CPI vs DPI: What is the Difference?

Last Updated: July 26, 2017

If you’re out there looking for a new mouse to purchase, you might have come across the term DPI. It’s one of the most common points to consider while buying a new mouse, especially for gaming. That being said, some companies offer a CPI switch instead. This must have gotten you wondering how is the CPI switch different from the DPI switch and how does it affect you? Well, don’t worry, as today we bring to you our take at CPI vs DPI, and whether you should be concerned or not.

CPI vs DPI: What Do They Mean?

Counts Per Inch or CPI is used to refer to the number of steps the mouse will report when it moves one inch. It basically refers to the sensitivity of the mouse, used to determine how much distance the mouse covers on the screen related to the physical movement of the mouse.

Dots Per Inch or DPI, on the other hand, is a measure of spatial printing or video dot density. It signifies the number of individual dots that can be placed in a line within the span of one inch. In other words, DPI is used to describe the resolution number of dots per inch in a digital print. It also refers to the printing resolution of a hard copy print dot gain.


While CPI is what is connected to your gaming mice, DPI is actually a term used when speaking in reference to the printing world.

So Why The Confusion?

At this point, you’re probably looking at the switch on your mouse and wondering why does it say DPI instead of CPI? Technically, the correct nomenclature would be CPI, but instead, the term DPI is more widely used. For example, you might have seen graphic designers also use the term DPI to represent the quality and/or depth of their images, when instead they are referring to PPI (Pixels Per Inch).

The fact is that most companies try to use terms that the general public can easily relate and connect to. DPI is a term that almost everyone has heard. Sadly, people continue to use it in place of everything that relates closely to DPI. A very prominent example can be seen in the case of gaming mice. If you’ve ever seen and/or used a gaming mouse, you certainly might have come across the term DPI switch. That DPI switch, technically, is actually the CPI switch.

On the other hand, there are companies that indeed do make use of the term CPI instead of DPI. For example, in the SteelSeries Rival 100 Gaming Mouse, the company has opted to stick with CPI, but the values are 250, 500, 1000, 1250, 1500, 1750, 2000, and 4000; which are quite different from those found from other mainstream mice that have the so-called “DPI” switch. Essentially, what companies refer to as DPI is the same as CPI. In this case, SteelSeries have just set the DPI (read CPI) steps as per their own choice.

How Does This Concern Users?

Now that you know what CPI and DPI actually refer to, you’re probably wondering how does it change things. Well, actually, it doesn’t. You can continue using your mouse the same way that you used earlier. Apparently, manufacturers are aware of the differences between the two nomenclatures. Despite that, they’ll continue to stick with the term DPI since it is more prevalent amongst the consumers. In the end, you’re actually adjusting your mouse’s sensitivity only, regardless of what name the company chooses to call it.

DPI Switch
Regardless of it being CPI, most companies prefer to use the term DPI for mass appeal

SEE ALSO: 10 Best Gaming Mouse That You Can Buy

CPI vs DPI: Different, Yet Similar

While most people are confused in the comparison of CPI vs DPI in mice, chances are that in the scenario where you’re using it, they both refer to the same thing. Technically though, CPI is supposed to be the correct nomenclature for mouse sensitivity. The DPI is just a technical aspect of an individual printer and is in no way connected to the mouse world. Whether you choose to alter the CPI or the DPI of your mouse, depending upon what the company has branded the feature as, in the end, you will simply be tweaking the mouse’s sensitivity.

Now that the confusion surrounding CPI and DPI has been cleared, we would love to hear your take on this in the comments section below.