If you have a desktop computer, you need a mouse. In fact, many laptop users prefer to use a cheap computer mouse rather than the touchpads built into their systems. No surprise, then, that computer mice are almost as prolific as their real-world namesakes. Lots of companies make computer mice, from simple wired mice to more extravagant wireless mice designed for PC gaming. But you don't have to spend a bundle to get a quality mouse -- there's a good cheap mouse for every PC.
Cheap Mouse Buying Guide
Cheap computer mice are available in several types, shapes, and sizes, and you want to be sure to find one that feels comfortable to use. Ideally, get your hands on a mouse at a local store to make sure it's a good fit before bringing it home. If you have smaller hands, consider buying a compact mouse, such as the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 (starting at $20). Be sure the mouse has some heft to it for smoother tracking across the mousing surface.
Cheap Wireless Mouse vs. Wired Mouse.
Whether you buy a wired or wireless mouse is largely a matter of personal preference. A cheap wireless mouse like the Dynex DX-NPWLMSE (starting at $10), which is relatively well reviewed for its price, makes for a less cluttered work area and is more convenient when you're on the road with a laptop and hardly in a position to fuss with a mouse that's connected through a wire. Bear in mind, though, that a wireless mouse generally costs more upfront than a wired mouse and requires ongoing outlays for batteries. A cheap wired mouse, like the Kensington Mouse in a Box K72356US (starting at $6), is ready to go, battery-free, as soon as it's plugged into the PC -- and there are no recurring costs.
Optical Mouse vs. Laser Mouse.The days of trackball mice are long gone, and we're all grateful for that. Most cheap mice today are "optical laser" devices that use an LED light to track their movement on a mousepad; the Kensington Mouse in a Box is one example. You may also come across "laser" mice, which use a laser, rather than an LED, to track movement and cost about the same as optical mice but happen to be more precise; the Logitech M500 (starting at $28) is a good cheap laser mouse. It's worth noting, as does a CNET editor, that laser mice work well on many surfaces while optical mice sometimes balk on black or shiny surfaces. However, she adds, a laser mouse may be too sensitive for anyone other than a gamer. (Should you opt for a laser mouse anyway, look for one with adjustable sensitivity.)
Some mice from Microsoft, including the Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500, use the company's proprietary BlueTrack technology. Neither optical nor laser, BlueTrack incorporates a large (and visible) blue beam, image sensor, and pixel geometry that track accurately over just about any surface, including fabrics and wood.
All cheap computer mice have at least two buttons and a scroll wheel, which often serves as a third button when clicked. For most users three buttons are enough, although some cheap mice, like the corded Logitech M500, feature five or more buttons. A mouse with extra buttons should include software that lets you assign different functions to the buttons, such as auto-scrolling or closing a document.
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