Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse Review
By Sandy Berger on February 21, 2011


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Bronze Award

Although the computer mouse has become more accurate over the years, there has been little change in the style of this common computer component since Douglas Engelbart invented it in 1963. Now, however, Microsoft has released a mouse that is really different. It has an entirely new look with a refined, modern style. We took a look see if this little device had as much substance as style.

Figure 1, shows that even the box from the Arc Touch mouse is stylish and well-designed. The red and white box has a nicely weighted, slightly magnetic flap that opens to reveal the mouse that is covered in plastic which has been created from recycled water bottles. To remove the mouse from the box, the mouse-holding tray slides out from the side of the box. There are only two small seals to break. The plastic cover simply lifts off the mouse – no plastic to cut or ties to deal with. Kudos to Microsoft for making a stylish, easy-to-open box that produces a minimum amount of waste material.


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Figure1: The Arc Touch box

The contents of the box are shown in Figure 2. Included are the mouse, a small Start Here guide, two AA batteries, and a very small transceiver.


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Figure 2: What’s in the box

When the mouse itself is revealed, it doesn’t look at all like a traditional mouse. In fact, as shown in Figure 2, when the Arc Touch mouse comes out of the box, it is flatter than any other mouse we’ve seen. In fact, if you see it lying on a table or desk in its flat position, you may not even recognize it as a mouse. At 2.32 x 5.12 x 0.59 inches (58.8 x 130 x 5 mm), this mouse is both flat and thin. It can easily fit into a shirt pocket.

Although the Arc Touch might look like it is a little flimsy that is not at all the case. It is strong and sturdy. When in the arched position, it stays upright even when normal pressure is asserted on the top. The part of the mouse that curves is covered in a soft rubber-like material giving it a good tactile feel.

Setup

The setup couldn’t be easier. Just insert the transceiver into the USB port on the computer and insert the included batteries into the Arc Touch by removing the cover on the back, as shown in Figure 3.


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Figure 3: The back of the Arc Touch

Although it looks almost entirely flat, the Arc Touch mouse quickly arches to become a more mouse-like device, as shown in Figure 4. You simply hold one end of the mouse steady while pressing the other end and it snaps into the arc position. When in the arched position, it is on. Flatten it and it goes off. This is a great feature. There are no buttons to push and the on-off status of the mouse is obvious just by looking at it.


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Figure 4: The Arc Touch in useable position

In or testing, the Arc Touch arched and flattened with no hesitation or problem. Microsoft tested the durability of this mouse by arcing and flattening it more than 40,000 during testing, so we can assume that it will keep working for years.

As you can also see in Figure 4, there is a small light on the top of this mouse. This lights a bright green briefly when the mouse if first turned on to show that power is getting to the mouse. Then it turns off to save battery power.

At 0.72 x 0.51 x 0.17 inches (18.3 x 13.1 x 4.4 mm), the transceiver is extremely small, as shown in Figure 5. This of course, is both an advantage and a detriment. The size is an advantage in that it is small and easy to transport and you can leave it plugged into the USB port on a laptop without fear of having it break off.


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Figure 5: The transceiver

The biggest disadvantage, however, is that it is so easy to lose. Microsoft tried to address that problem by making an area on the back of the mouse magnetic. In Figure 6, you can see how the transceiver attaches to the mouse. While the magnetic pull is fairly strong, it is, unfortunately, not strong enough. It you put the mouse with the transceiver attached in a pocket, briefcase, or backpack where it might move around, the transceiver is almost always knocked loose. So you will have to search for it in the bottom of your pouch or find an alternative way to carry it.


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Figure 6: The transceiver attached to the mouse.

Some of Microsoft’s documentation says that the transceiver snaps into the bottom of the mouse. We find this in error. It would be nice if the transceiver snapped into the mouse where it would not be dislodged so easily, but the fact is that the transceiver snaps “onto” the bottom of the mouse rather than “into” it.

On Figure 6, you can also see that the lower part of the back is made of a rubberized material and that it is ribbed so that it stretches properly when being arched and flattened.

