If you're going to play games on a PC, you could take the easy option and buy a controller. But the experts say that the best way to do things is with a mouse. Unfortunately there are lots of mice out there, but which one should you buy? A cheap mouse might do, but if you want to do things properly you should buy a gaming mouse. We put several of them to the test, and this is what we found.
There's only one way you can test gaming hardware, and that's to actually play some games. I know, what a shame. Obviously when you buy some hardware you want to make sure it actually works the way you need, so the majority of the testing will involve playing PC games and making sure everything plays well together.
The important thing to note is that I won't be looking at these from technical perspective, so don't expect the testing to involve looking at tiny little details that human beings can't even register. My focus will be from a casual perspective, making sure these mice perform as advertised and don't cause any issues through use.
Specifics include making sure there's no lag, or any other issues in actually using the games to play (aside from the less-than-perfect human reaction time), ensuring that they're comfortable, and so on. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to playing video games, especially on PC, so these mice will be penalised if they skip out on any customisation options. For example, should one mouse skip something like creating multiple customisable profiles, it won't hold up as well against one that does.
I'll also be looking at what each mouse has to offer, including the option to change the mouse sensitivity (and how high it will go), programmable macros, extra customisable buttons, customisation of the hardware itself, and so on. Of course I'll be making note of any unique features that would help set each mouse apart, and what type of sensor each one has. There are extra advantages to having a laser sensor, compared to an optical sensor, though casual users are less likely to experience much difference.
As any PC gamer well knows, gaming mice are not all uniformly designed. Many of them are specifically designed for different gameplay types, so I'll be playing through a number of different games to see how everything comes together. I'll be playing through an MMO (The Elder Scrolls Online), a first person shooter (Left 4 Dead 2), a MOBA (Dota 2), an RTS (Age of Empires 2), and Just Cause 2. Why? Just 'cause. But in all seriousness, Just Cause 2 can throw a lot of random things at you. If a mouse can handle that then it should be able to handle everything.
Final rankings will be based on a mix of all these aspects, along with how I felt each mouse performed during extended gameplay sessions.
First Place: Razer Naga Hex V2, £80
While it's not quite as ergonomic as the Deathadder Chroma, it's clear that ergonomics were in Razer's mind when they developed the Naga Hex V2. There aren't as many curves or handholds here, but it manages to keep your hand in position thanks to a single groove for the ring finger. Resting your finger there means it's impossible not to position your hand properly, which is always a good thing over the course of extended use. The only downside to this is that anyone used to using the claw grip (or using their middle finger on the scroll wheel) is going to find the V2 takes some getting used to.
Buttons-wise the V2 has a few extra additions compared to the other mice tested. In addition to the usual three-button mouse combo, there are seven thumb keys (as opposed to the usual 2-3), and an extra button below the DPI cycler. As you would expect, all of these are customisable much like every other mouse I looked at. That said, like the Chroma and the Logitech, the left mouse button is locked and cannot be customised. Illumination is completely standard, letting you alter the colour of the Razer logo and the light surrounding the scroll-wheel.
One major thing to point out with the customisation is that the V2 has eight separate keymap configurations per profile. Essentially this means you have up to 112 custom buttons available to you on the fly. That's assuming you dedicate one of the buttons to cycling through all eight, otherwise you just have the standard 15. I like this little touch, since it means the V2 has the most custom buttons of any mouse I tested. Acclimatising yourself to the layout is also nowhere near as complicated as MadCatz's MMO TE.
Sensitivity levels are pretty standard, with five different stages to customise between 100 and 16,000 DPI. That's pretty damn high. And if having higher mouse sensitivity is incredibly important to you, the V2 probably has what you need. All that comes from the built-in laser sensor.
As you would expect from an ergonomically designed mouse, the V2 was incredibly comfortable and lovely to use – even for long periods of time. Couple that with the fact that it's incredibly light (though not as light as the Chroma), means it requires barely any effort to use. That's exactly what any gamer should want, since it means they can concentrate on what's happening on-screen rather than worrying about what their hand is doing.
