Microsoft TouchMouse review
Microsoft’s latest mouse has been specifically designed for Windows 7. Fusing one-, two- and three-fingered multitouch with an ambidextrous mouse design, the TouchMouse is Microsoft’s latest attempt to bring gesture control to a Windows desktop near you.
The button action is very similar to that of Apple’s Magic Mouse: rather than individual buttons, the whole of the top shell clicks downwards. A stroke of a single finger emulates the absent scroll wheel; flicking the thumb back and forth across the mouse’s edge skips back and forward through web pages; and vertical two-fingered swipes maximise, restore and minimise windows, while horizontal movements snap the active window across the screen.
Three-fingered swipes reveal the best feature: an Exposé-style application switcher. Sweep upwards and all the open programs and windows appear tiled across the screen. It’s hugely useful; in fact, so much so we wonder why it isn’t integrated into Windows 7 by default.
Thanks to the BlueTrack laser, cursor control remained accurate and judder-free on pretty much any surface we tried, be it a trouser leg, sofa, patterned desk or just a book. In fact, our only physical complaint was due to the two wide feet on the mouse’s base; compared to our usual IntelliMouse Explorer, the TouchMouse doesn’t glide anywhere near as smoothly over our desk surface.
It also feels a little heavy due to the two AA batteries inside, but it’s solid and well made. The USB wireless receiver stows away in the mouse’s underside when not in use, and a physical on/off switch stops the batteries from draining needlessly when the mouse is idle.
The multitouch functions are undeniably neat, but extended testing revealed that it’s all too easy to activate them by accident. We often minimised and maximised windows with unintentional finger motions, while all it took was the lazy brush of a thumb to unceremoniously dump us back to a previous web page or folder view. On other occasions, it took a couple of attempts to get gestures, or even right-clicks, to register at all. It’s not infallible.
Then there’s the issue of comfort. Larger hands will find it a touch on the small side. The constant need to adjust our grip to perform two- and three-fingered gestures, as well as the regular flexing of fingers to perform forward or backward gestures actions doesn’t help, either; a day with the TouchMouse left us with noticeably more hand fatigue than a standard mouse.
While it’s easy to like the concept of the TouchMouse, we’re not convinced it adds anything vital to the Windows 7 experience. The ergonomics aren’t quite right, and there simply isn’t the slickness of operation that Apple achieves with its MacBook trackpads, for example. With a traditional mouse available for less than a third of the price, and arguably more comfortable to use, £70 for the TouchMouse is a touch too much.
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