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Mouse Wars: Episode I

Date: June 9, 2001
Manufacturer: Various
Written By:


What mouse to buy? Good question. In the past, like 2 years ago, nobody cared too much about it. So long as it works, and has a scroll wheel, you'd be set. Not so today. With people more concerned about aesthetics, ergonomics and performance, a whole new breed of mice have evolved from the simple Microsoft Intellimouse.

Today, I'm not going to review these mice, since there are reviews all over the 'net, but rather, I'm going to compare them to one another, pointing out features that will matter to people the most.

Microsoft Intellimouse

First up, we got the classic Microsoft Intellimouse. It was one of the first ergonomic mice to appear onto the scenes, that also included a scroll wheel. It fits comfortably for most right handers, regardless of whether they had large or small hands. Note: I mentioned right handers. If there was one short coming, it was this. Other than the fact that lefties were snubbed in the design, people suffering from carpal tunnel wouldn't benefit either. How so? Well, a common trick in CTS prevention is to occasionally switch hands while working. So if you normally mouse with your right, you switch to your left on occasion. Anyhow, it isn't impossible to use the mouse with your left hand, but certainly it feels awkward.

Logitech First Wheel Mouse

Logitech is another major mouse manufacturer who've always had competing products. Their answer to the MS Intellimouse is the Logitech First Wheel Mouse. Kind of a dumb name, IMHO, but a great mouse. It's sleek, easy to hold for lefties and righties and quite cheap in price. I have seen OEM versions of this mouse for as low as 15$ Canadian.

Logitech MouseMan

My personal favorite for many years has been the Logitech MouseMan. Again, like the MS Intellimouse, it's a right handed mouse, but it doesn't diminish what is essentially the most comfortable right handed mouse I've ever used. It has a nice weight to it, and all four buttons are strategically placed for comfort and convenience.

Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer

The last three mice mentioned were "ball" mice, that is, they are your traditional mice that use a weighted rubber ball to move your cursor around. Other than the style, and number of buttons, they are similar in terms of technology. That changed in 1999 with the introduction of the Microsoft optical mice. The technology itself wasn't new, but it was the first time it was readily available for ALL consumers. The Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer was the first of two optical mice from Microsoft. Basically, it uses an infrared light to read the movements of the mouse rather than a ball. What this means is no more dust to clean and you no longer need a mouse pad according to the marketing people. I'd suggest air gunning the mouse on occasion, and to use a mouse pad just so the mouse will glide nicely on your desk. FYI: The mouse (and all optical mice) cannot track properly on mirrored or see thru surfaces. Also, it may not work well on mouse pads with complex designs on it. The simpler, the better.

Boomslang 2000

Finally, we got the Boomslang. This was a new mouse developed by Karna that was made specifically for gamers. With up to 2000dpi precision (most mice track at 120 - 400), it brought a whole new level of accuracy for the hardcore gaming market. Pictured here is the Boomslang 2000. There is a BS 1000, which uses a 1000dpi resolution. Unlike the recent trend of more and more optical mice, Karna has gone backwards a bit, and reintroduced the ball. Make no mistake though, this is cutting edge technology. Well, cutting edge for a ball driven mouse.

Comfort

Probably the most important feature of a mouse. Since the mouse is likely used more than your keyboard, you better make sure your hands are happy with how the mouse feels. The following is my opinion, and you should go to a local Best Buy to test drive the next mouse you want to buy.

Logitech First Wheel Mouse - Svelte, ambidextrous and probably the best designed ergonomically. Just the right height, though a little light but easy to adjust to.

Logitech MouseMan - Large, good form, easy to reach buttons. May be large for small hands. Designed for right handed users.

Microsoft Intellimouse - Great right handed ergonomics. Center of mouse is a little high, but not enough to detract from the comfort of the mouse.

Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer - Large, somewhat awkward thumb button placement. Feels cheap, due to it's light weight, but still durable. Felt comfortable for me, but those with smaller hands may prefer the original Intellimouse.

Boomslang 2000 - Large, ambidextrous, but awkward for righties and lefties. Not really suitable for day-to-day use. Extremely heavy (compared to other mice), yet extremely sensitive to movement.