That said, like the MMO TE the extra buttons do take some getting used to, though its worth pointing out that the V2's button layout is nowhere near as complicated as what MadCatz had on offer. I feel as though the thumb buttons could have done with some sort of raised braille-like surface to help you differentiate without looking. Instead you just have to memorise where each button is in relation to your thumb. It's not that problematic, but it does take time.
But those buttons do make specific game-types easier to handle, and take the strain away from whatever keyboard you're using. If you're using a very button-heavy game, Elite Dangerous comes to mind, you might be better off picking something else, but for the most part the V2 has more than is necessary. MOBA and MMO players will love it, and those of you playing other games will get some good use out of the programmable buttons. For example, I found that firing off the grappling hook in Just Cause 2 is much easier with a mouse, even though using the keyboard wasn't exactly problematic.
Like the Deathadder Chroma, the V2's biggest let-down is the fact that Razer Synapse is just dreadful. It's an annoying glitchy piece of software, and the fact that there's no option for locally stored profiles makes it that much worse.
The V2 comes out on top because it's got the perfect mix of features and functionality, making it an excellent all-rounder. It's got a ridiculous number of on-the-fly button configurations you can cycle through, it's light, comfortable, and offers some great performance. [Buy it here]
Second Place: Steel Series Rival 700, £86
At first glance the Steel Series Rival 700 looks like a fairly typical mouse, and in many ways it is. It's got your standard three-button set-up, a button for cycling through sensitivity profiles, and thumb buttons. Unlike some mice, however, it also packs in a third thumb mouse and an OLED display.
As you would expect, downloading Steel Series' customisation software lets you change what all of these buttons do, as well as configuring up to five different profiles to suit your purposes. But that's not all. There's also a macro editor, the option to fiddle with all the little technical details that affect how your mouse and PC communicate, and the obvious sensitivity customisation.
Unlike some mice which have more on offer, the Rival 700 only seems to have two sensitivity profiles for you to work with. So if you're the kind of person that scrolls through different levels as you play a single game, this might be an issue. If you're like me, it probably doesn't matter all that much. DPI is set at 800 and 1,600 by default, though it can be customised anywhere between 100 and 16,000.
The interesting thing about the Rival 700 is that not only are all your buttons customisable, the hardware is as well. There's not much you can do, really, but if you're not happy with the backplate or the optical sensor, you can swap them out. There aren't a whole lot of options available to you, but you can get a laser module and one of two different back plates (glossy and anti-sweat) and mix things up a bit. It's also possible to download the plans the the mouse's rubber nameplate, so you can 3D print a custom one.
What really sets the Rival 700 apart is the inclusion of tactile/haptic feedback in your games. This is a programmable setting compatible with three games (Counter-Strike: GO, DOTA 2, and Minecraft). Using DOTA 2 as an example, since I was playing it, you can use the mouse's haptic feedback to buzz when certain conditions are met. So say one of your abilities is cooling down, you can set up the feedback to buzz a certain way at certain points. Halfway through you get a short buzz, when it's done you get a longer buzz, that sort of thing.
These three games also let you take advantage of the OLED display on the side of the Rival 700, showing you various bits of in-game information. Again this is customisable, and what's displayed changes based on pre-set events that take place in the game. The same goes for illumination, with the Rival 700 letting you take pre-program what colour light the mouse throws at you based on certain parameters. It's not quite the same as haptic feedback, but it's information that's easily recognisable at a glance.
So if you're big players of these three games in particular, the Rival 700 has something you can take advantage of.
The mouse itself feels a bit big at first, until you actually start using it. As a fairly big-handed person, it was pretty comfortable, but I can see people with smaller hands struggling to deal with the third thumb button. Naturally, extended gaming sessions caused the usual problems but there was nothing out of the ordinary for me. It's painless to use, really, and it's responsive enough to ensure you manage to get everything done the way the developers intended.
