Anyway, time to get onto the most important bit; the mouse itself. When I first saw the Explorer, I must admit that my initial reaction was one of disappointment. Compared to the elegant black matte finish and chrome trim of the Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 7000, the Explorer looks rather drab. It's made up of various segments, combining a central bluish-grey livery with black and silver.
Thankfully, in most other regards, the Explorer is a superior peripheral. Its shape is more ergonomic, and is now far more comfortable. It's larger with a higher back, providing better support for your palm while also positioning your thumb more naturally over the thumb-rest than with the 7000. Conversely, if you're a finger rather than palm user (which is rare for desktop use), you might want to stick with the 7000. Obviously, south-paws need not apply in either case.
There's a lovely blue glow which comes from the Explorer's base and the small icon on its top, but sadly this fades away fairly quickly after the mouse comes out of standby. I would have loved to have had a switch that could make this permanent, if not in hardware then through Microsoft's software. The only other LED on the mouse is Microsoft's signature green charging light below the scroll wheel, which turns red if the battery is running low.
Not only is the Explorer a larger mouse than the 7000, it's also far heavier: up by nearly 50 per cent from the 7000's 107 grams to 151g. Whether you like the extra weight is largely a case of personal preference, but I found it added to the mouse's comfort and in-hand presence.
The revised shape also lets your index and middle fingers rest more naturally on the left and right buttons. These have been improved, and now offer a firmer, more positive click. A slight niggle, though, is that the thumb buttons are easier to press accidentally.
However, the major ergonomic step back is the scroll wheel. This has been recessed further into the mouse than previous Microsoft rodents, and combined with smooth metal edges compared to the tactile rubber on previous wheels makes it difficult to push left and right for horizontal scrolling. The scroll wheel is the one area where Microsoft seems to be falling behind Logitech especially in comparison to that company's aforementioned 'MicroGear' scroll wheel.
As ever, the included IntelliPoint software works a charm. It's well laid out, and makes it easy to customize what various buttons or wheels do to your heart's content - no less than you'd expect from the makers of Windows.