For decades now, the mouse has been the preferred input device for computer users. After the graphical user interface was popularized, it always seemed that the mouse was the most intuitive and the easiest way of registering your commands.
Now, many decades later Microsoft is still contributing to the on-going evolution of the mouse. They launched the Arc Mouse in 2008, which was a refreshing new take on the design and form of the popular device. Fast forward to more recent times, Microsoft debuted the Arc Touch Mouse late last year. However, they're not resting on their laurels anytime soon.
With the widespread adoption of touch sensitive devices from phones to other portable media devices, Microsoft has kept up with the zeitgeist and has introduced the feature to their new mouse lineup named the Touch Series. All three products from the series boast Microsoft’s Bluetrack technology and offer 2.4 GHz wireless connectivity along with customizable buttons. Going beyond the norm, all of them come with a three-year warranty too.
The new flagship mouse Microsoft introduced today is the Touch mouse. With a fully functional capacitive touch surface, the mouse has enhanced functionality. A whole host of gestures involving the usage of one, two or three fingers can be employed to perform regular Windows and Office functions that previously required clicking. Microsoft representatives approximated that a normal user could save close to 6km of mouse movement distance per year with the usage of these gestures. More than the functionality, it's quite mind boggling to think one would move the mouse to such distances in a typical year of usage.
While we cannot validate those claims ourselves, we did have a chance to take the new Touch mouse out for a spin. The single and double-finger gestures were easy to pick up. But when you throw in three-finger motions and the ability to perform functions with your thumb as well, the learning curve steepened quite a bit. Also, we found the absence of a scroll wheel somewhat disconcerting seeing that it is such a focal point for the majority of mice in the market.
The multi-touch functionality of the mouse seemed to be well executed in our limited usage period. When using the device, the scrolling, panning and zooming functions behaved like one would expect. The capacitive touch on the Touch Mouse also registers the intensity of swipes and adjusts scrolling speeds accordingly, which was a very cool feature.
One finger management lets you scroll and pan by sweeping in any direction. Flicking with one finger increases the speed of scrolling. With two fingers you can maximize or minimize an individual window by moving up or down respectively. If you move both fingers left or right, you can snap or unsnap single windows to the sides. Finally, the three-finger swipe in the backward direction shows you your desktop, while the forward motion with three fingers brings up all open windows.
The old Explorer gets upgraded and has a new touch strip where you would expect to find the usual scroll wheel. This touch strip not only allows up and down scrolling, but also allows you to move through documents and web pages sideways.
Five customizable button options are also provided by the Explorer Touch mouse. The touch strip provides three of these with top, middle and bottom buttons while the other two are the usual left and right touch buttons.
Bluetrack technology means that the Explorer Mouse can function off almost every surface imaginable. The mouse runs on two AA batteries which can last you up to 18 months according to Microsoft.
An interesting feature we discovered during our hands-on with the Explorer Touch mouse was the creative usage of haptic feedback with the touch strip. When scrolling up and down, the Explorer Touch mouse actually provides feedback that mimics the standard scroll wheel response. This option can be switched toggled off at the user's discretion.
Not ignoring the star product from last year, the Arc Touch is also considered a part of the new lineup. We have reviewed the Arc Touch mouse before and we hope to bring you more information and analysis on the new additions from Microsoft soon.