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Compared: The Best Mouse for CAD

A CAD mouse on wave graphics

It’s often said that a workman is only as good as his tools. If you’re in the CAD industry, one of the most important tools at your disposal is the computer mouse. Whether you’re a drafter, engineer, or technician—the mouse is basically replacing your hand. This means when it comes to selecting the right piece of hardware, you’re looking for precision, fast response time, comfort and control.

These days, a specialized CAD mouse can offer all of these features and more. Selecting which one is right for you can be hard when the amount of choice is overwhelming. If you’re here, we’re assuming you’ve decided to go for something a bit more advanced than a standard 3 button mouse. It should be noted, though, that many CAD users actually prefer to go back to basics and make do with these. It saves money and isn’t such a big deal if your mouse ever needs replacing. 

Then again, if you really want to take your designs to the next level and improve workflow, it makes sense to take advantage of everything modern technology has to offer. In this article we’ll run through a few of the top options on the market for CAD users and weigh up their pros and cons. The main consideration to take into account when purchasing any hardware is quality versus price. With CAD in mind, it’s also useful to think about which mouse will slot efficiently into your existing workstation. So, let’s get into it!


Table of contents


What are you using your CAD mouse for?

The hardware you select will largely be shaped by what you intend to do with it. CAD of course involves a range of tasks, but it’s likely you’ll be spending a majority of your time using the mouse to draft. The important difference when selecting a mouse lies in whether you’re drafting in 2D or 3D.

A hand clicking a computer mouse

Those drafting in 2D need their mouse to enable them to have full control over their designs, with a highly sensitive cursor for accuracy. 3D drafters need this too, of course, along with the ability to smoothly navigate in three dimensions. That means panning, zooming and rotating. Professional CAD users need to be able to do these actions simultaneously, without having to stop and start again when changing directions.

You will find a range of CAD mice designed exactly for the purpose of manipulating 3D images. Some drafters even prefer to use a ‘primary’ mouse in conjunction with a specialized 3D motion controller, in order to gain a high level of precision with their movements. Expect a slight hike in the price if you want equipment that specializes in 3D navigation, but it is often worth it, as it can make a vast improvement to your work.

Factors to consider when buying

Comfort

Forget the fancy extra features—CAD drafters might be using a mouse for more than 8 hours a day, so the first detail to check off the list is whether the mouse is comfortable to use. You may not get a realistic idea of how it will feel over time until you’ve actually put in a full day of work. Based on personal preference, though, there are certain ergonomic designs you can veto.

Along with the standard 3 button mouse shape, models designed for CAD can come with trackballs attached, extra buttons down the side, and even in vertical form. Everyone will have differing opinions on whether these extras are a help or a hindrance. 

When considering a new mouse, it’s also important to think about the length and intensity of the work you do. The mouse you choose will have a dramatic effect on on how your hand will be positioned throughout the day. Comfort is a key factor in productivity, so don’t overlook this element.

Buttons

AutoCAD mouse commands

Basic mouse commands on AutoCAD

When working on something as complex as CAD designs, there’ll be a variety of different commands you need to be able to implement. As a result, three buttons is rarely enough. Thankfully, plenty of CAD mice come with extra buttons. This can be great, as long as they don’t take up so much room on the mouse that it starts to affect the comfort element.

A way many manufacturers get around this issue is by adding a small number of extra buttons, each of which can be programmed to access different commands, or take you to a different menu. These features are generally designed to be compatible with software like AutoCAD. Customizable buttons are a great feature that opens up a world of possibilities in terms of how you can create and edit designs.

The scroll wheel is also a major point of contention for many people. It’s great for panning and zooming, but if it is also acting as a button, it can be tricky to avoid scrolling when you’re just trying to select something. Find a mouse that makes the scroll wheel easy to click or, better yet, provides an extra button behind the actual scroll wheel.

DPI

A major specification most CAD users look out for in a mouse is sensitivity. That is, how far the cursor will move on the screen in relation to how far you move the mouse. This is measured in dot per inch (DPI). So, if a mouse has a sensitivity of 800 DPI, the cursor should move 800 pixels for every inch you move the mouse.

Those working with CAD are generally looking for a high DPI. Constantly making big motions with the mouse when navigating designs is no good for your work space—or your arm for that matter!

Wireless or USB

It’s pretty basic, but you should also think about whether you prefer a wireless mouse, or one that connects to your computer via a USB cable. Bear in mind that a cordless mouse might be heavier due to the batteries inside. If this is an issue for you, some manufacturers produce wireless models that can be charged by cable, rather than battery run.

Those of you who have had experience with them will also know that it is often extra frustrating trying to determine the root of connectivity issues with a wireless mouse!

On the other hand, if your mouse connects by cable, it involves more desk clutter and you may find yourself knocking things over when you’re required to move your mouse in elaborate motions. Given the amount of hardware CAD often requires, it’s likely there’s already a lot of things competing for space on your desk.

As you can see, each comes with its own pros and cons, so it’s mainly down to personal preference.

Price

For a mouse that you can use with CAD, you can pay anything from $10 (a standard computer mouse will do the job) to over $200. If you’re looking for high quality and special features that are designed to enhance the CAD process, expect a figure at the mid to high-end of this spectrum.

Making a wise decision really depends on how often you’re using the mouse and how advanced you realistically need it to be, based on the work you’re required to produce. In other words, will paying over $100 for a CAD mouse be an investment, or an extravagance? If your career is rooted in CAD, a specialised mouse is certainly a worthy item to invest in. 


Mouse for CAD: Our top 5 picks

Taking all of the above factors into account, here are 5 great options for a CAD mouse that suit a range of design requirements. 

