$100 MS SideWinder X8 Gaming Mouse Available

Microsoft's latest gaming mouse, the SideWinder X8, is about to hit the physical store and virtual online shelves for an estimated price of $99.95. Microsoft originally announced the 4,000-dpi, wireless, Microsoft BlueTrack Technology-based, gaming mouse last September, and promised that it would be available by February 2009--it looks like Microsoft will deliver it on time with just days to spare.

Microsoft claims that its proprietary BlueTrack Technology is "the world's most advanced tracking technology for gaming." BlueTrack first appeared in Microsoft's Explorer and Explorer Mini mice; and when they were released Microsoft espoused BlueTrack's ability to work accurately on virtually any surface (but not on clear glass or mirrored surfaces). It looks like BlueTrack has other virtues as well, as the SideWinder X8 is capable of "image processing of 13,000 frames per second, 75g maximum acceleration and 120 inches per second maximum speed." Microsoft also claims that even though the SideWinder uses a 2.4GHz wireless technology, it provides "lag-free play." Strictly speaking, that's not precisely true, as it takes 12 to 14 milliseconds for the SideWinder X8's commands to be processed; but as Microsoft points out, that is "too fast for humans to perceive." The SideWinder X8 also features six user-selectable, on-the-fly, settings of sensitivity ranging from 200 to 4,000-dpi.

The SideWinder X8 has a unique, ergonomic design (at least if you are right-handed), which was in part inspired by "Master Chief from 'Halo' and the Mazda Senku concept car." The mouse includes a scroll wheel with tilt, and a total of 12 buttons--seven of which are programmable. It also includes an LCD screen that displays the dpi mode the mouse is set to; Microsoft also claims that the LCD screen "helps you record macros in-game, reducing on-screen interference," but we have yet to find any documentation that explains this in any detail. You can also set up specific gaming profiles for different games (the SideWinder X8 "knows which game it's playing"), so that the mouse's customizable buttons will perform different functions depending on which game you are in.

The SideWinder X8's USB 2.0, wireless transceiver does more than just provide a communications conduit between the wireless mouse and your system. The transceiver includes a cable that unwinds and magnetically attaches to the mouse (similar to Apple's MagSafe connector), so that the mouse can be recharged, but still be used while it is charging (Microsoft calls it a "play-and-charge" cable). It takes about three hours to fully charge the mouse and Microsoft claims that you should get "up to 30 hours of active gaming on a single charge."

Spending almost $100 might seem like a lot to pay for a gaming mouse when other gaming-specific mice can be had for half or even a third of the price. (In fact, Amazon currently sells the previous-generation SideWinder Mouse for $47.98.) Now that the SideWinder X8 is here, it leaves us asking if users will be willing to pay a premium for a gaming mouse, and does it truly deliver that much more than the competition in order to justify its high price tag?