Pro Graphics Controllers Buyers Guide

When using a graphics workstation with applications that involve Computer Aided Design (CAD), Computer Aided Engineering (CAE), Building Information Modelling (BIM), photo editing, games design or rendering, there may be a considerable amount of mouse work involved - much of it quite intricate. Although the standard mouse supplied with a graphics workstation will allow you to use Digital Content Creation (DCC) software packages, there are a range of advanced controllers that offer far greater precision and can improve productivity immeasurably.

This guide will take you through the various options available to you depending on the type of work you are undertaking. Let’s get started.

What is a graphics controller?

A graphics controller is a device designed to replace or compliment your standard mouse, providing a greater degree of control - whether this be through better ergonomics, a high precision optical sensor, more buttons and features or by increasing intuitive quality by using a pen to draw directly on a digital surface. The table below summarises controller use with application suitability.

CAD / CAE AEC / BIM Media & Entertainment
Professional Mouse
Professional 3D Mouse
Graphics Tablet

*dependant on application support

Professional Mice

Professional grade mice are purpose-built devices specifically suited for use with design and engineering applications. Featuring advanced ergonomics and precise calibration, they offer exceptional comfort and are continually improved with research-based ergonomic and technological refinements, providing ideal sensitivity, reactivity, and precise control for an enhanced CAD, CAD or BIM experience. As you spend a lot of time using the mouse one of the key benefits is enhanced ergonomics to increase comfort and reduce strain

Outside of ergonomic considerations, professional mice are usually much more feature rich when it comes to functionality and programability. Features to look out include:

Maximum Durability

Professional mice are designed to withstand thousands of clicks per day and often feature extended warranty periods.

High Precision

Precision optical sensors provide far greater accuracy of control. Low friction PTFE feet also add to smooth operation.

High Performance

High power battery with long lasting use between charges.

Enhanced Control

Accurate scrolling and ability to zoom accurately are essential when using CAD applications.

Radial Menu

Dedicated gesture button allows access to a radial menu for your most used commands.

Professional 3D Mice

Professional 3D mice are purpose-built devices suited for use with design and engineering applications - specifically for navigation around 3D digital environments. Like professional mice, ergonomics is a key benefit as 3D mice are expected to be used for long periods of time - with this in mind the wrist rests are often padded and feature ergonomically spaced buttons. Usually used alongside a professional mouse these 3D controllers feature a ‘joystick like’ controller that provides smooth and intuitive 3D navigation. This is complemented by numerous programmable buttons to allow specific views, commands and features. Compact versions are also available featuring just the ‘joystick’ element. Both styles also feature wired and wireless connectivity.

There are also several health benefits in combining a professional 3D mouse with a professional mouse at your CAD workstation - when a mouse is used intensively with repetitive patterns of movement, this can result in pain and functional impairments, also known as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Working with two hands – with a 3D mouse in your left hand and a conventional shape mouse in your right hand (or reversed for left handed users) – helps prevent these symptoms, while making your CAD workflow considerably more efficient and healthier.

Graphics Tablets

Graphics tablets are purpose designed devices to allow a digital artist to draw directly on a surface rather than using a mouse, and may be used in drawing, designing, photo editing, animation and some CAD applications. The flat surface acts like digital paper and the input from the tablet is relayed to the display monitor connected to the workstation. This way of drawing or designing allows for facets such as pressure and sensitivity to have impacts that would be otherwise lost when using a mouse. There are several types and sizes of tablet available - all use a stylus pen - but differ in how the ‘drawn’ content is represented:

Pen Tablets

Features a pressure sensitive surface and you see the drawn image on your monitor.

Paper Tablets

Features a paper like screen so you see your creations on the tablet and the monitor.

Display Tablets

Features a full digital etched glass screen so you see your creations on the tablet and the monitor.

All these types of tablet feature sensitive surfaces detecting over 8,000 levels of pressure and capable of the stylus being used at an angle to create effects. High end tablets feature 4K and 99% RGB colour representation. Common screen sizes range from 7in to 32in allowing tablet use on all budgets - all also support left or right handed use and many feature quick use keys for simple intuitive operation.

As tablets are designed to be a drawing surface then it is key they can be mounted in the most comfortable position whether this be angled on a desk or mounted on a stand or arm.

It is also worth stating that although tablets are bundled with a stylus as standard, replacement and additional pens are available for different accuracies, thicknesses and media.

Time to Choose

We hope you’ve found this guide to graphics controllers useful - you can elect you choice of mouse or tablets from the links below.

Professional mice


Graphics tablets