About Mousegrade Testing
Computer users love benchmarking their machines. From the dawn of multiplayer gaming with timedemo in quakeworld, to 3dmark and beyond, gamers, and power users in general have wanted to squeeze as much from what they had. A few extra points or smoother FPS was worth it.
Tweaking MTU for slightly better network connectivity. Higher DPI on their mice. Razer starter this trend with the Boomslang 1000 and 2000. These original gaming mice that went beyond extra buttons and attempted to give users greater control.
To this day benchmarking is still a popular pass time. Users who game infrequently will still post their scores and compare sizes on forums. Videocards, processors, memory and more. BIOS settings and core clocks are tweaked to eek out an extra half of one percent performance.
Likewise, gamers who compete online have always wanted lower latency in game. Competitive titles have been won and lost on server choice. Countless hours of player time has been wasted trying to decide between playing on German or UK servers and the arguments and flaming that goes on. Newer titles hide these problems with “creative” netcode and slower paced gameplay, but create other problems, in some cases giving the player with higher lag and flakey connection advantages.
Where is this going? Why do we care? Both the stories above are probably mirrored in similar ways for other aspects of gaming and “cutting edge” computer use in general. People like to have the best and fastest and show it off.
Because in gaming there is a device* that is so ubiquitous but often ignored from a numbers standpoint. The mouse. Actually this is a bit of a lie – mouse manufacturers push all sorts of things. More DPI , more buttons (hello Razer Naga?), faster bus rate (125hz, 500hz, 1000hz), angle snapping, braided cords and so on. Some of these things are useful, some are not and others are kinda like megapixels on your digital camera – beyond a certain point it is not needed in general. Who needs 12,000 DPI on a mouse when you are printing 6x4s? Wait what?!
*there are really more than one device, keyboards and until recently, monitors could also be thrown into this category. Monitors in particular is a good example of tech going backwards while going forward and taking the better part of a decade to get somewhere close to where it used to be.
And mice, with all their features and pros/cons are one of the worst benchmarked and reviewed products in the computer world. This is two fold – firstly mouse shape is quite a personal choice and user grip (claw, palm or a combination) come into play, making mice difficult to review. The Razer Deathadder side buttons might be perfect for one reviewer, but for others these same buttons mights be right where their thumb would rest. Thus they accidentally press them during play. Some gamers have sweaty hands and others do not – thus rubber coated, shiny plastic and the newer texture plastic mouse casings. Steelseries do this aspect well have tend to have both versions available for their more popular mice. Some gamers use minimal buttons and some try to bind everything possible to their gaming mouse. And so on. Aspects like this can never be benchmarked really, good photos and dimension and product descriptions are needed. Short of going into a store and trying the mouse, are the best tools to help with this decision. Typically stores that have displays do not carry gaming mice, or if they do they are premium products and not on display for handling.
The second aspect is quite often overlooked, even by the mouse manufacturers themselves. Performance. How well does the mouse track? How well does it click? Does it have problems when used on a white surface vs black vs multi coloured?
There are other things, like angle snapping/smoothing that the manufacturers have addressed but this is really a side issue. The main problem is that some mice do not track well, they stop working properly when you move them too quickly, they have acceleration (either positive or negative), their lift off distance is too high or the buttons are crap. Among other things. These are quantitative aspects that can be measured, but rarely are. If you watch mouse reviews on youtube or read them on gamers blogs the general information is very subjective and if the reviewer is aware of sensor issues comments are typically limited to “it made me aim better”. A large part of this stems from the fact that the gamers are not being paid to write reviews and the reviews are of mice they have specifically purchased to improve their gaming. This generally means they have researched ahead of their purchase and even if the mouse does nothing for them in reality, they think it does because it is new and good. A placebo of sorts. To this end I feel that swapping mice may improve user aim for a short period of time while they get used to the new mouse. This could be due to the gamer applying more concentration to aiming with their new mouse.
Sujoy of esreality fame embarked upon a journey to benchmark mice in 2007 and the article is still referenced to this day, even though most of the models it covers are outdated.
We want to fix this and give gamers a document they can use to make informed decisions on their pointing/aiming devices.
The eventual goal is to measure a few things
- Pictures to aid mouse choice. Pictures for comparisons. In a controlled environment with share measurements.
- Malfunction speed. This is important because if you move the mouse too quickly and it stops tracking correctly it is not going to do you much good. Different mice have different problems.
- Acceleration, positive or negative. This is also important. As a player you want consistent movement. Some mice have positive accel and are accepted to be ok by some users. Negative acceleration is generally never ok. This can be due to the malfunction speed but can also be a separate problem.
- Lift off distance. The height away from the mat at which the mouse stops tracking. This is important to look at as if it is too high there can be problems when recentering the mouse on the mat when playing. Another aspect of liftoff distance is known as “z-axis problem”. This occurs when the mouse tracks incorrectly when not in contact with the mat. For instance it may count more “up” than it is meant to even when it is moving left. This means whenever you recenter not only do you get unwanted movement from the mouse being held just above the pad, it is also in a direction you are not even moving it!
- Angle snapping or “mouse smoothing”. This is not a good or bad thing and is up to the user if they like it or not. Some mice can have this adjusted via drivers or bios updates. Others are fixed. We will aim to test this in a controlled environment in order to allow users to compare mice and pick one that suits them.
The plan is not to review mouse and pads in a traditional manner, rather give you the tools to secret the best mouse for you.