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Manufacturer: Microsoft
Min OS X: Any Version    Requires: USB Port


Microsoft Habu Laser Gaming Mouse
January 15, 2007 | Bryan Clodfelter
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Habu: Mac OS X & Windows XP (via Boot Camp) Compatibility

The sole weakness of the Habu on the Macintosh platform is the complete and utter lack of driver support from Microsoft. While the mouse works well enough for general use right out of the box, Mac gamers that play intense action titles will definitely need to install Alessandro Montalcini’s great USB Overdrive shareware utility ($20) from www.USBOverdrive.com in order to override the accelerated mouse behavior that the Habu may exhibit when it is initially connected to a Mac, and to enable the fourth and fifth [thumb] buttons. For progressive Mac gamers utilizing Boot Camp to play the latest and greatest titles on the market, Microsoft’s included Windows XP drivers will allow users to control every single aspect of the Habu, access the mouse’s 32KB of onboard memory to set and toggle up to five different profiles, and to allow you to switch the internal lighting on and off (a welcome touch for those who find that the light interferes with darker titles such as Splinter Cell).

Habu: Editor’s Critique
After using the Microsoft Habu alongside six or seven competing mice for the last six weeks, I’ve come to two conclusions: first, the person who decided that three USB ports on the Power Mac G5 would be adequate should be force fed a couple of 5-port USB hubs, and second, the Microsoft Habu is the best mouse I’ve ever used due to its superior combination of performance, ergonomic design, and feature set. With the Habu, no longer are the thumb buttons simply a glorified pair of alternate flashlight controls—they’re solid, fast, and sit right underneath your thumb. Microsoft really seems determined to get everyone to use all five buttons—if your thumb is too short, you can hot-swap the entire side of the Habu with the included alternate panel that positions the buttons further toward the back. My only complaint is that the panel on my Habu needed an hour or two to become properly seated after a swap—if I squeezed the mouse hard enough, the panel occasionally creaked a bit due to plastic-on-plastic friction. It is a minor issue, however—users who do more than one or two swaps in the lifetime of the mouse need to have their pituitary gland checked. Other than that, the Habu performs beautifully—as I previously mentioned, it becomes an extension of your hand in short order. For the first time in a very long time, it’s hats off to Microsoft for an excellent first-generation computer product. If this is what Microsoft current hardware team can do on their first try, the possibility of a second-generation Habu should strike terror into the hearts of competing manufacturers.

The most recent addition to high-end mice these days is on-the-fly sensitivity adjustment. There are two ways to implement this functionality: software, and hardware. The Habu takes the high road, featuring two dedicated buttons, safely recessed into a shallow groove behind the scrollwheel so that users cannot accidentally hit them (an exception to the unspoken rule that buttons should lay beneath the resting point of the users’ fingers). When pressed, these on-the-fly buttons raise and lower the speed of the mouse in 400 dpi increments from 400 dpi to 2000 dpi, regardless of whether or not the operating system has the proper drivers installed. After playing with everything from Photoshop CS3 to Prey with the on-the-fly feature for the last month and a half, I don't know how I lived without it; the ability to rapidly adjust mouse speed without taking your hands off the mouse or mind off the task at hand is amazingly convenient. Furthermore, it all but eliminates the ritualistic back-and-forth mouse adjustment process that tends to spoil the first few minutes of every new game. The only thing that could make this feature better is to modify the Habu's firmware in order to make each press of the button change the sensitivity in 200 dpi increments, giving users finer control of their mouse speed.

While it may seem like the lack of Mac OS X drivers for the Habu is a potentially huge problem for Mac gamers, thanks to USB Overdrive, the Habu’s default accelerated behavior in OS X can be easily overcome. If the problem occurs when you first plug in the mouse, simply install USB Overdrive and set acceleration to “None.” Once that has been completed, USB Overdrive is no longer necessary if you do not require use of the thumb buttons in Mac OS X (everything else, including the on-the-fly sensitivity controls, will continue to work properly). As of the time of this writing, users can use USB Overdrive for free indefinitely, although we highly recommend that you support Alessandro Montalcini’s hard work by paying for the product.



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