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Review: Microsoft's New IntelliMouse Explorer and Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer
by Steve Becker

The Explorer is on the left, and the Wireless Explorer is on the right.


Company: Microsoft
Price: $54.95 (SRP) for the Explorer and $74.95 for the Wireless Explorer
Requirements: Mac OS 8.6 or later and a Mac equipped with a USB port

Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer

For over a year, I've been using Microsoft's IntelliMouse Optical mouse and love it -- it's been a real time saver, it's been reliable, and its software has been dependable. I mention this since I chose the IntelliMouse Optical over the the previous generation of IntelliMouse Explorer because I prefer the button arrangement that's on the IntelliMouse Optical. (Just thought I should point out this preference before giving you my evaluation of the IntelliMouse Explorer.)

The IntelliMouse Explorer is slightly larger than the IntelliMouse Optical. While a smaller mouse that takes up a little less space appeals to me, the extra size of the Explorer is put to good use; it's actually more supportive and comfortable than any mouse I've previously used. However, I still prefer the button arrangement on the IntelliMouse Optical -- it has one button on each side of the scroll wheel and one button on each side of the mouse, as opposed to the Explorers's placing of both side buttons on the left side (altogether, the Explorer has five buttons plus the scroll wheel).

Installing the software for the Explorer was fast and easy, and it has worked without any problems on my OS 8.6 test system. This new 2.0 version of the software has some new features, including an accelerated scrolling feature that increases scrolling speed in response to faster movement of the scroll wheel. Microsoft has also added some minor enhancements to the options available when programming the Explorer's buttons.

Microsoft says the updated IntelliEye technology used in the new Explorer is several times faster than that of other optical mice (including the previous generation Explorer). This is supposed to result in more accurate and faster cursor tracking, and this should be especially useful during rapid movements of the mouse. In practice, the new Explorer has a great "feel" to it, and it's a pleasure to work with.

It's amazing how much time and effort is saved with a mouse that includes programmable buttons and a scroll wheel! If you are still using the mouse that came with your Mac -- or a similar replacement mouse -- I strongly recommend that you upgrade this essential and relatively inexpensive piece of equipment. Of course, the perceived "feel" of a mouse is highly subjective, so you might want to drop by your local Mac store to see if they have an Explorer on display that you can "test drive" for yourself.

Pros: High quality look and feel. Very comfortable. Works great and boosts productivity. Software includes lots of useful features.

Cons: I prefer the button arrangement of the IntelliMouse Optical. Is designed only for right-handed individuals.


Microsoft Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer

Essentially, remove the USB cable from the Explorer, add a couple of AA batteries to it, make it a little wider, and add a USB receiver to your Mac -- voilà, you've got the Wireless Explorer. Of course, underneath the surface, Microsoft had to make many changes to the Explorer to accommodate the wireless technology. To Microsoft's credit, other than for the addition of a receiver and batteries, the Wireless Explorer has the same look, feel, and performance as the Explorer -- that is to say, it's terrific! (Okay, there is still the matter of the arrangement of the buttons, but I'm sure many users actually prefer this design to that of the IntelliMouse Optical -- I'm just not one of them.)

The Wireless Explorer incorporates some nifty technology to extend battery life. For example, the Explorer senses when you touch it and only then turns power on to its optical tracking system; removing your hand puts the mouse in sleep mode. The Explorer also automatically adjusts the light used by the optical sensor to reduce power consumption when using it on a light-colored surface. Additionally, power consumption is automatically reduced when lifting the Explorer off of a surface. To help you monitor remaining battery life, the IntelliMouse software presents a battery-power alert when the remaining power drops to 34% -- and then again when it drops to 14%.

Be good to yourself; remove yourself from the dark ages of micedom, and get a wonderful, programmable mouse with a scroll wheel. And when it comes to mice, the IntelliMouse Explorer, Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer, and IntelliMouse Optical are at the head of their class!

Pros: Same as the wired version, plus the convenience of no wires to get in the way.

Cons: Same as the wired version, plus the minor inconvenience of having to replace the (inexpensive) batteries several times a year.

 © Steve Becker. All rights reserved.

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