Available for around £35, the Microsoft Explorer Mini Mouse made its debut last year alongside its big brother, the Explorer Mouse. The Mini shares the same BlueTrack sensor as its sibling, letting you use it accurately on a variety of surfaces that aren't suitable for a normal laser mouse. The only big differences are the smaller footprint and the non-rechargeable AA battery that powers the Mini and its USB receiver.
The Mini is almost an exact replica of the Explorer, minus approximately an inch around the edges. At only 97mm long and 71mm wide, and weighing 108g, the mouse fits comfortably into any laptop case. The top of the mouse features the two main click buttons, and the side has two additional, vertically orientated buttons that you can program using the included software.
The Mini also has a smooth wheel on top for scrolling, but we prefer the capability to switch between free-spinning and notched scrolling, as with Logitech's VX Nano Cordless Laser Mouse. Unfortunately, we have yet to see that mechanism in a portable mouse. Also, southpaws shopping for a new mouse should look elsewhere, as this one is ergonomically shaped to fit a right hand.
The highlight of the Mini is Microsoft's BlueTrack technology. BlueTrack combines the precision of laser-tracking technology with the wide coverage of a standard optical mouse, allowing you to 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.
We found the mouse scrolled beautifully on a variety of tabletops, carpets and other rough or reflective surfaces, with the exception of glass. In that case, cursor movement became erratic, moving very slowly at times and jumping across the page at others.
A single non-rechargeable AA battery powers the mouse, and you get one in the box to start you off. The Mini's plug-and-play design also allows for incredibly easy set-up with both Windows and Mac OS: just pop the USB 2.0 receiver off the bottom, plug it in to your computer, and the mouse will automatically install the drivers you need to get going.
Unfortunately, the only way to turn off the mouse and save battery life is to take out the USB dongle and stick it back into the Mini. In other words, you can't just leave the receiver in your computer and slide a switch on the mouse to turn it off.
The Microsoft Explorer Mini Mouse scrolls well on surfaces that are no-go areas for a normal mouse. It's not perfect, and lefties get the cold shoulder once again, but its accuracy and convenience make the Mini an ideal travel companion.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet