Can a tasty new sensor save Microsoft's lumbering design?
Microsoft’s latest Sidewinder mouse, the X8, combines a wireless design with the latest in optical sensor technology. Sporting a proprietary BlueTrack sensor, the X8 will work on most any surface, including granite and marble, which are problems for mice with more traditional optical and laser sensors. This is also Microsoft’s first wireless Sidewinder mouse—it utilizes the traditional 2.4GHz band, but updates more times per second than most wireless Microsoft mice.
We love the button placement and scroll wheel on this mouse. All of the buttons are easy to find and quick to press and the scroll wheel is quick and responsive. The top and bottom thumb buttons are especially praiseworthy. Unlike other mice equipped with a pair of thumb buttons aligned in a fore and aft configuration, the Sidewinder’s thumb buttons are aligned vertically, with Mouse5 placed above Mouse4.
Like the Razer Mamba, which we reviewed last month, the X8 features a play and charge cable. Using a magnetic power adapter that quickly and easily snaps into place, you can convert the X8 from battery power in mere seconds, should your battery die. The X8’s connection system is a marked improvement over the Mamba.
The X8 is Microsoft's first wireless gaming mouse, but despite some awesome thumb buttons, we can't recommend it.
The Sidewinder X8’s sensor is also worthy of note. The BlueTrack sensor uses blue LEDs instead of the more traditional red LEDs or infrared laser to illuminate the surface under the mouse. The reflected blue light is picked up by a CMOS sensor, which tracks the surface’s movement beneath the mouse and translates that into your cursor movements. The big benefit of the BlueTrack sensor is in the number of surfaces the sensor works on—we tested granite, shiny brushed metal, and black surfaces that confound other optical mice. Like other gaming mice, the X8 features an adjustable sensor, which caps out around 5,000dpi (as reported by the screen on the top of the mouse). In our testing, however, the mouse didn’t feel as smooth as other high-end gaming mice we’ve tested recently, the Razer Mamba and the Logitech G9x. In fact, there were noticeable and regular skips when using the X8 in Windows.
Unfortunately, our biggest problem with the X8 is its size. If your hands aren’t larger than average, this mouse is simply too wide and tall for most people’s comfort. After several hours of use, our hands actually cramped from the stretching required to move the mouse. We recognize that large-handed folk need to use a mouse too, but we can’t recommend this mouse to even them, due to the cursor hitching we experienced in testing.
Microsoft Sidewinder X8
Great thumb-button placement; good for people with large hands.
Enormous; jumpy sensor, especially at high resolutions.