Of course, even though there's an extra button that most mice don't include, this isn't going to be as appealing to anyone hoping to map a lot of commands to a single hand. But, if you're big on CS:GO, DOTA 2, or Minecraft it does offer some extra functionality to enhance your experience.
The inherent customisability is why the Rival 700 scores so highly. You're not stuck with the hardware that arrives in the box, if you're willing to pay for the extras that is. Plus you have the OLED display that can be used to personalise the mouse or help you during gameplay, which is always beneficial. While the haptic feedback is limited at the moment, it's a great feature that could easily be expanded upon in the future. [Buy it here]
=Third Place: Logitech G Pro Gaming Mouse, £60
This is a very basic mouse, not too dissimilar in appearance to pretty much every non-gaming mouse you can buy these days. It has the usual three buttons you'd expect, a scroll wheel, the back and forward thumb buttons, and one for changing sensitivity. As you should expect for a gaming device, most of these defaults can be completely changed (the left and right buttons are the obvious exceptions). As can the colour and effect for the lights at the back of the mouse.
It has four sensitivity settings by default which can be changed by clicking the button behind the scroll wheel, with default sensitivity ranging from 400 to 3200 DPI by default. Of course you're not stuck with this, and you can set the sensitivity anywhere between 200 and 12,000 DPI, with the option of changing the number of sensitivity levels (the maximum is five).
Naturally you can record new macros for the customisable buttons, and you can assign multiple different commands to make it suit your purposes. The profile system is a little bit different, however. Rather than having set profiles that you activate manually, this mouse ties them into specific bits of software. So customising buttons for Left 4 Dead 2, means those new configurations will revert to the defaults in a different piece of software. This feature isn't restricted to gaming software, either, and if you want specific buttons to do specific things in, say, Photoshop or Microsoft Office, then that's more than possible.
The problem is that, because profiles are tied to specific bits of software, you have a single profile to play around with and that's it. If you want a mouse that has multiple profiles you can flick through on the fly, this is not the one for you.
There's not much to say comfort-wise. It looks like a mouse and it feels like a mouse. I did experience some hand cramping at points, but nothing so serious it would force me to write it off. Thankfully it doesn't really matter how you hold the thing, since tapping anywhere on the main buttons will register a click, even if it's right at the very back of the button. Some cheap mice don't offer this, so it's a case of finding which hand position is comfortable for you, and taking things from there.
Whether or not you buy this really depends on what sort of games you plan on playing. Obviously, since it is only has the bare minimum number of buttons, it's not going to be as appealing to anyone who generally plays games that rely on a lot of macros and one-handed gaming, like MMOs and MOBAs; for games that rely on the player pointing and clicking (shooters and the like) this will do you just fine.
This is a perfectly nice mouse that performs admirably, though it feels a little bit bland in comparison to the others. If you're looking for small-scale customisation that's tied to individual games rather than profiles (and therefore doesn't require you to change them whenever you want to change what you're playing), this is a worthy purchase. That said if you want a lot of customisation for individual games (MOBAs and MMOs come to mind), this probably isn't for you.
What really sets this one apart is the fact that the profiles apply to different programmes. While you can't cycle through configurations on the fly in a single game, it does make the G Pro a more versatile device and far more convenient for those of you who like to switch games without having to remap all your keys. Unfortunately the lack of pre-set profiles works against it in a way, and faced with the fact the Turtle Beach Grip 500's on-the-fly profile cycling offers around 50 customisable buttons at any given time, the G Pro comes out fairly even-handed. [Buy it here]
=Third Place: Turtle Beach Grip 500, £51
The first thing I noticed about when I held the Grip 500 is that it looks and feels quite big. Not uncomfortably big, but still rather noticeable. Oddly isn't actually that much larger than some of the other mice, though it is slightly wider than normal.
