Difference Between Optical and Laser Mouse

Main Difference – Optical vs Laser Mouse

In the olden days, the computer mouse was a mechanical device that was aided by a ball that rotated external wheels to guide a pointer on the computer screen. Due to the rapid advances that have been made in technology, optical and laser mouse devices have become efficient and responsive. We know for a fact that optical and laser mouses are better than the traditional mouse. The wired mouse has faster response times than wireless ones. Although both devices almost use the same technology, there are few noticeable differences between them. The optical mouse is able to provide higher accuracy; it uses an LED to illuminate the surface, is less expensive and works well on non-glossy surfaces and on mouse pads. The laser mouse, on the other hand, comes with a higher DPI, uses a laser diode, is relatively expensive, and works on many surfaces. This is the main difference between optical and laser mouse.Difference Between Optical and Laser Mouse - infographic

What is an Optical Mouse

The optical mouse was introduced as an alternative to the obsolete mechanical mouse. The optical mouse is an advanced pointing device that uses a light-emitting diode, optical sensor, and a digital signal processing unit in place of a traditional electromechanical transducer and a mouse ball. Rather than interpreting the motion of a rolling sphere as in the traditional mouse, the optical mouse senses the changes in the reflected light from a suitable surface.

The optical mouse typically uses a light source such as an LED and a light detector that detects the movement of the device in relation to the surface. One of the first optical mice used an infrared LED. This LED was used to detect grid lines with the help of infrared absorbing ink printed on a metallic surface. There were also mice with a 16 MP visible light image sensor that was used to track dot lights on a dark printed paper.

The modern day optical mice come with an optoelectronic sensor that has a small low-resolution video camera. Due to the developments in technology, powerful and inexpensive chips for image processing are produced and installed in the mice. This enabled the mice to work on many types of surfaces and translate the movement of a cursor to a computer screen.

The optical mouse does not need to be cleaned as with the traditional mechanical mouse with moving parts. When the device is used on a proper surface, it is as precise as any pointing device available. This will be very useful in graphic applications and gaming where precision is a must.

Main Difference - Optical vs Laser Mouse

What is a Laser Mouse

From a technology point of view, both the optical mouse and laser mouse are almost the same. The optical mouse uses an LED to illuminate the surface beneath the sensors. The laser mouse, on the other hand, comes with an infrared laser diode that is an electrically pumped semiconductor to power the device. This technology was introduced by Sun Microsystems in 1998 although it became available in the market in 2004. With the laser mouse, the captured image resolution is comparatively higher that the LED illuminated mouse.

Difference Between Optical and Laser Mouse

Difference Between Optical and Laser Mouse

Used Technology

Optical mouse: The optical mouse uses LED for illumination

Laser mouse: The laser mouse uses an infrared laser diode.        

Being the newer technology may not always be better. Although the laser diode is able to produce a better DPI, the optical mouse is more reliable and precise depending on the surface used. This is evident when the fabric mouse pad and optical mouse combination is being used. If both mice are casually being used the difference in the jitter may not be evident.


Optical mouse: The optical mouse is less expensive

Laser mouse: The laser mouse is more expensive.

As the laser mouse comes with the latest technology available, it is more expensive.


Optical mouse: The optical mouse uses LED lights to track movement

Laser mouse: The laser mouse uses a laser diode to track movement.

The laser mouse uses the laser diode with the mouse. This is a recent technology when compared with the LED lights on the optical mouse.


Optical mouse: The resolution is 3000 dpi.

Laser mouse: The resolution is 6000 dpi.

Although the laser diode uses the latest technology it may not be the best when it comes to accuracy; the optical mouse may be the best in tracking the movement.

Image Courtesy:

“Laser mouse” By Mr.checker – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia  

“Logitech blue optical mouse” By G.ardaud (talk) – Own work (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Reginald

Reginald has a BEng (Hons) degree in Electronics Engineering and has great passion for writing. He has been a freelance writer for over two years. His interests include electronic gadgets, smartphones and cameras, software, programming, and networking. He is also a detail
oriented person who is in the lookout for new trends and developments in technology.