one comes under a few names: angle snapping, angle prediction, and a few unique names that various manufacturers use. Not all mice come with angle snapping capability and there’s no right answer to it being a good thing or not. Angle snapping is where the mouse sensor tries to predict your movement and smooth out the path you’re travelling to with the mouse by ignoring a few degrees of movement in some other direction. The common way to view angle snapping in action is to open up Paint software and try drawing a horizontal or vertical straight line. With angle snapping, your line will typically come out a lot more smooth than a mouse without angle snapping, since the line will draw all of those slight movements.
In games, angle snapping can help you track your opponent as he runs across the field, keeping you scoped on the head and not sinking below or rising above. For those who like to do the “twitch” or “flick” firing gameplay style, angle snapping can make sure the line drawn to the target is straight.
On the flipside, many people would rather the raw input that angle snapping actively prevents. If you’re tracking that same guy across the field (you should probably fire already, but whatever you want to do), he may go up a small slope or down from a curb to a street level. Angle snapping may give some latency to how quickly you can respond to the sudden vertical change to your horizontal tracking.
Much like Angle Snapping, mouse acceleration is a touchy subject with some people. In short, mouse acceleration increases or decreases the cursor speed based on how fast the house is being moved. With mouse acceleration, If you were to move the mouse really slowly over a certain distance, the cursor would move one distance. If you moved that distance quickly, it would go much further.
Turning off mouse acceleration will mean that no matter how slow or fast you move the mouse, it will travel the same distance. Note that there are laser mice sensors that have mouse acceleration has a hardware function and are unable to be deactivated. Unless you’re going over the FPS or IPS speeds.
FPS and IPS
FPS is known as Frames Per Second in longform. In a mouse sensor, the FPS is the amount of frames the sensor is capturing every second to track distance being travelled. It has a strong relation to IPS below in regards to what it means in terms of performance.
Also referred to as the malfunction speed: IPS, or inches per second, refers to the mouse’s capability to keep up with physically high speed movements. A mouse can only process so much information at a time. When making a large and fast movement with a mouse, the computer may lose some of that tracking information. This means that if you moved 8 inches over really, really quickly, the tracking response or cursor likely won’t move as far as if you moved the same 8 inches slowly.
Note that this works opposite of mouse acceleration. IPS loss is much more common when mouse acceleration is off, though. IPS loss will occur more for low sensitivity users who have to move the mouse over long distances really quickly and the mouse acceleration isn’t on to support that high speed movement.
This gets mentioned less and less as technology improves, but polling rate is still something to take note of. The polling rate is the rate, measured in Hertz, at which the computer requests data from the mouse. Much like IPS, the polling rate can be the cause of lost movement tracking data when moving the mouse at high speeds. While most people stick to 500Hz or 1000Hz for high performance, a standard mouse runs around 125Hz.
Lift off distance isn’t rocket science, no matter how much that name makes you think so. Lift off distance is the point which the optical or laser sensor stop tracking for the cursor when the mouse is removed from the surface you’re working on. If you’re a low DPI or low sensitivity player, you have probably hit the edge of your CM Storm Power-RX surface, making you pick up the mouse to recenter it to get back into the action.
Your typical mouse will have a pretty high LOD, like one or two centimeters. Your quality gaming mouse will have an LOD of 3 millimeters or below. After that height, the mouse sensor will stop reporting to the computer, allowing you to freely move your mouse back to the mousepad without shifting the cursor. In short, the lower the LOD, the better.
LED and RGB
LED stands for Light Emitting Diode and in an optical mouse, that’s what makes the little red glow under and around the mouse. The sensor of an LED optical mouse uses the LED light to track the movement of the mouse. LEDs also provide style and backlighting for buttons.
RGB refers to a color model consisting of Red, Green, and Blue. In terms of mice, an RGB system usually refers to a mouse that can change the colors on it to change up your style. The CM Storm Recon mouse, for example, allows you to change the glow colors on the top of the mouse to red, green, or blue glows.
Microcontroller or MCU
Mice typically have a small circuit board inside to handle connection between its inputs and the computer. Some are more complex than others, leading to microcontrollers, which are basically specialized miniature computers. More robust mice will have more complex microcontrollers to handle things like stored profiles and DPI settings, for example.
Now that you have an idea of all the differences between mouse sensors, you’re probably asking, “What mouse should I get?” Lucky for you, Cooler Master has a wide variety of gaming mice under the CM Storm line that could fit your needs.