Microsoft Explorer Mini Mouse

Microsoft Explorer Mini MouseHappy New Mouse!

Well, it’s a brand new year, a whole new working year ahead of us, and what better way than to start the year with some new hardware? Well, how about just a little bit of new hardware, anyway?

In my hand I have the new Microsoft Explorer Mini Mouse. It doesn’t go exploring in caves or on the beaches, and I’m not too sure that it’s all that “mini”, but as a mouse, it’s certainly no rodent.

This mouse is wireless, and comes with a USB transceiver that plugs into your computer. For transport, the transmitter fits snugly – very snugly – into a recess in the base of the mouse. Within the transceiver recess is a micro-switch that the transceiver depresses when placed in this recess, and that turns the mouse off.

This is a very nice design feature, and almost borders upon elegant. The whole package can then be stowed into the supplied carry pouch, which makes for very easy carriage when traveling.

The mouse takes one AA battery, and access to the battery compartment on the base is very straightforward. Far better than trying to wrangle the top of the mouse off, as I’ve needed to do with other wireless mouses.

The basic setup of the mouse is as simple as: remove the transceiver from the base (which automagically turns the mouse on) and plug it into your computer. The computer senses the new device very quickly, and you’re done. I tried the mouse on computers using Windows XP Pro,  Mac OS X,  & Windows 7,  and it worked painlessly with all of those systems.

In the hand, it feels quite good: a good size for me, nicely weighted and with contoured recesses along each side to accept your thumb and pinky. In typical mouse-ese, your index and third fingers get to ride along the top of this mouse and drive the buttons, while your middle finger controls the scroll-wheel.

Microsoft Explorer Mini MouseWhich brings me to the first issue that I’ve found with this mouse: the scroll-wheel seems to be free-wheeling. There are no detentes, there is no resistance, there is no feedback at all from the scroll-wheel. It works, and it works quite effectively, but with no feedback, it’s kind of strange.

While I may need time to become accustomed to the no-feel-scroll-wheel, there are no such issues with the buttons: they are firm and very positive, and amongst the best – if not the best – that I’ve ever used.

Now, one of the primary issues with most mouses relates to the surfaces upon which they can operate, and let’s face it, some work better than others, and some just don’t work too well at all. This is one area where the Explorer mouse really shines in that it employs what Microsoft call their “BlueTrack Technology”, which uses a bright blue LED to track the mouse’s movements over, according to Microsoft, virtually whatever terrain you choose to drag it across.

So, I decided to test that out a little, and put the Gadget Grill’s electric grill into service as a makeshift mousepad. And it worked!

As did the frosted glass outdoor table, the black shorts I was wearing, the blue t-shirt I was also wearing, my bald head, the terracotta tiles on the balcony of my apartment, and even a leaf from the tree just outside my apartment. Not too bad at all.

Of course, I also needed to evaluate what “special features” the accompanying CD had to offer. In Windows 7, the CD loaded and installed, only asking me just the once for permission to install itself. After the (still) obligatory reboot, I was disappointed to find that the special features were neither special, nor what I’d call features, nor plentiful.

The CD contains an application called IntelliPoint, but, like most products named “intelli-something” it’s not intelligent, and to be honest, I really don’t see the point.

Basically, you now have use of the two side buttons, and you can assign functionality to the various buttons and the scroll-wheel.

The default functionality includes the provision of a “back” function, and a rectangular magnifier window, which I found to be totally underwhelming. Perhaps the problem was within the Windows 7 beta that I was using, but, while the magnification levels were good and the viewport clear, as soon as you moved the mouse, it all just went white, meaning that you had no visibility of where you were moving your mouse pointer to. This feature rendered the magnifier totally unusable, from my point of view.

So, while I loved this mouse, and would highly recommend it, I’d like to suggest that you take the accompanying CD ROM and just use it as a mousepad, but a CD was the only surface that I couldn’t get the mouse to work on.

Product: Microsoft Explorer Mini Mouse
RRP: $99.95