Opinions

Part 1 - This $37 mouse is why you shouldn't spend $150 on gaming mice

Disclaimer: this post has not been sponsored in any way and simply reflects my real-world experiences. Opinions are my own.

"Gaming mouse"

Technology has evolved a lot over the years, but one thing that has remained relatively constant is the humble mouse. Oh, sure, touchscreens have become a far more common input method. Even the pipe dream hand-waving interface of Tom Cruise's Minority Report is now a reality on devices like Ultraleap and Oculus Quest. But even so, some jobs are just best handled by a pointer instead of a thumb. There's no beating the pure simplicity and precision of a mouse. And with roughly 70 years of innovation on this tried-and-true input device, surely modern technology has produced a wealth of quality and affordable options to choose from, right?

... Right?

That's what I naively assumed when my once-trusty Logitech G602 began developing a strange double-click problem. At first, it was a minor annoyance when one click would register as two, or when dragging would drop a file a moment too soon. But before long, it was downright unusable for any kind of precision work. And, I mean, what else do you do with a mouse?

I knew a replacement was in my near future, but I never would've anticipated what an ordeal finding one turned out to be.

Amazon reviews frequently report double-click failures on high-end gaming mice

The Goldilocks problem

Like anyone, I hoped to find a replacement that was both affordable and would not suffer the same flaws as the device it would replace. But the G602 spoiled me with its optical sensor and six side buttons, of which I regularly used at least four.

I must digress to say that in the interim, I used a travel Bluetooth mouse with only a laser sensor and three buttons. And, honestly, it wasn't that bad. But that's beside the point. If I could buy a mouse that checked all the right boxes at a reasonable price point, why not?

Apparently, if it doesn't exist--that's why.

To my dismay, after perusing the usual brands like Logitech, Razer, Corsair, and so on, I found that nearly all mice in my category suffered from the same double-click problem! Even on the very high end of the spectrum, users were reporting that their $150 purchases were double-clicking left-and-right, sometimes within weeks or months of purchase.

For such a specific failure to occur across brands and price-points struck me as so odd, I almost couldn't rest until I got to the bottom of it.

All I wanted was to know what criteria to look for so I could buy a darn mouse that wouldn't break just like the last one. But what I discovered ended up going way deeper than I expected.

via Alex Kenis on YouTube

Why expensive mice fail

Now, I can't take credit for the actual sleuthing that went into solving this mystery. That goes to Alex Kenis on YouTube. You can (and should) check out his incredibly in-depth video on the subject, here. But as evidenced by the absurdly low view count for such a well-made piece of content, it should come as no surprise that I had to do quite a bit of digging on my own just to get there.

It's well-worth watching the entire video, but if you don't have an hour to spare on the explanation behind a common failure of modern computer mice, I'll summarize it for you here:

  • Most name-brand mouse manufacturers use switches in the buttons produced by a company called Omron.
  • Omron produces two different kinds of switch. One is designed for high-power devices and is rated for 50 million clicks. One is designed for low-power devices and is rated for 20 million clicks. (This is an oversimplification, but you get the idea.)
  • 20 years ago, computer mice consumed enough power to justify the higher power switch. Today, mice are so power efficient that these switches are no longer appropriate for many models.
  • Because 20 million isn't as good a marketing gimmick as 50 million, mouse manufacturers continue to use the high-power switch on low-power devices, even though it will cause the switch to malfunction.
  • Ironically, this means the mouse survives far fewer than 50 or even 20 million clicks in most cases.

As the kids say: big oof.

A new hope?

Before I continue, I have to give a shout-out to Razer for taking Kenis's advice at the end of the video and creating an entirely new switch that's actually designed for their products. They call it an optical switch (as opposed to mechanical) and advertise its superiority by an alleged 2ms faster response time. But considering Razer has been gradually moving away from Omron's switch design for a while now, my guess is that's just a diversion. If the mouse switch abuse is as widespread as it seems to be, it's easier to claim a new switch is an upgrade than to admit you screwed up your own product--and screwed over your own customers--beforehand.

And indeed, for a while I thought my only real option was to bite the bullet on a pricey new Razer mouse just for the sake of reliable switches. For now, you'll only find them in Razer's Viper and Basilisk mice, which retail for $150 and $170 in their wireless versions, respectively. (And yes, you should use wireless.) But that price is a tough pill to swallow for the sake of a component that costs pennies, and while optical switches are certainly different, the idea is much too new to conclude they're more reliable than mechanical just yet.

Back to the drawing board

Refusing to give up, my search continued. And almost by accident, at long last I stumbled upon a new brand and a new mouse that seemed almost too good to be true. A high-end optical sensor, eight programmable buttons, dual wired/wireless connectivity, customizable weights and wings, a built-in battery that recharges over USB Type C, even RGB for crying out loud. And yes, of course, a set of appropriate Omron mechanical switches rated for 20 million clicks...

... in a mass-market Chinese product?

The GameSir GM300 gaming mouse

That mouse is the GM300 by rising Hong Kong peripheral company GameSir. You'll also find similar models by Delux, CROAD, and Devour. You've probably never heard of any of them, but maybe that's a shame. At the time of writing, the mouse is available on Amazon for just $37.50 (regularly $50). At that price, even if it's 1/3 as good as a Razer Viper Ultimate, it's not a bad deal.

And I can tell you right now, it's much better than that.

In Part 2 of this post, we'll take a complete look at the mouse, put it through its paces, and see if it lives up to the hype! Can it really compare to established brands, or is this just a cheap knockoff after all?

Continue to Part 2 to find out!