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Microsoft comfort optical mouse 3000

I got myself a new mouse today. The wheel on my Intellimouse explorer 3.0 has been reluctant to move forward for a long time, and I've been contemplating its eventual replacement ever since.

Mice seem to be the one aspect in which I can reasonably be called a microsoftie. But really, it isn't my fault! What I really wanted to begin with was Logitech's MX310 which I use with great pleasure at work. But the nasty ferrets at Logitech stopped producing the thing a while back, and once I started looking seriously to purchase one it had been sold out everywhere. Back to the research board it was.

My basic requirements (apart from at least two buttons plus clickable scroll wheel) for a mouse are comfortable size (not those minified notebook things please), optical sensor and symmetry so I can switch hands whenever I like. More buttons are a bonus, I do like to have them but rarely seem to use them in real life. Being wireless still doesn't feel appealing enough to me that I'd trade it for the hassle of battery management (I did try it for a while though, so I know what I'm talking about. Possibly if it was an otherwise great mouse and came with a cradle or something like that). Also I don't really feel like spending a fortune.

The symmetry thing was, as you might guess, the most cruel limiter of my selection. And after focusing on wired only, any given store usually had a quite slim and unappealing selection left. So once I ran across the Comfort mouse on sale it almost seemed suspiciously close to ideal. Good size, looked symmetrical enough (they didn't have any unpacked for demoing and the box didn't tout dual-hand usage as a feature, so I didn't feel 100% sure), one "extra" button and tiltable wheel as possible (see below for explanation) extra treat. After taking another good look in nearby stores I went back, picked up the Comfort and headed home.

Unpacking

It was a long time ago I last bought any Microsoft hardware. Even so, unpacking immediately brought back memories, and reminded me of ways in which they're different to the Cupertino fruit company.

Specifically, there was this:

Yes, it's a honest-to-god USB to PS2 adapter. I have to say I'm all for companies providing everything needed to be backward compatible. But this being 2009, it wouldn't seem unreasonable to expect mouse buyers to either step into the nineties or already have an adapter of their own.

Also, taped over the USB connector was this energetic fellow:

I stared at this for a couple of seconds, trying to come up with the worst (or, indeed, anything bad at all) that might happen if you were to plug a USB mouse into your computer without installing proper drivers first. Sure, you may not get to use all your extra buttons, but can't people be expected to remember the CD they just unpacked in case that happens? I'm guessing Microsoft has some kind of background for putting the sticker there, but all it did to me was give me images of Windows doing something ghastly just because an unrecognized USB device was connected.

Driving forces

Then I actually installed the drivers on my Mac, to see what they were like. I kept them there for a while. All of ... forty-five minutes, or so. Then they headed out again in favour of Steermouse which has always served me well and provides a bit more configurability.

It has to be said though, Microsoft's Intellipoint drivers and software do seem niecly written, play nice, feel Mac-like and are easy to both install and remove. I did glance at the install scripts, raising a suspicious eyebrow when I noticed them running chown on folders like /System. A quick check against my own setup revealed they only seemed to be ensuring ownerships are correct. But should an installer be doing things like that at all? I wonder, but they didn't mess anything up for me at least.

In use

The comfort is a bit smaller than my old Intellimouse. But then, most mice are. I'm not sure it's quite symmetrical, it does feel a bit different when I move it to my left hand, but not different enough that I think it will bother me. The buttons feel pretty nice to click. The wheel is completely quiet and smooth when you scroll itm which is new to me but already feels good. It's nice and light to push around the desk, and tracking's expectedly good. On to the matter of the tilting scroll wheel.

Tilting my world?

The Comfort has a tiltable wheel, which means you can scroll sideways by pushing the wheel left and right. While nice in itself I had tried it before on some madly ergonomic wireless Microsoft mouse and had my doubts about it. The main problem on that mouse was that it made registering a normal click on the wheel very difficult. I use middle clicking pretty often for making sure links open in new tabs instead of new browser windows, so I found that a pretty serious problem.

After my initial tests, the problem seems to exist with the Comfort too, if to a lesser degree. I seem to be able to get reliable clicks as long as I make sure to press not too far back on the wheel. Time will tell, but for now there at least seems to be hope.

Hopes

My Intellimouse has lasted me for eight years or so and felt great all the time, so my expectations are high on the Comfort too. Unless the tilt wheel drives me mad in one way or another I see no reason to doubt the Comfort and I can be good friends for a long time to come. Time to break it in with a few good months of mousing ...

This page last updated 18 Jan 2009, 22:40.

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