What is Mouse DPI, and Why Does it Matter?

DPI stands for “dots per inch”. It refers to how a computer mouse measures physical distance. Specifically, dpi refers to the measurement of the speed at which a mouse cursor moves on-screen, in relation to the distance a user is moving the mouse.  For example, if you move your mouse an inch to the right with a low DPI, and then move your mouse an inch to the right with a higher DPI, the cursor on-screen would move further in the second example, despite the distance covered by the mouse’s sensor being the same.

The higher the DPI, the faster the cursor moves and the more sensitive it feels.

DPI and Sensitivity Were Not The Same

Yes. DPI and sensitivity were not the same. Why? Although both of these terms are often correlated in our minds, these are different measurements. For some users, increasing a mouse’s DPI appears to make the mouse more sensitive. DPI is a product of the physical parameters of the mouse’s hardware. On the other hand, sensitivity is usually dictated by software—usually an operating system like Windows.

One can have a low DPI and high sensitivity or vice versa. But, cranking up the sensitivity on a low-DPI mouse isn’t an ideal solution.

Users may encounter herky-jerky performance when making detailed edits in a design program when a software sensitivity is used to compensate for a low-DPI hardware.

Importance of Having High DPI

In mice market, consumers usually prefer a higher DPI (usually 10,000 and above) mouse. Though a higher DPI can potentially result in slightly lower accuracy, to the average user it will have a negligible impact. Having the option of using a higher DPI is usually worth it.

A higher DPI might come in handy if you’re working on a high-resolution display. Moving your mouse from one side to the other with a low DPI will take longer. If you’re making this movement many times a day, a higher DPI could save you time and effort, improve ergonomics, and meaningfully impact your workflow.

DPI also has a substantial impact on PC gaming performance, which is why the DPI specification is often featured front-and-center on gaming mice product markets.  

When playing a first person shooter with high DPI settings, the reticle will move across the screen faster, and requires smaller movements from your hand. This can be great for whipping around quickly, or dragging your sights from one side of your display to the other in less time. This can be hugely beneficial, especially in games where speed is important, or if you’re gaming on a higher resolution display.

The question is, “is there an ideal DPI number?” No. Not really. It depends on your preference, and what you’re using your mouse to do. Some mouse have adjustable DPI where a user can cycle through DPI settings. Its entire purpose is to allow the user find the settings that work for them.

There’s no one setting that works for everyone, which is why it’s great to have options.


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