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Microsoft announced its new SideWinder mouse to much fanfare. People were impressed by the feature set, with the decent 2000 DPI maximum sensitivity, on-the-fly DPI switching and extensive macro recording. Unusual buttons arrangements such as the vertically aligned thumb buttons also drew some attention, giving the SideWinder a distinct and unique look. But, does this translate into a great gaming mouse or even the "ultimate gaming mouse", as Microsoft suggests? In a word: no.
Before we get onto why, it must be noted that mice are tricky things to review; especially those mice intended for gaming. Just as everyone has a different opinion on the latest game, people's taste in mice is invariably open to a massive range of different interpretations and tastes depending on how one holds a mouse. Moreover, since everyone essentially does whatever feels most natural to them, it's difficult to come to any consensus. After all, there's no class at school that teaches the proper way to hold a mouse, because there isn't one.
For the purpose of this review it's easiest to split gamers into two groups, though it should go without saying that even this is open to discussion. Our first group could be called Fingertip and Wrist (FTW) gamers: those who plant their wrist on the desk, manipulating the mouse using a combination of their fingertips and wrist. Our second group of gamers are the Palm and Arm (PARM) gamers, who hold the mouse more in the palm of their hand, using a combination of wrist elbow and shoulder to control the mouse.
Ordinarily which camp you belong to wouldn't matter greatly, most mice can be used by both. However, in the case of the SideWinder it's a mouse that distinctly favours the latter Palm and Arm group of gamers. This is due to both the length (128.8mm) and the bulbous shape of the mouse, especially toward the back where the shape of the mouse pushes into the palm of the hand. Consequently, those gamers belonging to the Fingertip and Wrist clan will immediately find the SideWinder uncomfortable to use.
Why? First, the combination of bulbous design and length makes it impossible to reach the end of the mouse without shifting one's grip completely. As a result one tends to rest with your fingers three quarters of the way up the mouse, instead of hovering over the end as they ought to. This also affects use of the scroll wheel, since it's ultimately a little too far up while the lack of any rubber gripping means you tend to slip off the wheel from time to time.
Conversely, for those Palm and Arm gamers the SideWinder is more palatable. Its shape holds your palm firmly in place, enabling you to concentrate on fragging rather than wondering if your hand is about to slip off the back. Moreover, since your hand is naturally sitting further forward, those issues outlined before are simply null and void.