Last Updated on December 25, 2019 by Jay
Mouse DPI stands for Dots Per Inch. But, what does that even mean? Why should we care about it? Does it make a difference for gaming, working, or anything at all? Is higher better?
We understand that there are a lot of questions around this subject – which is why we decided to write an article on it. Here’s all you need to know about mouse DPI!
DPI Mouse Meaning and Polling Rate
As we mentioned above, DPI stands for Dots Per Inch and it refers to the number of dots that can fit in a straight line. In our case with computer mice, usually gaming ones, we use this to measure the sensitivity of the product.
Some people may argue that the correct term is actually CPI which stands for Counts Per Inch. But, at the end of the day, they both mean the same thing and they are the same measurement. Some manufacturers actually prefer using CPI over DPI. But, again, they are the same thing, so, no need to get confused.
Higher DPI results in higher mouse sensitivity while lower DPI lowers it. It’s that simple. Though, do keep in mind that hardware sensitivity and software sensitivity are two different things.
Contrary to popular belief, increasing the DPI count doesn’t result in better performance (Kind of). But more on that later.
Polling rate, on the other hand, can make a huge difference. After all, it refers to the frequency at which your mouse is reporting back to the computer every millisecond.
See, your mouse’s optical sensor kind off works like a camera. It takes multiple shots per second and reports its relative position back to the computer at that set frequency.
A higher polling rate means that your mouse is reporting its position more often to the PC and thanks to that, you get a faster response time and a smoother experience as well.
Does Mouse DPI Make a Difference in Performance?
Polling rate and Mouse DPI are two very different terms. Let’s start with DPI.
As we mentioned above, many people seem to believe that higher DPI results in better overall performance as well. However, that’s not the case at all. Manufacturers may often advertise higher DPI values as a solid selling point – but in theory, a higher DPI may end up harming your performance instead of improving it!
That’s because the maximum native resolution of an optical mouse sensor, which is what most of us use these days, is about 800 to 1600 DPI. The only way for a mouse to achieve something higher than that is by splitting the “dots” into 4 or more virtual pixels.
So, theoretically speaking, the higher you go in DPI, the more noise that you’ll encounter which should harm the overall mouse accuracy. Or at least that’s how it should be in theory.
In real-world usage, however, increasing our DPI count seems to make aiming feel smoother!
We believe that this happens due to the fact that by lowering the hardware sensitivity and increasing the software sensitivity, our computer simply reports the same movement as a larger one – even if the mouse isn’t actually reporting a larger movement.
This results in skipped frames which is why higher DPI generally feels a bit smoother. However, even at the lowest possible levels, you’re highly unlikely to notice a difference in modern games. Most of us use our computer at 1600 DPI or above anyway.
So, TL;DR? Under the “Lab”, higher DPI seems to result in a smoother experience – even if that’s not what should be happening on paper. But in real-world conditions, you’re unlikely to ever notice the difference.
What About Polling Rate?
At the end of the day, Mouse DPI may not make a whole lot of difference (Except for adjusting the overall hardware sensitivity of the mouse, of course). But, polling rate can make a world of difference – especially if you’re into gaming and especially if you’re using a wireless mouse.
A higher polling rate means that your mouse is reporting its position back to the computer more often – which should increase the overall smoothness. And it also means that it reduces the delay between the mouse moving and that action being displayed on the screen.
This doesn’t make a whole lot of difference for professionals and casual users. But it does make a huge difference in competitive gaming and wireless mice.
Competitive gamers need every bit of advantage that they can get – and a higher polling rate does give you the advantage of a smoother experience and faster response times. It’s as simple as that.
The highest possible polling rate that we can achieve is 1000 Hz which equals a response time of 1ms. However, both in the real world and under “Lab” conditions, we’re highly unlikely to notice the difference between 500 and 1000 Hz.
This is important for wireless mice because a higher polling rate means that your mouse needs to work harder and consume more energy. That’s why most wireless gaming mice offer both endurance and performance modes that automatically increase or decrease the polling rate when you switch between them.
TL;DR: Polling rate makes a huge difference in performance. But professionals and casual users don’t really have a reason to worry about it unless they are using a wireless mouse. In that case, setting the mouse to the lowest possible polling rate is often the best choice.
When everything is said and done, why should we care about mouse DPI and polling rate? Well, for once, a higher polling rate is what separates a good, pricey gaming mouse from your cheap everyday office variant.
Maximum acceleration is obviously another very important factor to keep in mind. But the truth is that if a mouse offers a polling rate of 500-1000Hz, then chances are that it can also withstand a bit of acceleration without any issues.
DPI, on the other hand, doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. It mostly comes down to personal preference. Higher generally feels smoother. However, it may also introduce higher levels of noise which is something that may end up killing your accuracy.
If you feel like your mouse lags/freezes a bit at times, then try setting the polling rate to 500 while also turning down the DPI a bit.
TL;DR: Higher isn’t always better. But, it generally is. Especially as far as gaming is concerned. Casual users don’t have a reason to care. We’d still recommend getting something that offers multiple levels of DPI for both professionals and casual users, though, because that allows you to adjust the sensitivity on the fly!
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