Brand name or no-name?
While Logitech and Microsoft are still leaders in the mice market, rebranded mice from quality manufacturers are more commonplace than ever. Take for example the Asus MX518, an excellent gaming-grade mouse: it’s a Logitech MX518, underneath a new cover. The same goes for the OCZ Equalizer, which is in fact an A4Tech X-750F. The overall build quality of mice has increased, meaning there are less chances for you to end up with a lemon.
My first wireless mouse was an A4Tech RP649Z. After searching online for A4Tech articles and RP649Z reviews, I deemed them good enough for me to buy the mouse: I was not disappointed at all with my purchase. You can discover great products from lesser known companies. Had I wanted a specific Logitech or Microsoft mouse, I still would have searched online for reviews of that mouse, because even the best companies can sell unsatisfactory products.
Optical or laser?
It largely depends on the software you run on your computer. If you are a casual user who just likes to browse the web, an optical mouse will do just fine, because you won’t need to pay for the enhanced features and the generally higher price of a laser mouse. If performance is your primary concern, then by all means go for a laser mouse.
The improvements that a laser mouse offers over an optical mouse can be especially appealing to gamers and graphic designers: you benefit from an increased motion sensitivity (movement precision) and a faster report rate (number of times per second that the mouse gives its position to the computer). Optical mice have a 2000 DPI maximum resolution and a response time of 8 ms (125 reports/second rate), whereas laser mice have a maximum resolution of 4000 DPI and a response time of as little as 1 ms (1000 reports/second rate). What that means is whether you move a laser mouse slowly or quickly, you get extremely precise and smooth control.
Wired or wireless?
Where you expect to use the mouse will be a deciding factor. If you only use your computer at your desk, a wireless mouse might not be necessary. That is, unless you need to use a lot of wired peripherals at the same time; then you could use a wireless mouse to help reduce the clutter. If you need to operate a computer from a distance, such as an HTPC in your living room, then a wireless mouse fits the bill perfectly.
There can be a noticeable delay of a few ms between a wireless mouse action and its screen response. No such delay with a wired mouse, thanks to its direct connection, free of the additional processing done by a wireless mouse receiver. Some wireless mice always have ready-to-use batteries by means of their receiver/charger, while others can be operated battery free (but only on a mouse pad that gives them the power they require, hence severily hampering their range of movement).
Multifunction or plain vanilla?
Full-featured mice can, for instance, provide a customized experience on the go (with an onboard memory that stores various mouse settings), help you become a faster web surfer (with dedicated navigation buttons), or a more competitive gamer (with weight tuning, adjustable sensitivity, programmable buttons). Very tempting for the inner geek.
If you’re a beginner though, you may feel overwhelmed by so many options. Keep in mind that the best mouse for you doesn’t have to be the most feature-packed, but the one that suits your needs, first and foremost. If you just need a simple mouse that requires no configuration in order to fully use it, pick up a standard optical or laser mouse and save yourself some money.
A quality mouse allows you to use your computer more efficiently, from browsing faster to playing the most demanding games. It’s also a device that can potentially survive many computer system upgrades, thus leaving you with more money in your pocket. As long as the mouse you intend to buy is a quality product that you can afford, it’s all that matters. Bottom line: do your homework prior to buying the mouse you want, regardless of its manufacturer.