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CPI vs DPI – What’s the Difference

Posted by Arch on July 1, 2019
CPI vs DPI

If you are in the market for a new gaming mouse, DPI and CPI could be on top of your priority list. But how do these features affect mouse performance? Will you be able to notice a significant improvement if you get a 6,000-DPI mouse, for example? Then there’s the fact that some gaming mice have a CPI switch and others come with a DPI switch. What is the difference between the two?

All this can sound too confusing, especially if you are just starting to add special gear to your pro-gaming arsenal. In this article, we will help you work out which of the two is more important for your gaming needs. But first things first, let’s explain what CPI and DPI actually are.

CPI and DPI Disambiguated

CPI

Counts per Inch or CPI represents the number of steps a mouse measures as it moves an inch on the mousepad. In simple terms, CPI shows mouse sensitivity or how much the mouse needs to travel to reflect the ground a cursor covers on the screen.

For example, if you have an 800-CPI mouse, it sends 800 pings to your system every time it moves an inch, which results in greater sensitivity. In addition, the sensitivity of a gaming mouse is also described with an eCPI number which shows effective CPI.

As most games allow for in-game mouse sensitivity settings, eCPI is software-based and it doesn’t affect the hardware CPI in your mouse. To make things clear, if you have an 800-CPI mouse and set the in-game sensitivity to 2, the resulting eCPI is 1,600.

CPI and DPI Disambiguated

DPI

DPI is an abbreviation which stands for Dots per Inch and it is commonly used in printing and video/photo industry. It refers to the number of dots in a straight line on one inch. But how does this relate to the performance of a gaming mouse?

Truth be told, it doesn’t. In fact, DPI has nothing to do with computer mice, yet it has somehow become synonymous with CPI. The confusion comes from the fact that some mouse manufacturers use the DPI designation for marketing purposes because the general public is more likely to have heard of DPI than CPI in relation to computers. As such, it’s not uncommon to see these terms used interchangeably even though only CPI is correct when talking about computer mice.

Should You Go Sky High?

Because mouse processors and sensors are small, some peripherals manufacturers employ neat hardware tricks to come up with mice that have up to 24,000 CPI. At the same time, it sounds great if the same mouse has a high DPI as well. But in reality, things are a little bit different.

The more pixels a mouse needs to read, the greater the chances for interferences and noise, which may cause errors when the system picks up mouse movement. So if you get a 24,000-CPI mouse, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be able to process more information than a 1,600-CPI mouse.

The thing is, CPI is a measure of distance that’s reflected on the screen, not a measure of exactness or precision.

Refresh or Polling Rates

When speaking about DPI and CPI in computer mice, you are bound to stumble upon refresh or polling rates. These are measured in Hz and indicate how frequently your mouse signals the cursor position. The rates start at 125 Hz and can go all the way up to 1,000 Hz, which means that a 1,000-Hz mouse signals the cursor location 1000 times every second or once every millisecond.

So, how does this affect your gaming experience? A higher rate means that the lag between you moving the mouse and the cursor moving on the screen is minimal. However, a high pooling/refresh rate is CPU intensive and it may use more processing power than you are willing to allocate for a mouse.

And since it all happens in milliseconds, you are not likely to notice any difference between a 500-Hz and 1000-Hz mouse. Plus, there are mice with adjustable refresh rate, so you get to choose the one that fits your gaming preferences.

What’s the Best Option?

Getting the right answer to this question is no easy task as there a many variables. You need to consider the titles you like to play, PC specs, the type of monitor you use, and the mouse weight, to name but a few. Ultimately, it boils down to what works best for you, but some general guidelines can be extrapolated based on the gaming community recommendations.

What’s the Best Option

For example, gamers who use 4K monitors like high CPI mice because they allow for minute physical movements and fast moving of the cursor. On the other hand, if you are into shooter games, lowering the in-game CPI with a high-CPI mouse could yield more efficient aiming. As for the DPI, it is usually better to go low for FPS games, though it still pays to take a look at some examples.

Although Overwatch is not an FPS at its core, the mouse settings of pro players are a good indicator of what works best. For example, most Overwatch pros use mice rated in the 800 to 1,600 DPI range. However, there are eccentrics who go as low as 400 DPI or as high as 2,000 DPI.

Aim, Click, Kill

When all is said and done, you should have a great gaming experience with a mouse that has between 400 and 1,600 CPI and a similar DPI range. As with most other gaming-related things, it mostly depends on what feels good for you and what helps you achieve optimal results.

Do you have any recommendations for CPI/DPI that works great for specific games? Share your tips in the comments section below.

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