If you still think of wireless mice as laggy, battery-sucking substitutes for a real mouse, we’ve got good news for you. Mouse manufacturers have largely solved the latency, connectivity, and power-efficiency problems that once blighted these devices. The best of today’s wireless mice rival their wired counterparts in performance, battery life, features, and design.
There are two rather obvious benefits of a wireless mouse. It eliminates the tether to your computer, giving you greater range—essential if you are constrained by your work area or playing PC games on your TV—and removes a source of friction that often interferes with speed and accuracy. It also makes an essential device more travel friendly. No one objects to one less cord in their gear bag. You’ll probably pay a bit more for a wireless mouse than a wired one, but if you value this kind of convenience it’s worth it.
Want to pair your wireless mouse with a wireless keyboard? We’ve got you covered—see PCWorld’s roundup of the best wireless keyboards.
Our picks for best wireless mice include innovative designs, ergonomic features, and multiple connectivity options. They also cover both productivity and gaming uses, so you should be able to find at least one that suits your needs. You’ll find our tips on what to look for in a wireless mouse below our recommendations.
What to look for in a wireless mouse
In lieu of a cord, wireless mice connect in one of two ways: via Bluetooth or radio frequencies. Most modern computers ship with Bluetooth support, so if you purchase a Bluetooth-compatible mouse, you’ll just need to pair the two devices to get up and running.
Wireless mice that connect using radio frequencies come with a USB-RF receiver that plugs into a USB port on your computer. This is a plug-and-play process and the mouse should talk to the receiver—often called a “dongle”—as soon as you plug it in. If you don’t or can’t keep the dongle plugged into your computer at all times—you only have so many USB ports, after all—you’ll have to vigilantly keep track of it. If you lose it, your mouse won’t be good for anything but a paper weight. For this reason, some mice come with a small compartment in which you can store the receiver when it’s not in use.
The main concern with wireless connectivity is latency. If your input doesn’t register onscreen nearly instantly, you productivity will quickly take a hit. A mouse’s responsiveness is even more critical when gaming, where quick reflexes can be the difference between virtual life and death.
Unfortunately, there’s little agreement around which connectivity method is faster. Gaming companies like Razer and SteelSeries claim RF connections have the advantage, and that is likely true for gaming. But the latency difference between Bluetooth and RF, which is measured in tenths of a millisecond, is probably negligible for productivity. In our tests, we saw little difference between the two types of connectivity during basic work tasks.
Mouse use has been implicated in repetitive stress injuries for years, and manufacturers have responded with all kinds of quirky designs they claim will prevent or relieve wrist and arm pain. They have tweaked the mouse’s sculpt, button position, and shape seemingly every which way to facilitate a more natural angle for your arm when it’s moving and at rest. But just because the box says a mouse is ergonomic doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to reduce your discomfort. The only way to tell for sure is to use it for a period of time, and unfortunately retailers don’t typically allow test drives.
Still, for designers, PC gamers, and others who who spend continuous hours using a mouse, prioritizing an ergonomic model is probably worth it. Just remember, the type of mouse you use is only one factor in minimizing RSIs, and your habits may be an even more important factor.
While the functions of left and right buttons and the scroll wheel are clear, many mice include additional buttons on the side and/or top of the mouse that you can configure for custom tasks. Mapping these buttons to things like the back button of your browser, “cut” and “paste” commands, or other repetitive tasks can save you a lot of time in the long run. Typically, if a mouse comes with a half-dozen buttons, it will also include the manufacturer’s software for programming them.