The Blur Busters Mouse Guide

A Blur Busters Guest Feature

Written by Ben Hansen (sharknice) of EliteOwnage.com

Mouse settings become even more important when you are using high frame rate and low persistence, blur free displays such as LightBoost. With increased motion clarity, the fluidity and precision of mouse movements become much more apparent. This guide goes over the most important mouse behaviors and settings for blur-free gaming.

Polling Rate

What is Polling Rate?

The communication between a mouse and computer is not instantaneous or constant. USB mice communicate with the computer in set intervals of time. Polling rate is typically measured in polls per second also known as hertz. The default polling rate for most USB mice is 125 Hz (hertz).

Faster is Better

If you use a higher polling rate you will have less delay between when you move your mouse and it moves on screen. When using a 125 Hz polling rate the mouse is being updated in intervals of 8 milliseconds. This means you have a potential of 0 to 8 ms of mouse lag added to every frame depending how long after the last mouse poll the frame begins rendering.

Most new gaming mice now have a 500 Hz and 1000 Hz setting. If you are using 1000 Hz polling the added delay is only 1 millisecond. (It is important to note that this is only the mouse latency, not total input lag).

More Noticeable at Higher Frame Rates

Polling rate becomes increasingly important with higher frame rate displays. If you’re using a standard 60 Hz display and 125h Hz mouse polling the delay between frames would be 16.7 ms and the delay between mouse updates would be 8 ms. The delay between mouse updates is less apparent because the delay between frames is so high. Using a 120 Hz refresh rate and 125 Hz mouse polling brings the frame rate interval down to 8.3 ms which is almost as frequent as the mouse updates.

Here is a simple example of input lag during 120 frames per second (1/120sec = 8.3ms) being compared between a 125Hz mouse and a 1000Hz mouse:

Note: This simplified diagram excludes other parts of the whole input lag chain, such game engine latency and display latency.

As you increase your frame rate, the frequency of mouse updates per frame goes down and the delay between when you move your mouse and the effect of it on screen becomes more apparent. If you play at a higher frame rate than your mouse polling rate some frames will be updating with no new mouse input. At this point, you’re basically just viewing some frames instead of actively participating in them, and the mouse movement will be very choppy.

Some games actually update the game state at a rate faster than the video frame rate to reduce input lag. These games take advantage of higher polling rates even with a lower frame rate. For example, a game could update the physical interactions between objects based on player input at 500 Hz despite only running at a 60 Hz video frame rate. In games like these a faster polling rate reduces mouse input lag even more.

Which Polling Rate Should I Use?

To decrease input lag you can increase the USB polling rate of the mouse. Many modern gaming mice support polling rates up to 1000 Hz which drastically reduces mouse lag in comparison with 125 Hz. Most gaming mice have adjustable polling through software or switches built into the hardware itself. For mice that don’t have a polling rate setting (e.g. Logitech MX518) you can often manually overclock them to a higher poll rate.

In addition, if you are using Windows 8.1, there is a system-wide 1000Hz mouse fix which serious gamers should install to bring maximum mouse performance to all games and Windows applications.

VSYNC

What Does VSYNC Do?

VSYNC synchronizes the games frame rate with the displays frame rate to reduce tearing and stuttering. As long as the game updates as fast as the monitor’s refresh rate there will be no tearing or stuttering. Without VSYNC a game will update as fast as it possible can send updates to the monitor. This can lead to tearing (see TestUFO animation) if the frame rate is faster than the monitor’s refresh rate. It also can cause stuttering because the the time the frame was created to the time it is displayed is constantly changing.

Input Lag

VSYNC can increase input lag because while using VSYNC the game will take a mouse measurement, render the frame, then wait to display that frame until the next monitor refresh. When VSYNC is off the game will constantly update with new frames without waiting for the display so the input will be fresher with less delay.

Low Persistence Displays (LightBoost)

Low persistence displays include CRTs and new strobe-backlight gaming displays with LightBoostULMB and Turbo240. With a low persistence display, there is less blur to hide stuttering and tearing caused by fluctuating frame rates.

During LightBoost, mouse movement can be more fluid with VSYNC ON when running at full frame rate without frame drops. However, it is also creates added input lag.

If you’re playing a competitive game like Counter-Strike, it is typically better to use VSYNC OFF, as less input lag is more important than maximum fluidity. On the other hand, single-player games like BioShock Infinite can be more enjoyable with the fluidity provided by VSYNC, assuming you have enough GPU power to keep frame rates maxed out, with frame rates matching refresh rates.

