“We never thought we'd see the day when we could recommend a wireless mouse”
- Wireless; programmable; overall precision; ergonomically sound design
- Slippery scroll wheel; adds to cable clutter despite being wireless
Wireless mice are all well and good, but you’d never use one for gaming, right? Everybody knows wireless mice suffer from lag, skipping, and all sorts of other problems. Well, here’s a situation where common wisdom is wrong. Microsoft has managed to chop off this mouse’s tail while avoiding these and other problems.
Does that mean the SideWinder X8 Wireless Gaming Mouse is the ultimate offering in its class? Not exactly. It’s a very good example of its breed – and we mean that for gaming as well as productivity – but it’s not perfect. And cutting the tail off the mouse doesn’t eliminate cords.
The SideWinder X8 might be wireless, but you’ll actually need two cords to use it. One plugs the mouse’s wireless transceiver into your PC’s USB port and the other attaches to the mouse when its AA-sized nickel-metal hydride battery needs charging. Microsoft has come up with an ingenious magnetic fastener for this purpose that enables you to use the mouse while it’s being charged without the thin wire interfering with the device’s freedom of movement. The company claims the mouse will operate for 30 hours on a charge; you can turn it off with a switch on its bottom when you’re traveling or otherwise not actively using it. Excess lengths of both cords (the USB cable is six feet long and the charging cable is about half that) can be wound around the spool-like transceiver.
Microsoft apparently thinks gamers have paws the size of mountain gorillas, because the SideWinder X8 is absolutely huge—it’s slightly wider and a full inch longer than the “wide load” grip on Logitech’s G9x Gaming Mouse. The X8 has five action buttons: Top left and right, two thumb buttons stacked on top of each other, and a button in the scroll wheel. Three buttons on top of the mouse, immediately behind the scroll wheel, can change the mouse’s sensitivity to three preset values ranging from 250 dots per inch (DPI) for precision work to 4,000 DPI for twitch gaming. A final button behind these serves the sole purpose of opening the Games window in Windows Vista.
The X8’s left, right, and wheel buttons offer just the right amount of resistance –it takes very little effort to manipulate them, but they’re not so sensitive that you’ll depress them unintentionally. The scroll wheel’s surface, on the other hand, is a disaster. Despite its knurled surface, our fingers slipped and slid over it as though it were freshly waxed linoleum. Microsoft should have applied rubber or some other material that would provide traction. On the upside, the wheel’s tilt mechanism is just about perfect—we shunted it right and left without ever lifting our fingertip. We’re equally enthused about the side buttons. Your thumb rests right in between the two, so you need only twist it slightly up or down to activate them.
Microsoft SideWinder X8 Wireless Gaming Mouse
Programmability and Conclusion
The SideWinder X8’s five action buttons and tilt wheel can be programmed to perform different commands using the drop-down menus in Microsoft’s IntelliPoint software. You can also record macros (sequences of key presses, mouse movements, and mouse-button actions) on the fly and assign them to any of these buttons. These instructions can also be rendered application specific, so that they perform one function in a word processor and a wholly different function in a game, depending on which one is active at the time.
Microsoft doesn’t provide any means of customizing the SideWinder’s weight or weight distribution, but they do provide three types of feet. These supposedly offer different amounts of resistance for various surfaces, but we couldn’t discern much if any difference between the three materials.
We’d give the SideWinder X8 an even higher score if it weren’t for that slippery scroll wheel—or if we hadn’t come to rely on the scroll wheel so much (for everything from changing weapons in a shooter to moving around web pages). Fortunately for Microsoft, the mouse’s performance and desirable features go along way to make up for this flaw.
- Excellent button placement
- Slippery scroll wheel
- Very large
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