Microsoft's Sidewinder X8
The Sidewinder X8 is not the type of gaming mouse that tries to masquerade as a normal desktop mouse - this is a loud and proud gaming mouse that almost looks more like a model of a combat aircraft than a computer peripheral. Unlike the XAI and perhaps the Abyssus, the X8 is never going to be mistaken for a no-name brand mouse from the bargain bin.
I guess some might say the X8 is a bit ugly and to an extent I agree. The sharp, precise angled surfaces of the X8 don't exactly give off an essence of elegance and there's really no attempt made by Microsoft to hide some of the 12 buttons subtly into the design of the body - some stand out like a sore thumb.
In time, though, the X8 grows on you. The design works because the X8 isn't trying to be something it isn't and this starts to work from a practical standpoint - there are a lot of buttons, yes, but they're all very accessible while remaining comfortable to use. The body has a fairly generic shape when it comes to where your palm rests and this offers a fairly good comfort level, particularly if you like a fairly large feeling mouse. The only complaint I can imagine for the feel of the X8 is it does perhaps feel a little "hard" - the other three in this roundup somehow feel ever so slightly softer.
With so many buttons you'd expect a fairly robust software package and Microsoft deliver on this front, which is no surprise really given Microsoft is of course known much more for their software than their hardware. The options available cover everything you'd expect such as, of course, programming the buttons (not all 12, but 7, which is still a lot), macros and DPI settings, which are available to modify on the fly via the three buttons on the mouse body just underneath the wheel. Further down the body you'll also find a square button which launches the MS software, making customization exceedingly easy to access.
As the only wireless offering in this roundup of gaming mice, the X8 has an edge for those who want to rid their desk of the cable clutter; although, while you do lose the cable, you will gain a hockey puck looking object, which will actually take up more desk space than a wired solution. This puck acts as the receiver for the mouse and also the charging pod - you unravel a very skinny charging cable and magnetically clip it into the X8 body when you need to charge, effectively turning the X8 into a wired mouse when charging.
As a side note on the wireless, I'm not a huge fan of 2.4GHz peripherals that aren't network related and this happens to be the frequency the X8 uses. The retail package proudly proclaims an interference free implantation, but I literally defied this claim within minutes of using the X8 as streaming video over my wireless network sent the mouse cursor spluttering all over my screen like a remote desktop session on dialup. Some wireless channel config on my router fixed the issue, but combined with the rather large puck, I wonder if a wired version wouldn't have been better, at least for my preferences.
Once everything was good with the wireless, it's hard to fault the performance of the mouse. While the polling rate appears to max out at 500Hz, I'm not sure I can make too much of an issue out of a 1ms difference in effective response time. Like the full bevy of software customization, the X8 offers some level of hardware customization via changeable feet on the bottom of the body - the only of its kind in this roundup. It isn't as cool an implementation as the G9X's variable weight (which the Sidewinder series has seen before in the X6) and multi grip choice, but it's a nice touch which can help the performance of the mouse given your own tastes in glide feel.
Despite some initial hiccups, the Microsoft Sidewinder X8 is no doubt a very solid gaming mouse that won't appeal to everyone, but for those who like the look of this thing from the onset, I can't see disappointment being the end result. The RRP comes in at $US 99.95, which is not as high as you'd expect for the Sidewinder branding and actually only the second most expensive here behind the XAI in real world prices. This is going to be a tough choice.
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