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Thread: Computer mouse question

  1. #1
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    Computer mouse question

    Exactly what does a change in dpi (dots per inch) from one mouse to
    another get me? Why might I want a mouse that sees 1600 dpi rather
    than just 800 dpi?

    The main thing I need from a mouse is reliable tracking, so that the
    pointer goes where I want it to go while creating and editing graphics.

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    http://www.FreeMars.org/jeff/

    "I find astronomy very interesting, but I wouldn't if I thought we
    were just going to sit here and look." -- "Van Rijn"

    "The other planets? Well, they just happen to be there, but the
    point of rockets is to explore them!" -- Kai Yeves

  2. #2
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    Simply put, the greater the dpi then the more sensitive the response.
    I have a mouse which can switch settings on-the-fly from 400 - 2000dpi. The lower range corresponds to slow and very precise cursor movement. Higher settings produce much faster cursor speed, at the expense of fine control. I have been unable to find a use for speeds greater than 1600dpi.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    Exactly what does a change in dpi (dots per inch) from one mouse to
    another get me? Why might I want a mouse that sees 1600 dpi rather
    than just 800 dpi?
    There is greater precision there, but it's unlikely that you've got it the mouse speed set so the granularity of the tracking is a limiting factor. A more precise mouse may still give more *repeatable* tracking, though. I'd consider grip to be more important.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    The main thing I need from a mouse is reliable tracking, so that the
    pointer goes where I want it to go while creating and editing graphics.
    Get a graphics tablet. They're wonderful...I even use mine occasionally for editing code. (not handwriting recognition...as a substitute for a mouse)
    The Wacom tablets are about the only real choice: no batteries to screw around with. Look at their Bamboo offerings if you're unwilling to spend on an Intuos.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    Exactly what does a change in dpi (dots per inch) from one mouse to
    another get me? Why might I want a mouse that sees 1600 dpi rather
    than just 800 dpi?

    The main thing I need from a mouse is reliable tracking, so that the
    pointer goes where I want it to go while creating and editing graphics.

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    As I understand it, the DPI is a measure of how many movement count units the mouse can distinguish for each inch of real movement, DPI is really a bit misleading, as there is no real dots involved. Each count may corespond to one pixel movement on the screen, or not, depending on the setup of the system. A mouse with a high DPI number will need less physical movement, but be more demanding on the quality of the work surface and the accuracy of the user, but for most users a medium will be best. Mice uses relative positioning, the pointer is moved relative to its current location according to how much the mouse is moved.

    For graphics, as cjameshuff suggested, a grahics tablet and stylus may be better, though it depends on what sort of graphics you do. A tablet and stylus will generaly be used in an absolute positionining mode, where the tablet work area coresponds to the screen work area. This is a bit different to using a mouse, if you lift a mouse out of its detection range, and move it to another place, the pointer will remain where you left it, and can be moved further, but on a tablet the pointer/cursor jumps to the place corresponding to the place the stylus is now pointing. They will generaly be sensitive to how much pressure you apply to the point too, so you can change some variable of the brush with this, if your program supports it.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
    Look at their Bamboo offerings if you're unwilling to spend on an Intuos.
    I have a Bamboo tablet, but haven't used it much.

    I have a Logitech VX Nano Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks. It says the resolution is "just" 800 dpi, but I have no problem going pixel by pixel on a 1920x1200 monitor.

    I especially like the free-wheeling scroll wheel, as it allows me to rip through long BAUT threads.

