What Is an Optical Mouse?

While most people are probably familiar with the traditional form of ball mouse—where a ball is physically responsible for moving the cursor around the user’s screen—today, there is another version that you may want to consider: an optical mouse.

How Does an Optical Mouse Work?

mouseAs we mentioned, the prototypical mouse used the combination of a ball and rollers that could register which way it moved when a user pulled or pushed it over the mouse pad. These rollers were read by an infrared and LED sensor, which eventually leads to the mouse movements being related on screen.

This isn’t so different from an optical mouse. Instead of the ball and rollers, though, an optical mouse uses mousecamera technology to register where it is being moved. It does so by taking thousands of snapshots per second. An LED light shines below the mouse, which helps the camera pick up small differences in the surface beneath it. The combination of millisecond snapshots and LED lighting tells the computer all it needs to know about direction and speed.

What Are the Benefits of Optical Mice over Those with a Ball?

There are a number of reasons to prefer optical mice over their traditional rivals. For one thing, without a ball, you don’t have to worry about constantly needing to clean your mouse. Running that ball over a mouse pad day after day ensures that it picks up all kinds of debris. As such, the ball and rollers need to be cleaned fairly regularly to ensure it works optimally.

Optical models, however, have almost no moving parts whatsoever. The hole in the bottom where it reads movement has no working part that would scoop up dust or debris. Therefore, an optical mouse will require practically no maintenance or cleaning.

The digital processing in an optical mouse usually means much smoother operation. Depending on what you’re using your mouse for, traditional mice will often fall short of your needs because they can have such a jerky response at times. Using an optical mouse also means more accurate response. For these reasons, gamers and designers both tend to go with optical devices.

You can also use optical mice on a whole host of different surfaces. While many people still use mouse pads they’re not strictly required. Due to the optical technology, you don’t even need a smooth surface. If you’re traveling and need to use your laptop, you could run your optical mouse over your thigh, for example, and still get accurate results.

Ball mice won’t be able to do this. They have trouble on surfaces that aren’t mouse pads and must be used on flat planes to work correctly.

Best of all, since 1999 when optical mice were first produced, the technology has gotten even better and more affordable. Using an optical mouse also doesn’t take any special features, meaning you can simply plug it into your computer and start working.

Although you may be more accustomed to a ball mouse, an optical model is far superior and won’t cost you much, depending on which one you choose.