Back in the late 1980s, Madonna insisted that it was important that you "Express Yourself". A year earlier, pioneering hip hop artists N.W.A. did the same, albeit with a little help from Charles Wright along the way. Twenty-odd years later, it seems that Microsoft has caught the self-expression groove with the Express Mouse, a plain USB mouse decked out with suggestions that you use it to "express your fun side".
Your expressive fun side in this case is neither aggravating the Catholic church nor creating Gangsta rap, but is instead shown through your choice of mouse colour. The Express Mouse is available in a variety of hues, all given fancy marketing names, but that we'll refer to as grey, pink, green, purple and blue. Microsoft sent us the grey model to review, possibly the least expressive of the range. It's worth noting that whatever hue you choose, the colour only extends to the mouse wheel and a thin rubber rim around the body of the device that feeds out into the USB cable. For some odd reason, Microsoft's stuck this on the top left hand side of the mouse, rather than the centre. For right-handed users it provides a finger rest; we suspect left-handed users may find it gets in the way in that position.
The Express Mouse is a two-button, cabled USB mouse with a clickable scroll wheel. That's it. Nothing more to see here.
We're not sure, but we suspect that this is the smallest feature set of any product we've ever reviewed here at CNET Australia. You may now release the streamers and pull the party poppers.
OK, there is just a tiny bit more to it than that. Like most of Microsoft's current offerings, the Express Mouse features the company's BlueTrack laser that promises greater accuracy over most surfaces than a standard optical mouse.
In terms of documentation, the Express Mouse comes with a 73-page Microsoft Product Guide. While that may seem excessive for a mouse, it's actually a generic booklet that covers pretty much every bit of Microsoft hardware, from webcams to keyboards. Its relevance to the Express Mouse is slim, as is the actual product documentation, contained in a single sheet of paper.
We're going to risk the ire of Microsoft's copyright lawyers here and reprint it in full, simply because all that it says is "Insert the connector into a USB port on your computer. Download and install the software (required for full functionality)." That's it. We're all for easy-to-understand documentation, but that's taking brevity to a rather extreme degree, especially as, for the vast majority of users, the second sentence is, in fact, completely redundant; most Windows systems (not to mention Macs) will accept the Express Mouse as a standard USB device and work just fine with no download required.
We plugged the Express Mouse into a number of systems, both with and without downloading Microsoft's Intellipoint software. Frankly, we're not sure why you'd need to bother; we found no difference between using or not using it in our tests. As with other BlueTrack mice, general mousing across a variety of traditionally non-mouse surfaces was improved over a basic optical mouse, but glass surfaces are still a bit of a problem. When we used an iPad 2 as an ad-hoc mouse mat, the Express Mouse had severe tracking issues, although these were alleviated somewhat by switching the iPad 2 on. Presumably the image underneath gave it a better tracking fix.
Despite its promise of "fun" and that it's "designed for your style", what the Express Mouse really offers is Microsoft's current entry-level point into pointing devices. It's perfectly adequate at its job, and some users may like the different colour styles. It's not fancy or decked out with additional buttons, features or wireless capabilities. It's just a mouse.