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Explorer Mini Mouse (BlueTrack)

Explorer Mini Mouse (BlueTrack)

Platform: PC Games
Category: Mice & Trackballs

Not too long ago I had the chance to review Microsoft’s new Explorer Mouse with BlueTrack Technology. For those who didn’t read that review, BlueTrack technology has Microsoft claiming that their mouse can be used on virtually any surface including wood, marble, granite, carpet, and fabric. I wholly recommended the mouse to our readers based on my time with it. Overall I was quite impressed with what the technology had to offer. The ability to use it on any surface was pretty impressive and my personal opinion was that ergonomically, it wasn’t a bad either. Well it seems that the boys from Redmond have also released a new Explorer Mini Mouse that seems to be aimed at laptop (notebook or netbook) users. Microsoft was kind enough to send us here at GameBoyz a unit to put through its paces. So how does the smaller Explorer mouse stack-up? Read on.

What is this BlueTrack Technology?

As with my initial review of the regular Explorer Mouse, I thought it would be prudent to explain what Microsoft’s new BlueTrack technology is all about. As I did in my initial review, I thought it would be best to let Microsoft explain their own technology, therefore I quote the following from Microsoft’s website:

“BlueTrack Technology—How It Works

Microsoft-Designed CMOS Chip

The Explorer Mouse uses a proprietary, Microsoft-designed complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) chip with advanced algorithms and pixel architecture for more precise tracking. It is Microsoft's fourth-generation application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) using CMOS technology.

Blue Specular Optics

Microsoft's proprietary high-angle imaging optics generate more exact surface images—even of shiny surfaces such as granite and marble—instead of blurry, out-of-focus images, as can be produced by many of the leading laser mice. And blue light helps create high-resolution, high-contrast images for better navigation.

Four Times Wider and More Diffuse Beam for Better Imaging and Tracking

The wider beam enables illumination of a larger surface area and allows more light to return to the sensor. This helps for tracking on irregular surfaces such as carpet, where a smaller beam could get lost between the individual fibers. The BlueTrack Technology light source is optimized to provide illumination at the tracking surface that is more uniform than current laser or optical mice.

This illumination is accomplished by using a new optical element, never before used in a mouse. The light source is encapsulated in a diffusing optic that smoothes out hot spots within the illumination profile. While the concept of diffused lighting is well known, the application of diffused light sources to mice is a Microsoft proprietary technology.

Incoherent Blue Light

Laser mice use coherent light that's easily disrupted by dust and dirt, leading to poor tracking. The Explorer Mouse's incoherent blue light doesn't have the extreme sensitivity to dust, so the signal quality is maintained. This means your mouse will provide excellent performance even in a less than clean environment—you'll get great precision performance in a dusty workshop or outdoors just as you do on an ideal clean surface.”

Ok, does that make sense? Techno-babble aside, it is my basic understanding that the new CMOS sensor combined with the way that blue light is diffused is more accurate to read then other laser or optical mice. So that, in a nutshell, is how BlueTrack technology works.

What’s in the Package?

Included in the Explorer Mini Mouse’s package is the mouse, a 2.4GHz USB receiver, a software disc, a carrying case to protect the mouse when transported, and an AA battery. When I opened up the package’s contents and finally got the mouse in my hands I was pretty surprised with the look and feel of the Mini Mouse. It is truly a ‘miniaturized’ version of the full size Explorer Mouse. So needless to say, the feel, even though smaller, was very similar to what I had experienced when I reviewed the larger mouse.

Thoughts and Impressions

After exploring what the package had to offer I snapped in the battery then I loaded up the IntelliPoint software onto my computer from the included disc. I found the new mouse in the software’s menu, plugged in the 2.4GHz receiver and I was ready to go. As with its bigger brother, should you wish to customize (remap) the buttons on the mouse you can do so using the IntelliPoint software, but I found I didn’t need to as I just liked the set-up right out of the box.

Again, given that this is a ‘miniaturized’ version of the larger Explorer mouse; I noted all the same things I did when I did my initial review of the bigger mouse. This includes the sexy blue glow emitted from around the chrome like body too. This mouse looks just as darn good as the larger one. Can a mouse be ‘sexy’? I think what really surprised me is that this is truly the Explorer mouse shrunk down. You are given the exact same buttons as the full size one. There are a total of five buttons on the body of the mouse: two on the left hand side of the mouse, two on top (standard left and right click) and the scroll wheel is also used as a button. Speaking of the scroll wheel, it is very smooth and quiet too and I liked how it felt.

I was somewhat apprehensive about using a smaller mouse given that I am so used to a full sized one. My biggest fear was that the size would be uncomfortable. Well my fears were quelled as I started to use the Explorer Mini Mouse. The shape was more natural then I had thought it would be, and although the feel was much smaller, it was far from uncomfortable and really grew on me. And given that I am already used to the regular Explorer mouse, this smaller version was not hard to get used too. That being said, even if you aren’t using the larger Explorer, you should become accustomed to this mouse with relative ease.

As this mouse if really geared for laptop computers the portability and functionality are key here. You can store the 2.4GHz receiver in the bottom of the mouse and store everything in the carrying case for travel. The case protects the mouse from scratches or scuffs during transport in your laptop case. Unlike the larger mouse, this mouse is not rechargeable. To power the mouse you only need one AA battery. Microsoft claims that you can use this mouse for months at a time before having to have to change the battery, and so far, after a few weeks, I haven’t had any issues with power consumption. Now I can’t speak about going for months, as I just don’t have that kind of time, but should anything stand out after a extended use in this area I will make the necessary changes to this review. As with most wireless mice you’ll get a warning when you are low on power giving you the expectation that sooner or later you’ll have to change the battery.

So the big question is how does this mouse perform on various surfaces? Given that this is a mouse really suited for laptops, both the technology of the BlueTrack and the design of the mouse play in its favour. In terms of the latter, the Teflon pads on the bottom allow the mouse to glide over any surface you throw at it with relative ease. From desktops and tables to carpets or clothes, this mouse glides with no noted problems.

In terms of the BlueTrack technology, I would have agree with Microsoft that it works pretty much on any technology. As I did with my review of the regular mouse, I put the Mini Mouse through its paces on a fabric couch, laminate floor, tile floor, linoleum floor, paper, news paper, kitchen table, kitchen counter, bed sheets, the arm of an office chair, and even my hoodie and cargo pants. And given that this mouse is all about portability I tried it in my car, on my car dash, car roof and car seats. At all times I found absolutely no problem with the Explorer Mini Mouse’s tracking abilities. Given that everything I threw at the Explorer Mouse did not cause it to stutter is reason alone to look positively at Microsoft’s new mouse and new technology.

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