SAN FRANCISCO (03/21/2000) - When Microsoft Corp.'s IntelliMouse Explorer appeared last fall (see November 1999 New Products, www.pcworld.com/nov99/intellimouse), I praised its groundbreaking optical tracking technology--which replaced the traditional rolling mouse ball--but criticized its righties-only design. Microsoft has fixed that problem and improved overall functionality. The $55 IntelliMouse Optical costs $20 less than the Explorer, seems sturdier, and is ambidextrous.
Like its predecessor, the IntelliMouse Optical has no moving parts. As a result, it can maneuver easily without requiring periodic cleaning or a mouse pad. An eye on the underside captures 1500 images per second of any surface the mouse rests on. The IntelliMouse Optical connects to either a USB port (Windows 98 and later) or a PS/2 port.
The mouse's ingenious scallop shape, with left and right buttons and a middle scroll wheel/button, comfortably accommodates either hand. You can program all five buttons (two on either side of the mouse plus the scroll button) to perform mouse or navigational functions (like double-clicking or moving forward and back). The Optical demands 29MB of hard disk space versus less than 2MB for Logitech's customizable Mouseman+. But most people can spare the space--and this state-of-the-art input device certainly repays the sacrifice.
Smoothie: The IntelliMouse Optical has no moving parts.
Pro: Ambidextrous, no moving parts, can be used on any surface.
Con: Uses 29MB of hard disk space.
Value: Exceptional comfort and convenience for lefties and righties.
List price: $55