Using the Arc Touch

The Arc Touch mouse uses Microsoft’s proprietary BlueTrack Technology which makes it extremely accurate. In Figure 7, you can see the blue light that is transmitted from the mouse when it is on.


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Figure 7: The blue light

The Arc Touch works on surfaces that other mice often find difficult. In our testing, whether the surface was rough, glossy, hard, or soft, the Arc Touch worked. We were even able to use it on a table cloth that would have bunched up with any other mouse. Microsoft says that it does not work on clear glass or mirrored surfaces, so we were surprised to find that it worked quite well on some (but not all) glass surfaces.

The 2.4 GHz transceiver connects wirelessly right out of the box and had a great range. We were able to move more than 25 feet (7.6 m) from it and still have the mouse tracking.

At first glance, you might think that the Arc Touch has no buttons, but in fact, it does have a left and right mouse “button” area which can be depressed. This is on either side of the silver strip that is shown in Figure 8. The area that can be depressed to simulate a button press starts near the line in the middle of the silver strip and goes to the front end of the mouse.


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Figure 8: The Arc Touch controls

The biggest problem that we found with this mouse is that the further away from the edge you are, the more difficult it is to press. The sweet spot which is the easiest to press is very near the front edge of the mouse. While this is fine for those with average to large hands, it can be a problem for people with small hands and/or short fingers. Some of us found that we could not comfortably rest our palm on the desk and have our fingertips reach the front end of the mouse to press the buttons at the same time.

The silver strip is a touch sensitive area that mimics the scroll wheel on a regular mouse. It is haptic so it vibrates when you touch it. It also emits a low scrolling sound when you use it. The entire process has a very fluid feel to it. You have to get used to what long and short finger strokes will do, but after you do, it works quite well. As you work with the scroll strip you find that it has added functionality. For instance touching the top of the strip will act as a Page Up command. Touching the bottom will perform a Page Down. “Flick” the strip while scrolling and the scrolling speeds up to get you through a document quite quickly.

One nice thing about the Arc Touch is that it can be used with either the left or right hand with ease. The buttons and scroll areas are customizable through Microsoft’s IntelliPoint software. If you are using Windows 7, when you plug in the transceiver, it automatically detects the mouse and installs the proper driver as well as the IntelliPoint software. If you are using an older version of Windows, you can download the IntelliPoint software the Microsoft website. You can change the left and right button performance as well as the performance of the scroll bar and the middle tap area. The middle of the scroll bar has an indented line that can be felt with the finger so it can be easily found to be used as a middle tap area.

Microsoft states that this mouse will work with Windows XP (except the 64-bit version), and all versions of Vista and Windows 7. We found that it also works with the Mac, but does not have all the functionality that the IntelliPoint software offers.

Under normal use, the batteries in this mouse should be good for more than six months. It certainly helps that the mouse can be flattened to conserve battery power. Although in a few weeks use, we never saw this, the documentation states that the green light will change color when the batteries start to wear down giving you a warning to go out and purchase some new AAAs.

Main Specifications

The main specifications for the Microsoft Arc Touch mouse include:

Conclusions

With this mouse, Microsoft proved that its designers could rival Apple with a unique, stylish product that is sturdy as well as simple and functional. Although USD 70 is a little pricey for a mouse, it is perfect for traveling and can easily be used as an everyday mouse.

The Arc Touch is accurate and works on a wide variety of surfaces. The nano-sized transceiver is very transportable and works perfectly, although it can be easily misplaced. When paired with the Microsoft IntelliPoint software, the Arc Touch is a fully functioning and customizable mouse. The unique way the mouse flattens out when not in use and turns on and off automatically is an outstanding feature.

The only drawback is the fact that the sweet spot for clicking is at the front end of the mouse and those with small hands or short fingers may find that they cannot comfortably reach this area for ease of use.

Strong Points

Weak Points

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Microsoft-Arc-Touch-Mouse-Review/1201


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