Posted 30 December 2008 - 07:09
Today, I got my Microsoft Arc Mouse. I've wanted one for a while but was a little hesitant due to its somewhat unconventional shape and design. While there were a lot of negative reviews, there also seemed to be an equal or greater number of positive reviews. Due to the numerous reviews that exist elsewhere on the Arc Mouse, I thought I would just do a very quick review on my experiences using the mouse.
The design of the Microsoft Arc Mouse is obviously what most sets it apart from other laser mice. It is very striking and unique, and most would probably mistake this for a new Apple mouse than a Microsoft mouse. As the name might imply, the Arc Mouse is shaped like... an arc, which is a fancy way of saying a semi-circle. Why? Because the hand moves in an arc fashion and also tends to handle objects in a slightly curved fashion. In other words, an arc is ergonomic. It feels good in the hand and does not cause as much fatigue as other designs of mice have the potential to.
The Arc Mouse has a number of different textures to it. The main gripping area is rubberized plastic, which feels very nice and helps your hand stay in place on the mouse. Unfortunately, as anything rubberized, this also means that the areas of the mouse that receive the most contact will eventually wear down unevenly, giving way to a more rough feeling of plastic. The sides of the mouse are wrapped in shiny, glossy plastic, which to most people is read as "fingerprint magnet." While the Arc Mouse is very pretty, it also will get much dirtier much more quickly than other mice. The underside of the mouse, however, is much better, being made of matte plastic that is not glossy but is also very difficult to scratch. Overall, think of the Arc Mouse as the iPod of mice... Pretty, functional but also gets very easily scratched and stained.
One minor note is that Microsoft has made the Arc Mouse available in two colors: red and black. The red is really more of a very dark pink, and all elements of the mouse, from the scroll ball to the underside, reflect various shades of dark pink. On the contrary, the black looks just as you'd expect, except the underside is a whitish-gray and not black. The scroll ball is also white, making the black mouse really more a two-tone black and white. If you're very fashion conscious, the red color is the more "consistent" of the two colors.
Be honest. Is it comfortable?
Actually, yes, it is. My previous mouse was a Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 5000. Immediately, I noticed how much lighter the Arc Mouse is. Holding both in my hand, the Arc Mouse is smaller in every dimension and lighter, even with its two AAA batteries in place. The lighter weight also allows the mouse to glide a little better across my mouse pad. (I really couldn't say if this is due to the Arc Mouse having better laser optics, but it just seems to glide easier to me.)
However, with the traditional underside of the mouse lacking on the Arc Mouse, I did have to get used to new mousing behaviors. Instead of my whole hand on the mouse gripping the sides, the Arc Mouse is more of what you call a "finger mouse." That is, you place two fingers on the mouse and just sort of guide the mouse around, as opposed to really truly gripping it like most people are likely used to. In terms of computer input, there is no difference to either style. Some people love "finger mouses" and others hate them. For me, it will take some getting used to, though I can't say I dislike this type of style. I've found that like most things, after using the Arc Mouse for several hours, I'm already very comfortable with its operations.
It's comfortable, but is it functional?
Coming from the aforementioned Wireless Laser Mouse 5000, the Arc Mouse is a bit of a downgrade in some respects. I lost one button and also saw compromise with the scroll ball. To put this another way, the Arc Mouse is a very minimal mouse. It has your standard left and right buttons, your clickable scroll ball and one additional button on the far left that can be programmed with Microsoft's IntelliPoint software. That's it. It's not your gaming mouse that has many buttons or lots of programmable buttons. It's not a mouse that you will use to change PowerPoint slides or play fast-paced games with. It's just your typical, ordinary computer mouse, but I don't find anything wrong with this. This is why I bought the Arc Mouse. Because I don't want something overly complicated. I just want something that handles the basics well. The Arc Mouse certainly does a good job by default. It requires no drivers. Just plug in its (tiny!) USB receiver on your PC or Mac, and you're good to go. You only need the IntelliPoint software if you intend to use the extra button on the far left.
As most other reviews have noted, the biggest design flaw of the Arc Mouse is that darned far left button. It's just simply out of the way when holding the mouse the way it's intended to be held. You literally have to move your hand forward to reach that button. While most reviews make this sound terrible, it's really not. On the rare chance you'd even use the button, you just move your hand slightly forward, press it and then move your hand make. In reality, this takes all of a second. It's just another one of those things that will be awkward at first but then you'll get used to it and wonder what the big deal ever was.
For me, the biggest issue is the scroll ball. Most Microsoft mouse now have made the scroll wheel "tilt" left and right, which translates to horizontal scrolling on your computer. Unfortunately, the Arc Mouse's scroll ball is fixed in its position, only able to move up and down and be clicked. It can't be titled left and right, meaning if you encounter a widescreen picture or a long web page, you have to use the scroll box, not your scroll ball. This is a bit of a dissapointment, especially as the Arc Mouse appears to have plenty of space to support the minimal amount of tilting necessary to do horizontal scrolling. I have no real issues with the quality of the scroll ball itself, as it works and it works well. It's just that after using many other mice in the past, I see how the Arc Mouse is in some ways overly minimalistic and simple.
So, it's pretty, it's comfortable and it's decently functional, but is it worth it?
At Microsoft's MSRP of $59, no, it's not worth it. But, considering I got it brand new through Amazon for just over $29, I'd say it's not a major investment and therefore is worth a positive recommendation. I mean, I'm more or less your average computer user, and I really don't need much more than a functional mouse. The Arc Mouse is, of course, a laser mouse that tracks very nicely over most surfaces without a mouse pad. It will also do just about everything you'd ever really need from your mouse, minus just one (seldomly useful) function.
If you want a mouse that is pretty, comfortable and will get the basics done, then the Arc Mouse is going to be a tool worth investing in. But if you want something that is more functional and features such technical innovations like adjustable DPI, etc, then the Arc Mouse is not your cup of tea and will surely not be the last mouse you'll ever own.
Note: I did not include pictures in this review as there are pictures of the Arc Mouse widely available on the Internet.