What's the Difference Between Optical Mouse and Laser Mouse?

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Here's some top-of-line gaming mouses. Some use laser sensor, some optical.

Logitech G602 mouse
Logitech G602 , optical
logitech g502 mouse 2
Logitech G502 Proteus , optical
logitech g300 mouse 2
Logitech G300s , optical
Logitech G600 mouse 2
Logitech G600, laser
logitech mx master wireless mouse
Logitech MX Master , laser
ROCCAT Tyon mouse 98322eeb
ROCCAT Tyon , laser

Here's the practical difference.

Note: the difference may not be noticeable today. Some optical gaming mouse today can still track when lifted. Some gaming mouse have both optical and laser sensors. And there are also different lasers used. Also, some gaming mouse has internal CPU that post-process the signals.

Razer Ouroboros mouse, features dual sensor, 1 optical 1 laser.

Razer Ouroboros mouse 44502
Razer Ouroboros, optical + laser

In summary, the mouse tracking technology has advanced to a point such that it's no longer simply optical vs laser. There are a lot mis-information for gamers on the web. (i've read them all for 10 years) If you really, truly, want to understand it, you need to be a mouse engineer.

Many gaming mouse makers use fancy jargons, be wary.

Is Laser Mouse Better for Gaming?

For gamers, laser mouse may be worse. Here's a simple test you can do.

Pick up your mouse and press your finger in the laser hole. For some laser mouse, you'll see the pointer jitters randomly, even though your finger is stuck in the hole and not mobile.

The “finger in hole laser jitter” happens with Logitech G600 Gaming Mouse and Microsoft Sidewinder X3 Mouse.

Logitech G600 mouse 2
Logitech G600, laser
Microsoft sidewinder x3 mouse 2
Microsoft sidewinder x3 mouse, laser sensor.

This means, when gaming, when you lift the mouse to re-position, your pointer may move erratically while the mouse is up.