The customisation and hardware situation is fairly standard. You have the usual three-button mouse set-up, a button for cycling through DPI profiles, and three thumb-level buttons; all of these are totally customisable, letting you bind specific keys, macros, and functions to whatever button you see fit. The software also lets you launch programs by clicking one of the buttons, which could be pretty handy.
The illumination situation is a little bit strange. You can alter the colour and effect on the mouse's scroll-wheel, but the other lights (front and logo) don't have that same option. You can change the lighting effect, but the colour option is greyed out; that's a bit odd, but in the long-run it's not the end of the world. It's also kind of a shame that the lightning can't be totally personalised, since that's what most of the other mice have on offer.
There are four DPI profiles to choose from, with customisable levels ranging from 100 to 8,200. While the maximum pre-sets is four, you can limit how many the Grip 500 has access to so you don't have to constantly cycle through them all. Other customisable features include the Polling/Report Rate (125, 250, 500, or 1,000 Hz), life-off height, and double click speed. All fairly typical from the more premium mice you can get your hands on.
There are five different configuration profiles for you to mess with, and a button on the base of the mouse lets you cycle through them on the fly, rather than having to go through the companion software. The profiles are stored in the mouse as well, and this means you can take your mouse away from your main machine without losing access to all your custom settings. It's not the kind of thing that would happen very often, but even such a small touch like this can go a long way.
The Grip 500 has a laser sensor, in case you're fussy about that. Benefits of this mean it has higher sensitivity range, and can function more effectively on shiny surfaces.
I'll level with you here, this is one lovely mouse. While there's nothing especially unique about it, nor does the sensitivity go quite as high as some of the competition, that doesn't change the fact that it's incredibly comfortable and an absolute pleasure to use. It's light, it's responsive, and frankly it's my favourite of the lot. That's not to say it's perfect, and the fact that some of the illumination can't be properly customised is a bit of a pain, but overall it's a fantastic little mouse.
It might not look like the type of mouse that would appeal to the MMO and MOBA crowd, though the option to cycle through profiles on the fly means this mouse offers a lot more than it initially lets on. If you want lots of button customising options, without losing the aesthetic of a traditional mouse, this might be the one for you. But even if that's not what you're after, the Grip 500 offers a comfortable gaming experience and shouldn't be dismissed. [Buy it here]
Fifth Place: Razer Deathadder Chroma, £65
The first thing I noticed about Razer's Deathadder Chroma is that it has a pretty strange shape. Lots of curves that you wouldn't normally see on other mice. As it turns out there's a very good reason for the shape, and it's all to do with the ergonomics. The Deathadder Chroma is mouse that doesn't feel right unless your hand is in exactly the right position, and when I managed to shift everything into the right place I realised how crap my mouse-holding technique actually is.
It's a weird thing to commend, since I never considered the relative position of my hand, but the Chroma showed me that there is a better way. It's just a shame I won't be keeping this around after the testing.
The other noteworthy feature of this mouse is just how light it is. It's by far the lightest mouse I used during these tests, and my regular mouse feels twice as heavy despite being half the size. It's almost as though the Deathadder Chroma isn't even there, and that's the kind of thing you want when your mind is supposed to be focused on other things.
What bothered me a bit is how few buttons the Deathadder Chroma has. Not everybody needs a lot of buttons, but I feel that skipping out on a dedicated DPI cycler is a bad idea. Most mice worth considering have that feature, including the £10 wireless mouse I use on a daily basis. Customisation options means that this isn't a huge deal, but it does pose an issue for people who just want a simple plug-in-and-play experience.
It also doesn't help that getting yourself set up with Razer's Synapse companion software is a bit of an undertaking. Finding it isn't the easiest thing in the world, and even once it's installed you have to have a Razer account to even attempt to use it. Razer seems to be alone in that department, since the rest of the peripherals I tested didn't mandate any sort of registration. It was an option, but not essential. Upon using it for the first time, you will also be asked to update your device's firmware, which requires a full system restart to take effect. While Razer isn't the only company to demand that (MadCatz did it as well), I'm a little bit shocked that that sort of thing still happens.
