Microsoft Sidewinder X8 Mouse
Microsoft have decided to join the high-dpi party by releasing their wireless Sidewinder X8 gaming mouse that features a 4,000dpi BlueTrack sensor. So is it any good, and how does it compare to another new wireless gaming mouse, the 5,600dpi Razer Mamba.
What’s All This About BlueTrack?
Powered by a 4,000dpi sensor that uses Microsoft’s new BlueTrack technology, the X8 is capable of scanning a surface up to 13,000 times a second, boasts 75g of maximum acceleration and a tracking speed of up to 120 inches per second. Microsoft claim that their BlueTrack technology is superior to both laser and optical and will work on any surface except for glass and mirror, with improved tracking on carpet, granite, marble and wood surfaces. I’m not sure that many gamers will be using their mice on the carpet or have marble computer desks, but it sounds good.
The dpi can be adjusted using three buttons on top of the mouse, situated below the scroll wheel. While just three steps might not seem like much when other mice offer ‘125dpi increments up to maximum’, the setting for each button can be programmed in the driver software to suit your own requirements. I tried it at 1000, 2000 and 4000dpi and it worked very well indeed and at no point did I find myself needing an extra level of dpi.
As already mentioned, the Sidewinder X8 is a wireless gaming mouse. Using 2.4GHz wireless technology it offers lag-free play and with 500MHz polling the X8 is quick to respond to commands. The wireless side of things works extremely well – I didn’t notice any lag and the cursor moved immediately and accurately. A clever feature of the X8 (and one it shares with the Razer Mamba) is that you can use the included USB cable to operate it as a normal wired mouse. The cable is attached to what looks like a hockey puck, but this is a clever puck – it acts as the wireless receiver, a cable tidy, recharging station and is home to two spare sets of feet for the X8. The three different sets of feet can be switched to alter the way the mouse glides on different types of mouse pad.
So Many Buttons
As far as buttons are concerned there are twelve in total, seven of which can be reprogrammed using the driver software. The three dpi buttons are fixed – you cannot reprogram them to another function, and the same goes for the pointless quick launch button that is used for opening Vista’s Games Explorer. Programming macros is a clunky affair – choose your button, assign ‘macro editor’ as the function, create your macro, quit out of the editor and your new macro is assigned to the button. It’s not intuitive, is poorly documented and Microsoft should know better.
Ergonomically, the Sidewinder is kind of average. It’s designed for right-handed gamers, but the chunky shape does not fit as comfortably into the hand as some other rival mice (I much prefer my Razer Deathadder). That’s not to say that it’s no good, as I didn’t experience any discomfort at all when using it, but I never got truly comfortable with it.
Sidewinder X8 Vs Razer Mamba
On paper the Sidewinder X8 has stiff competition from the Mamba in most categories. If high-dpi is your thing then the Mamba’s sensor is way out in front. The wireless technology is superior, as Razer have developed so-called ‘gaming grade’ technology that allows a response time of 1ms (or 1000MHz polling rate if you prefer). That’s exactly half the time it takes for the Sidewinder to react (2ms or 500MHz), but at this level of response you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference.
Both mice offer corded and wireless modes, and both can recharge through their detachable USB cable. However, the Razer Mamba comes with a stylish charging cradle so if you don’t like the cable you can leave it in the box – not so with the Sidewinder X8. As far as looks are concerned I would say that the Mamba wins hands down. It is sleek, stylish and nicely lit whereas the Sidewinder is … none of those things.
But, Microsoft wins in terms of price. The Mamba is pushing the boundaries of most gamers’ pockets with a suggested retail price of $129, whereas the Sidewinder X8 stays on the right side of the $100 psychological barrier at $99 (but more on price below).
There is also Razer’s shocking record when it comes to releasing new mice. The Deathadder and Lachesis both suffered from appalling problems with drivers and firmware that, in some cases, rendered the mice unusable. Both mice have matured into stable products, but if the launch of the Mamba suffers the same problems then it will really damage the new mouse’s credibility. Personally I’d say leave the Mamba until a few months after launch and let the early buyers do the quality testing for you.
Is It Worth It?
So the Sidewinder X8 seems to have most of the features of the Razer Mamba but also falls just short in most areas. I would guess that most gamers will lust after the Mamba, but the crazy price will stop them buying it. However, only suckers pay full RRP … if you look on Amazon you’ll find that the Sidewinder X8 is already being sold for $59. That’s a saving of $40 on RRP after only a couple of weeks on sale, and makes the Sidewinder X8 half the retail price of the Mamba. While the Mamba isn’t available to pre-order on Amazon just yet you can bet that you won’t get such a discount when it does hit the store. If you really want a wireless mouse you can’t go far wrong with a Microsoft Sidewinder X8 at that price!