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

IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0
March 18, 2002 | Jason Sims

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It has been more than two years since the introduction of Microsoft's original IntelliMouse Explorer optical mouse. It marked the debut of Microsoft's IntelliEye optical technology, which eliminated the need for a mouse pad, as the optical technology could track on just about any surface (with the exception of reflective and clear surfaces, such as mirrors and glass). And while a standard ball-and-rollers mouse needs to be regularly cleaned and suffers occasionally from sticking, an optical mouse glides easily and consistently all the time.

For these reasons, optical mice have become more popular in recent years. But they did not make a good first impression on hardcore gamers, who discovered that optical mice can get "lost" during quick movements. Microsoft's first wave of optical mice featured optical sensors that took 1,500 snapshots per second, using a chip in the mouse itself to compare the snapshots and send the vector (movement) data to the computer. This number translates directly into a certain maximum tracking speed; when you move the mouse faster than this maximum amount, it is unable to provide reliable movement data.

Microsoft's new line of optical mice features the latest revision of their IntelliEye technology, which has been significantly improved since its debut. Instead of 1,500 snapshots per second, the optical sensor now takes 6,000. Along with this comes greater precision, and more importantly, a much higher maximum tracking speed. As an owner of two original IntelliMouse Explorers, and a gamer, the first thing I did after I plugged in this new mouse was try out the most violent mouse movements I could muster. It never skipped a beat. It would seem they've got that problem licked.

Another bonus of the higher resolution tracking is that the mouse now works flawlessly on my desk. The original IntelliMouse Explorer had some trouble with the grains in the wood on my desk. I don't know exactly what caused it, but once in awhile the mouse cursor would sort of "stutter" a bit, which caused me no end of frustration when doing any kind of work that requires precision, such as illustration or editing graphics. This problem is gone too.

A big selling point of the original IntelliMouse Explorer was its stylish look, which really compliments Apple's designs. This is still very much the case. The latest model has been ever-so-slightly refined. The difference is largely aesthetic--I still own the original model and did not feel a preference when comparing them. What I do like about the new model is that the front-most of the two side buttons now has a bump on it that makes it easier to tell which button is which--but then I never had a problem distinguishing the two side buttons anyway. The top buttons also have a slight groove to them now.


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