Microsoft continues to release gaming products in their SideWinder line and so far things haven't been too bad. Their mice have been decent and while I still go back to my Logitech G9, I did use the SideWinder Gaming Mouse for a while there. A few months ago, Microsoft touted their new BlueTrack technology in their Explorer Mini Mouse. Today, we have their next Blue mouse and it's made for gamers. Say hello to the Microsoft SideWinder X8 as we take a look and see what makes this mouse different from others as well as if it's up to speed for gaming.
The Microsoft SideWinder X8 is a wireless gaming mouse that supports up to 4000 DPI and uses their new BlueTrack technology. Right there are three things that should peak a little interest. Let's start off with wireless. The mouse uses a 2.4GHz radio signal to communicate with the receiver. Wireless mice for gaming has been around for a bit with Logitech in their G7 offering but this is the first one from Microsoft aimed specifically at gamers. It uses one AA rechargeable battery and Microsoft says you can play up to 30 hours on a single charge. Sounds good but what if you run out of power? I remember my roommate in college used a cordless mouse while we were playing Quake II CTF and his batteries died in the middle of him holding the flag halfway back to our base. It was a funny situation since I wasn't the one holding the flag but if it happened to you then it's not funny at all. Well, Microsoft has this cool magnetic charge cable that easily sticks to the top part of the under carriage letting you charge and continue playing at the same time. So, if the mouse is about to die on you just pull out the cable and plug it into place. The cable easily slides into the area and the strong magnets hold on tight so you don't have to worry about it coming loose during times where you are moving it around quickly. The guide says to charge 5 minutes for each hour of usage so going by Microsoft's claim, it should take about 2 and a half hours to fully charge the mouse from a complete drain. When the mouse senses that it is low on power, the LCD will pulsate with a battery indicator and the back of the mouse will start to pulsate an orange glow. With that you know it's time to plug it back in to charge again. A nice feature is that you can use any rechargeable AA battery so you're not stuck with a dead mouse should the battery stop charging. Just pop in a new one and on you go. In a pinch you can just put in a regular AA but make sure not to plug in the charge cable if you do. Recharging is done through the power from the USB port so it's recommended that you plug it into a powered USB plug.
Even though the mouse is wireless, the weight is pretty light. I was surprised at how light it was as I was expecting to have a more bulky feel to it seeing as it is wireless. While it is light, it doesn't fall into the lightweight division and offers a good solid weight to the mouse in my opinion. There are no interchangeable weights like in the original Microsoft SideWinder mouse so what you feel in terms of weight wise is what you get.
4000 DPI is 800 more than the current Logitech high end gaming mouse, the G9 which tops at 3200 DPI. Although it will be 1000DPI less than the top of the line Logitech mouse, which is the G9x sporting a 5000DPI support, when it's released soon but 4000 DPI is still incredibly sensitive. To be honest, I rarely go into the 3000+ range on my G9 so while 4000 DPI is great on paper, are the vast majority using anything close to that high in their gaming sessions? I'm one of those that like to crank the sensitivity up and my co-workers would always comment how crazy sensitive my mouse was when they would come over and use my computer but I don't go north of 3000DPI for the most part. You can switch between three different DPI settings and this is one thing that I wish Microsoft would improve on. The Logitech G9, while it only having two DPI changing buttons, lets you cycle up to five different settings. Some might like the ability to switch to a certain DPI setting with the three buttons distinguishing the three different settings but I'd rather see more options and a way to switch between them rather be limited to three different settings. The placement of the DPI buttons have been improved greatly over the X5 though. With the X5, I had to shift my hand down in order to access the three buttons with my index finger. On the X8, the three buttons have been moved up sitting a lot closer to the mouse wheel. The shift allowed me to press the three buttons with minimal effort and without having to move my hand position on the mouse. This is important if you are trying to change quickly in action games as you aren't taken out of your comfortable mouse grip to do so.
We've come from the mouse ball to red optical to laser. Will the blue laser be the next big thing? This is the third mouse from Microsoft that uses the BlueTrack technology that's suppose to let you use the mouse on more surfaces than the optical kind. Using a blue laser and wide angle lense, the two combine to let you use the mouse on a large variety of surfaces. The blue laser is incredibly bright which is a stark contrast the laser mice that are popular today. Now I don't have that many wide varieties of surfaces to test the mouse on but there was one that I found that the X8 would work on where my Logitech G9 laser mouse had trouble. Taking one of my wife's rounded glass candles on the table, I slid the G9 around the side and saw the mouse cursor become jittery and inconsistent. The X8 though kept moving smoothly no matter how far I went around the glass. So, while hardly a scientific test, there is one surface area type that I saw where the X8 worked well and the G9 did not.
The shape of the Microsoft SideWinder X8 is similar to the two previous SideWinder gaming mouse in the SideWinder mouse and the SideWinder X5 mouse albeit with some subtle differences. Physically, the mouse is a tiny bit shorter compared to the X5 and in turn shorter than the original SideWinder mouse. It is the widest of the three mice though which is a little surprising. A lot of the angles from the previous mice have been rounded off in the X8 as well. Whereas the back of the X5 ended in a point, the X8's back is round all the way around. The hump in the palm area has been reduced a little bit especially in the area between the thumb and index finger. These two small changes made the X8 a more comfortable mouse to hold for me than the X5. Those with smaller hands will definitely like the changes. Colorwise, it's got a shade of grey on the top while there are areas that retain the glossy black from the X5.
Back after a one mouse hiatus is the LCD screen that sits on the left part of the mouse. Like the Microsoft SideWinder, the X8 LCD screen displays the current DPI setting and prompts for when you do macro recording. To help save power, the LCD goes dark after a minute or so and only lights back up if you are changing the sensitivity or recording a macro. Also, when charging the LCD shows a battery to let you know power's going to the mouse. As mentioned earlier, it will also warn you when the battery is low.
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