Microsoft were busy at the recent Leipzig Show, bringing with them two new bits of PC gaming hardware. The first was this, the Microsoft Sidewinder X5 Gaming Mouse, and the other was the Sidewinder X6 keyboard.
Under the skin the Microsoft Sidewinder X5 is identical to the previous Sidewinder, powered by a 2,000 dpi laser sensor. Like the original, the new Sidewinder X5 has buttons on top for varying the dpi between three levels (400, 800, 2000). The dpi settings for these three buttons can be adjusted in the driver software, and the current setting is indicated by a glowing red button.
With up to 2,000 dpi the Sidewinder X5 is in the mid-range of headline-grabbing DPI levels. This makes it a good all-rounder which should satisfy most gamers who don’t have the fine hand control of a top surgeon.
At full sensitivity the cursor feels very responsive, and in FPS games it helps your reaction times tremendously over a non-gaming mouse. The DPI buttons are also great when you switch back to the Windows desktop so you can tone down the cursor movement for the boring stuff.
There are a total of nine buttons on the Sidewinder X5, five of which are programmable (left, right, mousewheel and two side buttons. You can add to that the three DPI buttons, and there’s another buttons for opening up the Windows Vista games explorer.
Five programmable buttons is again mid-range in the gaming mouse market, but should also be enough for most gamers to add a few in-game actions to the mouse.
The two side buttons are unusual in that they are ‘vertical’ buttons, one placed above the other, unlike most other mice where the side buttons tend to be side by side. It takes a few minutes to adjust to the layout but once you’re familiar with it you tend not to notice the difference.
The driver software is typically Microsoft, making do without the flashy screens that often make other manufacturer’s software difficult to use. The screens are laid out logically and it’s easy to program the buttons to do exactly what you want.
While the X5 is a makeover of the original Sidewinder design, it does miss out in some of the more interesting features of the original. For a start there’s no LCD display, which used to display the current DPI setting. You’re also missing the ability to record macros on the fly, there are no adjustable weights and no interchangeable feet. It really is a cut-down Sidewinder, but this is also reflected in the reduced RRP of $59.99/£44.99 (against the previous Sidewinder at $79.99/£59.99).
So is there anything wrong with the mouse? Well, some people didn’t like the feel of the original Sidewinder (I thought it was fine, even after a long gaming session it felt reasonably comfortable). The shape of the X5 hasn’t been changed at all, so I’m sure the same complaints will surface.
The biggest problem for the X5 is it’s older brother, the original Sidewinder. A quick look on Ebay will reveal the fact that it can currently be bought for significantly less than the RRP of the new X5. I saw a US auction with a Buy-It-Now of $37.99 while in the UK you could get one sent to you today for around £32, making it only two thirds the price of the new model. Seeing as the original has those extra features … well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it makes a better buy. However, in time the X5 will attract similar discounts and should become cheaper, but until then I can’t recommend it.