Difference between computer mouse and trackpad

Computer mouse and touchpad side by side

The mouse and touchpad or trackpad are input devices used as pointing devices. Both devices achieve the same objectives of pointing, selecting, and moving the cursor among other functions of the pointing device. However, they have some differences in how they look and operate to achieve their function.

The main difference between a computer mouse and a touchpad is that users move the mouse over the flat surface while on the pad they move their finger over it. Most common trackpads used capacitive technology to sense the motion of the finger while the mouse is optical to sense the movement over the surface.

Touchpads or trackpads

They are computer input devices that are used as pointing devices alternatives to a mouse. The most common touchpad comes fixed on portable devices such as notepads and laptops. The user moves the finger over the pad to move the cursor on the screen. It also has 2 buttons right and left just like on the mouse.

Computer mouse

It is the most common point device that is used on computers. It is made up of a wheel and 2 buttons right and left that are used to achieve its objectives. To use the mouse user moves it over a flat surface which then moves the cursor on the screen. We have a more detailed article on the types, parts, and computer mouse terminologies that you can read.

Difference between mouse vs touchpad

Criteria MouseTouchpad
Type of connectionA computer mouse is a peripheral that requires a connector to be used on computers. Modern mice use USB or wireless for connection.Most touchpads are fixed on the device, their connection is internal. However today we have an external trackpad that is connected via USB or wireless.
Shape and sizeThey are designed with a shape to fit on a palm. The user holds the mouse to form a half-fist form.The trackpad is rectangular and is mostly operated using fingers rather than the whole palm. It takes more space than a mouse.
Device movement The user moves the mouse over a flat surface to move the cursor on the computer monitor.The user moves their finger over the touchpad to move the cursor on the monitor.
Dirty and dust collectionMouse collects a lot of dust from the surface that they are moved over. This makes them dirty than the pad.The touchpad is more clean compared to the mouse since you move your finger over it. So unless your fingers are dirty.
How they operateThe latest optical and laser mice use an optical light track where the cursor is moving.Touchpad work by sensing the finger movement and the pressure applied to it. They use capacitive technology like touchscreen monitors.
Precision on clickWhen moving and clicking on an icon on the screen a mouse is more precise.A touchpad requires getting used to using it to be as accurate compared to a mouse.
ScrollingThe mouse has a wheel in the middle that helps scroll up and down on the screen very fast.To scroll using a touchpad you need a combination of holding a button and moving the finger on the pad. It makes it more tasking than using a mouse.
Device componentsThe mouse is made up of a wheel, right and left buttons, a light source for optical, and a circuit board that carries other electronic parts.The touchpad is made up of a touchpad surface and comes with 2 buttons on the side for the right and left buttons. Internally most common pads are made up of capacitive material.
CompatibilityMice are compatible with all types of computer systems and operating systems as long as they can be connected.The External trackpad may not be compatible with all hardware. They work with devices they were made for.
Multi-gesture useThis is not used on the mouse.With the trackpad, the user can use gestures such as pinch, use multiple fingers, swipe, etc.
CostMice are relatively cheap since they are the most common.External trackpads are more expensive than the mouse.

Which is better the mouse or the touchpad?

You cannot say conclusively say one is better than the other. From my point, it all goes down to user preference and experience with either of the device.

Most people learned how to use the computer on a desktop computer which uses a mouse hence they are more comfortable with them. We have some other people who use the laptop and touchpad and they don’t require extra components.

However, if you are dealing with work that requires precision click and operation such as design and drawing I believe a mouse would be better for that.