High-end gaming and productivity mice are so comfortable to use thanks in part to their size, with body heights sometimes exceeding 2 inches. Mice designed to be carried everywhere with you are necessarily smaller and therefore often less comfortable, especially for people with larger hands. But the excellent Microsoft Surface Mobile mouse ($ 34.99) is an exception. Instead of reducing all the dimensions of a traditional mouse at once, Microsoft simply flattened the body, resulting in an admirable blend of portability and comfort. Add cutting-edge wireless technology, sleek design, and affordability, and you get the best mobile mouse you can buy right now.
To see why the dimensions of the mobile mouse are important, consider our first current choice for productivity mice, the Logitech MX Master 3. It measures 2 x 3.3 x 4.9 inches (HWD) and adapts to the palm of your hand like a glove. A simple approach to creating a more portable version of this excellent design would be to shrink the entire unit, keeping the relationships between dimensions intact. Many manufacturers, including Logitech and Microsoft, have designed mobile mice using this approach. But to do this, users must crumple their fingers to face the smallest width, while depriving them of the palm support.
Instead, the ambidextrous surface mobile mouse measures 1 by 2.4 by 4.2 inches. Yes, these are smaller absolute numbers, but you don’t even have to do napkin calculations to see that the aspect ratio is very different. Essentially, the design sacrifices palm support while trying to keep the mouse as wide as possible. The result is a flatter mouse that is easy to store in your purse or backpack and does not require excessive pinching of the fingers to hold it. The trade-off is that palm support is practically zero unless you have small hands, but this is also true for many other mobile mice.
There is a way to further reduce the height of a mouse: flatten it for travel and let it flex up when you need it. This is the approach that Microsoft is taking with its unique Arc Mouse, which is much more innovative but also costs more ($ 79.99) than many people want or have to spend on a travel mouse.
My Surface mobile mouse test sample has a burgundy color, which is unlikely to match many other desktop or electronic accessories, but looks elegant in itself. You can also order a Surface mobile mouse in platinum or cobalt blue, which matches the color schemes of other Microsoft devices such as Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro Type Cover keyboards. The sculpted plastic is slightly textured for a pleasant feeling, and the silver scroll wheel is eminently robust. The scroll wheel has notches instead of smooth or “free” scrolling, unlike the more expensive Logitech MX Anywhere 2, which allow you to switch between the two scrolling modes.
A Windows logo is centered at the bottom of the top side of the Surface Mobile Mouse, while the Microsoft logo is displayed below, on the battery cover. These are the only two logos – there is no regulatory or other marketing information to affect the mouse’s own appearance. Even the buttons do not spoil the smooth surface: the entire top of the mouse is a single piece of plastic, the front part of which is clickable.
Turning the body upside down, a clever battery cover on the underside is fixed with magnets. It slides effortlessly from the mouse body and detaches effortlessly or with a broken nail. At first, I feared that it was too loose, but no shaking could detach it. However, I felt the need to separate it from the sharp objects in my backpack which could accidentally hang the door during transport.
The Surface Mobile Mouse comes with two AAA alkaline batteries – a built-in rechargeable battery would be preferable, but unrealistic at this price. The mouse also supports Microsoft’s new Swift Pair technology. As soon as I inserted the batteries, my Lenovo laptop immediately detected the mouse and asked me if I wanted to pair it. The process was much more transparent than any other Bluetooth device I have connected to.
Swift Pair requires Windows 10 version 1803 or later, as well as a PC that supports Bluetooth 4.0 or higher. These requirements mean that Mac and Chromebook users, as well as older Windows laptop owners, will still need to pair with the old one, by pressing and holding the button under the mouse for a few seconds, and then visiting Bluetooth settings in System Preferences or Control Panel. The pairing button also acts as a mouse power button. A short press will turn the mouse off or on again.
Microsoft estimates that the 2.75-ounce Surface mobile mouse will last up to 12 months of typical use before its battery needs to be replaced. I tested the mouse for a few hours every day for two weeks and the battery level was still 100% at the end. If you are upgrading from an older Bluetooth mouse that is draining its battery at an alarming rate, the Surface Mobile Mouse should offer welcome endurance.
Despite Swift Pair, it’s still Bluetooth
Although the advanced Bluetooth connectivity of the Surface mobile mouse (and its quick connection function) is commendable, it still does not offer the reliability of a wireless mouse with a dedicated USB dongle. It uses the crowded 2.4 GHz frequency, shared with everything from Wi-Fi to microwave ovens. Indeed, I found that the cursor skidded at least once a day, but it is true that my test environment is quite difficult, with the mouse located less than a foot from a dual band wireless router. The wireless capabilities of the PC to which you connect the Surface Mobile Mouse will also play a role in reliability.
Some other mobile mice eliminate these connectivity issues by including a tiny USB dongle with dedicated storage space inside the mouse’s battery compartment. But managing dongles is unpleasant, and I would rather tolerate the occasional case of cursor shifting than having to track and plug a dongle into a laptop every time I have to use my mouse while traveling.
Despite the occasional lag, the Surface Mobile Mouse followed very well on all of the surfaces I used, including a mouse pad, wooden desk, and even a shiny marble kitchen counter. Microsoft notes that it does not work on clear glass or mirrored surfaces.
An overview of the configuration software
To customize the functionality of the Surface Mobile mouse, you can download and install the Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center app. However, the installation process is not completely transparent. You will have to choose the appropriate version of the application for your PC (32-bit, 64-bit or ARM64), and if you are in Windows 10 S mode, you will have to switch to normal Windows 10 mode. It is particularly strange that a Microsoft application does not work in more secure S mode, which Microsoft designed to allow only verified applications to run.
Once the application is installed, it is simple to use. The Basic Settings tab offers several adjustments, including assigning functions to the left click, right click, and scroll wheel buttons and customizing the behavior of the scroll wheel. You can adjust the speed of vertical scrolling and the speed at which it accelerates, as well as reverse the direction of scrolling. The resolution of the sensor can also be adjusted from 400 dots per inch (dpi) to 1800 dpi, in increments of 200 dpi.
Meanwhile, the Application Specific Settings tab allows you to assign mouse buttons to execute different commands in different programs. For example, you can have the scroll wheel click the default Magnifier application, but activate digital ink activation in Microsoft PowerPoint and run a macro in a game.
The Mouse and Keyboard Center offers no information on battery life, and there is no LED or other battery indicator on the mouse itself. You’ll need to open the Bluetooth section of the Windows Settings app to check the battery status of your Surface Mobile Mouse, although with such a long battery life, this could be an annual task.
Microsoft supports the Surface mobile mouse with a one-year warranty.
Excellent mouse on the go
Mobile mice will never be as comfortable as mice designed to stay on your desk at all times. But the elegant Surface mobile mouse manages to combine space saving and comfort in a unique way, while promising a long battery life and a wireless configuration of unequaled ease. It is our first choice for wireless mobile mice.
Microsoft Surface mobile mouse
Microsoft Surface mobile mouse specifications
|Number of buttons||3|
|Maximum sensor resolution||1800 dpi|
|Energy source||Disposable AAA batteries|
|Warranty (parts and labor)||1 year|