Review: Microsoft Bluetrack Explorer mouse

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Microsoft’s latest revision to its flagship “Explorer” line of mice features the new “Bluetrack” technology, which Microsoft says will track on just about any surface, including many that have been problematic in the past. Is the Explorer all they say or should you save your money for a competitor?

I personally have never had too much trouble with the tracking on my mice; using a good mousepad is essential in my opinion, and the plain black padded offerings from SteelSeries and Razer have worked with every mouse I’ve tested. The Bluetrack technology seems more suited to something like a travel mouse like the Explorer Mini, which will be reviewed shortly. In any case it can’t hurt to have a next-generation sensor in your desktop mouse, right?

So the first thing you’ll notice about the mouse is that it’s a very sleek-looking thing. Its styling is similar to the bundled wireless mouse I reviewed a while ago, and that mouse turned out to be rather bad, so the looks actually made me quite afraid. And rightly so, unfortunately. The major design flaw I noticed in the other mouse is present in the Explorer, though somewhat less so. The flaw is that when you hit a thumb button, it practically lifts the mouse off the table because the button is underneath a bit of a ridge and the force you naturally exert on it is slightly upwards. There’s no way to grip the mouse that can counter this force without pressing the thumb button in a weird way or clicking another button accidentally. Seriously, this kind of ergonomic flaw is pretty obvious and it’s irritating to me that Microsoft Hardware, which puts out some great products, didn’t catch and correct it. I should say here that the Explorer Mini does not have this problem. Why is that?

Apart from the button issue, how does the mouse fare? Great, actually. It’s a comfortable mouse to hold and despite looking fragile it feels very solid. The sensor is too far down the mouse for my taste, but then I’m a real “twitch” mouser and most people use their wrist and move the whole mouse more, so this should suit them fine. The sensor had no hiccups as promised, and worked on the slab of marble they sent me (!).

The drivers are the serviceable Microsoft Mouse ones. Nothing to say there, really. They work fine for XP or OS X, though motion felt weird on OS X (probably not Microsoft’s fault).

If you can get past the thumb-button issue, this is a totally decent mouse. The problem is, it’s priced waaay too high. $80 right now will buy you some of the best mice on the market, mice that have way more features and no design flaws. When an MX Revolution or Razer Death Adder can be had for 80 bucks, there’s just no way I can recommend this mouse to anybody at all unless you really want to stick with the Microsoft brand. Buy here or at your favorite e-tailer.

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