Microsoft has always offered a plethora of mice but has never made a true hardcore gaming mouse (Razer partnership aside), until now. With its new SideWinder gaming mouse, the company has shown that it can compete with the best from Logitech and Razer. Though the design is a bit funky, it’s a surprisingly good gaming mouse with great features and superb tracking ability. It’s a bit on the bulky side, but this doesn’t detract too much from its overall greatness.
Features and Design
We’ll admit it: When we first saw pictures of the new SideWinder mouse from Microsoft, we laughed. Are they serious? With its weird silver buttons sticking out and funky v-shaped body, we thought it looked odd and way too bizarre to be any good. As it turns out we were wrong, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The SideWinder’s shape is certainly unique. Its shell is rounded for comfort with a V-shape where it meets the palm, and there’s an indentation for your thumb. The most unique feature is the “forward” and “back” buttons, which stick out from the side and are made of metal.
One feature that is new to mice is the LCD display that shows what the switchable DPI is set to, and it has a red backlight to make it visible at all times. For example, if you set it to 800, you’ll see a little “800” on the LCD. There are also red LED “ground effects” at the back of the mouse – for lack of a better word.
The DPI switching buttons are right behind the mouse wheel. Rather than having just two buttons to increase or decrease it, there are three separate buttons – one for each available DPI setting. The default sensitivities are 400, 800 and 2000, but you can customize them to whatever setting you want.
Some may gripe that the SideWinder only goes up to 2000dpi, but we think it’s more than adequate.
Like the Logitech G5 and G9, you can customize the weight of the SideWinder with little weights. Press a button on the bottom of the mouse and a little tray ejects from the side that holds three weights. Microsoft gives you 35g of weights to play around with, including three 10g weights and one 5g weight.
The SideWinder has a little tray slides that lets you customize the mouse’s weight.
The weights are stored in a slick case that also holds two alternate sets of mouse feet. If you don’t like the way the mouse glides, you can swap out the feet. The case is also very heavy, and is designed to act as a cable anchor.
There is also a macro button in a hard-to-reach (by design) area of the mouse in front of the forward and back buttons. And finally, there’s a Quick Launch button at the back of the mouse underneath where your palm rests. All in all the SideWinder has an astonishing 10 buttons.
The included software is the standard Microsoft Intellipoint, with some new screens thrown that are specific to this mouse.
Use and Testing
We plugged the SideWinder into a free USB port and rested our hand upon it. Our initial thought was that it was surprisingly comfortable. The forward and back buttons lie just out of reach of your thumb, but you only need to move your thumb a few millimeters to reach them and it’s something we got used to very quickly. To be honest, we thought we’d hate this design but it’s actually very effective.
We installed the Intellipoint software but decided to leave everything on default settings. Customizing the buttons is very easy, if you want to do that. You can also set specific buttons to do certain things with specific programs.
The Intellipoint software is very easy to use and lets you customize all the mouses’ buttons.
We ratcheted up the DPI to 2000, since this is what we’re most comfortable with and found the mouse to be very precise. We fired up Crysis and played for hours, and came away impressed. The mouse feels a little big for our tastes and our hand, but it’s not uncomfortable. We just wish it was a smidge smaller at the back where it meets our palm.
Next we decided to play around with the weights and though we never opted to use them on the Logitech G9 mouse, we found adding 20g made the SideWinder a bit more accurate. We also really like the feel of the scroll wheel. It’s easy to press (something that is very important in Crysis since you use it to control the nanosuit) and the scrolling was smooth and predictable.
We replaced the stock grey mouse feet with the black ones from the included case, but didn’t notice a significant difference in feel. It would be helpful if Microsoft labeled the feet like “extra smooth” or “not as smooth” or something so we’d know what effect adding them would have.
One feature that is touted with this mouse is the ability to make macros, but we never figured out how to use it. We pressed the “record macro” button and saw an indicator on the LCD that had a mouse with an arrow pointing down. We were not sure what that meant, but we moved the mouse around a bit and waited to see if something would happen, but nothing did. We looked for a macro tab in the software and didn’t see anything. We never use mouse macros, so this wasn’t a big deal to us, but Microsoft needs to work on making this process more intuitive.
Microsoft has a winner on its hands here. We admit we were skeptical about this mouse prior to reviewing it but we came away impressed. The mouse has excellent tracking ability, a wide array of customization options, and feels good in our hand. The LCD is neat and the red ground effects look snazzy. Some people with smaller hands might think it’s a bit too big, but overall it worked quite well for us in testing. Is it better than Logitech’s G9 Laser? That’s a matter of preference really, but we will say it has equal performance, despite the G9’s higher DPI setting of 3200, which we felt was a bit too high.
• Excellent tracking ability
• Great features
• Snazzy LED
• A bit large
• Macro creation is confusing