March 25, 2010


Microsoft Wireless Mouse 2000. Windows 7, Vista or XP (excluding XP 64 bits), or Mac OS X v10.4x-10.6x. Microsoft. $29.95.

Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500. Windows 7, Vista or XP (excluding XP 64 bits), or Mac OS X v10.4x-10.6x. Microsoft. $29.95.

     The personalization of the personal computer is proceeding apace. No longer are consumers required to buy beige or black machines that differ from each other primarily in branding: the multicolor case for PCs and high-tech designs from Apple and some niche manufacturers, such as Alienware (now part of Dell), allow today’s users to express their personalities through their color and form choices (while also providing some nice additional profits to OEMs that charge extra for nonstandard color overlays). The same is true of peripherals: the days of one-size-and-one-design-fits-all keyboards and mice are long gone. Now you can not only proclaim your style preferences through your hardware but also – at least equally importantly – you can tailor essential computer equipment to the way you choose to work.

     Microsoft’s hardware division – called (what else?) Microsoft Hardware – has been in the shadow of what is, after all, a software company for more than two decades. During all that time, it has turned out well-engineered, tasteful, reliable and highly functional equipment that makes the use of computers easier and can even make it more fun. Two new Microsoft mice continue the division’s tradition while fine-tuning users’ ability to pick equipment that will make their lives easier and more pleasant. Both the Microsoft Wireless Mouse 2000 and the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 are solid, ambidextrous, reliable and smooth-functioning units that track well on just about any surface except mirrors or clear glass. Remember mouse pads? They have been obsolete for years (except as decorations), but if they weren’t, the tracking ability of these mice – using a system that Microsoft calls “BlueTrack Technology” – would oust them soon enough. You can track with these mice on a chair arm, a sofa cushion, the table in a restaurant, the floor, even a pants leg or a skirt. And yes, they work just fine on desks, too.

     And these are tailored mice (all right, that phrase sounds weird, but it is accurate). The Microsoft Wireless Mouse 2000 is a standard size, designed in a handsome combination of gray and black that is stylish but will not be out of place in even the most conservative office. The 2.4 GHz wireless connection is solid and reliable, and the USB minitransceiver snaps into the bottom of the mouse for easy portability. The mouse’s rubber side grips are pleasant to hold even if you have sweaty palms while on deadline for a major project. And the mouse has an overall feeling of solidity that will give a user confidence in its continued reliability and long-term performance.

     The Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 is made in a smaller size that makes it a “mobile” rather than standard mouse in Microsoft’s terminology. It shares many design elements with the Microsoft Wireless Mouse 2000, but there are some significant differences that show just how much personalization is available in computer equipment today. One obvious (if nonfunctional) difference between these products is that the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 is available in two colors: gray (here called Loch Ness Gray) with black or pink (here called Dragon Fruit Pink) with black. The “pink” is a bit of a misnomer if you are thinking of Barbies: the color is more subdued than “hot,” being a sort of pleasant rose. The point, though, is that you can get the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 either in the same striking but fairly traditional color combination in which the Microsoft Wireless Mouse 2000 comes, or in something a little splashier.

     Functionally, the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 also has Microsoft’s BlueTrack Technology, rubber side grips and a shape that works equally well for right-handed and left-handed users. The two mice share button and tilt-wheel designs. And both are USB-powered. But their transceivers are different. The one that comes with the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 is called a “nano transceiver” and is designed to remain plugged into a laptop while the user is moving around. It fits solidly into a USB port and protrudes so little that it does not dislodge even under toss-it-in-the-bin airport security conditions. To accommodate this design and prevent fast battery drainage, the mouse has its own on/off switch. And speaking of batteries, the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 uses one AA battery, while the larger Microsoft Wireless Mouse 2000 uses two. Microsoft claims battery life of up to eight months, which may be a tad exaggerated (based on experience with earlier models of its mice) but is in the right range. You certainly won’t need to carry packages of AA cells with you all the time while using these mice.

     So here are two mice, equally well engineered, likely to be equally durable, equally attractive in design, equally easy to use, and equal in price. Clearly, the choice of one or the other is a matter of – what else? – personal taste. Some people will find that their hands are more comfortable with the larger mouse, some with the smaller. Some will want a color choice; some will not care. Some will want a lighter mouse to carry around; some will not find weight a factor (in truth, neither mouse is heavy at all). Some will like the convenience of a transceiver that stays plugged in; some will worry that that arrangement may prove a problem over time and will prefer a transceiver that comes out and snaps into the mouse itself for transport. From a strictly functional viewpoint, as well as from a price standpoint, either of these new Microsoft Hardware products is a top-notch choice. But there is more than strict functionality to consider in hardware and peripheral purchases today – thanks, in part, to products like these. So feel free to make a selection based purely on your personal taste. That is what computing, especially on-the-go-computing, is coming to these days.

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