The Microsoft Explorer Touch mouse invites you to “explore” its unique, touch-sensitive scroll wheel. While the Explorer Touch doesn’t offer multitouch gestures like Apple’s Magic Mouse or Microsoft’s own, flagship Touch Mouse, the Explorer does sport an attractive form factor and quality build.
The Explorer Touch Mouse ($50) gives you a scrolling experience that’s unusual to say the least. It’s pretty cheap, and it’s portable.
In terms of size and weight, the Explorer Touch is a nice mouse. It feels good in the hand, and it has a sleek, minimalistic design.
The mouse boasts 18 months of battery life, and the bottom BlueTrack sensor makes it so that the Explorer Touch can be used on most surfaces with responsive feedback.
The tactile nature of this mouse’s scroll wheel will initially throw you off, but it can become pretty comfortable. What’s interesting is that Microsoft seems to have placed a traditional scroll wheel mechanism under a touch-sensitive strip — you can literally feel and hear the scroll wheel spin under the touch strip after you move your finger. It’s weird, but some people will definitely like the experience.
The Explorer Touch mouse is not a BlueTooth device, so you’ll have to use the tiny USB dongle that Microsoft provides. The good thing about using a receiver is that you get better battery performance. The con is that you have a tiny receiver using up one of your Mac’s USB ports.
Microsoft claims that the Explorer Touch Mouse has 5 customizable buttons, but I had no such luck when trying to get the mouse up and running on my Mac. In fact, the only OS-related function I could get the Explorer Touch to perform was the initiating of Lion’s Mission Control when pressing the scroll strip.
Scrolling isn’t as smooth as Apple’s Magic Mouse or the Magic Trackpad. When using an app like Twitter for Mac, I noticed that scrolling upwards through my timeline on the Explorer Touch wasn’t as good of an experience as I’ve had with other mouses. Also, OS X Lion’s inverse scrolling will make you hate the Explorer Touch Mouse, as it’s incredibly frustrating to try to scroll inversely with what still amounts to a physical scroll wheel.
The Explorer Touch Mouse isn’t for everyone, and Lion users should be wary of this mouse and inverse scrolling. If you’re already hooked on your Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad’s multitouch gestures, then moving to the Explorer Touch will undoubtedly be an unpleasant experience.
If you’re a fan of tactile hardware, then the Explorer Touch may be a good fit. It’s still a good mouse, and Microsoft definitely has something compelling with the scroll strip. It comes down to what you’re looking for in a mouse. And if gestures aren’t on the list, then the Explorer Touch is a well made, cheap mouse that consumers should consider.