We only just looked at the Microsoft Sculpt Touch Mouse, but the Redmond-based software giant is also releasing a smaller, more advanced mobile mouse to meet the requirements of an ever touchier audience. And by touchier, I mean they enjoy touch gestures, perhaps more than even pressing buttons. That sounds sacrilegious to me (after all, I love pushing buttons), but it is understandable. With so many devices gaining touch functions, and the simplicity they offer, what’s not to love?
For starters, when a touch-enabled device doesn’t take advantage of the wide array of touch features other devices employ. That’s the trouble with Microsoft’s Wedge Touch Mouse, a tiny Bluetooth travel-sized mobile mouse designed with touch in mind, but not in spirit. The mouse, tiny with only enough room to house two fingers and to grip awkwardly with a thumb and pinky finger, is incredibly potent with a completely touch-enabled face atop the two standard mouse buttons. Anyone with experience using some of the latest Windows laptops with specialized software, or OS X which integrated smarter touch gestures through giant trackpads, knows what these functions are. That’s what should make the Wedge Touch so interesting.
But that’s not what happened. The Wedge in fact supports none of the secondary or tertiary functions we nowadays associate with touch controls. There are no two- or three-finger gestures. Heck, the only one-finger gestures there are revolve around scrolling, which was never a real gesture to begin with. Worse yet, scrolling isn’t as smooth as it’s expected to be; instead it jitters along like most Windows-based devices do, because the OS simply doesn’t support smooth-scrolling in the way that Apple’s does. Logitech recently introduced software that used smooth scrolling, and enabled it for browsers, but that’s really it. There’s no solid alternative to what Apple offers, and the Wedge mouse appeared to be just that.
I wish I could say that that changes when you open up the standard Windows 8 UI, with live-tiles that seems designed solely for touch users, but again it doesn’t. Scrolling is certainly smoother, but not smooth like on smartphones or tablets. Scrolling sideways doesn’t have the same feeling as traversing webpages on Android, or heck, even on a Windows 8 tablet. That’s what’s so perplexing about the Wedge; it offers touch but it reads significantly worse than any touch device there is. I feel this is due to the software more than the hardware; typically the Wedge reads touch commands just fine, but it doesn’t handle momentum properly (flicking so the page continues scrolling), nor does it handle scrolling properly.
Worse yet, scrolling is significantly better using Internet Explorer and other Microsoft applications than it is for anything else. If you use another browser, or are making use of some program that Microsoft hasn’t built or isn’t made specifically for the Windows 8 UI, then it won’t scroll nearly as well. The one touch gesture there is will be exponentially worse.
The topping to this spinach-flavored cake is that the Wedge Touch doesn’t even work well on a Mac. It works with OS X, and I used it on the MacBook Air, but within seconds it was clear that the trackpad is far more convenient and easier to use. Scrolling is completely flawed and mostly broken on OS X, though the software in the OS clearly supports it.
There are two very smart features in the Wedge Touch – the battery clamp, which will only close if the battery is placed in the right way, and “backpack mode”, which puts the mouse to sleep when the Windows 8 computer goes to sleep or hibernates. The former is a very intelligent, almost braindead simple why-didn’t-anyone-do-this-before feature that every battery-powered peripheral should have, while the latter is smartly included to conserve battery life for anyone who doesn’t like to turn off their mouse because it’s another step that most of us don’t ever think to take.
I’m not satisfied with the design of the Wedge, which is difficult to grip and requires a claw-grip, something that only gamers really know about or employ. After several hours of use I could feel my hand hurting, though presumably users won’t have their hand on the mouse for such long periods of time. The Wedge is certainly well sized for travel; it fits nicely in the pocket, purse, or bag, and the contrasting black coating and silver sides make it easy to spot so you don’t forget it.
Microsoft’s Wedge Touch Mouse is all potential with no actualization. It has all the potential of a smartly built touch-enabled mouse, with easy to use swipe or other touch gesture functions, but nothing to actually make prospective buyers interested in purchasing one. With true and adjustable gesture controls, I have no doubt that the Wedge would make for an excellent travel mouse, especially considering the tiny size. That limitation makes it seem like Microsoft played it safe, released a travel mouse with no real functions, and is marketing it as something it isn’t. In reality it’s a very plain, average travel mouse that you might like if you want something pocketable, but that’s otherwise forgettable.
Bottom Line: A mouse with mediocre hardware but really lacking software functionality
- Smart build for touch functions and battery
- Tiny; great for travel
- Touch functions limited to scrolling, even on Windows 8
- Available touch panel on any OS is clunky and slow
- Expensive considering the complete lack of touch-sensitive features…on a mouse named the Wedge Touch
The Wedge Touch Mouse will be available from Microsoft later this month for $69.99