The Microsoft Arc Mouse was designed to look good sitting on your desk, but don't let its attractive facade fool you. The design incorporates ergonomic principles and the ability to shrink in size by folding on itself, making the $59.95 Arc Mouse a great (albeit expensive) travel companion. The design and comfortable curve will appeal to mobile users who prefer full-size mice to minis or touchpads. The Arc has all the benefits of smaller models combined with the comfort and familiarity of a regular mouse.
Users will appreciate that the attractive aesthetics serve the function instead of hindering it. Available in black and burgundy color schemes, the mouse fit comfortably in our hand, and works equally well for lefties and righties. At 4.4 inches, it's the same size as a standard mouse but folds up to a little more than half its size, perfect for dropping in your laptop bag or pocket as you move from meeting to meeting. Folding the mouse also turns it off, saving battery life, and its USB dongle can be secured into a magnetized nook.
Controls are pretty standard--left- and right-click buttons straddle a scroll wheel, and a button on the left side defaults to controlling the Back function in Web browsers. This last button is awkwardly placed and not easily accessible with the thumb or index finger. To use it, we had to shift our whole hand forward into a claw-like position, something most users won't bother to do. Left-handed users might find it more useful, as the button is located right where the ring finger falls naturally. The scroll wheel is clickable and in Windows Vista activates Windows Flip 3-D if the included software is installed. In Windows XP, clicking this button activates auto-scroll.
The Arc utilizes laser technology, which allows it to work smoothly on almost any surface. We tested it on regular flat surfaces, plus carpet, a couch, clothing, and even bare skin with no issues. It doesn't work very well on clear plastic or glass surfaces (even those with solid color underneath) but that's not surprising--and not something most mobile professionals will need.
We tested the Arc on computers running Windows Vista and XP, Linux, and Mac OS X without installing the accompanying software. On each machine it was up and running in less than 30 seconds, sometimes almost immediately. All of the buttons responded nicely (even the troublesome left button) and scrolling was smooth and quick.
Special Features and Range
Once we installed Microsoft's IntelliPoint software on Windows Vista and XP, a few extra options were available to us, including assigning more than 30 different functions to any of the Arc's buttons, extra scrolling options, and the ability to define program-specific settings.
Microsoft rates the mouse's range at 30 feet; we tested it up to 20 feet (the length of our conference room) and got great results. At a distance, the mouse tracked smoothly across the screen. This range would be useful for simple presentations and group meetings.
The Arc is powered by two AAA batteries, which Microsoft said should be good for up to six months of use.
The Microsoft Arc is a versatile pointing device for both desktop and mobile use. With only one side button that's hard to access, and no functions beyond those available for all Microsoft mice, it might not be worth the $59.95 price tag for some. But its style, portability, and ergonomic/ambidextrous design will win over many users.