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Wireless Gaming Mice Have a New Performance Standard: Latency

  • June 2, 2023

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The rise of esports-caliber wireless gaming mice has understandably focused gamers’ attention on the performance specs accompanying the latest wireless mouse unveilings. Hawk-eyed, hardcore gamers devour these specs in search of the narrowest of advantages to sharpen their competitive edge, and the specs accompanying the newest generation of wireless mice are eye-popping at first glance. 

Where once wireless mice maxed out at 1,000 Hz polling rates, wireless gaming mice are coming to market now claiming polling rates performance from 4,000 Hz all the way up to 8,000 Hz, achieving parity with high-end wired gaming mice. 

Polling rate comparisons have served us well when evaluating wireless vs wired gaming mice performance, providing gamers with a common and well understood reference point to gauge the latest gear. So much so that if you asked many esports gamers the spec that matters most for wireless mice, polling rate is usually the reflexive answer. This is reflected in media coverage as well. 

But this is the wrong answer. Or rather, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

LATENCY MATTERS

When it comes to wireless gaming mice, expect to hear pro gamers and product reviewers alike talking more and more about latency going forward. To be sure, polling rate will remain an important differentiator among mice (all mice, not just wireless). But the new breed of wireless esports mice should also be assessed for their latency, because ultra-fast polling rates may provide little advantage if the performance gains are squandered in latency. 

To quickly recap the key difference between polling rate and latency, polling rate denotes the number of times a mouse registers its position in the span of one second, measured in hertz. Higher polling rates equate to higher precision during motion tracking – a polling rate of 1,000 Hz equates to 1,000 positioning reports per second. 

But if the lag to convey that data to the computer is too long – due to latency – the polling rate advantage can be significantly diminished.  The gamer will show a tendency to keep moving the mouse beyond the desired position until the action on the screen catches up.  The more the latency lag, the more the overshoot – and gameplay can suffer as a result. For hardcore gamers, this is unacceptable. 

So why is latency suddenly top of mind for gamers and gaming media? Because until now, pro-caliber wireless gaming mice have been serviced by 2.4 GHz wireless connectivity, and the latency was never really scrutinized because there wasn’t a comparable, competing connectivity option to choose from among premium-quality gaming mice.

Until now. 

SPARK UWB-based gaming mice are coming to market to compete with legacy 2.4 GHz-based wireless mice, and the latency advantages will be eye opening.

SPARK Microsystems’ UWB technology delivers high data rate for 4,000 Hz polling and higher, and low latency data transfer that is as good as, or better than the polling rate. In the case of 4,000 Hz, with SPARK UWB samples are taken every 0.25 ms and the data is transferred over the wireless link to the host computer within 0.25 ms or better (this includes button presses).  With 2.4 GHz, this latency metric can lean closer to 0.5 ms – and serious gamers will notice the difference, in both the spec sheets and the gameplay.

2.4 GHz simply can’t compete with SPARK UWB’s latency advantages (among many other advantages). The game has changed for wireless esports mice. Polling rate is where the conversation starts. Latency is where it ends. And the side-by-side specs will be revealing when the first generation of SPARK UWB-based gaming mice arrive on shelves later this year. Get excited, gamers!

Traditional gaming and multimedia apps will one day be subsumed within the broader XR technology ecosystem, and the SPARK team has our eyes on the future as we innovate the BAN/PAN connectivity needed to enable exceptional XR experiences.

Wireless gaming mice exemplify the limitations of legacy short-range wireless connectivity today, but the door is open to a new generation of UWB-based gaming mice for tomorrow’s hardcore gamers on the path to full AR/VR immersion.