The Microsoft SideWinder X8 Mouse is the first gaming mouse to feature Microsoft's BlueTrack Technology for improved tracking capabilities. With a new, more ergonomic shape and on-the-fly DPI switching, is the SideWinder X8 the best wireless gaming mouse on the market? Let's take a closer look.
Below are the key features and specs of the Microsoft SideWinder X8 gaming mouse:
Design and Features
Although the SideWinder X8 wasn't designed with a focus on compact size, Microsoft managed to keep the size and shape comfortable enough for everyday use and make it smaller than the original SideWinder. The new shape of the SideWinder is perfectly balanced for right-handed users and offers a much more comfortable, rounded shape than the previous SideWinder mice. The location of all the main buttons seems to make perfect sense. The top/bottom design of the forward button and back buttons has been improved to make these buttons easier to use ... a blessing for users of the original SideWinder. While most notebook travel mice are physically smaller than the SideWinder, none of the smaller wireless mice I've used are as feature-packed or as balanced under my hand.
In addition to the standard buttons, the quick-launch button (the silver SideWinder logo) will launch the Games Explorer feature in Windows Vista or the IntelliPoint software in Windows XP. The macro record button allows you to program in-game macros for faster game play. Three buttons located beneath the scroll wheel allow you to adjust the DPI sensitivity at any time and the buttons are backlit for enhanced visibility in a dark game room.
One of the biggest selling points of the original SideWinder and the new SideWinder X8 is the built-in LCD. The LCD (which also uses a red back light) displays the current DPI setting and macro recording icons to reduce the need for on-screen displays that crowd your desktop or get in the way of a game.
Microsoft includes a software CD with Intellipoint so that you can adjust some settings on the SideWinder, but the mouse is designed to be plug-and-play so you don't need to install any software to use the mouse.
Another nice touch is that Microsoft includes three different sets of replaceable mouse feet, each made from different materials (such as Teflon) so that users can customize the glide of the mouse for any surface. The unused sets of mouse feet are stored in a convenient cable anchor/accessory box that connects to the USB cord. The anchor/accessory box looks a bit like a "hockey puck" on your desk, but it's a nice place to store the cord when it's not in use.
Everyday notebook computing with the SideWinder X8 was surprisingly simple despite the abundance of buttons covering the mouse. As soon as the USB cord is plugged in any Windows Vista or XP machine will immediately recognize the mouse and you're ready to work or play. We even tested the mouse using Windows 7 and everything works fine.
Once the SideWinder is up and running it is a genuine joy to use ... if you're a right-handed gamer. The one problem with a nice erogomic design like this is that it has to be taylored for only right-handed or left-handed users. In this case, left-handed users are out of luck. Cursor movement and control is fast and fluid and DPI sensitivity is easy to change thanks to the preset buttons. The metal scroll wheel, forward button, and back button add a touch of rugged class. The replaceable mouse feet and adjustable weights make it much easier to customize the mouse exactly how you want it.
One minor annoyance I had with the original SideWinder was the left side of the mouse next to the forward and back buttons and the macro record button. The sharp edges in this area of the mouse made it slightly uncomfortable to press these three buttons. Fortunately, Microsoft listened to that criticism and the new X8 has a much smoother feel in this area. Overall, this is one comfortable mouse.
The new BlueTrack Technology makes the X8 even more responsive and accurate in terms of rapid and fine/detailed movements than the original SideWinder. This is thanks to the improved image processing of 13,000 frames per second offered by BlueTrack. The improved accuracy is much more noticeable when using a notebook with a 1080p screen and isn't as obvious with an older 1280 x 800 display.
The new magnetic USB cord makes charging the mouse a relatively quick and painless process. The cord is very durable and magnetic connector holds in place very securely. I really like the cord because if the battery dies you can connect the power cord and continue using the mouse like an old-fashioned wired mouse while the X8 charges. The only major problem I had with this mouse was the less-than-stellar battery life offered by the single rechargeable AA battery. Most wireless mice will require a recharge after days of serious gaming, but I found the X8 needed a recharge almost every other day. Sure, the battery has to supply power to the built-in LCD and multiple backlit buttons, but what's the point of a "wireless" mouse that has to stay connected with a wire for charging?
The Microsoft SideWinder X8 Mouse is a fantastic upgrade to the older SideWinder gaming mouse. The X8 offers improved ergonomics, better accuracy with BlueTrack technology, and it's finally wireless. On the other hand, the new SideWinder lacks the customizable weights and extreme rugged feeling of the original SideWinder.
The most obvious potential problem with the X8 is the unimpressive battery life. If you're an active gamer (spending hours playing games every day) you can expect to need to recharge this mouse at least once every other day.
Notebook users willing to put up with the size and weight of the SideWinder X8 (and the "hockey puck" receiver/ charging base) will be very pleased with this mouse. Granted, the SideWinder X8 isn't as convenient for notebook users as a compact bluetooth mouse, but the performance of this mouse is second to none.
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