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It would be easy at this point to leave things as they are, noting that the SideWinder merely favours one technique over another. However, it's clearly a weakness of design that results in this bias. Compared to latter day classics such as Logitech's G5, recently replaced by the G9, or the more recent Razer DeathAdder, the inflexibility of the SideWinder's design is quite galling. Moreover, criticisms of the design aren't restricted to simply to the shape and feel of the SideWinder. There are plenty of issues that will affect all gamers, not just those that favour one style over another.
Particularly evident is the stodgy feel to some of the buttons. Neither of the primary buttons feels especially responsive, lacking the lightness and sensitivity of those on the DeathAdder. Worse, though, are the two thumb buttons on the left of the mouse. Their vertical alignment is fine and is actually quite an intelligent change; however, both buttons feel hopelessly imprecise providing very little in the way of positive feedback. For a mouse that claims a status of "ultimate gaming mouse", these are pretty basic problems.
Happily, one thing the SideWinder doesn't lack is features or functionality. For between £35 and £45 you get a mouse that comes with a comprehensive set of weights, one 5g and three 10g, as well as three different sets of runners - plastic, half Teflon and fully Teflon. These give you some control over the lightness and speed of the mouse over any given surface and, thanks to the five runners, which are arranged with two at the front and three at the rear, the SideWinder glides across any decent gaming mouse mat with consummate ease.
Also worthy of praise is the weight system which, though not as flexible as some, is simple and well implemented. You can place up to three weights in the mouse at any one time, with these added and removed via an easy to access drawer style system that comes out of the side. Without any added weight SideWinder weighs 126g, with this expandable by up to 30g. Vitally, this system distributes the weight evenly along the back of the mouse, providing a good sense of balance.
Another ingenious feature is the box used to house the spare weights and runners, which doubles as a cable anchor thanks to a small slot that can be accessed by sliding back the casing. It's a smart addition, providing a quick and easy management system without the clutter of another peripheral.
Probably the best element, however, are the three DPI switching buttons just below the scroll wheel. These enable switching to different levels of sensitivity on-the-fly, with the default being 800 DPI, 1,000DPI and 1,600DPI. However, these can be set to anywhere between 200DPI and 2,000DPI, using Microsoft's IntelliPoint software.
Why is this good? It means you can switch from very low and very high sensitivity very quickly, which in effect means you can go from 400DPI when sniping to 1,600 for high speed action. This is especially useful for FPS gaming, which remains the genre of choice for a large majority of PC gamers, if not all gamers. Overall it's a well implemented idea, though if we're being picky it would've been nice to have the option of sensitivity profiles for different games.