  6. #6
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    High resolution is more precise, but to use that precision, you often need very fine motor control. The most resolution you will ever need is determined by how twitchy you like your mouse. A 1600dpi mouse is sensitive enough to go pixel by pixel on a 1920x1200 monitor while only traveling just over an inch on the mousepad. If you don't normally set the sensitivity such that you go across the entire screen with just an inch of mouse movement, this would be more than enough. Similarly, 800DPI would be enough if your mouse normally travels around 2.5" on the mousepad for a full screen width of travel (again, on 1920x1200). I like my mouse quite twitchy, so I tend to have it on 2000DPI most of the time (and then I tweak the sensitivity down within windows slightly from 1 count per pixel). It ends up around an inch of mouse movement for a screen width of cursor movement. As I said above though, you only need high resolution if you like a twitchy mouse and still need pixel-by-pixel accuracy.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjl View Post
    A 1600dpi mouse is sensitive enough to go pixel by pixel on a 1920x1200 monitor while only traveling just over an inch on the mousepad.
    Actually, I think I manage to make that happen in a fraction of an inch.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrAI View Post
    For graphics, as cjameshuff suggested, a grahics tablet and stylus may be better, though it depends on what sort of graphics you do.
    As I said, I occasionally use mine for coding. A tablet is a very helpful tool for any sort of graphics. The pressure sensitivity is useful, but I find the pen and tablet critical for anything that requires precise hand manipulation, and still useful for filter GUIs and scripts.

    That said, I wouldn't bother with a huge one. I suspect they may be of significant benefit to those used to using large sweeping strokes on traditional media, but since a computer can zoom in on a part of the image of interest, a smaller working area isn't very restrictive, and I find it more comfortable. My 4x6 inch Intuos 3 is just about the perfect size for me.


    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    I have a Bamboo tablet, but haven't used it much.
    They've got a whole line of Bamboo devices now, I see...what I was referring to was the successor to the old Graphire tablets: just a low end pen based graphics tablet.


    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    I have a Logitech VX Nano Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks. It says the resolution is "just" 800 dpi, but I have no problem going pixel by pixel on a 1920x1200 monitor.

    I especially like the free-wheeling scroll wheel, as it allows me to rip through long BAUT threads.
    I've recently upgraded to a M500, which has the same feature. It really does make the scroll wheel far more usable for most purposes. I do have to pop it into detent mode to use it for a few things, such as zooming.

  9. #9
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    I left off on this question from just over a year ago.

    I don't understand why the speed of the mouse pointer on
    the screen should have any relation to the dpi sensitivity
    of the mouse. I would think you'd always want the highest
    dpi the computer can handle without being slowed down
    (up to the point where a higher dpi doesn't give usefully
    greater precision), while the speed of the mouse pointer
    should be completely user-adjustable regardless of the
    mouse's dpi sensitivity.

    I'm looking for a mouse that gives the greatest precision
    and control possible at whatever pointer speed I find most
    comfortable.

    I actually have a Calcomp UltraSlate 6" x 9" drawing tablet,
    but used it very little on previous computers. I haven't tried
    to connect it to my new computer yet. The little bit of
    experience I had with it was terribly clumsy. For example,
    the pen has two buttons on it. Pushing either button without
    moving the pen's point was impossible. That makes the
    buttons almost completely useless. In contrast, a mouse
    will almost always sit perfectly still while I press a button.
    (Although pressing mouse buttons is essential for drawing,
    while pressing buttons on the pen is just intended to be a
    convenience.)

    Any insights, anyone?

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    http://www.FreeMars.org/jeff/

    "I find astronomy very interesting, but I wouldn't if I thought we
    were just going to sit here and look." -- "Van Rijn"

    "The other planets? Well, they just happen to be there, but the
    point of rockets is to explore them!" -- Kai Yeves

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    I don't understand why the speed of the mouse pointer on
    the screen should have any relation to the dpi sensitivity
    of the mouse. I would think you'd always want the highest
    dpi the computer can handle without being slowed down
    (up to the point where a higher dpi doesn't give usefully
    greater precision), while the speed of the mouse pointer
    should be completely user-adjustable regardless of the
    mouse's dpi sensitivity.
    Well, the mouse CPI (counts per inch...DPI is common but incorrect) establishes a limit on mouse sensitivity. A 100 CPI mouse could not move more than 100 pixels per inch of real movement without skipping pixels. Higher CPI lets you crank sensitivity ("speed") up higher.

