Back in August, Microsoft released their new Touch Mouse to politely measured acclaim: “intuitive touch-based navigation,” said CNET. ZDNet complimented the “sleek, ergonomic design.” No one raved about the $79.95 price point. Somehow The SunBreak ended up in Phase 2 of Microsoft’s PR push, because we got two of them in the mail, unasked for, free, with detailed notes on how to use them (including suggestions for a giveaway, which we’re ignoring in favor of doing user reviews).
Fine. It’s a little weird, because The SunBreak is a Mac house, and the Touch series is optimized for Windows 7. However, you know what? I really like Microsoft’s peripheral hardware. In my experience, it’s solidly built, ergonomic, and blessedly multi-function. This is unlike Apple’s crazy Magic Mouse with that “seamless, one-button design” that no one has ever wanted, or the Magic Trackpad, which I immediately threw across the room when the Touch showed up.
I paid $70 for the Trackpad and I hate it, so an $80 price point for a mouse that works the way I’d like it to is in the ballpark. Microsoft’s Touch Mouse is a little Germanic in its detailing, black and studded with little touch-sensitive Xs (where Apple’s mouse is sheer and white). Microsoft’s runs off a tiny USB receiver that x-mits up to 10 feet via some mysterious technology–it still uses up a USB port, but it’s almost invisible there. I find the signal less likely to wander than Bluetooth.
Microsoft also claims its BlueTrack Technology allows the Touch to work on almost any surface, and it’s true that I’ve discarded my last remaining mouse pad, and am using it on the bare wood of my desk. In related news, it’s very precise in its tracking, which is the clear advantage it has over the Trackpad.
Sidebar: Here’s what’s wrong with the Magic Trackpad. The clicking action is too stiff, given how much you click on things these days. You’ll end up turning on the two-finger-tap click, but then you will find yourself selecting things without meaning to. I don’t have large fingers, but any kind of precision text insertion is a bit of a chore with the Trackpad–using the fingerpad to move one letter left or right isn’t easy. Scrolling is good.
The Microsoft Touch does well on these basics, which is great, because as a Mac user, I don’t get to see all the Windows 7-specific gestures. (I’ve handed off the spare mouse to a PC user for feedback.) But it’s easily the best mouse I’ve ever used. It’s comfortable in my palm, fast, and offers right and left clicks. Touch scrolling works fine on a Mac, too, though there are times my fingers seem to lose the capacitance necessary to register movement, and scroll bars in my Firefox browser sometimes make the cursor float a little. These last are occasional.
But here’s my test, and why I’m so fond of this mouse: Every weekend I put together a headline roundup from Seattle’s local blogs called The Weekend Wrap–it’s tedious, repetitive work. I copy a headline, pull up text-only paste, paste into the box, hit enter, highlight it, go back and copy the link, paste the URL, and move on to the next item. Each blog, I’m scrolling through a week’s worth of posts, looking for the gem. The Touch turns out to be the perfect mouse for this work. (The Magic Trackpad was giving me magic RSI.)
For reasons known only to Microsoft, I’m supposed to direct you, though, not to this workaday, real-world example of a mouse doing a terrific job at being a mouse, but to The Art of Touch, where you can see art that people have created with their mouse. (I don’t love the palette, but there you go.) If you want to create some mouse art on an HTML5 “canvas” of your own, you’re entered into a weekly contest:
Each week from November 10, 2011 to February 4, 2012, one lucky artist will win an Art of Touch prize package. The prizes change from week to week and include free Touch Mouse products, laptops, and cool swag imprinted with the winner’s artwork. You might see your design on anything from headphones to a skateboard.
The bar is not necessarily high. You can also vote on the art, and the Grand Prize Winner there gets to be a Featured Artist, which comes with its own set of rewards. Few companies outdo Microsoft when it comes to giving stuff away, so you might take advantage of that. But if you’re in the market for a mouse that just works really well, I can recommend the Microsoft Touch.