Appearance and Quality

Another subjective category. Without a doubt, the Boomslang looks the meanest. When you lay these 5 mice side by side, the Boomslang just simply stands out. There are metal parts in it's construction, which is a nice quality feature. Even the box it comes packaged in screams quality. Rather than a plastic or cardboard box, it comes in an aluminum one. Cool. A word of warning: It seems the Boomslang has lousy QA testing, because they have a tendency to break often. The chassis is high quality, but the rollers are made of el cheapo plastic, which tends to snap if pressured enough. I've owned my BS 2000 for 6 months now, and put in a lot of hours. Mine is still working, but others haven't been as lucky.

The MS Intellimouse Explorer is pretty funky with the glowing red light, but feels like a piece of junk when you hold it. I seriously thought it'd break if I squeeze it hard enough. Resting on your desk though, the red light coming from the silver chassis will catch your attention.

The rest are fairly vanilla. Simply put, a mouse is a mouse. The MS Intellimouse is boring. The Logitech MouseMan looks clunky. The Logitech First Wheel Mouse looks insignificant.

Appearance isn't everything though. Not all of us attend LAN parties, so it's best to get a mouse that feels comfortable and works well. That brings us to...

Performance

Well, day to day Windows, you are not going to care if it's USB or PS/2. You are also not going to care about 120dpi resolution or 2000dpi. All the mice allows you to make speed adjustments, so no mouse holds any advantage over the other in Windows performance.

Gaming is another story. I was skeptical of the Boomslang, but after about 2 weeks of adjusting to it (yes, 2 full weeks), it certainly is the most precise mouse on the market if action games are your thing. The MS Intellimouse Explorer is a good choice, but unlike most ball mice where you can lift it a bit (this happens naturally while playing games) and not lose tracking, the optical technology doesn't allow for this. Basically, if this happens, your on screen persona will literally freeze for an infinitely long 2-3 seconds. The other mice are suitable gaming solutions, but are not designed for gaming, thus you may miss out a bit on mouse speed and the extra buttons the BS 2000 and MS Explorer provide.

As good as a mouse may perform mechanically, it will also rely a great deal on software. Due to financial difficulties, Karna has not updated their in a long time. In fact, in case they go the way of 3dfx, I'd actually suggest not buying a Boomslang if driver and technical support is important to you. That being said, I think they got one of the better software drivers out there. You have a lot of control over the mouse functions, and everything from speed to button usage are readily available for you to adjust. Logitech has another strong offering in terms of driver , and offer many of the tweaks power users look for such as polling speed, and multiple uses for the scroll wheel. Microsoft has the weakest , not offering more than you need to work.

Technology

Ball mice are dead. I wouldn't suggest them for anyone really, unless price is a concern. The MS Intellimouse, Logitech First Wheel Mouse, and Logitech MouseMan offer optical variants, and the optical technology has improved greatly since the original Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer was released. I believe optical mice are the immediate future, due to their lower maintenance requirements and performance.

The only ball mouse that I'd recommend is the Boomslang. There is some great genius here in it's construction, but as good a ball mouse it is, it's also it's greatest weakest. Unlike a vanilla ball mouse, if it gets dirty, you prolly won't notice it too much, unless you get a lot of gunk in there. With the Boomslang, once it gets a little dirty, your whole mousing experience is going to go downhill until you clean it. I don't know what Karna had in mind with the new Boomslangs, but it would have been interesting how they'd use optical technology if they ever planned for it.

PS/2 is another dead technology. In fact, I don't think there are any more "retail" mice that ship in PS/2. They are all USB, but will likely have a PS/2 adapter for older PCs. A major benefit of USB is polling speed (120hz as opposed to 60hz) which results in a more responsive mouse.

Conclusion

I pretty much laid out the facts...

Overall, I'd have to say the Logitech First Wheel Mouse is the best mouse for consumer and/or business use. Try to get an optical version, but the shape is the most comfortable over long periods of time.

For gaming, the Boomslang is king, but any high quality optical mouse with four buttons or more will be quite suitable.

The older ball mice can be had for 15$ - 30$. Optical mice range in the 50$ mark, and the Boomslang weighs in at a hefty 80$. How much you want to spend will be up to you. You do get what you pay for. Buy from a reputible company as always, and stay away from Acme Industrial Optical mice.

The best thing to do is to try them out at a local store. Other than the monitor, the mouse is the 2nd most important thing you need to use a computer (unless you're a m4d c0d1|\|g keyboard phreak), so choose one that will not break your wrists. A good mouse will last several PC upgrades, and though they're not expensive (compared to PCs), you'll be surprised how well attached you become to that perfect mouse.

If you got any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.

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