Mouse of champions

Microsoft's IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 was, arguably, the best mouse a right-handed user could get when I reviewed it - and compared it with Logitech's show-off dual-pickup MouseMan Dual Optical - back in 2001.

Explorers old and new

And, as you may have heard, it has returned.

The final decision back in '01 came down to what shape you preferred, and left-handers were left out in the cold then, as they still pretty much are now.

But the Explorer 3.0 felt good to little old right-handed me, and it worked well. The two side thumb buttons are in just the right place, and the mouse feels neither too small nor too big. I like a teeny mouse for use with a laptop, when you often have a crummy wrist angle and need to hold the mouse with your fingertips from above to avoid strain injuries. But with an ergonomically correct desk setup, a big, though sculpted, mouse like this works for me. Perhaps I'm getting set in my ways in my old age, but I've kind of settled on the Explorer 3.0.

(I don't want a cordless mouse; yes, they work perfectly well these days, but I prefer a bit less weight and zero battery concerns. I keep my mouse cord organised with a simple weight, which you can readily make yourself; that may have something to do with the disappearance of the WireWeights company. More elaborate cord management contraptions are still on sale!)

Explorer 3s seem to last pretty well, too. My mouse gets a whole lot of use, but I can count on at least three years of service from an Explorer 3.0 before the cable goes flaky or the wheel starts mis-counting.

Microsoft were left behind in the feature-chart race, though. So they retired the 3.0, and created a new and awful version 4.0 of the Explorer.

This whole post is very much the outside scoop for gamers, of course, but the Explorer 4.0's suckage centred around its new and allegedly fantastic "tilt wheel", which you could not only roll up and down and click for the button-3 function, but could also tilt left and right for horizontal scrolling.

The tilt function made the click function hard to use, and they deleted the clicky detents in the wheel rotation that're essential when gamers want to accurately select a weapon.

So people who liked the old 3.0 started paying premiums for new old stock on eBay. Microsoft eventually noticed this, and reintroduced the older model.

Apparently the new Explorer 3 has a faster sensor chip in it, or something, but the change isn't significant enough that Microsoft bothered calling the new-old-mouse the Explorer 3.1. It is, for all practical intents and purposes, the same as the good old 3.0.

Except now, as you can see, it's dark slate-grey, with only slightly cheesy matte silver side buttons.

Here in Australia, m'verygoodfriends at Aus PC Market sell the new Explorer 3 for $AU69.30 including delivery anywhere in the country. Australian shoppers can click here to order one.

That's really not a bad price at all. Microsoft's fancy-pants Razer-collaboration Habu costs twice as much, and Logitech's flagship corded mouse, the G5, is not a lot cheaper.

Microsoft now seem to be calling the Explorer 4.0 just the "IntelliMouse Explorer", and OEM (no-fancy-box) versions of it can be had in the States for quite a bit less than the price of a new 3.0. At that price it's a perfectly OK desktop mouse, but it's still no good for many games. Aus PC Market have given up selling it.

Interestingly, Microsoft's main list of mice doesn't include the 3.0 at all any more. Look under "gaming products", though, and you can find it, next to the Habu.

The Explorer 4.0 tilt wheel also lives on in some even swoopier products. I'm not itching to try any of them, though.

Viva 2001!

13 Responses to “Mouse of champions”

  1. KLR Says:

    I have the 4.0...but I don't play FPS anymore, or not enough to matter. I much prefer the detent-free action of the wheel for everything though.

    The tilt wheel is garbage. Dumb idea. It;s only useful on text, but only if you have the motion sensitivity set to Painfully Slow.

    And it's just plain awkward to use.

    The wheel button would be useful if it didn't use a suspension spring from a Fors 2500 in on it and the wheel moves.


    Aside from the pointless tilt, a good mouse.

    Next version should allow to change between detent and detent-free action.

  2. KLR Says:

    I lost my ability to spell today.

    In January of this year, I purchased a Microsoft Ergonomic 4000 keyboard to replace a very old and worn out MS ergo pro.

    It is a very nice unit at first; four months later the oft-used keys already have the texture worn off of them and the rubber nipple springs that are under them aren't as springy as they were before. Only four months old and it looks and feels well used. And I don't abuse keyboards at all. The last one lasted almost 7 years...but it still works.

  3. Matt Says:

    list of mice

    Hey Dan, are you going over to the dark side? I thought you wrote it "mouses"?

  4. phrantic Says:

    Sad as it is, that was my first thought too, Matt. I was about to dig up an old reference I vaguely recall in a page that ardently defended the term "mouses".

  5. Jax184 Says:

    Just a little warning. I bought an intellimouse 3.0 in Feb to replace my logitech (Which I had repaired twice by then.) By mid March, the left mouse button had failed. Go to select something and 2 out of 3 times it double clicks instead of single clicks. A bit of googling suggests that this is a very common problem with the microsoft mice. The only difference is most of the reports were after several Years of use, not just under a month. I can't say if the new intellimouse is built to lesser standards, or if I'm just unlucky, but I'm certainly not happy.

  6. m56 Says:

    Both and have nearly identical sidebars dealing with the heavily debated subject of the correct plural of mouse (mouses for plastic, mice for fur, according to Dan...)

    But true historians note that in the dark ages of the late 1990's, Dan used both forms in a single review... but perhaps he got all confused after dealing with the non-capitalized-yet-umlauted company name of "kärna LLC"...

  7. phrantic Says:

    Yes, that boomslang review was the one I was thinking of, but was too lazy to Google.

    Hmm Dan's conspicuously absent from these comments. Submit your conspiracy theories!

  8. KLR Says: Intellimouse had the exact same problem after just a few months worth of use.

  9. DoC Says:

    If the right-handedness of the Intellimouse Explorer bothers you, maybe try the 'Wheel Mouse Optical 1.1A'

    As far as I'm aware it has the same optical system as the Explorer (it doesn't skip about under fast movement and leave you facing a wall instead of the enemy) but its perfectly symmetrical in shape, and cheap!

    It only has the two buttons and a wheel (that clicks) so if you're attached to thumb buttons it might not be your thing.

    Ive played quite a bit of Quakeworld over the last 5 years and mine hasn't missed a beat.

  10. Jax184 Says:

    An update to that warning. A month after the left mouse button problem, the cord of my 3.0 has now failed as well. The mouse works, so long as the cord isn't flexed near where it enters the mouse. Pretty much rules out moving it.
    This 3.0 version 2.0 doesn't seem to be going over so well...

  11. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Late addition: I've had this 3.0 for well over a year now, and it's still 100% functional. All this means is that not every example of the re-released 3.0 is a lemon, of course, but I thought it was worth mentioning anyway.

  12. Daniel Rutter Says:

    ...and now, after another year of heavy daily use, my 3.0 is still in perfect working order!

  13. Daniel Rutter Says:

    ...and now, after more than three years of heavy daily use, the click-wheel "button 3" switch is going dodgy. It often does a double click when I only want one click, and occasionally misses a click altogether.

    I may be able to fix it by just cleaning the switch. I've ordered another Explorer 3.0 anyway, though, since this eBay seller had a new-in-box one for $AU35 + $AU10 delivery.

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