The Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000 is Microsoft's latest travel mouse. It offers many of the same features as the Explorer Mini, but does so for $20 less. This $40 device also uses Bluetrack sensing technology, which lets you use it accurately across a variety of surfaces that a normal laser mouse just can't handle. Although less ergonomic, the 4000 fixes several of the problems we highlighted in the Explorer Mini, including the omission of the power-saving "off" switch and the right-handed design. Both of those features and more are included with the Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000, a very capable travel mouse worthy of our recommendation.
The 4000's plug-and-play hardware design makes it easy to pair it with a host computer. A small USB plug that Microsoft calls the "Nano Transceiver" pops out from its hiding spot in the undercarriage, which also houses the On/Off power switch, as well as a slot for an AA battery. While we normally prefer a rechargeable mouse, Microsoft claims the mouse will work flawlessly for up to 10 months on a single battery. The top of the mouse also houses a small red LED that alerts you when battery power is low. Microsoft also offers five pastel colors to choose from, including teal blue, berry pink, lime green, graphite, and white.
For software, Microsoft includes its Intellipoint 7 software for both PC and Mac. Here you'll find settings for button assignments, and scroll and click speed, as well as help files in an easy-to-use program. If you don't have the CD with you while you're traveling, you can still use the mouse with your computer's internal settings; no external drivers are required.
One of our major complaints with the Microsoft Explorer Mini Mouse was its right-handed-only design; the curves of the contours made it uncomfortable for lefties to use. Thankfully, Microsoft corrected this misstep in the 4000's symmetrical shape, making it universally easy to scroll and click the four buttons. In addition, the entire mouse is covered with a soft textured plastic for extra grip.
The scroll wheel sits between the two main buttons and moves from side to side as well as up and down, with one minor tactile difference between the two scroll modes: horizontal scrolling with the dial makes a tangible click as each page moves, but up and down scrolling is completely smooth, with no tactile feedback. We prefer the ratcheting feel of a click wheel for scrolling through individual pages (featured in other mice, including the Logitech MX Revolution). The smooth dial that Microsoft incorporates into its mice feels sludgy and awkward. The scroll button itself is preset to activate the new Windows Vista Flip 3D overlay where you can quickly view all of your open windows in a digitally organized stack. And as with most mice, you can reassign all the buttons with the Intellipoint software.
The technical highlight of the 4000 is a proprietary technology that Microsoft calls Bluetrack, which combines the precision of laser tracking with the wide coverage of a standard optical mouse to let you use it on virtually any surface. This versatility should come as a relief for jet-setters who don't want to lug a mouse pad around with their hardware; now they can mouse on a variety of tabletops, carpets, and other rough or reflective textures. While these surfaces present a problem for traditional mice, the 4000 scrolls beautifully across all of them. The one exception we found is glass. In that case, the cursor became erratic, moving very slowly at times and jumping across the page at others.
At just 4.04 inches long and 2.39 inches wide, the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000's small footprint tucks easily into a laptop case or a bag compartment. The wireless transceiver can supposedly deliver an uninterrupted connection up to 30 feet away, and the promise of cable-free trips is definitely a plus for mobile professionals and traveling Web surfers.