Friday, March 26, 2010

Does DPI Mean Anything in Gaming Mice

One of the many ways gamers judge the quality of their mice is by comparing the DPI, or dots per inch that the mouse is capable of reading. DPI is used as a measure of sensitivity for the mouse, or how little the mouse needs to be moved to generate a corresponding movement in your virtual world such as the ironsights of your gun in a first person shooter or the cursor in a strategy game. A higher number means the mouse can read that many more "dots" inside of a single square inch. Many gamers see a high number and think they have a top tier mouse, but do these numbers actually mean anything in terms of actual performance? SteelSeries says no.

"The industry has been highly successful in establishing this number as something highly important, when in reality it doesn't really mean all that much" says Kim Rom, CMO of SteelSeries. "Technology has progressed to a level where you can move your mouse, say, one inch on your desk, and your cursor will move 2 or 3 times your screen length. That sounds impressive for sure, but where is the real value in that? [DPI] doesn't make you more precise or accurate; I would argue that it does exactly the opposite. A higher DPI in a mouse doesn't offer a lot of value, and it is not a benchmark for how precise or awesome the mouse is. It's simply a measure of sensitivity."

Rom's argument is a relatively simple one. Take a look at professional players who are in the running for serious cash money. People with something something real on the line and who create a science out of their equipment configurations and settings for maximum performance. "Ninety percent of the expert gamers out there will be using a DPI value between 800 to 1600," says Rom. "If you paid some serious money for your gaming mouse, check out its stats: it's likely it can do some multiple of 1600 at maximum sensitivity." He also goes on to add that "We are hardware purists—we believe in function first, technology second." Rom believes the industry has successfully established the sensitivity of a mouse as the most important feature of the product. However, he looks forward to a day when mice sales aren't driven by having a larger number on the box.

Countering SteelSeries claims about the effectiveness of DPI, Razer fires back stating that DPI in a gaming mouse does matter. As gamers continue to adopt larger monitors and more powerful video cards, it only makes sense that a high-DPI mouse would have increased demand. "There are also more high-sense gamers around now, corresponding to the much larger screens and much higher resolutions available," argues Robert “Razerguy” Krakoff, president of Razer. "Many of the features Razer pioneered are being used in all gaming mice in the industry today, just as you will find high precision DPI metrics being used by pretty much all gaming mice out there."

Krakoff continues. "I think gamers care about DPI and I do think the term makes sense for today’s mice. We pioneered this industry back in 1999 when we came out with the first gaming mouse offering 2000 DPI—at that time gamers were told by our competitors that 800 DPI was enough. Now people are saying 1600 DPI is enough, just like there were “purists” who believed in silent movies, black and white TV or perhaps film rather than digital cameras." Of course, Krakoff doesn't believe that ultra-high DPI mice are for everyone, as all gamers have a unique style of play and one size does not fit all. Instead he is a firm believer in choice and recognizes that gamers will need mice on both sides of the spectrum.

Regardless of your take on whether DPI truly matters or not, realize that both Razer and SteelSeries make a wide variety of mice and both companies offer products that let you change DPI on the fly. The most important aspect of finding a great gaming mouse is finding one that conforms to your style of play. Beware though, high quality gaming mice don't come cheap regardless of DPI.

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