Microsoft's Habu mouse was a joint venture between them and Razer that produced a good gaming mouse. They used to make some of the best hardware around and now it looks like they're trying to make a come back.s Can Microsoft make one without any outside help? The Sidewinder line is back and here's my take on Microsoft's SideWinder mouse
The design of the mouse is rather interesting. The PR said it was inspired by Master Chief of Halo and the Mazda Senku concept car. I can definitely see the Senku influence on the mouse though. When plugged in, there are two red LEDs on the bottom back corners of the mouse giving it a futuristic glow. Lengthwise, it's a nice big mouse and it's comparable to Logitech's G5. For those with larger hands, you will probably like the size of the SideWinder. The black mouse features five mouse buttons with the wheel being one of them. The two main buttons actually protrudes a little from the top edge of the mouse as the extra plastic makes it look like there are two little tabs. Unlike most mice, the SideWinder has the two thumb buttons stacked on top of each other rather than being placed on the same horizontal plane. Near the thumb buttons in a recessed area is the macro recording button. Finally, a Vista only game menu button sits in the center of the palm area of the mouse. In the middle below the mouse wheel sits three DPI buttons that allow for you to quickly switch between speeds. The one being used is lit up so you can tell which one is currently in play.
Feedback on the main buttons has a nice feel featuring a solid click when pressed. The top thumb button maps to the normal forward button with the bottom button being the back button. The two thumb buttons are round and also has a nice feel to them when pressed. I would've liked to have a little stronger spring though for the thumb buttons as I prefer a firmer pressed needed to activate the thumb buttons than the SideWinder has. The vertical placing is something that didn't take me long to get used to and I rather prefer it over the side by side thumb button placements. For me, it was nice to just move my thumb up or down rather than back and forth. Here's one area of design that I really liked from the folks at Microsoft.
The main component is a laser mouse and the engine is capable of up to 2000 DPI. It's not the highest DPI on a gaming mouse out now but I think it's at the edge of being usable though. Unlike the unusable 3200 DPI of other mice, I was able to play to 2000 DPI but just barely. Even though I like very sensitive mice, 2000 DPI is a tad higher than what I can handle. I'm sure there are gamers out there that can use 2000 DPI though but for those of us that like to have a slower mouse, the software lets you adjust this.
A first for mice is the inclusion of an LCD display. When you switch the DPI, the number is displayed for a short amount of time so you know exactly what DPI it is being set to. It may be a little superfluous but it's not bad to know exactly the DPI that's being set in case you do forget your settings. It's actually helpful if you use the software's profile based on the software you load and you have different DPI settings for different programs. If you do any programming of macros or quick turn function, the LCD will give you prompts on when to start your action. I don't look at my mouse though when gaming so the value of the LCD might be a little limited once you get used to what DPI settings you have.
If you have some extra cable hanging that could get in the way when you move the mouse, the setup includes a cable anchor box that lets you keep any slacked cable stationary. The box is pretty solid and has a very heavy feel so you know it won't move easily while you game. Just place the cable in the slots, put the lid on, and put the box out of the way to keep your cable from moving around much.
Another first would be the replaceable feet. Underneath are five feet that can be interchanged with two other sets included with the mouse. The combinations are all Teflon feet, hybrid Teflon feet, and non-Teflon feet. Each offer a slight change in the feel when you move the mouse. When not in use, the extra feet are stored in the compartment of the cable anchor. I would've liked to have seen a stronger system in place to hold the feet into the mouse since I did find one or two in my bag when transporting it around. I'm sure there will be some people that lose a foot or two because of how weak the feet stay attached to the mouse.
Weights aren't new to the mouse arena as Microsoft packs in three 10g weights and one 5g weight giving you a combination of 5g to 30g in increments of 5g to customize your mouse with. A compartment slides out of side of the mouse and you can insert up to three weights in there. When the compartment is pushed all the way in, it's locked inside the mouse and can only be released by a button on the bottom. Any unused weights can be stored in the cable anchor box with the extra feet. Compared to Logitech's system, you don't get to fine tune it as much as there aren't as many weights but to make the mouse heavier it certainly does its job.
Compared to other companies such as Razer or Logitech, the software for the mouse is rather lacking. For DPI setup, you only get to change it in increments of 200 from 200 to 2000. That should fit most people's needs though but I would've liked to have seen more granularity in selecting the DPI for my mouse. You do get to set setups for different programs but you can't setup profiles for a group of programs. Say you want certain setups for certain types of games. You can't save the settings in a profile so you have to go to a slower route in saving for each program. With the software, you can also adjust the macros you record as well as name them. The software, while adequate, doesn't offer the customization options that others do.
Performance wise, the mouse did really well and was smooth from low to high settings. I tested the mouse with Team Fortress 2, Uneal Tournament 3, and Hellgate: London. I had no problems with all three games and the mouse performed really well across the board. The mouse tracked well in all games and I found myself preferring the all Teflon feet. Adjusting the DPI was a little bit harder in the heat of battle since the button placement makes me reach a little more than say the G9. Still, the mouse felt pretty good and was comfortable for long sessions of gaming as well as being accurate at different speed levels.
You can setup a quick turn button that makes you turn 180 degrees. You do this via in game and you can calibrate it bu finding a stationary target, activating the calibration, turn your character 360 degrees, then release the calibration button. I've tried this feature in games and other mice and never found it to be one that I would use. I like complete control over my turning and thus have never really used the feature. I tried it for a little bit but never got comfortable with it. There could be some people out there that finds this useful but I don't know of anyone in my gaming circle that utilizes this feature.
I will say the Game Menu button seems useless though as you can easily pull up the games menu on Vista in a short amount of time. If there was a way to change the function of the button I would've found it to be more useful but as it is there's really no need for it. If you're using the mouse with Windows XP, the button will bring up the IntelliPoint software. In truth, I never really used the button and it's too bad you can't program it to do anything else. Thankfully, the button's recessed in the palm area and I never accidentally pressed it once with all the times I played.
The Microsoft SideWinder mouse isn't a bad mouse but it is a bit expensive and lacks some features that other mice around this price range has. I do like the design and how it feels and was pleasantly surprised that the vertical aligned thumb buttons were pretty comfortable. Overall, I think Microsoft has a good addition to their lineup and I really hope to see more from Microsoft.
It's not a bad mouse but for the price there are others that offer more. The physical design is pretty nice though.