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Computer Mouse

Most people put very little thought into that two buttoned piece of plastic they hold while oper...
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Most people put very little thought into that two buttoned piece of plastic they hold while operating their computer. For most people the mouse is a simple click and scroll device that makes operating your computer a heck of a lot easier. The general thought is "if I only use it to click buttons and move around on my computer then why should I spent alot of money on a fancy model?". The truth is, for people that regularly or heavily use their computer an upgraded mouse can offer more speed and efficiency to your everyday computer tasks. Let's talk further about this shall we?

"Look and feel"
One thing you'll notice when comparing cheap mice to expensive mice is ergonomics. There's all kinds of wonky looking mice out there, some big, some small, and some with peculiar looking shapes. Ergonomics is often a very personal choice so a mouse that's marketed as "ergonomic" for it's shape and design might end up being very uncomfortable for you and/or your workspace limitations. Most electronics stores will have some sort of simple display for their mice unless the mouse itself is packaged in a manner where you can put your hand around it without needing to un-box it. This is always nice to help you get a feel for what size and style of mouse you'll want for your hand type (people with bigger hands generally don't want a small mouse). Be careful to also look at button placement while you're trying it out, I've had some mice in the past where there was no comfortable way for me to reach some of the extra feature buttons.

Buttons
The days of a simple two-button mouse seem to be quickly fading into the past. New mouse designs are incorporating at the very least a "back" button on the left side if not a forward button on the left or ride side as well. For some this is just the beginning, there may even be a couple more buttons on either side of the mouse and/or a button or two behind the scroll wheel on the top as well. A lot of these will default to window actions such as zoom, window flipping, etc. By using the mouse's drivers it's possible to program these buttons to accommodate any functions you would like. Scroll wheels will always take care of vertical scrolling but most new mice will also do horizontal scrolling by tilting the wheel to the left or right. Almost all scroll wheels also serve as an additional button when pressed.

Power
You'll also want to see how the mouse is powered; do you need to replace the batteries when they're dead or is it rechargeable? Mice that run on plain batteries will commonly use two AA style of batteries, it's only in notebook mice that you'll see the AAA style used to keep the size down. Unlike the early models of wireless mouse, you'll probably get anywhere between four and six months from a set of [good] batteries in a decent quality mouse. Rechargeable mice will use either a built-in rechargeable battery (often Lithium Ion) or will have two rechargeable AA batteries inside that can be easily replaced years down the road when they will no longer charge. Charging itself is done either with a docking cradle that the mouse stands up in or on a docking pad that you simply set the mouse on when you're finished with it. Recharge times vary depending on the quality of mouse and will often range from one hour up to 10+ hours. Rechargeable mice that operate on lithium ion battery cells will often have much lower battery lives than mice with replaceable batteries. The upside of this is that every time you're finished with the mouse you can simply set it back on the cradle and it will always be ready to go with full battery life next time you use it.

Tracking
One thing that still confuses a lot of buyers is the difference between the optical technologies for mice. Most people see mice as being either "ball mice" or "laser mice". The truth is that while everyone has the older ball technology right, it's the newer technologies that are still mixed up a lot. Non-ball mice come in two main flavors; optical or laser. Optical mice use the flashing red LED on the bottom for tracking. By reflecting that light off the surface the mouse is on it can be captured by an optical sensor. This allows the mouse to track it's movements and move on your computer screen. Laser mice are very similar but have one main advantage; precision. Now, instead of reflecting the light from an LED the mouse is actually reflecting a tiny and precise laser (invisible to the human eye). The benefits of this tiny laser beam doing all the tracking is that these laser mice have a much higher DPI (dots per inch) measurement so they are far more precise and sensitive to very fine movement. However, the price difference between using an LED tracking system and a laser tracking system is evident when you are mouse shopping and you will often see a price jump between the two technologies. For those who want numbers, an LED tracking system will average 400-800 dpi tracking resolution where as a laser mouse will average anywhere from 1000dpi to 2000+dpi depending on the quality of the mouse. A lot of really high resolution laser mice will have a button allowing you to switch between preset or user programmed dpi settings. This means you can increase sensitivity for things like gaming or graphic design and you can decrease it for general computer tasks like web browsing and checking your email. For users that won't benefit from the increased sensitivity of a laser mouse then an optical mouse is certainly a good way to go to save a few dollars. You'll also see the occasional mouse creep up on the market that uses some "new" form of optical tracking too, some of these mice fade away pretty fast and others stick around. Only time will tell if any of these technologies will become a better or cheaper substitution for the laser or optical mouse.

Interfacing
Interfacing is another thing you will likely want to pay attention to when buying a computer mouse. Is the mouse wired or wireless? If it's wireless is it’s frequency 27 MHz, 2.4 GHz or is it Bluetooth? Wired mice are straightforward enough so I will only mention that they come in USB or PS2 connections. You need to confirm which type of connection your computer uses. The PS2 style is usually a small round connector which is typically green in colour and is 9mm or 3/8 inch in diameter. If your newer computer doesn’t have this connector then you use a wired USB mouse instead. Wireless is where you find yourself facing more decisions yet again. The majority of economically priced wireless mice are often 27 MHz. Since this is a low frequency it's easy and cheap to manufacturer and thus means a cheaper priced product for the consumer. For working on a desk this is a great "get it done" style of wireless that will leave most people with no major issues. The downfall to this lower frequency technology is that it doesn't travel as far and can be subject to interference a lot easier as well. Interference is often caused by poorly shielded nearby electronics such as your computer itself or computer speakers with amplifiers or even kids toys that use this frequency range. To eliminate interference and increase the distance manufacturers chose to enter the 2.4 GHz range. The higher frequency and the frequency-hopping technology that is used in these devices allows them to avoid most interference and also have a much greater range compared to the 27 MHz wireless products. Bluetooth is another name you'll see being used for wireless mice and keyboards. Although commonly associated with cell phone headsets, Bluetooth itself is a form of short-range networking that uses the 2.4 GHz range of frequencies. It's advantage in computer mice and keyboards is that it has very low power consumption, slightly increased range over traditional 2.4 GHz wireless and actual security as well. Just like your cell phone headset, you'll have to pair your Bluetooth mouse and keyboard with your computer. For keyboard pairing you'll set a passkey unique to only your system, that way no one else can steal or interfere with your connection. Many high end Bluetooth mice (and keyboards) will offer legacy 2.4 GHz support from the receiver to allow them to be used during boot-up in your BIOS before the operating system kicks in and initiates a full Bluetooth mode.

Notebook Mice
The question I often get asked in the electronics store I work in is; "what's the difference between a notebook and desktop mouse?". The truth is, other than the physical size of them, notebook being smaller, not much else is different at all! Notebook mice are meant to be small enough to pack away in a backpack yet large enough to still be somewhat comfortable. For wireless notebook mice most manufacturers will use a design that allows the wireless receiver to either clip onto the bottom of the mouse or slide into it when not in use.

Keep in mind if you're searching for a new keyboard and mouse that a lot will come together in packages. This usually keeps the cost down to you and also allows both keyboard and mouse to share one receiver in the event it's a wireless set. I can't dictate what the best mouse is because that's a unique choice for everyone. See what fits your hand the best and what features you think you want or need in a mouse and shop from there!

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