Left and Right Review of Microsoft SideWinder X3 Gamer Mouse

Posted by at 10:42 pm on April 26, 2009

In our house, rather than having a battle for computers, we battle over mice.   One of us is a righty and one is a lefty.   When it comes to to gaming and higher end mice generally the lefty loses since they are ergonomically designed for right handed users only.

Microsoft is about to ship a new gaming mouse, the SideWinder X3.   Despite the fact that it is set at a moderate price, $39.99, it  has many of the same features as it’s more expensive competition such as the Microsoft SideWinder X5 and the Logitech G9.   Though they are called gaming mice, they are also useful for people who do other high intensity activities with their mice, like using graphic design apps.

The mouse comes boxed with a short manual and a CD with the Microsoft Intellipoint software for both Windows and Mac.   Mac users please note the mouse is only officially supported for use with Vista and XP.   The Mac Intellipoint software in the box does not support the X3.

Laura,  AKA the Lefty, installed it on an older laptop with Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2.   The install went quickly and smoothly.   After that it was just a matter of plugging the Sidewinder into the laptop’s USB port and verifying the settings, then the mouse was up and running.  Laura’s mouse is typically what ever cheap left-over “came in a box with some PC” mouse that is not shaped specifically for the right hand.

Doug,  AKA the Righty, installed the mouse on a Gateway i7 desktop running Vista Ultimate 64.   He typically uses either a Logitech G9 gamer mouse or a Microsoft  Notebook Mouse 5000.

One of the things Lefty appreciates most about the SideWinder is its bilateral symmetry, that means the shape is the same on both sides so it feels the same whether you are using it right or left handed.   The Sidewinder also has a smooth surface on the bottom, with wide pads that enable it to move smoothly of a variety of different surfaces.     We tried it on cloth, paper, a wood desk top, a laminated desktop and a black leather blotter and it worked equally well on all of them.   It is one of the smoothest optical mice we’ve ever used.

For navigation control, the SideWinder has five programmable buttons. First are the standard left and right buttons accompanied by a center scroll wheel. The buttons are easily programmed with the Intellipoint software and they click quickly and accurately.   They are smooth and follow the curve of the mouse’s shell.   Lefty’s personal preference would be to have a bit of a finger groove, but that is a minor point.   The scroll wheel moves freely and quickly, so it takes very little effort from your finger.   The Intellipoint software enables the mouse’s scroll speed to increase the longer the user scrolls down a page.   That feature only kicked in once or twice, but it worked smoothly and was not intrusive. The X3 also has nice low profile side buttons that are programmable for different functions in the driver application.   Lefty’s old mouse has inconveniently placed side buttons that are always getting in the way, and start up things like Windows Magnifier when they are hit accidentally, what a pain!

The SideWinder is designed to be a gamer mouse, so DPI (Dots Per Inch) is important because that determines the rate at which the cursor moves across the screen.   The X3 has three different default DPI settings (2000, 800 and 400) that are set with 3 buttons, located just behind the scroll wheel.   Changing from one DPI setting to another can be done on the fly and is completely seamless.   You can also reprogram the order of these buttons, or even the DPI level using the choices found in the Intellipoint software.

In comparison, the Logitech G9 which is also a part of our regularly used equipment cost nearly  2 times as much  or more. The G9 has many features including swappable shell textures  and an interchangeable weights system to get the exact weight you want. At this juncture, Righty grudgingly admits that the G9 tends to be mouse overkill for “most” people.   Being able to have a higher DPI for more precision movement is a must for gaming though, that plus the smooth action the SideWinder provides  is something  we can all use.   The added level of precision without a high price is great for people who use graphics applications or other applications where precise mousing is a must. It is comfortable for long periods of fragging or working.   As a bonus, the X3 features “Quick Turn” which is a macro built into the software that lets gamers quickly check their perimeter with the click of one button.

One issue Lefty found was when plugging the X3 into a laptop with closely spaced USB ports, you are not able plug another USB device into the same set of ports because the SideWinder’s plug is a little larger than other USB plugs.   It also did not work with a   PS2 KVM switch, but that was expected since the documentation clearly states the the mouse needs a powered USB port. Righty had plugged the mouse into the back of his desktop since it needs a fully powered USB port.  The G9 mouse, the X3 replaced, was plugged into a USB port on a Logtech G15 keyboard which did not provide the X3 with the needed power.   The X3 works great with powered USB hubs.


Overall the SideWinder X3 has a really solid feel and performs great. We recomend it for anyone, gamer or not, who wants the performance of a high DPI mouse but doesn’t necessarily need a lot of extra bells and whistles or the cost that comes with them. It will be shipping sometime in May.

Pros:   Low Price, Quality Construction, Multiple DPI Levels, Customizable

Cons:   Oversized plug, Needs a full powered USB Port, No Mac Support

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Pre-Order Now at Amazon.com

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