There aren't really any surprises on the customisation front. You can customise four of the five buttons (the left-hand mouse button is off limits), and let the Chroma do all sorts of fancy things. Custom macros, key binding, special features, and all the other things any good gaming mouse shouldn't be without. Illumination is the same deal, you set lighting effect from a short list (2-3 things in this case) and the colour based on the full RGB colour spectrum. Again, this is the same as any other good mouse with no surprises.
It's unfortunate that Synapse is an awful piece of software. It's easy enough to navigate, but the cloud system means there's no 'apply' or even a save button and ensuring the new settings actually take hold is very hit and miss. At one point while fiddling they ended up reverting back to the default setting, requiring me to restart my PC and start over. The cloud system also means that profiles aren't stored locally unless you go offline, and even then the custom key bindings aren't stored on the mouse.
Unfortunately, while the Chroma performs admirably, it's lets down by the fact it offers less than the bare minimum. Every half decent mouse out there has a button dedicated to cycling through sensitivity profiles on the fly. My cheap work mouse has one, every other mouse tested has one, the Chroma does not. That said it's not a total deal-breaker. As I mentioned before, the ergonomic design makes it one of the most comfortable mice out there, and the lightness makes it truly effortless to use. [Buy it here]
Sixth Place: Mad Catz MMO TE, £45
You may have already noticed that this is one bizarre-looking piece of kit, but you can't deny that it packs one hell of a lot into this small frame. There are a ridiculous number of buttons here, 20 to be exact, and by cycling through configuration modes you can assign up to three commands to each button. So that's 60 different commands you can map to your mouse, all accessible using a single hand. The word 'mental' comes to mind.
As the name suggests this is a mouse built for playing MMOs, so all these extra keys are there to make sure you have access to all the powers and abilities your character needs without having to think too hard or rely on a keyboard.
There's a very strange science-fiction-style look to it, which seems to be MadCatz's trademark when professional-level mice are concerned. There is a tiny smidge of customisation in the hardware, since the back of the mouse does extend out to accommodate different hand sizes and grip styles. There are also two illumination points, showing you which of the four DPI levels you're on, and which configuration mode you're on. Unlike other mice the colouring is not customisable, presumably because they're designed to be useful features not a way to personalise your device.
A lot of the customisation options are fairly standard of gaming mice, even without all the illumination. The only real exception being the drag-and-drop approach to button mapping, rather than having to click the buttons and scrolling through a dropdown menu. It's not a bad way to mix things up, and it certainly makes it easier to deal with all 20 buttons. Plus, in addition to the three modes, you can configure multiple profiles for all your different needs. The only problem here is that your custom button commands don't seem to be stored in the mouse, which is a surprisingly common occurrence in the mice I tested.
Strangely, smaller features, like the sensitivity settings, do seem to be saved on the mouse, and were carried over to my work laptop without a problem. In case you're wondering, the DPI goes as high as 8,200 and the MMO TE uses a laser sensor.
In terms of unique features, the MMO TE also has a 'precision aim' that is toggled by holding down the front middle thumb button. Holding that down slows down the cursors speed by a certain percentage (which is customisable, but set at 50 per cent by default) and makes it easier to aim at targets. Even though this is a mouse designed for MMOs, it does make it easier to nab yourself a headshot when the opportunity arises.
MadCatz also included pre-built configuration profiles specially designed for use with a lot of online games. A lot of them are MMOs, but also included are MOBAs, and the likes of EVE, Call of Duty, Diablo III, and many more that I don't have room to list. Most of these map to your thumb buttons for quick access, but there are some empty slots elsewhere if you want to mix things up a bit.
Comfort-wise it's a little bit strange, mainly because you have to position your hand in a way that gives you access to as many buttons as possible without moving. You can't get them all without moving your hand, particularly with the amount of thumb buttons the MMO TE has to offer. It's clear that ergonomics were not at the front of Mad Catz's mind, but that doesn't mean the mouse is uncomfortable. It's fine: nothing to complain about, but nothing to rave about either. It's a little heavier than the likes of the Razer Deathadder Chrome or Turtle Beach, it still doesn't offer any problems getting things done.
The main issue with the MMO TE is that making the switch from a regular mouse, even one with as many buttons as the Nega Hex V2, is going to be a bit of a learning experience. It's incredible how it manages to back so much into such a small space, but it's all about 10 times more than most people are used to. Sixty buttons available to one hand is advantageous for certain gameplay types (like the MMOs it was made for), but it's not the kind of thing you can pick up and instantly be proficient with.
If you're looking for something like this, but a bit simpler, the Turtle Beach Grip 500 might be worth a try. It has a lot fewer buttons than the MMO TE, but the dedicated profile cycling button means you can access up to 50 customisable buttons on the fly. It's not quite as many as the MMO TE, but it comes pretty damn close without losing the simplicity of a traditional mouse layout. That said, the MMO TE has a lot going for it, and if you're into serious online gaming then it's well worth your consideration. [Buy it here]
Seventh Place: Corsair M65 Pro RGB, £47
Like the MadCatz MMO TE, the M65 Pro comes with a dedicated 'sniper button' that lowers the mouse sensitivity whenever you hold it down. It's an interesting little button that makes aiming a lot more accurate with minimal effort, and it's in an ideal place for quick and easy access. Fortunately, like the MadCatz it's completely customisable, in case accurate aiming isn't quite your forte.
In terms of button mapping, there's nothing out of the ordinary here. Everything but the left mouse button can be customised how you see fit.
The downside here is that the software is a bit awkward – more awkward than any of its counterparts. For starters not everything is labelled, so it requires a lot more effort for people to remember what bits are where. The actual button mapping required a few extra steps to get to the end goal as well, since all the new commands have to be created from scratch and stored inside the software's library. The library system also meant it's not a case of clicking a virtual version of your mouse's button and taking things from there.
Even once you've remapped a key, the interface doesn't do a very good job of telling you. In fact, since the button labels remained the same, the only way to tell if a command had been successfully mapped was to test it out. That said if you're willing to put the time in, there are some benefits to having a library of custom commands at your disposal. For one thing it means there's a lot less need to navigate through an endless sea of drop-down lists to get what you want.
Illumination is much the same as most other devices, though it does require a couple of extra steps to confirm the colour you want. But, unlike the button configurations, the illumination is saved to the mouse, with the effects carrying over when you plug into a different machine.
Sensitivity can be configured up to 12,000 DPI, with up to five separate profiles for you to cycle through. The sensor on this one was optical, though you can buy a laser version if you prefer. It's also worth noting that, like damn near all the other mice, the M65 Pro can be configured to work more effectively on different surfaces.
Comfort-wise there's not much to report. There are no massive red flags here. It is a bit troublesome that the front thumb button is positioned a little bit far forward, but nothing that makes it impossible to work with. The M65 felt a little bit wider than most, but my big hands didn't seem that as an issue. The shape also makes it nice and convenient for those who prefer to use the claw grip. It was also a little bit heavier, but not enough to be problematic.
The M65 just didn't resonate with me. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, but I just couldn't get enthusiastic about what was on offer. The main reason it falls so low is that the software was so infuriating to use, and there isn't really anything that special to make up for it. I made no secret that I disliked Razer Synapse, but at least the the two Razer mice tested had their own distinct advantages. The M65 is... fine. It wouldn't be a bad purchase, and it's in-game performance is admirable. There's just nothing particularly special about it, which is why it had to come in last. [Buy it here]