More PC Gaming Mice Should Follow ROG’s Repairable Switches

Whether something's wrong or you're really picky, ROG's switches are easier to swap.

Douglas Englebart’s mouse protoype, via SRI International / Wikmedia

Computer mice, ever since the first wooden block from 1964, have always had a fundamental weakness. They have buttons, and the switches under those buttons can wear out. 

And yet, in some ways, Douglas Englebart’s knifed-up but durable prototype has it better than today’s highly engineered gaming mice. The mechanical switches on gaming mice can wear out in a way that’s particularly awful for accuracy-obsessed gamers: single clicks accidentally triggering double-clicks.

Wirecutter’s gaming mouse guide notes that double-click failure can be caused by humidity, user pressure, long-term wear, or, seemingly, just bad luck. A gaming mouse product designer told Wirecutter that wireless gaming mice are more susceptible to accidental double-clicks because “their lower voltage—which saves battery life—can accelerate corrosion in the switch.” Enthusiast site and store Mouse Club cites “dirty / oxidized switch contacts, inconsistent voltages in your device, or too low of a click debounce time in your mouse software.”

To go just a bit deeper into this, consider how a microswitch works. One thing that can cause double-clicks instead of single is contact bounce. When metal hits metal inside a mechanical switch, it’s not always a clean, one-tap impact, but sometimes a series of vibrations. The digital result is a spattering of on/off signals of various shapes and lengths. There are a lot of ways to correct for this, including signal filtering and circuit design. Arthur Shi, technical writing team lead at iFixit, suggests that in a low-voltage switch, with possibly worn or corroded contacts, the amount of signal noise from the switch mechanism can overwhelm the mouse’s filters and let through phantom clicks.

Accessing the switches on this Logitech gaming mouse requires de-soldering 14 board connections.

Whatever the cause, there’s more frustration to come (beyond accidentally selling an epic item from your inventory). If your mouse uses standard Omron switches, and if you can find a replacement, your next task is taking apart the entire device to make the swap. That usually involves de-soldering around a dozen contact points just to flip a board over and get at the switch. Then you have to solder a new button switch on, re-soldering the contact points, and praying you haven’t misplaced a tiny pin or spring along the way.

This is how it goes for most mice made by popular gaming brands, including Razer, Logitech, and Steelseries. Knowing iFixit’s general dislike of soldered-down components when an alternative is available, a friend pointed out that one brand had recently put replaceable switches into most of their gaming mice. 

ROG, (Republic of Gamers), an ASUS sub-brand, features push-fit sockets across most of its gaming mouse line. The Chakram, Chakram X, Spatha X, Spatha, Gladius III Wireless, Gladius III, Keris Wireless, Keris, Pugio II, Strix Carry—all of them, besides being fun to type out, feature primary left/right click switches that can be swapped out with a procedure that ROG illustrates in five steps. You can swap them out because you want a different force, feel, or sound to your clicks, or simply because something doesn’t feel right.

I could tell you the whole thing during a two-floor elevator ride: remove the pads, remove the screws, open it up, swap the switches, close it, put the screws and pads back in.

ASUS ROG’s 5-step switch replacement instructions

I asked ROG representatives why they changed their designs to accommodate easy switch replacements. Customizability and longevity, said Cat Tompkins, public relations lead with ASUS. Gamers have “vastly different preferences with regards to mice,” Tompkins wrote, between skill levels, game types, and personal style. “We wanted to have a mouse that could best accommodate everyone’s play style, while maintaining a high-quality ROG mouse shape and feel as the base.”

The switches inside the ROG Strix Impact II Wireless, just a few screws away if you want or need to replace them.

Tompkins also noted that mouse switches wear out, and that owners can swap their switches instead of replacing the entire mouse. This might seem obvious to you, a person who has owned and broken things. But it’s not a common sentiment or admission in the realm of PC gaming hardware, where the upgrade cycle can often seem about as long as Amazon Prime’s fastest delivery date.

ASUS says it will continue to offer push-fit switch replacements in upcoming ROG mice. ROG isn’t a dominant player in the gaming mouse field, but this design could have an outsized impact. Let’s hope ROG, and devotees of other gaming brands, can motivate more companies to improve the upgradeability and repairability of the mice with which their customers spend so much time.

No character deserves to die because of a double-click. And no mouse deserves to die because of one little soldered-on switch.