3Dconnexion CadMouse

3Dconnexion CadMouse

No. of Buttons  7
DPI  8200
Connector  USB wire (A wireless version is also available)
Dimensions (inches)  3.1 x 5 x 1.7
Weight  4.59 oz
Price  $95.99
→ Check availability on Amazon

Kicking off our list is a mouse which may look fairly basic at first, but has plenty of integrated special features. In fact, the 3Dconnexion CadMouse (as you may guess from the name) has been designed specifically with CAD users in mind.

Laser movement detection technology, coupled with the high DPI, means this mouse excels in terms of precision. Plus, it’s designed to create very little static friction during movement. This means no matter how much you’re moving it around, your workspace will remain fairly silent.

A major effort has also been made to reduce any scroll wheel-related woes. Thumb buttons on the side of the mouse provide a ‘quick zoom’ option, there’s a dedicated middle button, and a command quick access button located just below the scroll wheel. This means you only need to click the actual scroll wheel to perform the click-to-click zooming option. That’s a lot of features contributing to optimal 3D navigation! 

As for comfort? Well, users of the 3Dconnexion CadMouse report that while it may feel larger than average at first, the bigger shape actually allows your palm to rest during long hours of CAD work.

At $95.99, this mouse packs a lot of extras for the price. 

3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator

3Dconnexion-SpaceNavigator

No. of Buttons  2 (programmable function keys)
Sensor  6DoF
Connector  USB wire
Dimensions (inches)  7.6 x 7.6 x 5.1
Weight  16.8 oz
Price  from £120.00/$160.00
→ Check availability on Amazon

This is a 3D motion controller designed for people who want to take 3D navigational ability to the next level. It’s made by the same company that produced the CadMouse (detailed above) and is perfect to be used in conjunction with that mouse, for optimum control. 

The SpaceNavigator’s superior ability to manipulate 3D digital imagery comes from its 6-Degrees-of-Freedom sensor. By pushing, pulling, twisting and tilting the controller, you are not only able to move up, down, left, and right—but front and back too! Panning, zooming and rotating is a breeze thanks to this patented technology.

It’s fitted with only two buttons, but both lead to radial menus—allowing you to access a range of options from a single click. Plus, if you’re using the SpaceNavigator in conjunction with a regular mouse, you should have plenty of buttons at your disposal already.

While impressive, this is quite specialized equipment. We’d only suggest investing in such technology if it will play a large role in your work. 

Logitech Wireless Trackball M570

Logitech wireless trackball M570

No. of Buttons  5
DPI 540 
Connector  Advanced 2.4 GHz wireless connectivity
Dimensions (inches)  5.7 x 1.7 x 3.7
Weight  5.01 oz
Price   $49.99
→ Check availability on Amazon

The cheapest on our list, the Logitech M570 is a good option for those who want a slight upgrade from a regular 3 button mouse. This one boasts 5 buttons, all customizable—which is good news for your productivity.

The integrated trackball means you don’t have to move your arm to move the cursor, which is great for preventing repetitive strain injuries. It also means it won’t require a lot of space on your desk. Sure, the M570 has a lower DPI than the other mice on our list, but the trackball itself is designed to be super sensitive to movement, which should make up for it.

Trackballs are not for everyone, though—it can take a while to get used to moving the cursor across the screen with your thumb rather than your whole hand. We’d recommend trying this mouse on for size before purchasing, to check that it’s comfortable for you to work with.

Razer Naga Chroma

Razer Naga Chroma

No. of Buttons  19 (includes 12 button mechanical thumb grid)
DPI  Up to 16,000 (variable)
Connector  USB wire
Dimensions (inches)  2.9 x 1.7 x 4.9
Weight  4.8 oz
Price  New from $119.93
→ Check availability on Amazon

If you require plenty of buttons and a high DPI ratio, look no further than the Razer Naga Chroma. Despite its relatively average size, this mouse packs in an impressive 19 buttons (each one fully programmable)! You might be thinking this sounds like a very uncomfortable mouse to hold, but a majority of them are located on a handy 12-button thumb grid.

While this kind of mouse is often used primarily for gaming, many people have found it to be highly beneficial for CAD as well. The buttons can be programmed to perform every command you could possibly need, which saves a lot of time when you’re drafting or editing. It also includes a tilt-click scroll wheel, allowing you to go left and right, as well as up and down.

Evoluent VerticalMouse 4

Evoluent VerticalMouse 4

No. of Buttons  5 
DPI  800-2,600 (variable)
Connector  USB wire
Dimensions (inches)  5.4 x 3.6 x 3.6
Weight  1.1 pounds
Price  $79.95
→ Check availability on Amazon

We’re rounding off our list with something a little different—a vertical mouse. The Evoluent VerticalMouse 4 is designed to provide the utmost comfort and prevent strain and cramp while you work. Its shape also offers relief for those suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Despite what you may think, the alternative design does not get in the way of functionality. Six programmable buttons (including two for the thumb) opens up the possibility for a range of commands. You also have the option of adjusting the DPI sensitivity (ranging from 800 to 2600) via pointer speed controls located on the side of the mouse.

This kind of mouse is seen as life-changing by some, and a strange, clunky-looking fad by others. Try it out for yourself and see which camp you side with!


Compared: The best mouse for CAD

Hopefully this list has narrowed down your search for the perfect CAD mouse. When it comes down to it, comfort and functionality are key—so make sure your hardware at least checks those boxes. Anything you can use for long periods of time, without having to take a break, is going to aid your productivity significantly.

Still not sure which mouse to go for? When in doubt, keep it simple. Just like in choosing a CAD monitor, for instance, whether you even need a 4K monitor, there’s no point spending a lot of money on a mouse that doesn’t suit either you or your work. Try out different styles where you can, and build up a list of personal preferences until you’re ready to invest in one of the more specialized models.

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