Wireless Intellimouse Explorer 2, by Microsoft
Posted: 9-May-2004

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Microsoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE
Overview
The Wireless Intellimouse Explorer 2 is the follow-up to Microsoft's original
Wireless Intellimouse, but sports a better look and better features. It provides an advanced ergonomic design, a tilt wheel that lets you navigate quickly through documents, and optical technology that gives you accurate tracking. The wireless transmitter is USB, so it easily hooks up to USB Macs.

Setup
To use the Wireless Intellimouse Explorer 2 (WIE2), you need to install the mouse driver that comes with the mouse. You then plug the transmitter device into an available USB port and locate is somewhere out of the way. Then it's just a matter of installing the batteries into the mouse (batteries are included), and you are off and mousing without any wires. Using the Microsoft Intellimouse software, you can further refine the functionality of the mouse. Setup was very simple.

In Use
The WIE2 is far superior to the WIE in terms of looks and ergonomics. The WIE2 sports a very stylish design, with a curved wavey shape that contours nicely with my hand. The mouse I reviewed is black, with smooth sides, a textured back, and the two main buttons of a rubbery plastic providing good grip. The optical feature allows the mouse to work without any ball (which of course means no cleaning and no sticking balls). It includes two top buttons, a scroll wheel "tilt" 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 are an improvement over its predecessors, but I still prefer to have my side buttons on oppositie sides (it feels more intuitive to me). With the more contoured design of this mouse, the entire grip and feel of the mouse is very nice. The tilt wheel provides even better scrolling action than the standard scroll wheel, as you can program the forward and backward scrolling to scroll vertially, and you can program the left and right tilt to scroll horizontally. The only thing that did not excite me was the movement of the scroll wheel. Typical scroll wheels have scroll markers that provide subtle bumps in the motion of the wheel. The WIE2 wheel has no bumps, and simply glides. This may provide better precision for those looking for absolute precision, but for me the drag feel of the wheel makes it feel like it's stuck.

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 WIE2 uses a base station 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).

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 found that the signal between the mouse and its base station was extremely reliable. 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. It seems that the throughput on the mouse has been improved since the original WIE.

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 tilt wheel. You can program the tilt and scroll both, or just one and not the other. The great thing is that you can program it differently for different applications. This is a strong point of the software. The control panel is very intuitive, providing controls over mouse movement, buttons, precision, and most other mouse functionality you might want to manage. The one thing I could not do that I wanted to do, however, was program the wheel button action to perform an Eject Disk. Other USB device drivers often provide that as a special action, but not so with Microsoft's Intellimouse software.

Since the WIE2 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. Even this was improved over the WIE, because after weeks of use, the signal strength of the batteries still showed as full. One problem that the batteries do pose is the extra weight in the mouse. After using a wired mouse, the extra weight from the batteries is much more noticeble. There was a certain amount of drag on the back of the mouse due to the weight of the batteries. As time went on, I noticed and less, but the extra weight still posed a distraction from time to time (but did not prevent me from working productively).

Summary
The Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer 2 is a smart mouse, feels good, and functions extremely well. The optical feature and the extra buttons and tilt scroll wheel make it a wonderful enhancement to your Mac setup. If you used the original Wireless Intellimouse Explorer, this second edition is a superior product, both in design and function. The grip and texture of the mouse is fantastic, and the tilt action of the scroll wheel is a nice additional feature. The software was very flexible and easy to use, although it did not include a preset action for Eject Disk. The wireless aspect is great, as it frees your mouse up from wire entanglement. You do need to be concerned about having backup batteries in case the batteries in the mouse die, but in my tests the batteries remained on full signal strength for several weeks. The batteries do, however, add an undesirable drag weight to the mouse, but not so much as to deter productivity. If you have been waiting for refined wireless technology, now is the time to jump aboard, as the Wireless Intellimouse Explorer 2 provides you excellent wireless connectivity, and a whole lot more.


Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Excellent texture and grip
  • Optical and Wireless technology
  • Good battery life
  • Can be programmed different for each application


Cons

  • Need to be concerned with battery replacement
  • Unbalanced weight due to batteries
  • No preset action for Eject Disk
  • Base station adds another piece of hardware to your workstation clutter


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice