Wired vs wireless gaming mice: key differences explained

Razer Mouse
(Image credit: Razer)

If you are a PC gamer then it's highly likely that you have come across the age-old debate of whether a wired or wireless mouse is better for your needs. It's a thorny issue and one that, until fairly recently, would have only had one firm answer: wired, for ever and ever.

Having a wired mouse means you don't have to worry about connectivity as it's physically tethered to your PC. The worry about battery issues goes away, too, and as for response times - well, wired would always win out, right?

Until as recently as 2016, that argument held a lot of weight and you would have found it hard to find a PC gamer that favoured a wireless mouse over a wired one. But then something happened that turned heads and changed the perception of the wireless mouse forever.

In 2016, the Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum launched and, with it, Logitech made the bold claim that the mouse was the fastest on the market. Not the fastest 'wireless' mouse, but the fastest mouse. 

"We talked with eSports pros and none of them love the cable on a wired mouse," said Ujesh Desai vice president and general manager of gaming at Logitech at the time

"They wish they had the freedom of wireless but the performance and reliability of a wired mouse. So that was the design goal we gave our engineers, to build a wireless gaming mouse that was faster than the competition's wired gaming mice. G900 delivers on this promise, and we're confident it's the best gaming mouse we've ever built."

Reviews at the time confirmed that the mouse lived up to its hype, shifting the balance of the wired vs wireless argument somewhat. That was four years ago and wireless technology has advanced even more since then.

But it's not just connectivity that's a factor when buying one of the best gaming mouse. There are many more decisions you have to consider. 

Here are some of the key differences explained when it comes to buying a wireless mouse, compared to a wired one.

Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum

The Logitech G900 Chaos Spectrum wireless mouse (Image credit: Logitech)

Cable or no cable?

A wired mouse, by its very definition, has a cable. This cable has traditionally meant that things like input lag aren't an issue as your mouse plugs straight into a USB port (or PS/2 port if you are old school) and there's minimal input lag with a wired mouse. 

Most wireless gaming mice connect to a computer via a USB connector using a 2.4GHz connection, but low-latency Bluetooth is also a consideration and many will actually come with a wire as well. If you invest in a decent dedicated wireless gaming mouse, then latency really shouldn't be an issue.

While traditionalists will always choose wired, there are benefits of having a truly wireless setup. A cable can cause resistance when gaming and this is something to take into consideration. The friction from a cable could be the difference between a win or loss in the heat of a particularly furious online battle. 

Accuracy counts

Whether you choose a wired or wireless gaming mouse, accuracy counts. There are a number of things you should look at but it's worth noting that they are remarkably similar in both wireless and wired setups. 

One major factor is DPI. This stands for 'dots per linear inch'. The idea being that the higher the DPI, the less movement you have to use to get the cursor to move. The lower the DPI and you have to give the mouse more welly to get the cursor going. 

The majority of gaming mice on the market will offer somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000DPI which is a phenomenal number. But don't just take the higher number as being better. 

It really depends on the type of gaming you are doing. While a higher DPI could work well for accuracy in character movement, it might not be so good for aiming a gun - if your mouse is too sensitive then aiming may well become an issue.

The good news is that most gaming mice allow you to change the DPI and sensitivity of a mouse. 

Who's in charge?

One of the key differences between a wired mouse and wireless mouse is charging. A wired mouse doesn't have the inconvenience of having to be charged, while a wireless mouse will inevitably need juicing up. 

For hardcore gamers this could be an issue, but many wireless mice can hold a charge that amounts to around 50 hours, even more. 

Take the Corsair Harpoon RGB Wireless, which features in our best gaming mouse guide. You can get 60 hours' gameplay out of this mouse, 30 hours if you turn the RGB lighting on and use the most optimal wireless connection. And when they do need a charge, you are only looking at two to three hours.

Corsair Harpoon RGB Wireless

The Corsair Harpoon RGB Wireless mouse (Image credit: TechRadar)

Gaming anywhere

Another key area where wireless and wired mice differ is the proximity to the computer. With wired mice it's obvious that you have to be near the computer because you are tethered to it. 

A wireless mouse has the advantage that it can be used away from the computer - sometimes up to 30 feet without messing up the latency. 

This is good for those who have taken their PC out of their bedrooms and have a living room setup. It means you can theoretically head to the couch to play your game, rather than have to stay by your desk and in your gaming chair

Wired vs wireless gaming mice: the verdict

Because of advancements in wireless technology and battery, gaming with a wired or wireless mouse is now down to preference. 

There will always be those who prefer wired and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your mouse's connection is never going to suffer, or that a flat battery will scupper an all-night gaming session. But these things are something of a rarity now. 

Wireless mouse technology now means that latency is on a par with wired brethren and the likes of Logitech, Corsair and Razer have worked hard to make sure their versions of 1.4Ghz connectivity is as stable as it can be. 

Choosing the right gaming mouse is now largely down to ergonomics - how the mouse feels in the hand for you and how much you are willing to pay. These should be the first questions you ask yourself, and that itself shows how far wireless gaming mice have come.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.