Wireless Intellimouse Explorer 2, by Microsoft
Posted: 21-Feb-2006

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Microsoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE

Overview
The Wireless Intellimouse Explorer 2 is a wireless optical mouse with 5 programmable buttons and a tilt scroll wheel. The latest Explorer 2 model sports a new design with comfort enhancements and new styles. The Explorer 2 uses Microsoft's IntelliEye optical technology, and provides an advanced ergonomic design. The tilt wheel lets you navigate quickly through documents, using accurate tracking and both veritical and horizontal scrolling. The wireless transmitter is USB, and easily hooks up to (and it powered by) any USB port on a Mac.

The new Explorer 2 design adds grip support, finger grooves, and a curvy shape. The new styles come in "Night Vision", "Immersion", and "Groovy" (see picture). This review is of the "Night Vision" special edition. These styles are all limited editions, and therefore may not be available by the time this review is published. A quick search on Amazon, however, does show a variety of Explorer models available, such as the "Platinum" and the "Cobalt Blue". The "Platinum" edition retails for $55, but is currently being sold on Amazon for the inexpensive price of $16. You can still pick up the "Night Vision" from a few sources, including Amazon's Marketplace (there were 3 available last I checked, ranging from $29 to $49).

Features

  • 5 Programmable Buttons
  • Designed by ergonomic experts for your comfort
  • Side-to-side scrolling - now you can scroll horizontally as well as vertically
  • Smooth scrolling - feel the unique wheel glide smoothly as you scroll through documents and web pages.
  • Application switching - easily move between open applications by pushing down on the scroll wheel.
  • Ergonomic design reduces problems associated with repetitive stress
  • Features high-definition wireless laser wireless technology and tilt wheel for superb precision
  • Offers four-way scrolling for greater efficiency and comfort
  • Magnification feature lets you expand sections of your document
  • Unique stand-by mode saves battery power


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 it 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.


Wireless Intellimouse Explorer 2 - "Night Vision"

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 are made of a rubbery plastic providing excellent 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 vertically, 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 such "bumps". It's glide action feels more like pulling an object through some very thick goo. This may provide better precision for those looking for absolute precision, but for me it felt sluggish, almost like it's stuck.

As already mentioned, the WIE2 is both optical and wireless. That means no wires to restrict movement, and no wires 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). This is not the same thing as a Bluetooth mouse, which communicates directly with your computer (no base station required). However, with a Bluetooth mouse, you have to set up synchronization, and I have found that Bluetooth mice fall out of sync from time to tim. The WIE2 and base station provided a consistent and reliable connection, so the mouse was always "live".

With a device such as a mouse, stability is of critical 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 nice feature that is not included with all mouse drivers.


Microsoft IntelliPoint software - Programming the Buttons

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, unfortunately, was program the wheel button action to perform an Eject Disk. Other USB device drivers often provide that as a special action. The alternative is programming the button to F12, but the F12 method of ejecting the CDROM tray requires holding down the key for a small amount of time (versus immediate).


Microsoft IntelliPoint software - Wireless Technology

A couple of other problems with the software:

  1. When using settings for other applications, there is no way to default the settings to the global settings. You have to manually change each setting to match the global settings.
  2. In OS X, Finder is no longer a selectable application, and the software does not support establishing Finder-specific settings (e.g., ClickLock would be a possible Finder only setting).


Since the WIE2 is not powered through the USB cable, power must be supplied through another means. Microsoft chose to use two AA batteries, and the batteries are included with the mouse. Battery consumption seems to be greatly improved over the WIE, because after weeks of use, the signal strength of the batteries still showed full strength. One problem that the batteries do pose is the extra weight in the mouse. Switching from a wired no-battery mouse to a mouse with installed batteries, you will notice the extra weight. As time goes by, however, you do get used to the heavier feel. Over time, I noticed the weight less and less.

Summary
The Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer 2 is a smart, well-designed optical mouse. It feels good to use, and functions extremely well. 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 excellent, and the tilt action of the scroll wheel is a nice addition, providing both vertical and horizontal scrolling action. The software is 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 a long time. The batteries do add an undesirable drag weight to the mouse, but not so much as to deter productivity. With its optical technology, wireless connection, stylish design, extra buttons, and tilt scroll wheel, the Wireless Intellimouse Explorer 2 makes a wonderful addition to any Mac system.


Pros

  • Stylish design
  • Excellent texture and grip
  • Optical and Wireless technology
  • Good battery life
  • Vertical and horizontal scrolling
  • Can be programmed differently 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