Mice have come a long way since the days of the rubber ball and mechanical tracking. Modern mice use laser sensors instead of the old-school mechanical tracking. This has improved mouse tracking and precision. But what exactly is a laser mouse, and how does it work? This article will dive into the details of mouse lasers, looking at what they are, whether all mice have them, safety, and more.
What is the Laser Mouse?
The laser in a mouse is a small infrared laser diode. This laser diode shoots a beam of infrared light onto the surface that the mouse is tracking on. The infrared light bounces off the surface and returns back into the mouse sensor.
The sensor inside the mouse, known as a CMOS sensor, detects the reflected light and uses it to track movement. It does this by comparing thousands of images per second and detecting patterns in how the light changes as the mouse moves. This allows it to accurately track the mouse’s movement down to micron levels.
Modern mice can have sensor resolutions from 1000 DPI up to 30,000 DPI or even higher. The higher the DPI, the more sensitive and precise the tracking. While high DPI allows for more accuracy, most users don’t need more than 3000-4000 DPI for regular computer use.
Do All Mice Have Lasers?
While many modern mice use laser sensors, not all mice have lasers. There are a few different types of mouse sensors in use:
- Laser mouse use an infrared laser diode to illuminate the surface as described above. These provide excellent tracking accuracy.
- LED optical mice use an LED light instead of a laser. These are also very accurate but may not be quite as precise as laser mouse. However, for most users they work just as well as laser mice.
- Mechanical mice use a rubber ball or cylindrical wheel to detect movement. The ball/wheel contacts the surface and its movement is translated into cursor movement. These are an older technology and less accurate than optical mice.
So in summary:
- Laser mouse have a distinct infrared laser for tracking.
- LED mice use a standard LED light for optical tracking.
- Mechanical mice use a ball or wheel with no optical tracking.
For the average user, both laser and LED optical mice will provide excellent cursor control and precision. The laser does provide slightly better performance, but for regular computer use an LED mouse often works just as well at a lower price point.
Is it safe to look at the laser mouse?
Since the laser in an optical mouse is infrared and invisible to the human eye, it might seem harmless. But it’s important to note that you should never directly look into the laser beam, as it can potentially damage eyesight.
The class 1 lasers used in mice have a low power output of around 1-5mW. This is a safe level for normal use, as the beam is diffused and reflected off the tracking surface.
However, if you directly look into the pinpoint laser source, the concentrated beam entering the eye poses a hazard. It can damage the retina with even a short direct exposure. Eye-safety organizations therefore warn against staring into the laser.
To be safe, avoid looking directly into the laser opening or shining it into your own eyes or others. While brief accidental exposure likely won’t cause harm, purposefully staring into the laser could potentially injure the eyes. Children also may not understand the dangers, so keep optical mice away from young kids.
With normal use, mouse lasers are perfectly safe thanks to their low intensity. But like any laser, avoid direct eye exposure for long periods as a precaution.
What is the Red Laser Dot on Some Mice?
Some optical mice include a bright red laser dot or “sniper” button to toggle on. This red laser is simply for visual targeting purposes and not used for actual tracking.
The tracking sensor uses infrared light as described above. But the visible red laser provides a pointer to conveniently aim at screen targets or highlight objects. It makes it easier to draw attention and visualize what you’re pointing at.
The red laser tends to have a higher power output of around 5-20mW. While this is still generally safe, the bright visible beam poses more of an eye hazard than the dimmer infrared tracking laser. So even more care should be taken to avoid direct eye and skin exposure to the red laser.
Most mice with the red laser option have a physical switch to toggle it on and off as needed. Use it for visual highlighting, but turn it off when not required. Never aim the red beam at people’s eyes or skin. With responsible use, the visual laser aids in targeting without posing hazards.
LED and laser mouse: Which should you choose?
When buying an optical mouse, the choice often comes down to laser vs LED. Which type of sensor should you choose? Here are some key comparisons to consider:
- Tracking precision: Laser mouse offer slightly better tracking resolution and precision over LED mice. Lasers tend to reach higher DPI levels.
- Surface compatibility: Laser mice work well on more surfaces, including glass and reflective materials that may cause issues with some LED mice.
- Price: Lasers are currently the premium option, so laser mouse typically cost more than LED counterparts of similar DPI levels.
- Power use: The laser diode draws marginally more power, resulting in slightly shorter battery life on wireless models.
- Durability: Lasers have no moving parts, giving them better durability over mechanical mice. But LEDs also have excellent durability over mechanical options.
For most regular computer use, both laser and LED mice provide excellent tracking and precision. Unless you’re a high-level gamer or graphics professional needing peak DPI, an LED mouse often provides the best balance of performance and value for office and home use.
But laser models excel if you want peak precision performance and versatility across all surfaces. The laser gives them a slight tracking advantage, albeit at a higher cost. Evaluate your needs and budget to choose if the laser boost is worth the increase in price.
Tips for caring for your laser mouse
To keep your mouse laser or LED sensor working smoothly:
- Avoid getting moisture or liquids on the lens opening, as this can interfere with tracking.
- Don’t scratch or touch the lens aperture. Oils from skin can dirty the lens and degrade performance.
- Regularly clean your mouse surface to remove dust, crumbs and debris. A clean surface allows the best light reflection.
- Use a firm mousepad or tracking surface. Soft or uneven surfaces distort the light and cause erratic cursor movement.
- When cleaning the mouse, use a soft brush or air duster to remove surface dust. Avoid harsh cleaners.
- If tracking performance declines, the lens may need professional cleaning or replacement. Friction from use can gradually degrade the laser or LED.
With proper care and maintenance, both laser and LED optical mice should provide years of smooth, precise cursor control for your desktop or laptop. The sensor technology inside them means you won’t have to deal with the annoyances of a gunked up mechanical mouse ball!