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Everyone that has used a notebook computer for an extended period of time knows that pointing sticks and touch pads, while nice in theory, are not the friendliest of input devices. Thusly, the obvious solution is a portable computer mouse. Wired mice, however, are a hassle, and most of the wireless models have large, annoying transceivers, making them an absolute bane to portability. Microsoft, through the Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500, may have just the solution the mobility crowd is vying for. The mouse features a "nano" 2.4 GHz transceiver, small form factor, and Microsoft's proprietary "BlueTrack" technology. Read on to discover if the 3500 and BlueTrack are a road warrior's delight, or a neatly packaged disaster in waiting.
• Warranty Terms: 3 years limited
• Product Height: 3.75"
• Product Width: 2"
• Product Depth: 1.25"
• Left/Right-Handed Design: Ambidextrous
• Cordless/Wireless: Yes
• Batteries Needed: One AA included
• Noise level: 26 - 31.5 dBA
• Connection Type: Wireless USB
• BlueTrack technology
• Ambidextrous design
• 2.4GHz wireless connectivity
• Nano transceiver
PC and Mac compatible
• Operates on a single AA alkaline battery (included)
• 8-Month Battery Life
• ON/OFF Switch
Microsoft's Product Page
Price (at the time of review): $19.69 @ Amazon; MSRP: $29.95
Microsoft's packaging appears to be perfect for a retail store. The box is small, and it can easily be hung on a rack. During my visit to a retail store, however, I discovered that they sit very poorly on retail shelves (without being hung). The bottom shelf looked like a disaster area, with Microsoft mice haphazardly scattered everywhere. Another issue with the retail packaging is security. Before going to said retail store, I checked over the phone and online to confirm that they did indeed have four "Loch Ness Gray" 3500s. Upon arrival to the location, I searched high and low, but could only find the aforementioned "Dragon Fruit Pink" 3500 disaster area. Finally, I had an employee scavenge the store, and he found one remaining mouse hidden in a nondescript rack. He explained to me, that "customers" like stealing these mice, because it is easy to cut the front mouse compartment out of the box and walk out of the store. That definitely explains why there were only "Dragon Fruit Pink" mice left! Microsoft needs a more secure package for their 3500, especially for the sake of their retail affiliates.
The front of the box highlights key information about the product; especially Microsoft's notorious "BlueTrack" technology. I hope, however, that people don't get confused while purchasing this product and equate BlueTrack to Bluetooth. Maybe Microsoft could put a marketing blurb on the packaging about how RF wireless is more reliable than Bluetooth for mice. On the back of the box, Microsoft sprinkled in a few 3500 "action shots", and outlined some product features. Also noted is Microsoft's limited three year warranty. It is limited in that, you must save your proof of purchase, and they will refuse you service if hardware tampering is evident (source). The terms also outline Microsoft providing an equal replacement based on depreciation. If it's helpful, here's a link to the Microsoft support website.
Inside the Packaging:
Thanks to Microsoft's blister packaging free design (it seems that corporate finally got the message), removing the product is incredibly easy. On the back of the box, there are three or so taped over edges; cut through those, and pull the back lid off. Inside you will find a large, plain cardboard insert that contains both the mouse and its accessories. The included items are at the bare minimum, but Microsoft does include everything they need (actually, I don't think they needed the manual, per say). I really would have liked to see Microsoft include some kind of pouch (I am using a small jewelry bag for my 3500). I will, however, applaud Microsoft on including a high-quality Duracell battery.
The 3500 Itself:
The mouse itself is incredibly tiny, but still feels extremely comfortable in my palm (and I have large hands). Most smaller mice opt for a boxy design, but that just leads to discomfort; I'm glad that Microsoft realized took note of that. The primary and secondary buttons give an extremely satisfying click (much better than the Microsoft Arc). I'm also happy to see that Microsoft incorporated a "click" scroll wheel instead of a smooth scrolling wheel; this allows you to have much more tactile feedback. There are no tertiary buttons; no previous and forward, et cetera. That omission isn't too serious of a loss considering how streamlined the 3500 is. On the back, is the "Microsoft Genuine" sticker, transceiver bay, battery slot, power switch, Teflon pads, and the ever mysterious BlueTrack sensor. Before we talk about the sensor, I'd like to note something about Teflon mice feet. They don't make sense! If you have a mouse that is used on a variety of rough surfaces, why would you have a thin layer of material that can wear down within a year? Sure you can purchase Teflon tape, but why bother!? The solution is ceramic mouse feet, but so few models actual feature it. Another quick point about the unit, is the transceiver. It's very small, and fits comfortably in the mouse. It isn't, however, flush with a computer's USB port, and sticks out slightly more than Logitech's nano transceiver. So be warned, if you have a tight slip case, you aren't going to be able to leave the transceiver plugged in.
I've noticed that a lot of reviews don't exactly explain what BlueTrack is, and I feel that it is important for the end user to know what they are buying. So, I found a minuscule version of the picture above, vectorized the graphic, and retyped the text. All of that image manipulation paid off, and let me show you the sensor in all of its glory. In a traditional optical sensor, a red LED bounces light off of your mousing surface, which allows a small CMOS (like in your camera) to take hundreds of pictures a second. In a laser mouse, the LED is replaced with a small, but much more precise laser that allows the mouse to capture more detail, and track at a higher DPI resolution. With BlueTrack, optical LED technology is given a second wind. Microsoft elected to use a more precise blue LED (not red). The LED casts a more focused laser like beam through a specular lens, and an improved CMOS and high angle imaging optic capture more detail. This allows BlueTrack mice to work on almost any surface available, without being affected by things like dust.
Using the least scientific methods possible, I set out to quantitatively determine the 3500's performance. What resulted was a qualitative analysis of a rather nifty mobile gadget. The RF sensor was tested to work at over 25 feet, which is shockingly impressive. And, because of the lack of Bluetooth, the mouse wasn't particularly laggy during photo editing and gaming tests (wired is, however, still king in this area). In terms of the sensor's advertised abilities, I was left very impressed by BlueTrack. Microsoft's proprietary sensor and software algorithms absolutely stole the show. I noticed that, when trying the mouse of a strange surface, the tracking was slightly "jumpy". This made is obvious that Microsoft put a lot of work into the onboard hardware. The jumpiness dissipates after about five seconds, and the mouse (and sensor) normalizes to the surface - impressive! I tried wood, marble, granite, fabric, my cat, and even a regular mousepad! And, besides the crappy teflon pads, everything functioned perfectly. I was, however, aware going into the review that this mouse will not function on glass (like darkspace laser mice do). That's an inherent limit in the technology, so I wasn't too surprised by that. I wasn't, however, able to test the purported eight month battery life, so you'll have to take Microsoft's word on that.
At Microsoft's MSRP, the Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 is an absolute bargain. If you can find it for under $20 during a sale (like I did), it's a total steal. This mouse is comfortable, compact, portable, and can track on almost any surface. I'm also happy to see RF wireless instead of bluetooth; which means higher dependability. So, if you're in the market for a wireless mouse for your laptop, it would be a crime to not consider the 3500. It's priced well below competitors, and offers amazing performance.
Priced very nicely
BlueTrack is impressive
No tertiary buttons
Does not work on glass
Teflon mouse feet are ridiculous
The 3500 needs more secure packaging