|Although Apple gets it right most of
the time, when it comes to the idea of a two-button mouse, Apple has baffled most
of us as they continue to push out a single-button mouse. Thanks to third party
vendors, however, Mac users have access to a variety of add-on mice, most with 2
to 4 buttons and a scroll wheel.
The Wireless Intellimouse Explorer is Microsoft's newest arrival on
the high tech multi-button mouse scene (it's predecessors being the Intellimouse Explorer and the Intellimouse Optical).
Like it's predecessors, the Wireless Explorer is USB, multi-button, has a scroll
wheel, and is very simple to hook up. In addition to being an optical mouse, what
really sets this mouse apart from the rest is the fact that it is wireless.
This mouse sports a stylish design.
The optical feature allows the mouse to work without any ball (no cleaning, no stuck
ball, no need for a mouse pad). It has a cool red light in it that turns on only
when the computer is on. It sports a silver and gray stylish look and ergonomic contours.
It includes two top buttons, a scroll wheel button, and two side buttons. Like the
regular Explorer, the Wireless Explorer has it's two side buttons on the same side
(the left side). The placement of the buttons on the Wireless, however, are a great
improvement over its predecessor. The buttons are much easier to access, requiring
very little reach, and with the more contoured design of this mouse, the entire grip
and feel of the mouse is better than any others I have used. To add to the ergonomic
achievement, this mouse has no wire attached to it. That means no wire to restrict
movement, no wire to get entangled behind the keyboard or beneath the desktop. The
Wireless Explorer uses a base station (pictured to the right) to transmit all movement
and button signals, and the base station relays the signals to the computer through
its USB connection (either to the computer's USB port or a USB hub). Ultimately,
the ideal situation would be to have the base station integrated into the computer,
eliminating the need to have "yet another" hardware device hanging around.
That may not be feasible at this point, and the base station has a small enough
footprint to make this a non-issue.
One concern over any wireless device
is how stable the signal is. With a device such as a mouse, stability is of crucial
importance. After weeks of heavy use, I was ecstatic to discover that the signal
between the Wireless Explorer and its base station was far more stable than I had
anticipated. I placed the base station in two different places for two different
tests. In one test, I set the base station on top of the desk (next to the USB hub),
and in the other test I set the station on the floor down by the power strips (near
the back of my G4). In both tests, I was very impressed with the stability. While
I cannot report that the throughput was perfect, I can say that interruptions in
mouse movement were rare. With a USB wired mouse, you don't run the risk of any
signal interruption, but even when the wireless dropped the signal, it was for a
fraction of a second, causing a negligiable pause in mouse movement. Compared to
a mechanical mouse (non-optical ball-controlled mouse), the Wireless Optical beats
it in stability with flying colors.
As with all the Microsoft Mice, setting up the mouse preferences is done using the
Intellimouse control panel that comes with the mouse. I was easily able to adjust
the settings on the mouse, including changing the functionality of the buttons and
scroll wheel. The control panel is very intuitive, providing controls over mouse
movement, buttons, precision, and any other mouse functionality you might want to
The only real downside of the Wireless Explorer is the way that it is powered. Since
it is not powered through the USB cable, power must be supplied through another means.
Microsoft chose to use two AA batteries, your first set which comes with the mouse.
I put emphasis on "first" set, as after a few weeks of heavy usage, my
system put up an alert that the batteries in my wireless mouse were getting low and
that I should consider replacing them. Having to worry about replacing the batteries
in your mouse every month or two is not desirable (for some, it may not be an acceptable
trade-off for gaining wireless functionality). On the other hand, the mouse continued
to work despite the warning, so I don't really know how much longer it had, nor can
I be certain that the warning was not premature. The batteries that came with the
mouse may not have had a full charge to begin with as well.
Putting the uncertainty on the battery life aside, another problem with the batteries
for which I am certain is the extra weight. There was a tremendous drag on the back
of the mouse due to the weight of the batteries. I decided to wait until I used
the mouse for a few weeks to assess whether the added weight was really a bad thing
or just something to get use to. At the end of five weeks, the drag from the battery
weight was still as distracting as it was in the beginning. If it wasn't for the
excellent ergonomic design of the mouse, this drag would have had a much more serious
impact. As it was, the weight became a constant distraction, but did not really
prevent me from working productively. Using the mouse in sensitive mouse operations,
such as in Photoshop, the drag could impede on the ease of performing a task.
All in all, the Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer is a smart mouse, feels good, and
functions extremely well. The optical feature and the extra buttons and scroll wheel
make it a wonderful enhancement to your Mac setup. The ergonomic design of this
mouse is better than its predecessors; in fact, better than any other mouse I've
used by any manufacturer. The wireless aspect is great, as it frees your mouse up
from wire entanglement. The stability is not perfect, but it is far superior to
an old-styled mechanical ball-controlled mouse, and close to being as reliable as
a wired optical mouse. The big down side is the battery-controlled power, requiring
you to replace the batteries when they wear down, and adding an undesirable drag
weight to the mouse. Because of the latter, I consider this rendition of the mouse
more of a sneak peek at what's to come. Once these power and weight issues are resolved,
I can see this mouse becoming the new standard for all computers. As it is, I think
this mouse is better suited for those who want to go wireless now, and those who
are big into having the latest and greatest technology. If you are a heavy mouse
user and cannot afford to have your work distracted by an undesirable drag weight,
you may want to weight for the next model that resolves the battery issues.
- Stylish design
- The most ergonomically
fit mouse I've used
- Optical (no moving
parts, no clogged ball rollers)
- Wireless (no entangled
wires to restrict mouse movement)
- Have to replace batteries
- Battery weight causes
undesirable drag weight
- Although a negligible
difference, wireless is not as stable as wired
- Base station adds
another piece of hardware to your station clutter
3 1/2 out of 5 Mice