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Tom's Hardware's 2011 Gift Guide: Part 2, Last-Minute Extras

Mouse: Microsoft Touch Mouse

$79.95
www.microsoft.com

If you’ve used Apple’s Magic Mouse, the Touch Mouse from Microsoft may seem like a cloning effort done in black rather than white. The central idea is the same: you have an optical mouse (based on Microsoft’s BlueTrack technology, in this case) with a sloping, buttonless, touch-sensitive top surface. The textured top surface works much like the gesture-enabled touchpad on a laptop...minus the left and right buttons along the bottom, of course. A tiny USB wireless dongle tucks into the mouse’s underside.

In Microsoft’s PC world, gestures are largely a Windows 7 affair, although there’s much to indicate that Windows 8 will be much more reliant on the feature. Microsoft has yet to make any official statements about Touch Mouse support under next year’s OS. For now, though, the Touch Mouse is little more than a door stop unless you take a few seconds to download its drivers from Microsoft.

With the drivers and Windows 7 in play, the Touch Mouse comes alive. With one finger, you can tap on the left or right, just as you would in a conventional left- or right-click (not having your index finger resting on the left while tapping with your right may take some getting used to). You can also drag one fingertip around to perform scrolling and panning. There are no side-mounted thumb buttons. Instead, you can sweep your thumb right for Forward or left for Back.

Two fingers on the pad controls windows rather than apps. A two-finger swipe to the left or right snaps the active window to that side of the screen. Likewise, a two-finger swipe up will maximize a window while swiping down will minimize or restore. Three fingers controls the desktop. Sweeping up opens all windows while down shows the desktop with all apps minimized.

All told, it’s a very slick arrangement. Getting used to scrolling sensitivity can take some adjustment, but otherwise the Touch Mouse is very intuitive and terrific to use. Just don’t confuse it with the Microsoft Explorer Touch Mouse or Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse, which are both very different animals.