Microsoft's new Touch Mouse... so close to being awesome!

…And yet, so far. Just got this in the mail today from Amazon (it was a birthday present, but the mouse had not yet been released on my birthday), have used it for about ten minutes, and already have a verdict:

Avoid. :(

It’s almost awesome. The multitouch stuff works really well, and I can see it being a very natural replacement for physical buttons. Scrolling pages by dragging your finger is really, really slick. You can even scroll horizontally by moving your finger right or left. It’s a lot more precise and natural-feeling than a wheel. Swiping your thumb right or left gives you forward/back (this stuff is all configurable, of course). Swiping two fingers up or down minimizes or maximizes the current program. Swiping two fingers left or right will make the currently selected window snap to the left or right side of the screen. You can also do some Windows 7-specific stuff by swiping with three fingers.

I like the aesthetics. The matte black surface, unbroken by buttons or wheels or anything, makes it look like a stealth mouse. I was really hoping that this would be a Windows alternative to Apple’s Magic Mouse, but with better ergonomics.

And there lies the rub. When MS decided to copy Apple’s mouse, they really should have considered NOT copying its ergonomics, or lack thereof. The Touch Mouse is very short–only a bit over an inch tall at its highest point, where the mouse touches your palm, and the front end slopes all the way down to within a quarter inch or less of the desk surface. It’s as long as a full-sized mouse, but it’s rather narrow. The smoothly curved sides wrap back in a bit at the middle of the mouse, which gives your thumb someplace to grip, but there’s no good place to grip it on the other side, with your fingers, which rest further up the body of the mouse, where is is both shorter and lacks the overhang. It’s a bit like trying to grip a convex object lying on a tabletop. Good luck picking it up!

So it’s hard to find a grip on the thing that is at all comfortable. The shape makes it look like it’s designed to be palmed, like the old Intellimouse Explorer, but the mouse is too short to palm. The underhang on either side makes it seem like they want you to clutch it between thumb and a finger, but the only finger that even comes close to resting in the underhang is the pinky, and the narrowness of the mouse makes it very uncomfortable to hold in a thumb-and-pinky grip. I typically grip my mouse with my thumb and ring finger, but there’s just no place to grab on. The mouse is so low and curved at the spot where your ring finger rests, it will just slide off.

So I gave the thumb and pinky approach a try, and within ten minutes, my wrist had started to ache. Yikes! I never get wrist pain when mousing, and I’d rather not start.

So I think it’s back in the box for this bad boy. I’m not sure that I can return it, since it’s opened and used (and was, as I said, a gift). A pity, because I really like the concept, and pretty much everything about it aside from the shape.

So are you saying you don’t like it for the same reasons you don’t like the Magic Mouse? Because I kinda <3 the MM and would love to get something similar for my Windows machine at work. I think Microsoft has a top secret returns mailing address, if you’d like I can PM you my–I mean, their–address.

Yes, I’d say so–if you don’t mind the ergonomics of the Magic Mouse, then you might not mind the ergonomics of the Touch Mouse.

I’ve tried those touch mouses at the Apple store quite a few times. Nope, just not working for me! All these years of using a standard mouse, touch is just to much of a transition. I’ll stick with the standard mouse, please.

EDIT: Just noticed this said “Microsoft”. Oh well, It’s the same concept…