What is an Optical Mouse Sensor

What is an Optical Mouse Sensor
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Have you been asking this qestion frequently?? What is an optical mouse sensor? If you’re one of those curious people, today you will find the answer because we will explore an optical mouse sensor inside out in our article.

Let’s hop in with a quick start:

What is an Optical Mouse Sensor?

An optical mouse sensor is one of the most important advanced electronic components of a mouse which undertakes the main role of pointing your computer. You can see it as the eyes of your computer AND your gaming mouse. An optical mouse consists of these main components:

These 3 components are the main role takers of your mouse and these electronic components make it possible for your mouse to know in which direction it moves. The result of the process is the same as a mechanical ball mouse or lazer mouse. The 0nly difference is in the way that your mouse recognizes its place.

First, let me explain the differences between optical mice, lazer mice and mechanical ball mice. After this explanation everything about mice will become clearer for you.

How Does an Optical Mouse Sensor Work??

Optical Mice: Optical mice work just like a camera, but a smarter one. To explain in detail, every second optical sensor of an optical mouse takes more than a thousand snapshots of the surface which optical mice is operated on. Actually, LED  emits light which bounces of the surface to a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor sensor which are perceived as images. These images are processed by DSP of the optical mouse and change of its position is evaluated by comparing previous snapshots.

Here is a more explanatory video for the perfectionists and ones who are more curious about how things work:

So, basically an optical mouse works by taking images (a lot of them) of the surface every second and by the micro-disturbances in the images evaluates the change of the position of your mouse. LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights the surface of mouse sensor to provide images for the optical mouse sensor. Optical Mouse Sensor is so sensitive that it easily detects these micro defects which aren’t visible to the human eye and sends them to the brain, which goes by the name “Digital Signal Processor” to be evaluated and put into action.

This working principle can be related to the human eye-brain interaction. Workflows aren’t exactly the same but they’re similar at some point.


An optical mouse sensor is worked best on surfaces which reflect the light but also scatter it. A white sheet of arts drawing paper can be  good example for it. I’m giving this exaple for the ones who don’t have a mouse pad. Optical mouse sensors work well on many usual surfaces but it’s a known fact that you will probably experience a malfunction on unfrosted glass surface.

If you have a mouse pad, it’s always better to use your optical mouse (and any oother mouse) on the surface of it. Much more professionally designed and you always get the best tracking performance out of a mouse pad.

There are many plusses of using a mouse with an optical sensor. Actually optical mouse sensors, or “Optical Mice” are considered the best mice for some reasons and many profesional ESports participants prefer optical mice. Here are the main benefits of optical mice:

  • An optical mouse sensor is an all-electronics operated component,  no moving components so it won’t suffer from mechanical fatigue and mechanical wear.
  • Usually mice with optical sensors are rated as the most precise gaming mice and very frequently used by professional gamers. More precision and smoother response makes an optical mouse the best friend of a gamer.
  • Doesn’t need cleaning and dirt can’t get inside the mouse which was an issue with trackball mice. This also improves the quality and lifespan of the mouse.


There are many badass gaming mice with optical sensors installed. One of the best of them optical mice is the epic Logitech G502. It’s a legend in the gaming industry and being used by many professional gamers.

There’s also a massive Optical Mouse Sensor List in a forum page of Overclock. You can find there probably most of the sensors with an addition of which gaming mouse they’re used in. It’s a great list and a good look-up guide. You can check it out from here:

Click Here for  the List of Optical Mouse Sensors



Lazer Mice: Laser mice take a different route than optical mice. Lazer mice sensors work on a different principle which is called “Laser Doppler Velocimetry” or some people just call it Doppler Effect. Laser mice are equipped with a laser diode which spits out a laser beam and reflects from the surface. Laser beam has a certain frequency around 400 TeraHertz and when it’s reflected from the moving surface it is detected in a different frequency by the installed photodiode.

This phenomena can also be experienced in sound waves. When you place two tuning forks with slightly different frequencies near together you may expect to hear a third tone which is kind of an equivalent to the difference between two.

So, basically the laser beam changes frequency when reflected from a moving surface. This reflected beam is interfered with outgoing laser and creates a beat frequency. This beat frequency is perceived by the diode and processed as a velocity signal which also indicates a position change. All of this data is processed and sent to your computer via USB and your computer implements this change by moving the mouse cursor.

And this is how a Lazer Mouse works.

Mechanical Mouse

These kind of mice aren’t actually very popular these days but there’re still people using “modernised” mechanical track ball mice. It’s not something to blame, I’m also a guy with a fethisism to retro stuff, but my mouse enthusiasm is seperated from that category.

Else of the modernised gaming mice, the well known olsdchool mechanical mice were operted using a trackball and electromechanical sensors. Actually, there is a video to explain the whole process better, so I will just present it to you. Enjoy!!

This is how a mechnical mouse works in detail:




Now you know what is an optical mouse sensor and you’re ready to kick ass!! Did you like the article?? Then please SHARE it!! If you have anything to ask or state, you can write it to the comments section down below 🙂

what is an optical mouse sensor

Don’t forget to like my Facebook page to get acquainted with the latest and coolest stuff about gaming 🙂 Keep in touch!!

Tyler, Founder of GMP

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2 Responses to What is an Optical Mouse Sensor

  1. Rezan says:

    Hi Tyler,

    You have explained almost everything about optical sensor, claps on that.. I was searching a honest opinion on PixArt PMW 3366 sensor, what do you think about PixArt and are they best of the business ? It seams like nobody making things that can compete with it.

    Best Regards

    • Tyler says:

      Hey there Rezan!!

      PixArt PMW 3366 is one hell of an optica sensor. It’s GREAT!! I assume you’re using a Logitech G303 or a G502?? Because they use PixArt 3366 optical sensor and the Logitech G Series especially G502 was worked on with collaboration of Logitech and Pixart to develop a badass optical mouse sensor which turned out to be PixArt 3366.

      Many people have many opinions on this sensor, some of them good, some of them bad, but you know everyone has their own opinion and gaming mice is a topic where everyone sounds different than other. But there is ONE CERTAIN FACT that Logitech G502 uses a PixArt 3366 and it’s a mouse preferred even by many pro gamers and known as one of the TOP TIER industry players and one of the most precise mice that has ever been made. I don’t even have to mention all the other badass features it packs. Check out our Logitech G502 review!! You’ll get to know what I mean 🙂

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