When you’re a serious gamer that cares about squeezing out every bit of performance you can from your equipment, you start looking into the smaller details. The devil is in the details, after all.
It may seem that a fast CPU, high-end GPU, and lots of RAM will be enough to help you reach your peak gaming potential, but that is far from the case. After making sure these three factors are in check, you’re going to want to explore further into the minor factors that affect your performance while gaming.
One such “minor” factor is the polling rate of your mouse. Don’t worry, it isn’t some complicated term only to be understood by people with an engineering degree, it’s actually pretty simple and could be the reason you aren’t performing at your full potential.
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What Does The Term Polling Rate Mean?
If you’re unaware of what polling rate means or just need a quick brush-up of your knowledge on it, polling rate is the rate at which your mouse communicates with your PC. It is measured in hertz (Hz), which is the SI unit of frequency. A frequency of 1 Hz, means an action is performed or a cycle is completed once every second.
With polling rates, for example, a frequency of 125 Hz would mean that your mouse will send signals over to your PC 125 times each second. This gives your mouse a response time of 8 milliseconds. The polling rate of your mouse decides how much lag you will experience while using it. Most regular mice use a polling rate of 125 Hz, while gaming mice use higher frequency polling rates of 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, and above.
If you find yourself often complaining about lag with your aiming, you should care about the polling rate in your mouse.
How Does Polling Rate Affect Gaming?
The polling rate makes its biggest impact in FPS (first-person shooter games). This is due to the major roles played by your mouse while aiming and firing. In these games, the smallest difference in response time could be the difference between a win or a loss.
If we were to take an example where your enemy and you came in front of each other at the same time and clicked the fire button on your mouse at the same time, the polling rate of your mouse will be the primary factor in determining who lives and who dies.
Think of it like the old wild west, the fastest hand and the fastest gun wins in a shootout. The person with the higher polling rate will take the cake (or the chicken dinner).
A higher polling rate is crucial when you have a high refresh rate PC playing games at high frames per second.
Also read: The Ultimate Guide To Keycap Profiles and Materials
What Are Commonly Used Polling Rates?
So now you know what the term polling rate means and how it impacts gaming. It’s time for us to take a look at some standard polling rates, what they mean and how they affect your mouse’s performance.
The most common polling rates are 125 Hz, 500 Hz and 1000 Hz. At 125 Hz, your mouse communicates with your PC 125 times per second. This gives it a lag or delay of 8 milliseconds. 125 Hz is the most common polling rate used in home or office setups and is all you really need for normal use and casual gaming.
At 500 Hz, your mouse sends signals 500 times a second, causing a lag of 2 milliseconds. Finally, at 1000 Hz, your mouse will communicate with your PC 1000 times per second, which leads to a minimal lag of 1 millisecond.
There are higher polling rates with lower lag, such as 4000 Hz with 0.25 milliseconds of lag and 8000 Hz with 0.125 milliseconds of lag, but those aren’t as common.
How Are DPI And Polling Rate Different?
Now the terms DPI and Polling Rate may be easy to confuse, after all, they’re both related to your mouse. Let’s see how they differ.
The DPI, or dots per inch, of your mouse, is basically the pixels your mouse’s cursor covers on the screen after you move it one inch with your hand. For example, if your mouse’s DPI is 500, then your cursor will travel 500 pixels if you move the mouse one inch in real life. DPI ultimately decides your mouse’s sensitivity to movement from your hand.
As you can guess, a higher DPI works better for a larger display or for high-resolution monitors like 4K and above. If you were to have a low DPI with these displays, you would need to move your hand across a much larger distance in real life to get any substantial cursor movement on-screen.
On the flip side, smaller or lower resolution monitors require a mouse with a lower DPI. If you use a mouse with a high DPI of say 1000, on a 16-inch screen with a resolution of 1366×768, your cursor would fly across your screen at the slightest movement, making it near impossible for you to get any work done at all.
The standard DPI on work and home mice is around 300. This allows for a comfortable relationship between you moving your hand in real life and the cursor responding to it on screen. Gamers, however, require a higher DPI and it is common for gaming mice to have 400 to 800 DPI.
The reason that gamers require a higher DPI is mostly due to them having larger, higher resolution displays and needing to cover a large area of the screen quickly. Most gaming mice have adjustable DPI for you to change according to your needs.
Long story short, higher DPI is better for larger screens with higher resolution and lower DPI is better for smaller screens with lower resolution. It’s also about comfort and accuracy. If you feel like you have less control over your hands’ micro-movement and/or your hands tend to jitter, then low mouse sensitivity (low DPI) would be better for you. If you’re someone who has precise hand movements and needs quick control and movement, go with a higher DPI.
Polling rate on the other hand decides how many times a second the mouse sends the position to your PC. It determines how fast your PC receives a signal from your mouse.
While DPI decides how many dots or pixels to move in correspondence with real life hand movement, polling rate basically decides the latency of your mouse and how quickly your cursor will respond to your hand’s actions.
Also read: What is Mouse Smoothing?
Which Polling Rate Is The Best For Gaming In 2023?
After learning so much about polling rates and their impact on gaming, you might be ready with an answer to this question yourself. The higher the better right? Well no, this isn’t entirely true.
While high polling rates may sound amazing, the higher they are, the more CPU power they use. Once you go above 500 or 1000 Hz, the performance upgrade you get at the cost of CPU power is negligible and can also be counterproductive.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure that your mouse’s polling rate is faster than your monitor’s refresh rate, otherwise, you will experience choppy camera movement, or it might seem like your game is skipping frames when you move the in-game camera with your mouse. You don’t want to be caught using a mouse with a 125 Hz polling rate on a 144 Hz refresh rate display.
So what is a good polling rate? It depends on your usage. For gamers, getting a mouse with a switchable polling rate is the smartest thing to do. The classic 125 Hz polling rate is perfect for regular use and offers the smoothest cursor experience.
A polling rate of above 500 Hz, should be more than enough for most users. If you really want high precision and minimal lag, go for a polling rate of 1000 Hz. There is an upper limit here, going above 1000 Hz doesn’t really make sense.
In conclusion, for gamers, a polling rate of 1000 Hz is ideal. However, a mouse with a constant 1000 Hz polling rate isn’t ideal for regular use. Keeping that in mind, a mouse that lets you cycle between 125 Hz, 500 Hz and 1000 Hz is your best bet.
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