What a Difference a Mouse Makes

For the last several years, I have been using the standard mouse device that came with my personal computer - a generic laser-based unit that did its job adequately. It moved the cursor, scrolled windows and selected things just fine. I honestly didn't think about it very much - I simply used it every day.

Farewell, old and dirty OEM mouse - and thanks for your service.

Farewell, old and dirty OEM mouse - and thanks for your service.

A couple weeks ago, the scroll wheel began to fail. I first noticed it while playing Stellaris - you tend to scroll a lot in that game to zoom in and out. We do the same thing quite a bit in EVE Online - we undock, admire our cool-looking ship for a moment, and then zoom way out to attend to the serious business of Internet spaceships.

When my scroll wheel finally stopped working altogether, I realized I needed to acquire a replacement mouse, pronto. At first, I thought I'd just buy a cheap device from the local office supply store - you can buy entirely functional mice for as little as a dollar these days. My needs were fairly simple, so I didn't give it much thought.

A quick Google search for "best PC mouse" altered my perspective immediately. There are a lot - and I really mean a LOT - of options for mouse users today. Somewhat intimidated, I took a deep breath, and waded into the morass of alternatives.

Professional-grade Gaming Mice

I learned that while there are many general-purpose mice available at low cost, serious gamers only consider devices that are tuned to their unique needs. More than any other kind of computer users, gamers push their mice to extreme limits, requiring the very best technology and reliability.

Although any typical car can transport me from point A to point B safely, I'd never try to win a professional automobile race in a standard Honda Civic. The mice designed for gamers are the Formula 1 devices of computer interaction. Hardcore gamers need extraordinarily rapid and precise clicks and movement all the time, every time they play. General computer users' needs are far less demanding, and it doesn't matter if their mouse misclicks from time to time - for a gamer, however, such an error can be fatal (virtually, that is). After reading about the technical superiority of professional-grade alternatives, I realized that I'd been using the equivalent of a Ford Model-T mouse for far too long.

The more I researched, the more amazed I became at the engineering limits that mouse developers are pushing to serve the serious gamer market. An excellent example is this video showing the types of testing that pro-grade mice are undergoing:

Incredible stuff, this is. Who knew that something as simple as a mouse could be taken to this level of technological sophistication?

Perhaps this is an indicator of a mild mid-life crisis, but after all this education, I decided it was time for me to move into the modern age and get a cool "sports car" mouse, instead of settling for another boring economy sedan, so to speak.

Wireless Competitors

As the above video shows, a high-performance gaming mouse once required a wired connection, but that is no longer true. My old mouse was wireless, and I liked being able to move it freely on my desktop without any hassle. I hoped that my new mouse would give me that same untethered ability.

That single requirement reduced the number of viable options very dramatically to only two: the Razer Mamba Chroma and the Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum. While there are other wireless mice for gamers available, these are the two that consistently appear at the top of the comparative reviews. I liked the clean design of the Razer, but the performance of the G900 was consistently lauded in all the reviews. After watching some head-to-head comparison videos, like the following, I chose the G900.

Neither mouse is cheap - at about $150, both cost a lot more money than I had originally envisioned spending. As I placed my order, I wondered if I was over-investing. Was the higher level of performance worth it? Would my gaming experience really be that much better than using a standard mouse? I grit my teeth and clicked the order button, hoping I wasn't going to be disappointed.

Where have you been all my life?

My shiny new mouse arrives!

My shiny new mouse arrives!

My new mouse arrived in three days, and I eagerly opened the box. It comes with a heavy duty braided cord, which is used to recharge the mouse, or to operate as a wired connection, if you desire. There is also a small USB connector that you can use with the cord to place the wireless receiver right next to your mouse pad, or you can just plug the tiny receiver directly into a USB port on your PC - I tried both configurations and it works well either way.

The G900 is an ambidextrous mouse, so if you are left-handed, you will appreciate the design. You can configure the two side buttons on either side, or you can use supplied inserts to cover them and have no side buttons at all, if you wish. There is a center button for changing the scroll to a free-wheeling mode, which is great for scrolling rapidly through long documents or screens (like this article, for example). The standard incremental scroll mode works refreshingly smooth.

There are also two buttons on the top that control the sensitivity level of the mouse. The G900 allows four adjustable levels of sensitivity. If I was playing first-person shooter games, this would be a critical feature, but for games like EVE Online and Stellaris, it isn't that important.

One reason I picked the G900 over the Mamba was the design of the two main mouse buttons. On the Mamba, these buttons are extensions of the mouse shell - you are bending the plastic every time you press down on the button. On the G900, these are mechanical switches, which do not flex - the entire button moves intact on a lever, which activates the switch. It's a better engineered design, with less resistance.

