Many a gamer would fondly recall spending intimate moments alongside their venerable Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer with a tear in their eye. It was after all a great mouse with a good fleshy grip that once held its own. This was of course before the onslaught of gaming oriented mice from competing brands like Logitech and Razer, offering insane tracking precision and motion detection speeds, on-the-fly sensitivity buttons and contoured designs. In the few years that followed, Microsoft didn't really have a response to gamers' needs – till the Habu.
Immediate impressions for anyone taking their first glimpse of the Habu are typically the same: it's a Razer in disguise. Well yes, and no. Yes, because it's no big secret that the Habu was actually developed in partnership with Razer and no, because its construct still strongly reeks of the Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer 3.0. The most obvious giveaway would be the underside; just flip over both mice to compare and immediately the similarities in contours and shape quickly unfold. The biggest transformation for this Microsoft mouse would be its adoption of a 2000dpi laser sensor (previously 450dpi) followed by on-the-fly sensitivity and finally, large rubber coated tactile-response buttons suited towards gamers. The blue LED glow is more of a trait carried over from Razer's designs and while it probably counts as a change to tickle the taste buds of gamers, it is really nothing significant.
The Habu will feel right at home with gamers that once entrusted their electronic alter egos to the Intellimouse Explorer. The back is similarly arched with a slim waist while the side buttons are raised to stay out of the way for a good grip between the thumb and the ring finger.
Though we were pleased with the overall grip and comfort, some gamers might find a small issue with its over sized buttons because they have a 'deeper' then usual click. Using Razer technology, the Habu's drivers are reminiscent of Razer's own, including the on-the-fly sensitivity changes. In addition, Microsoft has also included dedicated buttons to switch DPI as well in four different levels (400,800,1600 and 2000dpi). However, there are no visual cues for DPI changes, making this feature less user-friendly.
Side buttons have always been a sticky issue with mice and even though the Habu has avoided them, Microsoft went one step further to include a pair of interchangeable side panels with custom button layouts for different hand sizes. Just press a button under the mouse and the side panel pops out for you to switch. We've even replaced the panel while the mouse was still connected and everything was fine.
Microsoft has finally heard the cries of fans and has responded with the Habu, an offspring of the Intellimouse Explorer 3.0 that's loaded with a mix of all the best features from both Razer and Microsoft. We were actually quite glad that Microsoft resisted the temptation to go back to the drawing board for a new radical design that may not be well received and stayed true to the roots of the legendary Intellimouse Explorer series, which worked fine. Microsoft is positioning the Habu with other gaming mice in the market today and its steep US$76 (~S$119) recommended retail pricing puts it in line with Razer's own Copperhead, though a little more expensive than the Logitech G5. Nevertheless, the Habu should be well worth the wait for Intellimouse fans.