When you are serious about online gaming, you look for every edge that you can find. The question is, will plugging your mouse into a USB 3.0 port provide any speed or response benefits over a USB 2.0 port? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post debates the question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

Photo courtesy of Jack Zalium (Flicker).

The Question

SuperUser reader philipthegreat wants to know if plugging a mouse into a USB 3.0 port will provide any speed benefits or not:

I am looking for an authoritative answer backed by data. A friend asked me the other day if he would benefit from plugging his mouse into a USB 3.0 port instead of an available 2.0 port. I flippantly replied that it would make no difference at all. I am certainly not the only one to think that. See these responses to the debate on:

Intuitively, I do not think data throughput should be an issue. Mice worked fine over a serial port, and those transfer at a maximum of 112.5 Kbps. USB 1.0 runs at 1.5 Mbps (slow) or 12 Mbps (fast). USB 2.0 can handle 480 Mbps and 3.0 can reach 5 Gbps.

But what about response speed? Are there any published studies of response time between USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports?

My question is, was I right? Would it matter if I have a really fancy mouse? Can my friend safely blame his loss in League of Legends on his slow USB port?

Would plugging a mouse into a USB 3.0 port make a difference or not?

The Answer

SuperUser contributors AFH and Michael Hamilton have the answer for us. First up, AFH:

  1. A mouse is a slow device (the old PS/2 standard was RS232C-based), so USB 1.0 is more than adequate.
  2. USB 3.0 ports have extra connectors for high-speed transfers, but also have standard USB 2.0 connectors for backward compatibility.
  3. Unless your mouse has these extra connectors (and I can not imagine any mouse that has them), it will connect via USB 2.0 in a USB 3.0 connector.

So you are entirely correct. Plugging a mouse into a USB 3.0 connector confers no benefits whatsoever. If a mouse responds slowly, it is because something else is hogging the CPU to the detriment of the mouse driver.

Followed by the answer from Michael Hamilton:

We need to take a look at the mouse’s polling rate. From that we can have a better idea of how much data is being transmitted. If a mouse has a 100hz polling rate, it is sending data to the computer 100 times a second.

A standard mouse will send a 3-byte packet containing info on X/Y position information as well as button information. Considering that 3 bytes are transferred each cycle of the polling rate, you could have 300 bytes per second being transferred.

By default, the USB polling rate is 125hz, so by our logic, the amount of data being transmitted is 375 bytes per second.

Based on this, I do not think USB 3.0 is going to be any more beneficial than USB 2.0 (or even 1.0).

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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