Contest information is somewhere within the review. Read on to find it and enter for your chance to win a Sidewinder X8 Mouse!
To date we have covered several mice from Microsoft Gaming, both the original Sidewinder and its less expensive brother the Sidewinder X5. Today we have the newest creation from the Redmond Company, and it’s quite different. Enter the Microsoft Sidewinder X8 gaming mouse, a gaming mouse designed to pack all the latest mouse technology into one solution. I’ll cut to the chase; this is by far their best mouse yet. If I were in the market to buy a new mouse today, the X8 would be the one.
Microsoft X8 + Packaging Packaging looks just like the other Sidewinder products. It doesn’t require a table saw to open the plastic housing, a blessing for those of us who have battled many times with the razor sharp edges of the plastic clamshell of death. Inside we’ve got the X8 Mouse, the “puck” receiver, warranty information, instruction manual, driver CD, and rechargeable battery.Powering the BeastInstead of throwing in a proprietary rechargeable battery, the X8 simply uses an AA sized ni-cad rechargeable. According to the documentation, the battery should last approximately 30 hours on a single charge. Your mileage may vary, but I found that it functioned well into the 20 hour range before running out of power. This is not nearly as long as some of the older wireless Microsoft mice that ran for months on a single AA battery, but it edges out most other high performance internal battery mice, such as the MX Revolution and G7. A hard power switch on the bottom can be switched off to save juice while traveling.
When you are running low on power, simply unwind a thin cable from the puck receiver and connect it to the bottom of the mouse. Microsoft pulled a similar magnetic connection trick with the X8 as they did with the X6 keyboard, connecting the power cable is quick and, quite frankly, fun. When connected the mouse looks just like a wired device, and emanates a slow pulsating glow to denote the device is charging.
X8 Mouse, "Puck" Reciever, and Battery
There is one last option, powering the device with the charge cable plugged in, but no battery. On the plus side, for intense FPS games the reduced weight of the mouse is a huge benefit. Without the battery, the weight clocks in just over the Sidewinder X5 (an incredibly light mouse), and about the same as the venerable Logitech G5 without weights installed. The magnetic connector stays surprisingly well attached and shouldn’t fall off even during intense battles. There is one downside, to using this method, the LCD screen and LED on the back will continually flash a “no battery installed” warning. This isn’t a deal-breaker; however it would be nice if there was a quick way to disable that warning for the gamers who enjoy the lighter version.
FeaturesIn the past, the sidewinder series almost seemed to be playing a bit of catch up with the competition. With the X8, however, Microsoft has decided to proactively push to the vanguard of the tech pack, integrating some very nice features into this device and improving greatly on many of my complaints with the older series.
BlueTrack™ is one of the highlights of the X8, claiming to be the world’s most advanced mouse image processing technology. In short, it works on pretty much anything, even computer monitors. The only problem I found was trying to use my mouse on a window, but I don’t expect many people to need that feature anytime soon. As the name implies, you’ll see the bottom of the mouse has a blue light. It doesn’t quite fit the sidewinder color scheme, but when using the mouse the blue doesn’t show up anyway.
Using the 2.4 GHz wireless radio frequency, the X8 can output an astounding 4,000 DPI resolution. For those of you wondering, the RF has not caused any trouble with the multiple wireless networks running in our secret laboratory testing grounds. 4,000 DPI puts the X8 right on top of the DPI wars, though Razer actually was first to market a 4,000 DPI wired device. It’s hard to imagine a situation where one will actually be able to decipher a significant difference in quality over 2,000 DPI, but Microsoft holds bragging rights with this one.
One of the interesting innovations Microsoft brought to the front with the Sidewinder series involves thumb buttons. Traditionally mice have seen a few horizontally orientated buttons that one can press with the thumb, great for more complex gaming or just being outright lazy. To be different (and theoretically gain some ergonomic points), the Sidewinder mice have all had two vertically mounted buttons. In the past, the size and quality of these buttons caused some minor annoyance – but I quickly found myself happily adjusted to the vertical orientation. The X8 streamlines it into much lower profile vertical buttons (actually, it’s a cleverly disguised rocker switch). The result is quite a pleasant boost to overall comfort.
In fact, the entire mouse has received some slight profile changes from its predecessors that do dramatically help improve comfort while gaming. Unfortunately it is still fairly large, so those of you who felt the X5 and original were too big for your hands may still have to wait. Stylistically, the look seems to fit the male market best. As Gizmodo put it, the sidewinder line appears to have been designed by Darth Nerd. There is significantly more chrome on the mouse this time around then previous iterations, but it is a very strong “tech” style for the lines, curves, and buttons. Never fear, when we mentioned this to Redmond, they told us that we should keep our eyes open in the future. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the team will have something new to show us at E3.
The infamous front thumb button is back, but in a completely new incarnation. On the initial sidewinder, this generic button was virtually unreachable unless you completely repositioned your hand, making it difficult to use in the middle of a battle. For the WoW players it made a bit more sense, but still seemed odd. This time around, it’s an advanced macro button that allows one to program on the fly. Nifty; but not a feature that really sells me the mouse.
