Gaming mouse face off: Microsoft Sidewinder X8 vs Logitech G9x

Battle of the brands

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If you happened to be looking for a gaming mouse at the end of 2008 then your options would have seemed a little limited - but 2009 has brought two new offerings from the behemoths of hardware as Microsoft shows off its controversial wireless Sidewinder X8 and Logitech gives us a refreshed G9x.

Let's start with a hard fact - picking your favourite gaming mouse is like picking out the world's best car - the chances are that everyone's favourite is nice to drive, but in the end it comes down to personal preference as to which is the greatest.

There's not a lot bad to say about either mouse; Logitech's G9x takes a firm favourite among gamers - its predecessor, the G9 - and has done little beyond upping the dpi to 5000. Logitech's approach is that if it isn't broken there's no point in trying to fix it - and it has a point.

Bluetrack technology

Microsoft has also largely kept faith with the shape and style of its recent Sidewinder, but taken a big risk by ditching the cable and sticking in its Bluetrack technology.

Back in October we asked Microsoft's Andre Reuter if it was possible to persuade gamers that they could go wireless with their mouse. The prospect of heavy batteries and, perhaps more importantly, matters like latency and reliability in the heat of battle have always led to a reliance on tethering the mouse to the PC.

He insisted that the focus of the company's research had been on exactly this matter, adding: "We feel that with Bluetrack coupled with our wireless technology, and we did the tests into this, there is NO latency difference between wired and wireless.

"We really dotted I's and crossed the T's to makes sure that technically it was equal to wired mice.
"It was the key research point of the mouse because of the way that gamers feel about wireless mice."

Despite our doubts, after some fairly hefty play sessions, the Sidewinder X8 has indeed proven to be reliable. Although the battery makes it a little heavier than would suit some tastes, for most people the mouse is a perfectly acceptable weight.

In terms of latency, if there is any then we couldn't sense it with no perceptible lag.

On top of that the BlueTrack technology, which copes better with problem surfaces, has already impressed us in other mice and it's made the transition into a gaming mouse with consummate ease.

Improved feel

Microsoft has shifted from the much-maligned round thumb buttons to a squarer variety and this has indeed improved the feel of the mouse, and the build quality - as you may expect for a flagship mouse of this price - is superb.

One of the surprising things about the Sidewinder range is that people tend to hate it at first use, but quickly come to love it when they get used to the slightly left-field shape.

On top of this, the Sidewinder brings a sense of accuracy that is difficult to beat, and the wireless design of the X8 feels much softer on the eye than its predecessors.

Logitech's G9x has kept all of the things that made the G9 such a favourite - interchangeable grips, weights and a quality cable - and in gaming terms it's a genuine pleasure to use.

It's responsive, comfortable, the thumb buttons are in a line rather than one above the other, which is still preferable to the Sidewinder even with its new buttons, and, in what always serves as the ultimate sign of a quality gaming mouse, you soon forget you are using it.

And yet, in many ways the Sidewinder's innovations just seem to make it more attractive. For thousands of gamers the doubts about wireless will push them towards Logitech's awesome G9x, but Bluetrack is a fabulous new mouse-tracking technology and the promises about this being a mouse that can convert gamers to wireless certainly have some foundation.

In the end it comes down to a simple choice; the tried, tested and fantastic Logitech gaming mouse against the maverick wireless Microsoft effort, and we can't help but be drawn like moths to the flame of innovation.