Microsoft breeds new generation of Windows 8-compatible mice
Windows 8 has changed the way we navigate the desktop, so it’s not surprising that Microsoft has a pair of new wireless mice designed specifically for Windows 8 (they’re also compatible with Windows 7 and the Mac OS X OS).
Sculpt Mobile Mouse
Microsoft’s Sculpt Mobile Mouse will fit into the tightest backpack or pocket while you’re on the go, and it will keep you from swearing at your notebook’s annoying trackpad or touchscreen when you reach your destination.
The mouse is very small—in fact, it’s almost as long as it is wide. As such, the mouse isn’t the most comfortable to grip if you have large hands: Your palm will drag over the surface, but the high arc will keep your fingers resting happily. Those with smaller paws will appreciate its ambidextrous design and the rubber sides that provide a good grip.
The mouse uses Microsoft’s BlueTrack laser technology, which enables it to track over any almost any surface (except for clear glass or mirrored surfaces). When you’re on the road, the only available mouse pad might be the fabric covering your leg, and the Sculpt Mobile works just fine in that scenario.
The only real standout functionality of the mouse is the single Windows logo button right behind the scroll wheel. Pressing it while using Windows 8 will take you directly to the Start screen. Press it again and you return to the app you used last. If you’re using Windows 7, the button opens the Start Menu. The button is particularly convenient for Windows 8 users who don’t have a touchscreen display or who just prefer to keep their hands on the mouse and keyboard.
The mouse has a four-way scroll wheel that’s useful for navigating screens (whether they be websites, documents, or the Windows 8 Start page) on mobile devices with small screens. Spinning the wheel to and fro scrolls the page up and down, while pushing it left or right pans the page back and forth across the display.
The Sculpt Mobile connects to the host PC via a tiny wireless USB dongle, which you can stow in a socket on the bottom of the mouse while you’re traveling so it doesn’t snag while sliding in and out of your bag. This mouse is a good candidate for frequent travelers, but the single-function Windows button isn’t a compelling reason to upgrade.
Sculpt Comfort Mouse
Microsoft’s Sculpt Comfort Mouse is the desktop alternative to the Sculpt Mobile, and it makes a great companion to the Sculpt Comfort keyboard that Microsoft shipped last fall. This model dispenses with the USB dongle in favor of Bluetooth wireless connectivity, making it the better choice for tablets such as Microsoft’s Surface that lack USB ports to accommodate a wireless dongle. And in place of the single-function button behind the scroll wheel, there’s a blue touch-sensitive button on the left side, dubbed the “Windows touch tab,” where your right thumb comes to rest (southpaws won’t cotton to this one).
Pressing the touch tab calls up the Windows 8 Start screen (or the Windows 7 Start menu, as the case may be), and a second press takes you to the most recent application you used. Each time you slide your thumb up the tab, Windows 8 will cycle through your open applications. Swipe your thumb down, and Windows 8 will display all your open apps so you can select the one you wish to use. If you’re using Windows 7, you can use the touch-sensitive surface to open and then move up and down the Start menu.
The Sculpt Comfort’s smooth, glossy-black finish is comfortable for your two resting index and middle clicking fingers, and the rubber sides and indentation for your thumb provides a comfortable grip that won’t slip. A four-way scroll wheel performs the same functions as the one on the smaller Sculpt Mobile.
This mouse is large enough for average-sized hands, but you could still throw into a laptop bag with your computer or tablet.
The mouse matters
Mice are often overlooked as computer accessories, even though they're one of the primary ways we interact with our computers. These new mice from Microsoft take a big step up from ordinary with their comfortable designs and useful navigation features, tailor-made, of course, for Windows 8.