Having recently released a new driver for its Touch Mouse, Microsoft asked us to re-test this touch-sensitive mouse to see for ourselves what improvements had been made.
First of all we manually uninstalled the old driver, then we downloaded and installed one of the new drivers from the Microsoft website:
- Intellipoint 8.2 32 bits,
- Intellipoint 8.2 64 bits.
We noticed two main improvements, both which made the mouse feel quite different to handle:
1 - when entering text (in an online form, for example), the mouse temporarily blocks the touch-controls to stop you accidentally moving the cursor or moving back or forwards a page with the slightest movement of your hand. That's a real relief, as you don't end up accidentally going back to the previous web page and losing everything you'd already entered in the form! Microsoft has therefore managed to correct one of this mouse's most frustrating flaws.
2 - the virtual scroll wheel wasn't accurate or responsive enough in the original mouse, particularly when trying to scroll slowly. The new drivers certainly bring greater precision, but the wheel still lacks responsiveness and there's a noticeable delay between your command and the reaction on screen. This is even more noticeable when you compare this virtual system with a physical scroll wheel. The virtual scroll wheel's performance was so inadequate in our original test that we hadn't really noticed this lag the first time around!
Apart from that, we didn't notice any other changes with the new drivers. In other words, the sensor still can't handle movements faster than 1.5 m/s!
Now back to the original review ...
Microsoft's answer to Apple's Magic Mouse is the new Touch Mouse. The Apple Magic Mouse is white and flat, but the Microsoft version is black and curvy. After trying them both, our question is whether or not the dark side will win out over the force ...
Microsoft is hoping that the touch-sensitive surfaces on the top and left-hand side of its new mouse, the Bluetrack sensor and the wireless technology will combine to make the perfect pointing device.
Unfortunately, though, it's not as simple as that. Even if you do get used to the new system very quickly, it's less accurate than using a normal mouse, so we can't see it being a hit with demanding users.
In a video published online, Microsoft has tried to explain how the different movements are supposed to work: you use your thumb to move backwards and forwards between web pages, your index finger for scrolling, two fingers to minimise a window and move it around, three fingers to access your desktop and so on. Here's their tutorial:
Our more demanding tests came to more or less the same conclusion. The Bluetrack sensor can't cope when you move the mouse any faster than 1.5 m/s. In the heat of the action, you'll easily reach double that with some games. It doesn't budge from a 125 Hz refresh rate either, reporting its position to the computer every 8 ms, unlike other mice which work at 500 Hz or 1000 Hz, updating their position at 2 ms or even 1 ms respectively. The resulting loss of accuracy compared to a mouse like the Logitech G500 or the Microsoft Sidewinder X8 is immediately obvious.
Unfortunately, our initial excitement on opening up such an attractive and distinctive new mouse soon turned to frustration. We're doubly disappointed because the rounded form factor is a success in design terms and sits much more comfortably in the hand than Apple's latest mouse, which still, however, retains our favour on other grounds.
- Touch-sensitive (only an advantage if you prefer that to buttons)
- Taller, longer and more comfortable than the Apple Magic Mouse
- Attractive, which isn't easy for a mouse!
- Tiny wireless receiver doesn't stick out of your laptop
- Easy to get the hang of
- Supplied batteries aren't rechargeable
- Heavy: 130 g compared to 110 g on the Logitech G500
- Virtual scrollwheel isn't responsive enough - noticeable lag
- Windows 7 (and later!) only
- Bluetrack sensor isn't up to scratch - tracking drops out at 1.5 m/s
This is a nice enough mouse, but Microsoft will need to take its concept much further to appeal to the kind of demanding users who'd have this much cash to spend on a mouse. Plus, the sensor just can't keep up with the action and the touch-sensitive interface still isn't accurate or responsive enough.