Microsoft SideWinder X8 review

£89
Price when reviewed
Microsoft’s latest assault on the gaming mouse market – the SideWinder X8 – is crammed with kit. The chunky, angular body of the mouse, for instance, is adorned with neat touches and helpful lights. Three small buttons sit above the chromed scroll-wheel and allow for quick switching between 4,000, 1,000 and 500dpi settings, and another button further up will automatically open up the Windows Vista Game Manager.

The X8 has plenty of buttons scattered around the busy-looking chassis, too. As well as the standard offerings, two vertical buttons that sit beneath the thumb can be programmed with macros for frequently used functions.

To the left of the central panel of buttons is a small, red LED screen that provides various status updates, depending on which feature of the X8 is in use. It’ll show which sensitivity you have selected, whether macro mode is enabled, and how much battery power is left if you’ve got the SideWinder plugged into the charger.

More gimmicks can be found within the wireless receiver. The small, magnetic charger affixes to the underside of the X8 with a satisfying weight and also allows it to be charged during use, and unscrewing the top of the receiver reveals two sets of feet that can be attached to the bottom of the SideWinder. Three are included in total, each offering a differing amount of friction; which set you use is up to personal preference, but we’re not convinced many people will genuinely notice and benefit from the difference.

Aside from its many gimmicks, the SideWinder X8 is a solid mouse, but it’s not without foibles. We found that the 1,000dpi setting was the most comfortable – only the most seasoned of gamers will be able to get the 4,000dpi, Bluetrack-powered high level under control – and that the mouse was both smooth and comfortable, with buttons in ideal positions. However, we found the scroll-wheel a major disappointment: despite feeling good under the finger, this didn’t translate to smooth movement, and we had to push uncomfortably hard to get consistent action.

There’s no doubt the X8 has many features that will endear it to hardcore and even professional gamers: the sensitivity settings, programmable buttons and interchangeable feet are somewhat gimmicky but will be appreciated, no doubt, by the small minority who are willing to pay £77 for a mouse.

That price, however, is the X8’s major stumbling block. For £77, we’d expect no less than perfection – the numerous attractive, gamer-friendly features can’t make up for the dodgy scroll-wheel, especially when Razer’s Diamondback 3G offers a similar experience for less than half the price. If you’re a serious gamer who demands the best, then the X8 should obviously be on your shortlist, but for almost everyone else it’s difficult to recommend a £77 mouse, no matter how good it is.

Basic specifications

Type Desktop
Wireless? yes
Wireless protocol 2.4GHz
Technology Blue laser
Middle scroll wheel yes

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