Computer mouse, the different types available for your computer

They say computer hardware, whether internal or external, has a shelf life of around 2 years, many video gamers for example, are opting for consoles like the Xbox 360 or PS3 and shying away from the traditional PC for that exact reason. For the university student or office employee, a personal computer (PC) still holds great value, a mouse and keyboard being the best instruments for day to day computing.

Let's look at the most commonly used input device for any home or office computer...the computer mouse

Are you man or computer mouse?

So what the big deal, a mouse is just a mouse right? Well yes, computer mice are affordable enough for anybody to simply plug them in and start navigating through their computer. The difference is that many people use the mouse for various reasons; video game experts use a mouse for accuracy, precision and control when playing video games, business entrepreneurs need comfort and reliable especially when working for a longer periods of time. Whatever the reason, giving commands to your computer without a mouse can be downright impossible to the common computer owner.

Optical or Laser

From the heavy rubber trackball to light emitting sensors, the technology for the computer mouse has changed making computer software more responsive. Computer retailers may still stock older "ball mouse" but the majority still opt for selling newer optical or laser mice. But what's the difference between the two?

Optical Mouse - these mice use one or more light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and other light converting technology to detect movement on the particular surface the LED is facing, meaning the mouse doesn't need bulky loose components, like a heavy trackball, to be able to move the pointer on screen.

Laser Mouse - these mice use laser beams to track movement and can be considered too be more accurate and precise than optical or trackball mice. Where an optical mouses LED would shine a bright red (or other colours), laser mouse have no shine and are usually invisible to the naked eye. The laser beam can also reflect on practically any surface, meaning there's no need for mouse pads.

A typical example of a laser gaming mouse

Air mouse... no surface needed

An Inertial mouse also called an "air mouse" is a mouse that doesn't need solid surfaces to work. Unlike laser and optical mice, an inertial mouse uses accelerometers to detect rotary movement from every angle. So simple wrist movements are required to operated an inertial mouse.

Air mice are faster, lighter and easier to use than laser or optical mice. It was recently confirmed that an inertial mouse consumes less power than its LED and laser brethren and are usually cordless with an increased range.

3D Mice

A fairly new concept to the uninformed, a 3D mouse can be used to navigate or interact with objects in a 3D space. Quite simply, 3D mice are used by artists and engineers to create the next big masterpiece or design a modern skyscraper over looking the city. You can for example take an image, pan, zoom and rotate the object to fit into your design, most of which would be difficult on a conventional mouse and keyboard. The most popular 3D mice brand would be 3DConnexion as they exclusively specialize in 3D mouse models.

3D mice are very niche and can be expensive for the ordinary consumer; however professionals with various creative skill sets prefer 3D mice for its practicality and its three degrees of freedom.

The SpaceExplorer 3D: a perfect example of a 3D mouse

Both optical and laser mice have wired and wireless options, this depends on personal preference but the cost difference between the two has lowered in recent years. USB connectioned mice have mostly replaced the PS/2 interface on newer mouse models. New technologies like touchscreen monitors and motion controlled devices are said to replace the computer mouse. Laptops have already been incorporated with touchpads to act as pointing devices but lack the range and natural movement of a mouse.

So what's next for the mouse, only time will tell, but for now the mouse still remains the most reliable, precise and comfortable way to interacted with your desktop computer or laptop.