Even in an increasingly trackpad-and-touchscreen-driven computing world, I’m pro-mouse. There’s something to be said about the precision that comes with a computer mouse, and about the comfort of using one for extended periods of time, versus hunching over the limited real estate of a laptop trackpad.
But, admittedly, my last mouse was a low-tech, corporate-issued, clunky thing. So I’ve been exploring a whole new world of mice. Many modern mice have taken cues from Apple’s wireless Magic Mouse, which has a multi-touch surface for easy swiping through functions like scrolling up and down a Web page or document, or minimizing and maximizing browser windows with a simple flick of your fingers.
For the past five days, I’ve been playing with three mice that are compatible with Windows 7 computers: Microsoft’s Touch Mouse, Logitech’s new m600 Touch Mouse and HP’s X5000 wireless mouse with touch scrolling. While HP’s mouse comes at the much more reasonable price of $40, it isn’t a full multi-touch mouse and is bulkier than the others. The entrants from Microsoft and Logitech are pricey — $79.95 and $70, respectively — but have multi-touch capabilities and sleeker designs.
All three mice are easy to set up. In each case, I turned on the mouse and just plugged its USB adapter into my laptop, which the machine quickly recognized.
The Microsoft Touch Mouse was my favorite in terms of design. Some new mice on the market have funky shapes, high arcs, or are almost flat. I found that the Touch Mouse was a nice blend of modern tech appeal with a curved mouse feel.
The Touch Mouse measures 2.4 inches in width and 4.7 inches in length — roughly the size of an iPhone. It was longer than the other two mice I tested, but I liked the extra real estate under my fingers. It has tiny laser-etched marks on its front half, to create a little more traction. There’s also a limited edition “artist” version of the mouse, which is white and has a calligraphy-like design.
Since it’s a multi-touch mouse, that means a one-finger swipe on the surface works like an old-school scrollwheel for navigating up and down a document or Web page. Swiping two fingers down minimizes a Web-browsing window. For people like me who are used to two-finger swiping on a laptop trackpad to move up and down a page, this can take some getting used to.
A three-finger swipe presented all of my Web browsers and open apps in a Windows instant-viewer format on the desktop. Also, swiping two fingers from side to side “snapped” my current window to the side and allowed me to open up another window next to it.
One tiny part of the Touch Mouse I found to be useful: It has storage space on the underside of the mouse for the USB connector, which frequent travelers will appreciate. It’s easy to lose these mouse connectors, especially if your bag of gadgets, wires and dongles looks like mine.
In terms of battery life, Microsoft says the mouse will run for three to six months, depending on usage habits. It uses two AA batteries.
The Touch Mouse, as with the others I reviewed, is meant to be compatible only with Microsoft Windows. But this isn’t entirely true — my Mac laptop recognized each mouse’s USB connector as a keyboard accessory, and I could still move the cursor with each mouse. I was also able to use the touch surfaces of the mice — or in the case of the HP mouse, the touch strip — to swipe up and down pages on the screen. In the case of the Touch Mouse, functionality on the Mac was limited. For example, I could swipe up and down, but not snap my windows to the side.
Microsoft has also said the Touch Mouse will be compatible with Windows 8, the upcoming operating system that is expected to launch by the end of this year. The mouse’s horizontal scrolling function is actually meant to cater to the new Windows 8 interface.
Logitech’s Touch Mouse M600 is flatter than Microsoft’s Touch Mouse, measuring 2.52 by 4.41 inches, and is smoother to the touch. Its shape and glossy shell reminded me a bit of a giant bug. It’s mostly black, with a gray bottom half, and has barely perceptible squiggly designs along the edges of it, along with a Logitech logo, giving it a somewhat toylike appearance.
The M600’s swiping functions were pretty basic, and it doesn’t offer as many functions as the Touch Mouse. Whether I was using one finger, two or three, the M600 scrolled up and down the page I was on. I found these movements to be pretty smooth. I also felt like I could navigate my cursor more quickly with the M600, probably because it’s slightly lighter weight than the Touch Mouse.
The M600 does have one feature I really liked: Side-to-side swiping for Web browsing. Swiping my finger to the left brought me back to the previous Web page I was on; swiping to the right pushed me ahead to the next page.
The M600 also comes with a unifying USB dongle, which allows users to connect up to five other Logitech devices to the same tiny adapter.
As with the Microsoft Touch Mouse, the M600 should last for three to six months, depending on how many batteries you use. Logitech says two AA batteries will get you closer to six months.
The HP X5000 is the fattest mouse of the three, with the highest curve. Bulkiness aside, it’s got a smooth, tear-shaped plastic top, and its sides have a velvety feel.
The X5000 isn’t a multi-touch mouse. Instead, it’s got a touch-sensitive strip built into the mouse, right where a scroll wheel would be on an older mouse model. It also comes with the traditional right-side, left-side clicking functionality, which some users might appreciate. The tiny touch strip felt a little limited compared to the full-touch surfaces I’d been playing with on the other mice, but I did like the split clicking function.
The mouse also boasts a button that’s supposed to allow you to upload photos to Facebook with one click. In order for this to work, I had to install the software that came with the mouse, and allow the HP mouse’s app access to my Facebook account. Next, I had to open up a photo file on my computer, use the mouse’s Facebook-specific button to draw a square around my photo and create a preview file, and then indicate that I wanted to upload that photo to Facebook. The first time I tried this, the photo didn’t upload.
In my test, the whole experience really wasn’t as simple as “one click.” And while some users might like easy access to Facebook, the idea that distraction is one click away didn’t appeal to me. Maybe I’m just using Facebook less these days, or am more selective about the photos I upload to the site, but I’d welcome another productivity function over the Facebook button.
One of the X5000’s upsides is that it claims a super long battery life of 24 months with two AA batteries. And the USB dongle that comes with the HP X5000, like the Logitech mouse, will allow you to wirelessly connect up to four other HP devices to your laptop.
When it comes to these three mice, I found you get what you pay for. The Microsoft Touch Mouse was my top pick out of the three; Logitech’s M600 mouse is a very close second, and users who like a flatter, smoother design might prefer that one; and HP’s X5000 mouse falls short of what a modern mouse should be.