An oft highlighted feature of the SideWinder is the built in LCD display. Primarily it functions as a reminder, displaying the DPI level as you switch between them. Microsoft calls this a first for a mouse, a claim I'm inclined to believe; though there's probably a good reason mice don't have LCD displays. When, I ask you, do you stop to look and look at your mouse while gaming? Ultimately, it's a simple gimmick that looks great on the literature but which most will find entirely superfluous.
Since we're on the topic of gimmicks, it wouldn't be a gaming mouse were it not subject to outrageously pointless claims. As such, you may like to know that the SideWinder has image processing of 7,080 frames per second, a max acceleration of 20G and a max speed of 45 inches per second. Personally, I feel no review would be complete without quoting these truly staggering figures. Oh, and lets not forget the main Left/Right buttons which are capable of a staggering 9 million clicks. This makes the SideWinder ideal for those zap the mosquito adverts: get clicking!
Best of all in this regard though is the 'Quick Launch' button, situated just underneath the palm when in use. Its single use is to launch Vista's Games Explorer, which is nothing more than a folder in Vista that detects "all" -- or rather some -- of the games installed on your system. It's pretty pointless and even more so under XP, where it does precisely nothing. Since it can't be programmed either, it's another piece of superfluous fluff.
Fairing slightly better, though, are the macro recording options. You can record Macros of up to 64 characters in length, while the interface for this is intuitive and penetrable even to those not experienced in creating macros. Options are wide and diverse, while there are also plenty of pre-programmed options for changing the default functions of buttons. This is all good stuff, however with the SideWinder featuring only five programmable buttons the Macro functions will be limited by the number of buttons available to use them.
Overall the SideWinder is a deeply disappointing product that may please some, but will frustrate and annoy many more. No-one in the office was at all pleased or convinced by the shape and feel of the SideWinder, while it doesn't make for an attractive addition to your desktop either. Mitigating this are some impressive and generous features, including a decent weight system, on-the-fly DPI switching and macro recording; however, none of them go far enough to convince.
Ultimately, the SideWinder is a definite try before you buy product. Some may find its shape appealing and if so will find it a well featured mouse, capable of matching their needs in gaming. However, even then concerns about muddy button sensors remain and make Microsoft's claims seem shallow and misplaced.
Though the SideWinder is well featured, its numerous design issues and lack of appealing look and feel make it a disappointing return for the SideWinder brand.