I have been a fan of the ever shrinking computer since I was in college. Laptops, netbooks, PDAs, my motto these days is small, compact, and light. The whole time, however, there has been one thing the gnawed at the back of my brain…probably due to the numerous hand cramps I have gotten over the years. There is just no good way to control the mouse. This started with the eraser tip controller, which worked well enough, if you don’t mind rubbing against a tiny rubber nub in the middle of your keyboard (which was also prone to accidental swipes). This “evolved” into the current method of control, the trackpad. Oh how I hate the trackpad, rubbing my fingertips raw like a fingerprint eraser. I would gladly pay for any netbook which eschewed this terrible torture device and gave me a more natural means of control. Until then, Microsoft seems to think they can offer a better solution with their new portable mouse, the Arc Mouse.
The Arc Mouse is designed for portability, so you can use it with your laptop. In order to be truly portable, however, a mouse first needs to be wireless, and this one handles that in a very unique fashion. Rather than employing Bluetooth technology, the mouse connects to your computer using a 2.4 Ghz radio. This means it will work with any laptop, whether it is equipped with a Bluetooth radio or not. What’s that? Your computer doesn’t emit 2.4 Ghz radio waves? Yeah, neither does mine. That is why the mouse includes a small USB dongle. Just plug the dongle into your computer, and it is instant connection. The nice thing here is that there are no difficult pairing procedures or connection issues.
The dongle is small enough that you can just leave it plugged into your USB. I left it in there for weeks at a time, while I carried my netbook in my bag, used it on the train, and generally ignored the dongle while it did its work. If you do not wish to keep the dongle plugged into your USB (if your computer is like mine, then you probably have a limited number of ports) then you can safely tuck it into the magnetized carrying slot when it is not in use.
That is awfully convenient. Plug it into your computer again, and within seconds your mouse is ready to go. Like I said, no complicated pairing or connections procedures required.
The other thing your mouse is going to need in order to keep up with the portability you require from a laptop is the ability to go anywhere. This means two things. First, it must work on any surface. And I was really impressed with how well the Arc Mouse pulled this off. The laser in the front of the mouse is extremely sensitive, more so than even most standard laser mice I have used. This means it will work pretty much anywhere. I have used it on my leg, jacket, chair; pretty much any surface except the standard desk, and I never experienced any hesitation.
That being said, I do frequently find myself in cramped quarters on the train, so it would have been nice if the Arc Mouse had been a trackball. I would love to see Microsoft follow this up with the Arc Trackball.
This one is not a trackball, though, it is a mouse, so let’s go ahead and take a look at how it works. What I really like about the Arc Mouse is the way it fits right into the curve of your hand. It is perfectly shaped for your hand, and it is hollowed out underneath in order to maximize the portability. Imagine someone just cut a sliver off of the top of a standard mouse. Now you are getting an idea of the Arc Mouse.
The back fits into the palm of your hand, while your fingers will rest comfortably on the two buttons near the top. A scroll wheel is located in the standard place between the two buttons.
The other button on the mouse is the back button, which is near the front of the left side. Using this button, however, made me wonder for whom this mouse was designed. I think my thumbs are pretty average in size, yet they fell well short of reaching the button. In order for me to reach the back button, I had to move my whole hand off the mouse, which really did not make a lot of sense. The thing was, I have really gotten used to having a back button, so I was perplexed why Microsoft did not place it in the same manner as all of the other mice they have designed and push it back just an inch or two. That would have been perfect.
The final component of portability is compactibility. Microsoft solves this problem by allowing you to fold the mouse in half. Yup, the tail section of the mouse folds into the bottom, giving you a nice, compact accessory which slide easily into any pocket of your gear bag or briefcase.
I was really extremely impressed with this mouse. I have used a number of so-called portable mice before, but I have never used one which could go anywhere as easily as the Arc Mouse.
What I Liked:
compact and portable design
fits perfectly in your hand
easy to connect and use
What Needs Improvement:
back button is poorly placed
I would have liked a trackball
Where to Buy: Microsoft