We've been talking about gaming mice a little bit in the past few weeks, and one of the ways gamers judge the quality of their mice is by the DPI: dots per inch. You see a high number, and you think you have a good mouse. Does that number mean anything in terms of actual performance?
"The industry has been highly successful in establishing this number as something highly important, when in reality it doesn't really mean all that much," Kim Rom, the CMO of SteelSeries told Ars. SteelSeries makes some of the more respected mice and headsets used by pro gamers; this is a company that knows how to make a performance product.
DPI is a measure of sensitivity, or how little you have to move your mouse to move whatever virtual object you're controlling on the screen, such as your gun in a first-person shooter or your cursor in a real-time strategy game.
"Technology has progressed to a level where you can move your mouse, say, one inch on your desk, and your cursor will move 2 or 3 times your screen length. That sounds impressive for sure, but where is the real value in that?" Rom asked. "That doesn't make you more precise or accurate; I would argue that it does exactly the opposite. A higher DPI in a mouse doesn't offer a lot of value, and it is not a benchmark for how precise or awesome the mouse is. It's simply a measure of sensitivity."
Rom's argument is a simple one: go to a tournament where professional players are in the running for serious money. These are people with something real at stake, who know how to choose their equipment and settings for maximum performance. "Ninety percent of the expert gamers there will be using a DPI value between 800 to 1,600," he said. If you paid some serious money for your gaming mouse, check out its stats: it's likely it can do some multiple of 1,600 at maximum sensitivity.
"And just to round off my DPI rant... DPI is short for Dots Per Inch," Rom said. "Think about that for a second, then tell me where on your computer you have dots? I see pixels on my screen. They look square to me. Not only has the industry succeeded in establishing the sensitivity of a mouse as the most important feature of the product, it has done so by using a term that is technically incorrect. Isn't that amazing?"
We asked Rom where competitor's products go wrong, and we couldn't get a solid answer. "I would really hate to say that other companies go wrong. I think there are a lot of great products on the market; obviously someone made those. The way we think [about] and approach our products is a little different compared to other companies... We are hardware purists—we believe in function first, technology second." We'll be putting some SteelSeries gear to the test very soon, but it was refreshing to hear another take on gaming mice, one that isn't driven by having a larger number on the box.
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