by Jerry Jackson
The Microsoft SideWinder Mouse is the newest precision laser mouse designed for gaming enthusiasts, graphic artists, or anyone looking for a durable, high-resolution mouse. While the contoured shape, metal scroll wheel and forward/back buttons on this laser mouse are quite impressive, the real news is first-ever LCD on a mouse and on-the-fly DPI switching. Is the SideWinder the best wired mouse on the market? Let’s take a closer look.
Below are the key features and specs of the Microsoft SideWinder corded gaming mouse:
- Windows XP or Vista compatible
- Three on-the-fly DPI switching buttons (400, 800, and 2000 DPI)
- LCD shows current DPI setting
- Cable anchor and accessories storage box
- Quick launch button takes you to Games Explorer in Windows Vista
- Five programmable main buttons
- Programmable macros and profiles for game settings can be customized for fast action
- Resolution from 400 to 2000 DPI
- Image processing at 7080 frames per second
- Maximum acceleration: 20G
- Maximum speed: 45 inches per second
- USB reporting: 500Hz
- Durable left/right mouse buttons rated at 9 million clicks
- Replaceable Mouse Feet
- Wide Metal Scroll Wheel
- Vertical Metal Side Buttons
- Adjustable mouse weights (5g to 30g)
- Dimensions: 5.07" (length), 3.06" (width), 1.66" (height)
- Price: $79.95
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Design and Features
Although the SideWinder wasn’t designed with a focus on compact size, Microsoft managed to keep the size and shape comfortable enough for everyday use. The shape of the SideWinder is amazingly balanced and the location of all the main buttons seems to make perfect sense. The top/bottom design of the forward button and back button located on the side of the mouse reduces the risk of accidental activation. While most notebook travel mice are physically smaller than the SideWinder, none of the smaller mice I’ve used are as feature-packed or as balanced under my hand.
In addition to the standard buttons, the quick-launch button (the silver SideWinder logo) will launch the Games Explorer feature in Windows Vista or the IntelliPoint software in Windows XP. The macro record button allows you to program in-game macros for faster game play.
One of the biggest selling points of the SideWinder is the fact that this is the first gaming mouse to use a built-in LCD. The LCD (which also uses a red back light) displays the current DPI setting and macro recording icons to reduce the need for on-screen displays that crowd your desktop or get in the way of a game.
Microsoft includes a software CD with Intellipoint so that you can adjust some settings on the SideWinder, but the mouse is designed to be plug-and-play so you don’t need to install any software to use the mouse.
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An often over-looked feature in a gaming mouse is adjustable weights. The SideWinder includes a tray that allows you to add between 5g and 30g of additional weight to the mouse. While this might sound like a pointless feature, anyone who has used a high-sensitivity mouse will tell you that additional weight is critical. The SideWinder is so extremely sensitive to movement at the maximum 2000 DPI setting that any movement will cause minor cursor movement.
When I say "any" movement, I mean the mouse is so sensitive that it could probably be used as a seismometer in an earthquake zone. Without any weights inside the SideWinder, the cursor will seemingly move by itself as even the slightest vibration is detected by the laser at the highest sensitivity setting.
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Another nice touch is that Microsoft includes three different sets of replaceable mouse feet, each made from different materials (such as Teflon) so that users can customize the glide of the mouse for any surface. The unused sets of mouse feet are stored in a convenient cable anchor/accessory box that connects to the USB cord. The anchor/accessory box also holds any weights that you aren’t using inside the mouse.
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Everyday notebook computing with the SideWinder was surprisingly simple despite the abundance of buttons covering the mouse. As soon as the USB cord is plugged in any Windows Vista or XP machine will immediately recognize the mouse and you’re ready to work or play.
One thing I did discover while testing this mouse on a desktop machine is that older 6-pin Mini-DIN (PS/2) mouse adapters won’t work with the SideWinder. If your computer doesn’t have an available USB port then the SideWinder won’t work. That said, this shouldn’t be an issue for most users.
Once the SideWinder is up and running it is a genuine joy to use. Cursor movement and control is fast and fluid and DPI sensitivity is easy to change thanks to the preset buttons. The metal scroll wheel, forward button, and back button add a touch of rugged class. The replaceable mouse feet and adjustable weights make it much easier to customize the mouse exactly how you want it.
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One minor annoyance I encountered while using the SideWinder was the left side of the mouse next to the forward and back buttons and the macro record button. The sharp edges in this area of the mouse make it slightly uncomfortable to press these three buttons. Granted, it is a minor issue on an otherwise great mouse … but I don’t understand why Microsoft didn’t smooth this area out and make it easier to press these buttons. Yes, I won’t inadvertently activate these buttons thanks to the design, but I when I need to press them the design makes it a little uncomfortable.
Another minor issue I ran into while using the SideWinder is the fact that there are only three pre-set DPI sensitivity settings: 400, 800 and 2000 DPI. While most of the time I used the 2000 DPI setting, during some games and detailed Photoshop work I found myself needing a setting between 800 and 2000. For example, if there was a fourth button with 1200 or 1600 DPI (or just and up and down button) it would have made using the mouse much more convenient. Of course, you can always change the DPI settings in software, but the whole point of having buttons and an LCD on the mouse is being able to adjust the sensitivity "on the fly."
The last, very minor issue that bothered me about the SideWinder was the USB cord. This is a very durable, well-built mouse with long-life buttons and internals designed to handle a serious workout (or even abuse) but the USB cord was the standard grade cord used on most low-cost USB accessories. Many of the high-performance gaming mice on the market have rugged cords designed to handle some abuse from upset gamers … but the USB cord on the SideWinder actually had two small pinches that basically "flattened" the cord which apparently happened when the mouse was inserted into the packaging. Sure, the mouse works perfectly, but I have my doubts about how well the cord will hold up over time.
The Microsoft SideWinder Mouse packs more performance, durability and features into a gaming mouse than anything the competition has to offer. That said, the ergonomics could be improved in some places and it would have been nice to be able to select a DPI setting between 800 and 2000 without going into a software control panel.
Notebook users willing to put up with the size and weight of the SideWinder (and the lengthy cord) will be very pleased with this mouse. Granted, the SideWinder isn’t as convenient as a compact Bluetooth mouse or a cordless USB mouse with compact receiver, but the performance of this mouse is second to none.
- Three on-the-fly DPI adjustment buttons
- No software required
- Durable buttons
- Cool red LED lighting
- LCD shows your current DPI setting
- Only three preset DPI settings
- Odd location/ergonomics for the forward and back buttons as well as the "macro record" button
- USB cable seems fragile compared to the build quality of the mouse