Section 20.7. Our Picks


20.7 Our Picks

We hate this. We really do. This section is a sweep for Microsoft. Before anyone accuses us of being in the pay of Microsoft, please understand that we get as mad at Microsoft as anyone else does. It just so happens we think Microsoft makes the best mice available.

Logitech mice are generally a bit less expensive than comparable Microsoft models, and some people actually prefer them, but whenever we try a competing model we invariably find ourselves coming back to Microsoft. Some also prefer tablets to mice or trackballs, but we have insufficient experience with tablets to have formed any valid opinions concerning them.

Here are the mice and trackballs we use and recommend:

Inexpensive mechanical mouse

Microsoft Basic Mouse, Wheel Mouse, or IntelliMouse. We like to keep an extra mouse or two around so we'll always have a spare when we're building a system or need to replace a failed mouse. Either connects to a PS/2 port. Both are the original straight-sided "Dove bar" form rather than the curved shape that Microsoft calls ergonomic, making them equally usable with either hand. The two-button Basic Mouse and the three-button Wheel Mouse are both so inexpensive $12 or so for the Basic Mouse and a couple dollars more for the Wheel Mouse that there's no point to using a no-name mouse. Either of these mice is excellent for building ultra low-cost systems. But do consider spending $5 or $10 more for an optical mouse. (

Ergonomic mechanical mouse

Microsoft IntelliMouse. If you prefer the curved sides and humped back that Microsoft calls ergonomic, and you don't want an optical mouse, the PS/2 IntelliMouse is the best choice. Other than the ergonomic style, it resembles the Wheel Mouse in features and functions. We use these mice on an older KVM and on our notebook system, neither of which supports optical mice. But for general use, you're much better off using an optical mouse.

Optical mouse

Microsoft IntelliEye mice. Microsoft manufactures three corded versions of their optical IntelliEye mice, two of which are ergonomic. All connect to a PS/2 or USB port.

WheelMouse Optical

This standard-size mouse is an optical version of the three-button IntelliMouse. Robert uses WheelMouse Optical mice on supplementary systems.

IntelliMouse Optical

This mouse is essentially a WheelMouse Optical with two additional buttons. Robert uses an IntelliMouse Optical on his main system, with the two extra buttons programmed for web browser control functions. The extra buttons on the IntelliMouse Optical also make it an ideal gaming mouse for serious players of FPS games like Quake.

IntelliMouse Explorer

This mouse is a larger version of the IntelliMouse Optical. Barbara uses an IntelliMouse Explorer on her main system. Although her hands are not large, she finds the oversize Explorer more comfortable to use than a standard size mouse, and less likely to cause hand pain after extended use.

We use Microsoft IntelliEye optical mice on nearly all our systems. Because they are sealed and have no moving parts, they are more reliable and more precise than mechanical mice, and they never need cleaning. We think they're the best mouse available, and recommend them even for users on a tight budget.

Although Microsoft optical mice work properly with most systems, we know of two compatibility issues, both related to the increased current draw of the optical mice used on PS/2 ports relative to the current draw of standard mechanical mice. Some notebook systems provide inadequate power to the PS/2 port to drive the LED used in Microsoft optical mice, which means the red-light mice simply cannot be used with those systems. Also, we've experienced odd behavior on several models of electronic KVM switches when using red-light mice. The mouse may not be recognized after a port change, or may stop working or become jerky for no apparent reason.

Cordless mouse

Microsoft Cordless Wheel Mouse or Wireless Wheel Mouse. If you find your mouse cord is always getting in the way, one of these cord-free mice may be the solution. Both are roller-ball IntelliMice. The only real difference is that that Cordless has two buttons plus a wheel, whereas the Wireless has four buttons plus a wheel. They include a digital radio receiver that connects to a PS/2 mouse port. The receiver and mouse can use either of two channels, allowing two of these mice to operate in close proximity without interference. The receiver cord allows it to be placed several feet from the PC, and the mouse operates between 20 cm (8") and one meter (39") from the receiver, giving you about a six-foot range. The radio receiver is powered by the PC, and the mouse uses two standard AAA alkaline cells. We don't know how long they'll last, because our first set hasn't died yet. (And, more than two years after those words were written, our first set still hadn't died yet, although we haven't used the cordless mouse extensively.)

Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer Wireless. This rather expensive mouse is essentially the IntelliMouse Explorer with the cord missing and a receiver that plugs into a USB port. The IntelliMouse Explorer Wireless uses two AA batteries, which need replacing fairly often if you use the mouse heavily. Still, you can't beat a red-eye mouse for usability, and the convenience of wireless comes at the small cost of replacing the batteries periodically.


Microsoft Trackballs. Microsoft no longer makes the IntelliMouse Trackball that we recommended in the previous edition. That trackball was basically a mechanical IntelliMouse with the ball sticking out the top. Unlike any other trackball we'd then seen, the IntelliMouse Trackball was designed to have the ball manipulated with the index finger rather than the thumb, and it's still our favorite. Microsoft replaced the original model with two IntelliEye trackballs, which offer the same advantages as the IntelliEye mice. These two models differ primarily in where the ball is placed. The Trackball Optical puts the ball on the left side near the middle, where it can be manipulated by the thumb. The Trackball Explorer puts the ball at the top front, where it can be manipulated by the index finger. We prefer the latter, but suggest you try both, because some people prefer using their thumbs.

For our most recent detailed recommendations by brand name and model number, visit:

    PC Hardware in a Nutshell
    PC Hardware in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition
    ISBN: 059600513X
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2002
    Pages: 246

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