Computer Mouse Buying Guide

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Mouse Buying Guide

Unless you are using a laptop exclusively and just love a touchpad, a mouse is as vital to using a computer as the power cable. Every computer user, from software designers to online gamers need something different out of their mouse, and the market is filled with options ranging from the high-tech to the somewhat whimsical.

With a number of companies now producing computers and accessories, there are several options to choose from. The choice of ball, optical, laser, or trackball mouse really comes down to individual needs and preferences. To help with the all important choice of which mouse to buy, this guide will cover what the pros and cons are for each style of mouse. It also includes a section on how to buy a mouse on eBay.

The Mouse

The computer mouse is a much older device than most contemporary computer users realize. Invented in 1952 as part of a secret Canadian Navy project, the mouse was kept secret and never patented. In 1963 Douglas Englebart of the Stanford Research Institute invented his version of the mouse with research colleague Bill English, and named the device "the mouse." It got its name due to its resemblance to the rodent of the same name, what with its compact build and its cord that looked like a tail.

Simply put, a mouse is a handheld pointing device that enables the user to navigate through computer programs. However, a mouse is much more than that. It is a vital tool used by various computer-based workers to do everything from editing documents to designing nuclear power plants. With such a vast array of uses and operator needs, designers are constantly refining and expanding on the functions of the mouse.

Ball Mouse

The ball mouse was invented in 1972 by Bill English, who was the builder of the Englebart mouse in 1963. In short, a ball mouse uses a heavy, rubber-coated ball in conjunction with a set of rollers to enable movement along the X- and Y-axes. The movement of the mouse rolls the ball that in turn manipulates the rollers. Data related to the position of the mouse is then transmitted to the computer. While these ball "mice" are still produced, they are being used less and less. The functionality of the mice is often affected by the gunk that builds up on the rubber ball. To ensure smooth operation, a ball mouse always has to be used in conjunction with a mousepad. Depending on the manufacturer and computer (PC or Apple/Mac) the mouse can have one or two buttons, and may have a scrolling wheel. Some mice may have the roller ball on top of the mouse for manipulation by the forefinger.

Optical Mouse

Optical tracking mice are the most widely used and popular mice available today. Among the reasons for their popularity are accuracy, the fact that the user doesn't need to use a mousepad, and the durability of the device. An optical mouse can operate on just about any non-shiny or transparent surface without the need for a mousepad. This saves desk space and allows for easy use with a laptop when away from a desk. An optical mouse transmits directional data to the computer by way of an LED and sensor, which pick up the mouse's movements. Most optical mice have two buttons and a scrolling wheel on top of the mouse. Some may have additional function buttons on the right and left sides of the mouse. Just as with the ball mouse, depending on the style and if its for PC or Mac, the mouse may have specific functions. The advancement in mouse technology from the ball mouse to the optical mouse is what helped drive computer and online gaming. Optical mice allowed operators to move characters and avatars through gaming environments with greater accuracy. Leading manufacturers include Microsoft, Logitech and onn. These mice come in corded, Bluetooth and RF wireless versions.  

Laser Mouse

Inasmuch as the optical mouse outshines the ball mouse, the laser mouse is the newest and most advanced mouse on the market today. In almost every way the laser mouse looks, feels and operates just like an optical mouse. The difference is in accuracy. The LED of the optical mouse has been replaced with a highly-sensitive laser. The laser mouse is able to pick-up on even the slightest movement of the operator. This has raised online gaming to another level, and gives individuals working in visual arts and graphics greater control than ever available before. An added bonus with laser mice is that this style of mouse saves power. Some brands boast half the power usage and up to four-times the speed of a ball mice. Leading manufacturers include Microsoft, Logitech and onn. These mice come in corded, Bluetooth and RF wireless versions.

Specialty Mice

Some professions such as drafting, architecture, photography and graphic design require the operator to make precise and often minute adjustments to the images they are manipulating. The same is true for amateur and hobby photographers and artists, who manipulate photographs, graphics and videos for sharing on social media sites. Depending on the need and the savvy they possess, there are TrackBall, vertical and other specialty mice available. The cost will be dependent on features, but will be somewhat higher than that of optical and laser mice.

For those who want to add a little personalization to their computing experience, there are loads of novelty mice in the market. Want a Hello Kitty mouse for a child? They are out there, as are mice that look like model cars, cartoon characters, and even the small rodents they were named for.

Trackball Mouse

The Trackball mouse has a couple of features that make it popular with professionals and the regular user as well. First off, since the roller ball is mounted on the top of the mouse there is no need to move the mouse. This makes it a space saving device, but more importantly, it gives the operator the most minute control over the cursor possible. Trackball mice are available in corded and Bluetooth and RF wireless versions and in general have the same scrolling wheel and buttons in the same configuration as do optical/laser mice.

Vertical Mouse

For people who spend 40 or more hours per week working on a computer, the familiar forearm and wrist discomfort that comes around at the end of the day is well known. A vertical mouse is designed so that the operator holds it in a handshake position. This ergonomic design, according to developers, relieves much of the pain in the arm and wrist, because the arm isn't constantly held at an inward twist position. 

Novelty Mouse

Novelty mice generally have all the same functions as optical/laser mice and are reasonably priced, depending on the features. Many of these mice have a standard shape, but are colored, adorned with designs or logos of sports teams and the like. Others can be found that are shaped like sports cars, animals, bugs, candy bars, gold bricks and even LEGO blocks, among countless other configurations.  

Finding the Right Mouse on eBay

Along with retail and specialty stores, computer mice can be easily found online on marketplace sites such as eBay. To shop for mice on eBay, simply go the the home page, and mouseover the "Electronics" tab of the categories tabs on the left-hand side of the page. Select "Computers, Tablets & Networking." Once you navigate to this page select "Computer Components & Parts" from the list on the left-hand side of the page. Once navigated to this page, select "Computer Cases & Accessories" and start shopping. Another way is simply to enter "Computer Mouse" into the search window of the main page and click "search."

Before Making a Purchase

Before making a purchase on eBay, keep a few things in mind, such as condition, price, and reason for purchase. Remember to consider your specific needs. With the vast selection of computer mice on eBay, the hardest part might be choosing one. However, if a buyer can't find exactly what they want with an initial search, shopping in eBay Stores might be the solution, or they can tell the eBay community what they want by creating a post in Want It Now, or save a search in My eBay, and eBay will email them when a match becomes available.

Remember to always check the seller out, and get familiar with how eBay works to protect buyers and sellers. Although a rare event, if an item fails to arrive, is damaged, or is different than described, eBay Buyer Protection will cover the purchase price plus original shipping. Of course, terms and conditions do apply. 


With the nearly unlimited options for computer mice available for the public to choose from, the choice really comes down to individual preference. If the mouse is being purchased for work or home, for gaming or serious business, the features must be considered carefully. Just keep in mind that the more features the mouse comes with, the higher the price. Buyers will find a wide selection of computer mice and related accessories on eBay.

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