    Other than that limiting factor...no, it really shouldn't make a difference. A given motion of the mouse should make a given motion of the cursor, either in number of pixels or in real distance on a resolution-independent display. Chalk that up to the programmers not caring.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    I'm looking for a mouse that gives the greatest precision
    and control possible at whatever pointer speed I find most
    comfortable.
    Honestly, I suspect that unless it's a really bad mouse or unless you prefer very high tracking speeds, just about any mouse will do. Some people obsess over such things without any real need.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    I actually have a Calcomp UltraSlate 6" x 9" drawing tablet,
    but used it very little on previous computers. I haven't tried
    to connect it to my new computer yet. The little bit of
    experience I had with it was terribly clumsy. For example,
    the pen has two buttons on it. Pushing either button without
    moving the pen's point was impossible. That makes the
    buttons almost completely useless. In contrast, a mouse
    will almost always sit perfectly still while I press a button.
    (Although pressing mouse buttons is essential for drawing,
    while pressing buttons on the pen is just intended to be a
    convenience.)
    The buttons were something that took care. Buttons on the pad help (my Intuos has some touch-sensitive buttons), and I found pressing the buttons with the thumb to sometimes give more control. They need to make a foot-button accessory...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    I don't understand why the speed of the mouse pointer on the screen should have any relation to the dpi sensitivity of the mouse.
    Think of it this way. Every time you move the mouse, it sends a bunch of little signal "ticks" to the computer. As far as the computer is concerned, the mouse is like a keyboard--just with fewer keys (up, down, left, right, left-button, right-button, middle-button, scroll-up, scroll-down). This big difference between a mouse and a keyboard is that when you move the mouse or scroll wheel, it's easy to send a whole bunch of keypresses at once. You don't have to tap on the "right" key 100 times to move 100 pixels. You just move the mouse a bit and it translates that movement into the equivalent of 100 keypresses.

    Now, the computer's software typically doesn't take into account the mouse's DPI rating. All it knows is that it received 100 movement taps to the right. It doesn't know whether that means 1/4 inch of movement or 4 inches of movement. So, it just takes it to mean 100 pixels of movement...

    ...sort of. Back in the early days of the original Macintosh, Amiga, and Atari ST, one movement tick would mean one pixel of movement. But before long, OS developers came up with the idea of "mouse acceleration". It was a hack that detected when the mouse was moved quickly, and translated it into more pixels of movement than if it were moved slowly. Among other things, this meant that you could move the cursor across the screen without lifting the mouse--just "whip" it quickly in the desired direction, and then slowly move back. This "mouse acceleration" idea is now standard.

    So, slow movement of the mouse meant one pixel per tick, but fast movement of the mouse meant something more than one pixel per tick.

  12. #12
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    So... the only thing that a more precise mouse (greater dpi / cpi)
    gets me is *less* precision??? (That is, greater pointer motion with
    a given mouse motion.) Nothing else? And the only reason mice
    have more dpi nowadays is because screens have more pixels??
    Not because the mice are improved in any way???

    -- Jeff, in Minneapolis
    http://www.FreeMars.org/jeff/

    "I find astronomy very interesting, but I wouldn't if I thought we
    were just going to sit here and look." -- "Van Rijn"

    "The other planets? Well, they just happen to be there, but the
    point of rockets is to explore them!" -- Kai Yeves

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Root View Post
    So... the only thing that a more precise mouse (greater dpi / cpi)
    gets me is *less* precision??? (That is, greater pointer motion with
    a given mouse motion.) Nothing else? And the only reason mice
    have more dpi nowadays is because screens have more pixels??
    Not because the mice are improved in any way???
    If you turn down the sensitivity on the computer to maintain the same relationship of cursor space to mousepad space, you gain precision...the mouse can detect smaller motions and more accurately make single-pixel manipulations. If the mouse CPI gives you a more than a few counts per pixel, there's no perceivable difference.

    With mouse acceleration, the counts per pixel decreases as the pad-speed of the mouse increases. Higher CPI gives you more margin before it drops below one and the cursor starts skipping pixels. Again, if it's high enough this never happens, you just don't see any further benefit. The mouse and screen refresh rate also come into play here.

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