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30 Hardware and Windows Tips in 30 Days Tip 22: How to Choose the Perfect Mouse

Need a new mouse? Don't worry about categories like "desktop" and "portable" - instead, find out what features are really the most important.

Who's Who (and Where's Where) in Mice

Need a new mouse? If your mouse doesn't have a laser sensor, still has a cord, or (gasp) a ball, you probably do. If you haven't been shopping for a mouse lately, be prepared for a bewildering variety of products, not just from the major players like Microsoft and Logitech, but from other vendors like Kensington, Targus, and others.

To make matters worse, lots of stores stock mice in two areas:

  • Standard-size mice are stocked next to keyboards
  • Mice made for laptops are often stocked in a special portable accessories department

You might think that if you are buying a mouse for a desktop PC that you'd better stick with the mouse/keyboard department, and if you need a mouse for a laptop that you'd better shop only in the portable accessories department.

Don't limit yourself. The department the mouse is sold in doesn't matter nearly as much as the mouse's size, handedness (if you're a left-handed mouser), cordless or corded, and features.

Left-Hand Mouser? Choices Are Limited

If you're a southpaw mouser, make sure the mice you consider are designed to work with your left hand. With left-handers being only a small (5-30% of the population), there's not a huge market for left-hand only mice. However, there are a few lefty-specific models on the market:

  • Logitech's MX610 Left-Hand Laser Cordless Mouse is the most advanced left-handed mouse on the market, with laser sensor, tilt and zoom wheel, and a 2.4GHz radio for greater range and reliability.
  • The Perfit left-hand optical mouse is an older design, using a corded PS/2 and USB interface, but offering three different sizes (small, medium, and large) and a scroll wheel.
  • If you prefer trackballs, touchpads or other pointing device exotica, the Ergocube.com Left Handed Mice page offers a wide variety of left-handed and ambidextrous mice and other pointing devices from many vendors.

Most left-handed mouse users will be satisfied, though, with a mouse made to work with either hand:

  • Logitech's ambidextrous mice are available here.
  • Microsoft's list of ergonomic mice, including models that work 'comfortably in either hand,' are here.

Whichever hand you use for mousing, though, your primary goal should be to find a mouse that fits.

Touch the Mouse, Feel the Mouse, Be the Mouse

Ask yourself is "how big a mouse do I prefer?" Mice made for desktop computers are larger than those made for portables. But, you can use a desktop mouse on a portable, and a portable mouse on a desktop - thanks to the ubiquitous USB port. To make sure the mouse you buy fits your hand, go to a retail store that puts mice on display and try them. Unfortunately, while you can eliminate mice that are too large (or too small), you probably can't find out how well the mouse works from the typical "mice on a board" display.

Cordless? Corded? Your Choice - Your Price

Choose a cordless mouse if the cord gets in your way and you're comfortable with a battery-powered mouse. However, if you need 24/7/365 reliability, corded mice are still preferable.

Mice in Action - Everywhere

If you're serious about making sure that the next mouse you buy is a big improvement over your current model, take a look at the mice connected to the display computers at the store. If possible, try mice that are the same (or very similar) to the models currently available for sale. Try the zoom and scroll buttons, the thumb buttons, and so on. If you're in a position to see what co-workers and friends are using, ask around to find out the preferred mice you could try. Try a quick game of Solitaire, a little 3D gaming, a bit of web browsing, or creating and editing a short document to get a feel for which mice are better at your favorite tasks.

Need Portability? Make Sure the Receiver Is Portable, Too

Wireless mice now dominate the market, but some wireless mice use receivers that are almost as large as the mice themselves. If you're needing portability, look for mice with built-in storage for their USB receivers.

After Fit - Features

Once you find the form factor you prefer for both the mouse and the receiver, it's time to focus on features like rechargeable batteries, battery life, on/off switches, zoom and tilt wheels, resolution, and so on. With new models coming out all the time, you should have little trouble finding a mouse that fits your hands, your feature list, and your budget.

Save Money with Bundling

Need a keyboard and a mouse? Buy a bundle! Most mouse vendors offer various mouse and keyboard bundles. If you're in the market for a keyboard anyway, buying a bundle means you need only one wireless receiver with one USB port used as well as a dollar savings.

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