Some games have built in frame rate limiters that behave similar to VSYNC ON, but instead of rendering the frame right away the frame is rendered at the last possible moment to reduce input lag. It does not work perfectly, but it is a good compromise between the fluidity of full frame rate VSYNC ON (120fps at 120Hz), and tearing of uncapped frame rates during VSYNC OFF. One example is the fps_max setting found in Source Engine games (e.g. Counter-Strike: GO).

G-SYNC and FreeSync

NVIDIA G-SYNC (and eventually, AMD FreeSync) aim to completely eliminate stuttering and tearing without increasing input lag. These technologies work best with a high mouse poll rate (1000Hz).

Using these variable refresh rate technologies, the monitor can be updated at varying intervals so a variable frame rate will not cause stuttering since the monitor will always be in sync with the games frame rate. Blur Busters’ GSYNC Preview (Part 1 and Part 2) covers more information about G-SYNC.

Addendum: Photos of 125Hz vs 500Hz vs 1000Hz

Originally created in a Blur Busters Forums thread, and now a part of this guide, this is a photo comparision of 125Hz versus 500Hz versus 1000Hz mouse poll rates. 500Hz versus 1000Hz is more clearly human-eye visible when enabling blur reduction strobing (e.g. LightBoost) as well as G-SYNC where NVIDIA recommends a 1000Hz mouse.

You can see this by enabling motion blur reduction on your 120Hz monitor, and then drag a text window. Fewer microstutters makes text easier to read while dragging.

The gapping effect is caused by the harmonic frequency difference (beat frequency) between frame rate and mouse poll rate. It is clearly visible when no other sources of microstutters exist; e.g. fast GPU, fast CPU, low-latency USB. This mouse microstutter is clearly visible in Source Engine games on newer GPUs at synchronized framerates.

During 125Hz mouse poll rate versus 120fps frame rate (125 MOD 120 = 5), there are 5 microstutters per second. This results in 1 gap every 25 mouse arrow positions.

During 500Hz mouse poll rate versus 120fps frame rate (500 MOD 120 = 20), there are 20 microstutters per second. This results in 1 gap every 6 mouse arrow positions.

These mouse microstutters become especially visible on low-persistence displays such as strobed monitors or CRTs, during window-dragging. 500Hz vs 1000Hz difference is amplified during LightBoost, ULMB, Turbo240, and BENQ Blur Reduction.

Microsoft Agrees 1000Hz Makes A Difference

See this Microsoft Research video on 1000Hz touchscreens. This is not for mice, but it demonstrates how surprising for humans being able to detect experiences still improving at 1000Hz.

Also, 1000Hz is NOT Final Frontier!

People are now overclocking computer mice to 2000Hz+.  There are some very minor benefits, but we can confirm we notice the benefits on an ultralow-persistence monitor (e.g. ULMB).

Questions?

Discuss further about gaming mice in the Blur Busters Forums!

Ben Hansen (aka sharknice) is an indie game developer, and runs EliteOwnage.com, a website with a very detailed mouse sensitivity guide.


21 Comments For “The Blur Busters Mouse Guide”

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Member
jacobpc

Incredible article! a question that may sound silly, but does this all apply equally to a 75Hz monitor (LG – 29UM69G )?

Member
iksde

I see this article is not very new, so is 2000 Hz mouse tweak, etc.

However, want to mention something that could have been overlooked. It could be the frametime introducing those stutters, why not give an example how to avoid them?

F.e. I mostly play Counter-Strike 1.6 and it is for =100 fps (for steamed set fps_max 99.5, non-steamed not sure), setting monitor 100 hz gives fluid frametime, when mouse input gets involved, a good idea is to set it to match frametime for it as well, such as 500 Hz, 1000 Hz are multiples of integers either one or another. Personally I set 500 Hz as software I used for testing mouse showed more faults with 1000 Hz. It is fluid and really nice that way.

It goes 500 Hz (mouse refresh) / 100 FPS, Hz (monitor refresh) = 5 so each frame has five mouse refreshes processed, with it being divided and equal to integer it is not going to drift and skip at some interval as it is synched.

This is just a theory, though.

Member
SS4

Very good info and discussions going on here.
I’d like to add that laser and optical are not the proper them, it should be infrared laser diode or light-emitting diodes . Anyways all are optical since they use optical instead of mechanical means to track the motion:P

Now infrared/laser/optical becomes confusing as the terms are used all over the place but look for the best sensor available with no such things as positive acceleration and crap like that. Ultra high DPI and the term laser are just used as a marketing ploy and im pretty sure those dual infrared/laser mouse are the same and won’t bring anything really worth it.

If you want some of the best sensor on the market, try Logitech G400, AM Zowie, Microsoft intellimouse, CM storm spawn, cm storm recon, razer deathadder, razer abyssus to name a few with great sensors.

