Mouse Wheel: Smooth Scroll vs Notched Scroll

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

You know how some mouse's scroll wheel is smooth? For example, most of Microsoft's IntelliMouse Explorer series have smooth scroll wheel.

MS Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer 20 56074
Microsoft Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer 2.0. Smooth scroll wheel.

However, there's another type that's popular in gaming mouses โ€” a notched scrolling mechanism. The wheel's physical shape and appearance is still smooth, but the rolling mechanism has notches built-in. When you roll it, about every 1/18 turn of the wheel (20ยฐ), it has a click.

Microsoft sidewinder x3 mouse 2
Microsoft Sidewinder X3 Mouse Notched scroll wheel.

The SideWinder X3 gaming mouse's scroll mechanism is notched. I noticed, that i actually prefer the notched feel. Because, it gives me a precise, more definite, control of how far to scroll, or to return to previous point. When you roll the wheel, it's always in increment of 1 notch, 2 notches, 3 notches, etc. You don't have to eyeball the page to know how much you've scrolled.

With the smooth wheel, there is no tactile feedback on how much you've scrolled. You must judge by eyeballing the page. This is especially so in situations when you need to scroll back to reread the paragraph above that you just viewed.

The advantage of smooth wheel is that you can scroll micro amount โ€” like one single line. This sounds great, but i find that i almost never need to do that. When i need fine control of scrolling, i find it best to drag the scroll bar on the window.

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