Computer mouse technology has evolved past the ball and rollers first used on analog mice, but choosing between an optical mouse and a laser mouse is most often a matter of personal preference and an individual's technology budget. The main difference between the two is how the mouse's position is tracked: either through a tiny camera and LED light or a small laser.
An optical mouse uses digital image processing technology to track the position of the mouse and translate that to position the cursor on the screen. In fact, it includes a tiny camera that is able to take an astonishing 1,500 pictures per second. Optical mice are also easy to maintain and have no moving parts that are prone to failure.
In most cases, an optical mouse is a plug and play device that requires no special software for installation. One of the main advantages of these mice is that they require no mouse pad and will work even if run on a surface that is not entirely flat. Some models may have trouble on black or shiny surfaces, however.
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The goal of both laser mice and optical mice is to provide a way to transform the motion of the user's hand into digital signals that the computer can use. The main difference between laser and optical mice is the type of light that is used to track movement on the computer screen. While a standard optical mouse uses an LED light, a laser mouse contains a small laser that is used to monitor the movements of the mouse and represent them on the screen. For this reason, a laser mouse is typically more expensive.
When shopping for a mouse, it's helpful for consumers to consider the dots per inch (DPI) of the model being considered. Generally, an optical mouse can track between 400 and 800 DPI. In comparison, a laser mouse can often track more than 2,000 DPI. This makes the cursor of a laser mouse move much further on the screen.