Member
Fabulist

Please, allow me to reply:

“professional/competitive players are now resuming using 1000Hz”

I know but 2 professional FPS players (Counter – Strike, Quake) that use 1000Hz, and their accuracy is not their pride. If you are talking about SC / DoTA / LoL players, they both do not have the necessity for such a level of accuracy nor have the necessary skills (in terms of sensitivity) to realize the difference, as accuracy in both games is not as significant as it is on a FPS game. Even if they do realize the difference, maybe for their kind of games they prefer to sacrifice accuracy for the 1ms deduction – this could make some sense.

“Not all of them, and not on all systems/mice.”

However, it is still not specified which mice or CPUs are the cause of this. Having inconclusive data and no official statements, the fact that they are improving is only speculation.

Our only hope would be for someone from Steelseries / Razer to clarify it (being gaming-equipment oriented), since nobody will be getting a response about this in this life from MS / Logitech. However, although many people discussed and asked this, no response was ever published, they probably have not determined it themselves yet either.

“Many competitive players, do not use LightBoost, as that can add input lag, though faster reaction times can outweigh, depending on the use case (e.g. Scout versus Scout in Team Fortress 2, or high-speed low helicoptor flybys in Battlefield games)”

I am a competitive player and you can be / are a competitive player. Anyone can be and at any game in a sense. The sample should always be professional, awarded and recognized players when discussing matters such as mouse accuracy. There are no designated professionals in BF or TFT as there are in CS, Quake, SC etc. Henceforth, it is asinine to sample TFT ‘competitive players’ to CS and Quake professionals that have been playing for over 15 years and gaming-equipment companies employ them, sponsor them, and base their products on them, for them, and also have gotten their primary feedback from them.

And I can assure you that you will not find a single serious, respected and awarded professional player that will not take anything instead of input lag or any kind of delay for that matter.

“500Hz used to be best for 60Hz gameplay, but this isn’t necessarily true anymore with the best/newest displays (when using the best 1000Hz mice) for more current games.”

This statement is untrue. We used to play with CRT monitors that went up to 120Hz and run CS & Quake on 100 and 120 / 125 FPS respectively and 100 / 120 and 120 Hz respectively years before 500Hz was invented. Unfortunately, due to the hardware limitations and issues discussed earlier, 500Hz is still the king on all possible refresh rates, and all games if accuracy is to be a moderate, and above, concern. Unless, there is valid proof that 1000Hz works as intended under specific hardware or under specific circumstances (there is no such proof until now that is publicly available).

“That said, a lot of your concerns still ring true today for many configurations. It merits a mention, especially with lower quality 1000Hz mice or those with bugs/unwanted sensor effects/negative acceleration/etc.”

Sensor quality may or may not be relevant, I have no proof of that nor anyone really knows but companies like Avago, since something that you may consider to be a sensor quality problem it could actually be a firmware issue, cable issue, compatibility issue and so on. However, I can assure you that if you have accuracy issues with one mouse running at 1000Hz on a specific system, you will have a problem with all of them – I have tried most mice and you can confirm this yourself; assuming you have the necessary capacity to feel the difference.

Negative and positive acceleration similarly to skipping is an issue of laser mice, and it is not a matter of quality, rather a ‘mechanical’ issue – this is how laser mice work. The most high end and newer sensors limit the problem (as users, reviewers, and the companies state) but it is still there and very alive, amidst multiple other issues. If such issues (or others) are presented to an optical mouse it is either a faulty sensor or extremely low quality.

I see you have a Deathadder in your article’s picture here, I can assure you that from the first Deathadder to the latest one, and with all possible firmwares, they all perform equally inadequately at 1000Hz across multiple platforms. Especially the latest one that suffers from smoothing effects even more than the previous ones.

Member
Xyriin

“If you are talking about SC / DoTA / LoL players, they both do not have the necessity for such a level of accuracy nor have the necessary skills (in terms of sensitivity) to realize the difference, as accuracy in both games is not as significant as it is on a FPS game.”

I’m curious you make such an assumption. Obviously you’re a dedicated FPS fan but SC2 in particular requires extreme precision in battles in order to micro individual units and at a highly rapid rate which vastly exceeds even the most hectic FPS. Even DoTA and LoL vastly differ from the default auto attack and click attack mechanics a new player to the game experiences. I think you may be confused due to the appearance of the game if you’re watching a stream. If you watch a CSGO match you get the actual player view as the observer mode cycles between players. For something like SC2 watching the players screen is next to impossible because it’s simply moving too fast. What you see if you observe a match is a 3rd party slowly scanning around and not the frenetic pace of the actual player.

Similarly a SC2 player may need to make as many precision clicks in a single game as a CSGO player needs to make in an entire match. To discount an entire group of professional players due to limited perspective is disingenuous at best.

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