In my review of the Microsoft Explorer Mouse, I noted that the software giant's latest full-sized pointing device was just about perfect for my needs. But what about its diminutive relation, the Explorer Mini? It packs the same blue laser technology into a smaller, more portable form factor. Is it just as good?
Almost. In the past, such mice were referred to as notebook mice, because Microsoft assumed that most people would want such a small device for on-the-road use only. But what they've discovered is that people just have preferences for different sized mice, and some people simply like to use a smaller mouse. Thus the name change, though I do think this particular mouse is better suited to portable use than with a desktop PC.
The similarities between the full-sized Explorer Mouse and its Mini cousin are many. Both utilize the revolutionary BlueTrack laser technology, which allows the devices to work properly on a virtually any surface. I'd imagine this is more useful on the go, frankly, because you never know where you're going to end up on the road, whereas your home-based computing is usually more of a known quantity.
Both feature similar right-handed form factors and designs, with a series of high-quality gray plastics and other materials, including a grippy area around the right side and back, and a nicely curved depression for your thumb. Both feature five buttons and a scroll wheel. The both utilize the same USB dongle, which is a bit big for my tastes and even more so considering the mobile scenarios that will be more common with the Mini. As with the full-sized mouse, the Mini features a depression on its bottom for storing the dongle; when you press the dongle into this depression, the mouse shuts off, preserving battery life.
As for differences, there are a few, some in favor of the Mini and some to its detriment. Obviously, the Mini is smaller and, as you can see from the photo below, it looks like a two-thirds scale Explorer Mouse.
Where the full-sized mouse includes a rechargeable battery and a handy recharging plate, the Mini utilizes a single normal AA battery and includes no recharging capabilities. You can't even use it with the full sized mouse's recharging plate if you happen to have one. So while that's one less thing to remember to pack, you're also going to have to remember to pack extra AA batteries. It's kind of a wash, I guess.
On the plus side, Microsoft does throw in a handy travel bag for storing the mouse and its dongle on the go. (This is similar to, but bigger than, the bag it includes with the Microsoft Arc Mouse.)
In use, the Explorer Mouse Mini tracks and works as well as does its bigger sibling. I happen to have large hands and thus prefer the full-sized version, but I could see packing the Mini for laptop use on trips and will do just that in the coming weeks. It's a handsome and comfortable little mouse, and unlike that Arc Mouse, it fits well in the hand despite its size and its side buttons are actually reachable in normal use. I prefer this mouse over the Arc Mouse by a dramatic measure.
Ultimately, any decision between the Explorer Mouse and Explorer Mouse Mini will come down to your feelings about mouse size and any objections about the lack of a recharger. I think this latter lacking is the only serious issue, though I also believe that, ergonomically speaking, bigger mice are superior for long sessions at the computer. Still, the Explorer Mouse Mini is high recommended, and it will be a regular road companion going forward.