My new Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum wireless mouse - I am now "professional grade".

The entire mouse is extremely light at just over 100 grams - half the weight of my old mouse, which was powered by two AA batteries. The G900 feels like it has no battery in it at all, which is amazing since it can operate for more than 32 hours on a single charge, if the lighting effects are turned off. With the LED lights on, it can run for almost 24 hours. The mouse has a sleep mode to extend battery time, which engages if you leave it alone for a few minutes. I found it takes about two hours to recharge - and of course you can use it with the connected cord while it is recharging, if needed.

After playing a variety of different games for two days (Fallout 4, Civilization V, Stellaris, EVE Online and the newest Deus Ex), I never detected any lag in performance - the wireless connection is rock-solid reliable.

In fact, I'm amazed at how quickly I got used to the G900 - it really took me only a few minutes before it felt completely natural. I use a palm grip, and the mouse fits neatly in my average-sized hand.

The mouse comes with a very easy to use application that enables you to customize buttons, lighting effects and other functions. It also tracks battery life, and the mouse's topside LEDs alert you when it is getting low.

The Logitech gaming software makes it easy to configure the G900.

The Logitech gaming software makes it easy to configure the G900.

The gaming application tells you how much battery life you have left.

The gaming application tells you how much battery life you have left.

Most high-end gaming mice include LED lights, and the G900 does, too. I always thought these were just pretty decoration. I've since discovered that it's a handy way to know if the mouse is in sleep mode, and that is actually useful. The Logitech gaming application lets you customize the LED light effects to whatever colors or pulsing rate you wish.

After playing with the G900, I am now acutely aware that I had trained myself to tolerate the gross inadequacies of my clunky old mouse. Now that the G900 has shown me how moving, selecting and scrolling can be effortless, I realize that I had been fighting with my mouse for years. Those of you who stuck with really horrible girlfriends or boyfriends for far too long will understand what I mean. Comparatively speaking, the G900 is an absolute delight, and I'm embarrassed it too me so long to upgrade. I feel silly for worrying that I wouldn't be able to tell the difference - the contrast is definitely palpable, and I don't regret spending the extra money for the much improved gaming experience.

But what about EVE?

Since this is a blog that focuses on EVE Online, I want to describe how the G900 has affected my playing experience with that game, specifically.

First, having a mouse that works much more smoothly and reliably just makes interfacing with the EVE client easier. This is definitely a quality of life thing, and not a functional advantage. Scrolling faster and easier makes zooming in and out simpler and more precise. Not worrying about misclicks means I don't have to fret about hovering my cursor over on-screen buttons as I jump through gates, in fear that I won't be able to do so fast enough. I am now confident that when I click on something, it will actually work as intended. As a result, I feel more relaxed when I'm flying around in New Eden with the G900 than I ever did with my old mouse.

There are mouse devices that are designed for use with MMORPG games that have a bevy of buttons on them. For a game like EVE Online, this is definitely overkill. But the few extra configurable buttons on the G900 have proven to be useful, though I'm still experimenting with different combinations. I set my back side button to issue the Shift-R command, which recalls drones, and found it very convenient in missions and mining. Now, rather than navigate through the on-screen menu, I just reach back with my thumb, click, and bingo - my drones dutifully return to their bay.

Setting one of my side buttons to retrieve drones - easy peasy.

Setting one of my side buttons to retrieve drones - easy peasy.

However, I'm not entirely sure that using mouse buttons in this way is in compliance with the EVE Online EULA. It says:

You may not use your own or any third-party software, macros or other stored rapid keystrokes or other patterns of play that facilitate acquisition of items, currency, objects, character attributes, rank or status at an accelerated rate when compared with ordinary Game play. You may not rewrite or modify the user interface or otherwise manipulate data in any way to acquire items, currency, objects, character attributes or beneficial actions not actually acquired or achieved in the Game.

I'm only replacing single keyboard commands with mouse-button clicks, so I think I'm OK. I'm not doing anything that performs "at an accelerated rate" - the time it takes to click a mouse button instead of a keyboard combination is arguably the same. But CCP Games' thinking on what is or is not a EULA violation can sometimes be murky. I intend to ask CCP Falcon about this at EVE Vegas and try to get a definitive ruling.

I have found that in a game that relies heavily on mastering a relatively complex user interface to succeed, using a high-end mouse like the G900 when playing EVE Online does make a difference in the quality of the experience. Does it give me a distinct advantage over other players? Not really, I think. But it definitely feels like I'm playing better - and that extra bit of confidence is certainly nice to have.

Fly safe! o7