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

IntelliMouse Optical
September 5, 2002 | Lucian Fong

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I bought my very first USB mouse over two and a half years ago and it just so happens that it was a Microsoft IntelliMouse Optical. I was quickly spoiled by the five buttons and scroll wheel; I could no longer return to the confines of a one button mouse. At the time, optical technology was still young and not quite ideal for certain types of gaming. During rapid movements, the IntelliMouse Optical would often lose its tracking, forcing me to turn down the mouse sensitivity to work around the problem.

To to overcome this limitation, Microsoft has since developed a new, proprietary version of their IntelliEye optical technology. According to the IntelliEye website, the new optical sensor "captures an unprecedented 6,000 pictures per second." For reference, the original IntelliEye sensor only took 1,500 pictures per second. The question is: does this improvement warrant replacing an older optical mouse?

Look and Feel
The appearance and ergonomics of the refreshed IntelliMouse Optical are identical to its predecessor. The symmetrical shell is a creamy white color with metallic gray accents on the side buttons and scroll wheel recess. Translucent red plastics cover the bottom of the mouse with oval teflon pads on each of the four "corners". And like all of Microsoft's optical mice, it emits a red glow while in use.

The overall shape of the IntelliMouse Optical is not as ergonomic as Logitech's MouseMan Dual Optical (my current favorite mouse), but sloped gently on the ends. Although my hands are relatively small, I prefer the larger Dual Optical in this case because it provides better palm support.

The left and right mouse buttons are easily depressible, but have a noticeably heavier touch than the Dual Optical. Placement of the elongated side buttons is convenient--my thumb and ring finger were able to reach them without having to change the positioning of my hand. In Mac OS X, I found that binding one button to cycle through windows (command-tilde) and the other to close windows (command-w) was extremely useful, especially since the commands have the same behavior in the majority of Carbon and Cocoa applications.

Spoiling the feel of the IntelliMouse Optical is the sub-par scroll wheel. I was surprised at the poor quality of such an important component of the mouse. The wheel was very stiff during initial use, and loosened up only after a few weeks of use. Moving the wheel back and forth is very uneven and surprisingly loud; it did not improve with time. Because I need to scroll through long web pages and documents, as well as switch weapons and zoom in games, I require a smooth scroll wheel. In this category the IntelliMouse Optical falls short.

A minor annoyance of the IntelliMouse Optical is that it gets dirty very easily. Despite the fact that I wash my hands before I use my computer, the surface of the mouse collects dead skin and dust, especially during the summer months. Maybe in the future, peripheral companies will find a way to eliminate the need to clean the surface of the mouse too.


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