Microsoft's new mobile mouse looks and works more like an Apple product than a Microsoft product, sacrificing functionality for style. It's a trade-off that I suspect many will be willing to make, because the Arc Mouse, as it's called, offering a stunningly small and highly portable form factor, one that is unnoticeably light and fits easily in any bag. So if looks and portability are more important to you than comfort and functionality, look no further. The Arc Mouse is the ultimate me generation point and clicker.
The Arc Mouse's sensibilities are first seen in the packaging, which, like the device itself, is very Apple-esque in its minimalism and design sensibilities. The packaging emphasizing the Arc Mouse's very cool arc-based design, putting the device front and center like the featured exhibit at an art museum.
And certainly, that design is much appreciated. In its open, usable position, the Arc Mouse is cute and attractive, a wonder of design that seems to meld the best aspect of arch-based design principles. It's like the Volkswagen Beetle of mice: Cool, hip, and friendly.
What really puts the Arc Mouse over the top from a design perspective, however, is that it can be folded in half for storing and travel, and Microsoft wins major props for two side effects of this capability: The little wireless nubbin (sorry, "snap-in micro-transceiver") that allows the mouse to communicate with your PC is stored by attaching it, via embedded magnets, into the underbelly of the mouse itself. (Tr?s chic!) And Microsoft includes a wonderful little travel bag that you can use to protect the Arc Mouse against the elements in what is, again, a very Apple-like touch. (Maybe that's not fair to Microsoft: Apple rarely supplies protective bags or sleeves for its devices anymore.)
Unfortunately, once you get over the sheer beauty of the Arc Mouse and actually try to use it, the device's failing becomes immediately obvious. More specifically, it's not a very good mouse for anything other than occassional use.
Here's the thing. One of the best functional bits of the Arc Mouse is that it doesn't require any drivers. When you plug the little wireless nubbin into a free USB port on your PC, the Arc Mouse comes to life without needing to find or download drivers. Unfortunately, in this default state, the mouse is too spastic, and the mouse cursor will jump across yours screen at alarming speeds, making its use painful. To use this thing effectively, you'll need to spend time tweaking your mouse settings. But you're even better off just downloading the drivers, because you'll get additional functionality around the various mouse buttons and so on when you do so.
And then there's the actual size and form factor of the mouse. I have large hands, so my early assessment about the size of the mouse was suspect. To correct this, I gave the Arc Mouse to my wife for testing. She is a lefty, has normally-sized hands, and prefers ambidextrous mice like the Philipe Stark mouse she uses regularly. And she's a Mac user. Within two days, the Arc Mouse was dumped unceremoniously on my desk. What went wrong, I asked? My wife reports that the Arc Mouse is too small even for her hands, resulting in an uncomfortable grasping style. And the side buttons, as I had noticed as well, are too far forward to be used. You have to literally move your hand up on the mouse to even reach them. They may as well not be there.
What we're left with is a mouse that is most certainly better than those tiny travel mice you sometimes see people using with their notebook computers. But even with the correct drivers installed, it's just too small and uncomfortable to use for long stretches. And that's true no matter your hand size.
Ultimately, the Arc Mouse is a good fit if you travel a lot, space and weight are at a premium, and you are looking for something to replace the built-in trackpad on your portable PC. But I don't recommend the Arc Mouse for day-to-day use at all. It's just too much of a compromise. And that's too bad, because it's such a gorgeous little device. I just wish Microsoft spent as much time on the functionality as they did on the style. Recommended, but only for the Mac set and others who value style over function.