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Microsoft SideWinder Mouse review: Microsoft Sidewinder

The Sidewinder is a good attempt by Microsoft to launch themselves back into the gaming arena after testing the waters with the Habu, but they're not quite there yet.

Craig Simms Special to CNET News
Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.
Craig Simms
3 min read

Sidewinder used to be Microsoft's brand for joysticks, back in the days when joysticks weren't limited to purely flight sim enthusiasts. Now the name is back, this time applied to Microsoft's flagship gaming mouse.


Microsoft SideWinder Mouse

The Good

Three levels of sensitivity. Customisable software with macros and quick turn. Thumb buttons both accessible. Cord retainer.

The Bad

Feels and looks cheap. Too large. Weight system isn't as good as Logitech's. Scroll wheel needs some attention. For right handers only.

The Bottom Line

The Sidewinder is a good attempt by Microsoft to launch themselves back into the gaming arena after testing the waters with the Habu, but they're not quite there yet.

Looking like it escaped from Batman: The Animated Series, the Sidewinder certainly defies all expectations as far as mouse design is concerned. A red glow lights it from the back, a semi-gloss black finish in the middle and moulded rubber on the side to help maintain grip. Despite this, it looks and feels cheaply made.

A weight cartridge system can be ejected from the right hand side, which allows up to three cartridges to be installed -- unfortunately this limits the adjustments, with three 10g and one 5g weight cartridges being included.

The silver thumb buttons on the left side are, for the first time, actually usable. It's dead easy to know which you are hitting at any time, and both are within reach of the average thumb -- after years of missing the jackpot, mouse designers have finally stumbled on a working solution.

The whole mouse gives the feeling of being overly long and wide though -- even this reviewer's large meat hooks felt like they were being stretched too far, even with the additional rest area for the pinky finger. The scroll wheel is nothing special, with slightly larger detents than usual. This is fine in game, but can be a right pain for application and browser use. One problem is that only the centre of the scroll wheel has grip, the outer sides are silky smooth -- causing our finger to slip off more than once during frantic gaming action.

An LED above the side buttons lets you know what DPI you've currently got the mouse set to, as it allows quick, user customisable switching via three buttons beneath the scroll wheel. The same LED also assists when programming macros.

The feet of the mouse are interchangeable, from coarse, to medium to smooth, although it never reaches the same gliding level as Logitech's G5 or G9. They're stored in the same box as the weights, which, cleverly, the mouse cord can be threaded through so you never have to deal with pulling the whole weight of the cord that may have become tangled up with other cords behind your PC -- the mouse simply floats around almost as if it were wireless.

Software, unsurprisingly, is where it's at for Microsoft's Sidewinder. There are a few features which stand out -- like the "Quick turn". In game, you can hold down a button while turning a 360 degree circle. Release the button, and from now on clicking that button will instantly flip you around 180 degrees -- excellent for taking out that enemy that's been tailing you.

Then there's what would have to be one of the better macro editors we've seen, which can be set up through Microsoft's Intellipoint software. This allows any key press or mouse click, as well as customisable time intervals for those key presses and delays in-between. You can also record a macro in game by pressing the macro situated in front of the side buttons, pressing another button to which you want to assign the macro, and then the macro button again. Unfortunately it doesn't record mouse movements, but then, that would likely create a completely unfair advantage that online players would scream "cheat" over.

As mentioned, the mouse just feels slightly too big -- it's almost as if the original Xbox controller designer got their hands on it. You do eventually adjust though, the macro system is fantastic, the "mouse trap" that holds the cord is genius, and it could be argued that having three adjustable dpi buttons is better than Logitech's up/down system. Still, we feel Logitech definitely has the edge in terms of hand comfort (not to mention looks), especially for those extended gaming sessions, and even with the interchangeable feet Microsoft's Sidewinder never has as smooth a ride as the Logitech competitors.

The Sidewinder is a good attempt by Microsoft to launch themselves back into the gaming arena after testing the waters with the Habu, but they're not quite there yet.