When it comes to computers, few peripherals are as essential as the humble computer mouse. Most new PCs come with a basic mouse included, but depending on how you use your machine -- especially if you're into intense gaming or precise graphic design, for example -- you may well need a mouse that's built specifically for your needs. Even if you own a laptop, a dedicated mouse is often faster and more comfortable to use than the trackpad on your laptop.
We found the best reviews of computer mice at websites that cater to technology enthusiasts. CNET is one of the leading sources of computer-mice reviews, providing detailed and balanced analysis based on extensive testing. Editors post updated reviews with a regularity few other technology sites can match.
PCAdvisor.com and DigitalVersus.com also offer comprehensive, up-to-date mouse reviews, as does EverythingUSB.com. While these sites provide thorough, illustrated analyses, they don't often perform the comparative testing that CNET does. Still, their design and performance criteria can help you identify which mice are best overall and which fail to make the grade.
Other tech sites such as Gizmodo.com and PCMag.com have extensive reviews, and British sites Bit-Tech.net and TrustedReviews.com provide detailed evaluations and ratings. User reviews from retail sites such as Amazon.com and Newegg.com are also useful, because they can provide insight into long-term performance.
Computer mice come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and features tailored to a user's individual needs. Standard mice such as the Logitech Performance Mouse MX (*Est. $75) are typically for those who require a general-purpose device suitable for web browsing or basic photo, video and text editing. Some standard mice can be programmed to condense oft-repeated keyboard strokes such as copy, cut and paste into a single click.
A gaming mouse differs significantly from a standard mouse in that it's expected to meet exacting demands for speed, precision and ergonomics. In addition to a soft, comfortable grip that can withstand hours of play, skilled gamers require a fast, responsive mouse free of lag. Gaming mice typically come with a plethora of customizable buttons that let users program strategic commands or adjust the sensitivity for high-speed motion detection during multiplayer or first-person shooter games.
Ergonomic mice are specifically designed to minimize wrist and forearm stress that can occur after prolonged computer usage. Despite their unusual appearance, ergonomic mice are designed to reduce repetitive stress injuries by keeping your palm in the vertical handshake position, which experts say encourages more arm muscle movement and less reliance on the hand and wrist. However, there are few industry standards that define what features or design an ergonomic mouse should have, making these mice difficult to assess objectively.
Travel and laptop mice combine portability and convenience with wireless connectivity and diminutive size. Most are small enough to slip into a laptop bag or briefcase and some, like the Microsoft Arc Touch (*Est. $35) , can fit in your shirt pocket. Although travel and laptop mice may lack the features of larger desktop mice -- you won't find travel mice with a dozen programmable buttons, for example -- the basic functionality is there.
To gain attention in a crowded market, some mice are sleekly styled, while others feature innovative technology. The wireless Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX (*Est. $45) , for example, can be used on glass surfaces, something few other mice can do. In addition to its unique tracking ability, the portable Anywhere Mouse earns praise from users and professional reviewers for its compact design and dual-mode scrolling.
However, experts agree that appearance is less important than comfort and performance. For example, the curved, slim, soft white shell of the Apple Magic Mouse looks great, but reviewers are not enthusiastic about its performance.