New to the sidewinder mouse line is the much needed tilt scroll wheel. Like the original, the wheel has a textured chrome appearance, and clicks with just the right amount of force. Left and right tilting also feels like a solid button, instead of the rubbery resistance other mice have. Bravo to Microsoft for making this an inclusion in the series, and I hope they continue the trend.
Directly below the scroll wheel are three quick switch DPI buttons, which can of course be reprogrammed with the included software. Finally the silver button with the sidewinder logo launches the games explorer in vista by default with the software installed. Nothing terribly exciting with any of these, as they haven’t changed in any significant way since the original sidewinder.
The LCD screen has been slightly updated and has a high enough resolution to display basic images (such as a charging battery). Unfortunately, the screen is not used for very much and unlike the keyboard screen on the Logitech G15, there does not seem to be a large community developing applications for it.
Last but certainly not least, the interchangeable mouse feet make a welcome return, with two additional sets hiding inside the puck receiver. Each set of feet has a different amount of Teflon skid, so individuals who like their mouse to have a bit more friction on the pad will be happy. While the smoothest set provides a comfortable ride, they still fall short of the huge skid surfaces available on mice like the G5 and MX Revolution.
Lefties will be a bit disappointed with the mouse; like most gaming mice – this one was designed specifically for the majority of users. Microsoft has is aware of your plight, but up to now there is no official news as to when, or if, an ambidextrous Sidewinder mouse will be released.
Mice in order of Weight (Heaviest to Lightest) - X8, Sidewinder, G5, Creative Fatal1ty, X5
If you are interested in entering the contest to win this mouse, you must do two things. First, post a comment to the forum article (link here) stating one feature you particularly like about the mouse. Additionally, post a comment in my forum profile (link here) stating "H2O Rip, I would like a new mouse because ___" (and list a good reason!).
:After using a good number of gaming mice, I’ve began to compile wish lists with my reviews for features that I would love to see included in future products – or features that can get scrapped in current models. Here is the official H2O Rip Wish list for the Sidewinder X8:
Put the mouse on a diet: wireless mice are at the point where there is no perceptual delay, and the range on the X8 is perfectly suitable for all standard gaming applications. Unfortunately it is still on the heavy side. This doesn’t present a problem for normal everyday use, but during fast paced shooters, a lighter mouse would be a boon. There’s little downside to reducing the weight, aside from the technical challenge.
Smaller Receiver: the puck is pretty large, and negates one of my favorite uses for wireless mice – travel. While it does make a good storage for the extra feet, and is far more difficult to lose then the receiver for the MX Revolution; something in between would be nice.
Retractable Recharge Cord: The wrapping around the puck works, but it would be nifty if the cable simply retracted into the puck (or if there was a tiny wind on the bottom to pull it in). I’ve already got enough of a mess of cables on my desk here, anything to reduce the rats nest is a huge benefit.
Shift the thumb buttons: I have pretty average hands, and have to grip up on the mouse a little bit funny in order to reach the thumb buttons. The comfortable position for me would be ideally about a half inch back from where they are currently. But preferences may vary between users, a few focus groups with gamers of different type should sort out the optimal location. An interesting ergonomic solution with the current mouse I discovered was to simply shift the hand so that three fingers were top of the mouse, with the fourth over “right click” and middle finger always on the scroll wheel. It takes a bit to get used to, but the mouse is reasonably comfortable this way – and it alleviates the next item on my wish list below.
Right Side Button(s): my fourth finger is perfectly capable of pressing at least one button! The creative fatal1ty mouse did an excellent job in this department, making what actually looked like a whole third main button. I don’t think that would look good stylistically here, and I like where the finger rests, but there is plenty of potential for a side button there.
Larger Skid Pads: I like an incredibly smooth ride for my mice. While the interchangeable skids are great, large Teflon coated skids would be ideal. The current design could theoretically have much larger skids (one large one in the front, and one large one in the back). Selling these for consumers wouldn’t be a huge R&D development or distribution cost.
Programmable color lights: Maybe I’m just spoiled by the ambx kit, or loved the idea when I saw Logitech pick it up, but the vibrant red isn’t everyone’s stylistic first choice for lights. This mouse has plenty of excellent locations to spice up with programmable colored LEDs.
The X8 has a very distinct style!Conclusion The $99 MSRP is fairly high for this mouse, although it can be found for significantly less online. Despite the high price point, it’s an excellent device that certainly surpasses the rest of the Microsoft line, and should be right up there on the consideration list for anyone on the market for a new mouse. As I’ve mentioned with my other reviews, its good policy to try to get your hands around all these mice before making a buying decision. Individual comfort levels differ greatly between mice, while I personally felt that the X8 was quite comfortable, it could still be a bit bulky for others.
Keep up the good work Microsoft; this is clearly headed in the right direction. Currently the X8 is my number one choice for a combination of daily use and gaming, both the wireless and quality are spot on and there are a number of excellent improvements over the rest of the sidewinder series. I hope that future mice from Redmond continue to build on the concepts they’ve demonstrated here, with maybe a few items off the wish list.Ryan "H2O Rip" Chaply
PMS | H2O Clan Operations
PMS Clan Inc Editor in Chief