Hewlett Packard


Techtalk -
December 1999

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Dave Moss reviews Microsoft’s IntelliMouse and the IntelliMouse Explorer
IntelliMouse star_orange.gif (875 bytes)star_orange.gif (875 bytes)star_orange.gif (875 bytes)star_orange.gif (875 bytes)star_orange.gif (875 bytes) (5/5) IntelliMouse Explorer star_orange.gif (875 bytes)star_orange.gif (875 bytes)star_orange.gif (875 bytes)star_orange.gif (875 bytes)star_orange.gif (875 bytes) (5/5)

Welcome back to tech talk, the column for all that’s hot and new. This month is devoted to one company’s offerings.

One of the most important items we have to use with a modern GUI, is of course the humble mouse and one of the best mouse manufacturers in the world is Microsoft. The Microsoft Mouse II was probably one of the best mice ever made, and the introduction of the wheel only helped to enhance its status.
Microsoft has a range of mice now that covers just about any mouse work you might like to try out, and I have two of them here at this moment. Both use the brand new Microsoft IntelliEye technology, and both come with the latest version of Microsoft mousing software, IntelliPoint 3.0.

Where they immediately differ is that one of them sports an extra two buttons on the left side, is silver and dark grey, and has a transparent red undercarriage. What they both have in common is that neither one has a mouse ball, relying instead on IntelliEye technology to make sure your cursor goes where you want it to.

The eyes have it

IntelliEye is an optical sensor, attached to an 18 MIPS processor that analyses the 1,500 pictures sent to it by the tiny CMOS digital camera that also lurks inside these mice. The result of those calculations means you get a mouse that I’ve found to not only be deadly accurate, but also to be dead boring to clean, mainly because now that the ball has gone, you don’t need to.

The only caveat is that because the sensor is optical by nature, you can confuse it if you put it on a patterned or glass surface, but apart from that it seems to work on just about anything, including trouser legs, which will be a great boon for those of us who abhor all the pointer devices on portables, and prefer to travel with a mouse for company.

The ergonomics of both mice are excellent. You will all know how good the Microsoft Mouse II (now called IntelliMouse) is in ergonomic terms, so the Explorer was going to have its work cut out for it in order to try and match or even surpass it.

The Explorer is larger than an IntelliMouse and takes a little while to adjust to, but it didn’t take me long to become very comfortable with it indeed. This has a lot to do with the fact that it just slips so naturally into your palm you almost forget it’s there.Without the mouse ball to catch on anything, the mouse felt incredibly smooth. The wheel had also seen some improvement, with a series of tiny ribs making scrolling an even better experience than it was before.

Interestingly, under Windows 2000 RC2, I was able to plug both mice into the USB ports on my system (they both come with PS/2 adapters as well), and use whichever mouse I felt like placing my hand on. For those who would prefer to use one device for gaming, and one for working, that is rather handy, however don’t try this with Windows 98 because it gets upset and reboots before you even get into Windows.

Compare and contrast

Both mice come with IntelliPoint 3.0, which irritatingly refuses to install under Windows 2000 (Can we have a patch please, Microsoft?), so I had to test the programmable buttons on the IntelliMouse Explorer under Windows 98. By default, the two buttons on the left hand side are set up to emulate the Back and Forward buttons on your browser, but you can easily change them to do something else using the IntelliMouse properties dialog.

If you are a Mac user as well, you needn’t feel left out as both mice can be plugged straight into that USB port on your Mac keyboard, and all you have to do then is download the software for them from the Microsoft Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouse. Go to the Download Drivers menu after selecting the mouse you are using, and click on the Mac drivers’ menu option.

The action on the Explorer is much lighter than that of the IntelliMouse with IntelliEye, despite its larger proportions that might have led you to think it wouldn’t be. In a rapid consumer poll conducted at home without irritating any pedestrians, my wife decided in two seconds that she preferred the Explorer to the IntelliMouse both in terms of size and shape, and also of feel and so she made off with it.

In the meantime the IntelliMouse version will do me just fine, especially as I do most of my work under Windows 2000, and thus can’t take advantage of the extra two buttons on the Explorer yet. Lovely job Microsoft, and a 5 Star rating for both mice, but please hurry up with the software upgrade