I first picked up the Microsoft Sidewinder when I was over at the Microsoft Hardware Day which, despite the misleading name, is an event all about mice and keyboards. For a man like me, who’s never claimed to be a technological know-it-all like either Rich or Tim, the Hardware Day is as close as I can get to being really techy and I made the most of it by taking DPI, macros and input lag with the Microsoft honchos.
On the main focuses of the presentation I was treated to before we all went off to play Halo 3 was how Microsoft had resurrected the Sidewinder brand.
The Sidewinder line, back when that name used to mean something to whippersnappers like me, comprised a wide range of joysticks, gamepads and other inputs aimed solely at gamers. The range was pretty well respected at the time, but was largely forgotten about after the last product came out in 1999 and Microsoft moved to start focus more on the Xbox console and all that ‘console stuff’.
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Fast forward eight years though and Microsoft has come back to its origins as part of a new initiative to promote PC gaming. At the same time that the Games For Windows brand is really starting to take off, Microsoft has re-launched the Sidewinder brand with a new gaming mouse targeted at real hardcore gamers – so let’s have a look at it and see if it’s any good then.
It’s a Windy Road
The Microsoft Sidewinder mouse is an odd thing to look at and my first impression of it was that it must have been designed by a prop creator for a good science-fiction B-movie. It’s the colours and the angles which do it I think, trying to combine to make the mouse look futuristic. There’s nothing wrong with that in premise, but it falls down because in the end you can really tell that Microsoft has tried too hard to make something which looks futuristic.
It’s as if the clashing red, silver and shiny black colours are screaming out that a team of design consultants spent an hour choosing what colour the cable should be and that they used words like ‘dynamic’ and ‘synergise’. I got the impression from the colours that if the mouse was actually a person who played games then it’d be a twelve year old kid who thinks he pwns at CS:S but keeps pronouncing the word pwn wrong – missing out the ‘k’ sound or something.
The mouse is, as you may have guessed from my mention in the last paragraph, cabled. When I chatted to the Microsoft guys at the Hardware Day they were clear that this was a deliberate thing and that they had performed loads of customer surveys across wide ranges of ages to find out that most hardcore gamers prefer a cabled mouse so that they can avoid such horrendous things such as input lag.
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To me whether a mouse is wired or not has never really mattered, but given the increasing trend for wireless devices and rechargeable Li-Ion batteries it does seem a little odd. I’ll also go on the record and say that, in my opinion, input lag is a mostly invented phenomena with modern technology. I’ve used a range of wired and wireless mice, including the Logitech G7 at home and input lag has never been something I’ve noticed.
Granted, if you’re a real pro-gamer and compete in actual tournaments for actual bragging rights then you may have cause to avoid the incredibly minute lag that there is, but bear in mind that we’re talking milliseconds at most here and for most gamers that isn’t going to make a difference or even be noticeable. Wired/wireless isn’t going to make a difference for 99.9 percent of people, no matter how serious you get about playing with your clan buddies. Get into a professional gaming competition and reach the quarter finals – then and only then do you have the right to moan about input lag, in my opinion.
However, the Sidewinder seems to be clearly aimed at this market (and those who think they can be pro-gamers, etc.) which is why it has a whole load of customisable features for users to, um, customise it with. There’s a slide out drawer on the Sidewinder which is released by pressing a button on the base and which holds up to three weights. The Sidewinder comes with three 10g weights and a single 5g weight so that you can make it more heavy if that’s what you want.
The mouse also comes with a selection of different feet – three sets in total, each of which has a different amount of Teflon in them and so gives a different amount of glide. Both the weights and the feet are stored in sturdy metal box which also doubles as a cable anchor thanks to having a little gap in the slide-on lid.