Mouse sensitivity is the most important consideration in playing PC games competitively. Unfortunately, it's not an easy subject to research or understand. This guide will help you define mouse sensitivity and decide on a sensitivity that works for your play style.
Defining mouse sensitivity
There are a couple factors that make mouse sensitivity hard to define:
- Mice have varying DPI settings, or internal sensitivity.
- Games define mouse sensitivity in their settings with arbitrary numbers.
At Head Click, we use a measurement independent of all of these factors. We define mouse sensitivity as how many centimeters of horizontal mouse movement it takes to rotate 360 degrees in-game*. We abbreviate this measurement as cm/360.
*More specifically, with a vertical field-of-view of 73.74, the field-of-view used in Counter-Strike. Games with a more narrow field-of-view should be scaled linearly.
Something to keep in mind is that there's in inverse correlation between this cm/360 number and what we would define as high or low sensitivity. Meaning, a cm/360 of 10 would be a very high sensitivity, because of how sensitive the mouse is to small movements, whereas a cm/360 of 50 would be described as low or insensitive.
How does DPI factor in?
In our blog post on DPI, we note that DPI is largely irrelevant for real accuracy in any game made in the last 15 years. We recommend using whatever feels good for normal desktop usage. As a starting point, we recommend 800 DPI for a 1080p monitor, and at least 1600 DPI for a 4K monitor.
How to decide on your sensitivity
The easiest way is to use our wizard at Head Click. It takes into consideration what games you play, your mousepad size, and what level of mouse movement you're comfortable with. It also gives you customized in-game settings that will let you keep that mouse sensitivity univeral across all your games.
For the purpose of this guide, here's a a few points to keep in mind when deciding on a sensitivity:
- Larger movements allow extra precision, so you should always use the lowest senstivitiy (highest cm/360) you can.
- However, depending on the style of game, you might not be as competitive with an especially low sensitivity. If you need to rapidly target things in all directions (constantly doing 180-degree turns, etc) then it won't be comfortable or effective.
- The size of your mousepad is also a limiting factor in how low your sensitivity can go. You shouldn't have your sensitivity so low that you can't rotate well over 180 degrees without running out of surface.
If you don't want to use our wizard, and just want to find a good sensitivity for one game, here's technique for finding what works:
- Enter a mode in the game that will let you move freely, such as a training mode or an empty server.
- Set your sensitivity reasonably higher than you're used to.
- Aim at a point 10-15 feet away and move your character side to side, trying to track that spot both comfortably and accurately.
- Try to keep your wrist relatively straight and use broader arm movements.
- Lower or raise your sensitivity until that feels right, keeping in mind how large your mousepad is and not going beyond what's reasonable for turning.
Do I need to keep the same sensitivity for all the games I play?
We believe you should. Keeping your muscle memory consistent across all your games lets you switch effortlessly.
I personally use a sensitivity of 48 to play Counter-Strike, Overwatch, PUBG, and Fortnite. I have no issues playing almost every role in Overwatch. I sometimes toggle my DPI to play Genji or Tracer, but Mcree (my main) and Reaper are just fine even up close.
I also have friends who play Counter-Strike with similar sensitivies, but use a higher sensitivity for other games, and perform very well at all of them.
What mouse sensitivity do professional players / streamers use?
Using data from Prosettings.net, we can get a pretty good idea of what professional players (and the most talented streamers) use as a mouse sensitivity across different games:
- Counter-Strike pros have an average mouse sensitivity just shy of 50 cm/360. This is the lowest average sensitivity (or highest cm/360 number) you'll see for any major competitive game.
- Overwatch League players have an average cm/360 around 32.
- Fortnite streamers and professional players average roughly 30, but there's a larger spread of different sensitivities across the community.
Here's a graph that shows the averages for the above games:
Also, here are the sensitivities of some major streamers:
- Shroud, a former CS player who mainly streams PUBG now, uses a sensitivity around 47.
- Ninja, a major Fortnite streamer, uses 26.
- DrDisrespect plays PUBG at 59!!
If you spot any discrepancies in the above numbers, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org