Microsoft Classic Intellimouse review: A noughties comeback

intellimouse-classic-review

Nostalgia for utilitarian late-90s/early noughties PC accessories: truly, this is the darkest timeline. And I am its villain, for it was I who felt a tingle of absurd fondness when Katharine announced that the Microsoft Classic Intellimouse, a physically almost identical remake of the Windows gang’s once-ubiquitous USB mouse, had arrived atop her trembling tower of plastic and cabling. It was I who proffered the fateful words “I would love to review that!” Why? Why did this plain, grey input device speak to me so?

Here’s my review: “The Microsoft Intellimouse 3.0 was fine in 2003 and it’s fine in 2018.” End.

Man. The thing about the Intellimouse is that it was always solid, rather than exciting. It ushered in the age of ball-free, optical mice with scroll wheels, and as such set the template for almost every mouse sold today. It was a landmark piece of hardware without a doubt, but right out of the gate all the things it did were things that seemed immediately obvious and necessary, as opposed to groundbreaking. Things that are ten a penny now.

So it’s not the Intellimouse Classic’s features that made it speak to me. A scroll wheel, two side buttons, a ‘Bluetrack’ sensor that can be used on most surfaces – I’ve got ten-year-old mice sat in my desk draw that can achieve all these things and more. I’ve got a wireless one sat on my desk right now that does all these things without curling a metre-long plastic worm around the base of my monitor. There is zero reason to buy the Intellimouse Classic over any other decent, mid-range wired mouse.

intellimouse

And yet. It reminds me of a simpler time. Not fields and football in the street, but when the fact of being online was a straightforward joy, as opposed to a warzone of heartbreaking news, mass misanthropy and weaponised geekery. A time when computers and games seemed on the verge of creating infinite possibilities for excitement.

Hell, even of a time when “which mouse should I buy for £30?” was a straightforward question with one straightforward answer, as opposed to having to research dozens of boondoggle features and wonder whether enduring a mouse that looks like Robocop’s schlong is a necessary consequence of it being super-responsive in video games.

The Intellimouse Classic, like the 2003-2006 Intellimouse Explorer 3.0 whose design it recycles, is plain and lightweight. Imagine starting a new, boring data entry job, and this is exactly the mouse you would expect to find waiting for you at your desk on the first day. There is precisely nothing wrong with it, with the arguable and swiftly-forgotten exception that it initially feels a little bit too light. But there is precisely nothing about it to make you think, “Yes, this is my mouse.”

classic-intellimouse

It is perfectly fast – not high-end gaming mouse fast, but I have had zero issues with it in anything I play. The sensor, ugraded from olde worlde optical to ‘Bluetrack’, seems to work on almost anything mostly-flat. I even used my glass-fronted tablet as a mousemat and it seemed happy enough.

It has curves in all the right places, by which I mean it is suitably ergonomic and comfortable, not that it makes a boy’s mind turn to sweaty mischief. I find myself reaching helplessly for the adjective ‘boxy’ to describe the Intellimouse Classic, even though every edge is smoothed and tapered. I think it’s because, when I lift it up, the whole thing feels as though it is the plastic container for some other, more exciting item.

It is perhaps just a touch too wide for my personal tastes and average-sized hands (n.b. if you’ve ever met me and are scoffing at that, for some reason I have normal-scale hands and feet despite my short stature), but not so much that I can’t live with it.

The side buttons are exactly where you would want side buttons to be, with some curved protrusions on each to help you find them. The latter, at least, is a real improvement over the tiny, flat or angular things we often see on, for instance, high-end Logitech mice.

microsoft-keyboard-and-mouse-center

In fact, the only genuine criticism I have is that it could really stand to have an on-body DPI adjustment button, as its maximum 3200 DPI is perfectly good for games (presuming you’re not a pro) but just a bit too twitchy for desktop work. Having to dive into Microsoft’s spartan but slow-to-load Keyboard & Mouse Center software every time you want to change it is a real pain in the Intelliarse.

At £30 / $40, it is a perfectly fine desktop mouse that is perhaps £5-£10 too expensive for what it is. If you were planning to buy a new mouse for a mix of general usage and light-to-medium gaming, would I recommend this one to you? Probably not. But I definitely wouldn’t recommend against it.

I confess, I did feel a 5-second thrill of weird nostalgia the first time I wrapped my palm around the Intellimouse Explorer, which then dissipated as quickly as it had arrived. I imagine that, ten years from now, I will feel the same way when I stumble across an iPhone 4 at a car boot sale.

What all of this really proves, of course, is that despite all the bells, whistles and marketing nonsense that has preoccupied mouse-world since 2003, there have been no truly meaningful improvements to our primary means of interacting with our computers. I very much doubt that will have changed by 2028 either. Anyway, the Intellimouse Optical was loads better.

35 Comments

  1. Eleven says:

    They really should have remade the Intellimouse Optical. The comfiest ambidextrous mouse of all time, decent performance, and drivers that don’t suck.

    • satan says:

      I think I still have mine buried in a box somewhere, never stopped working, it was just so old and crusty and beyond cleaning that I retired it for health reasons.

    • kwyjibo says:

      I use the Intellimouse Optical to this day, have them on multiple machines. And they date from when ball mice were more popular in the market than optical ones.

      They’re great. I’m right handed too.

  2. geldonyetich says:

    <

    It reminds me of a simpler time. Not fields and football in the street, but when the fact of being online was a straightforward joy, as opposed to a warzone of heartbreaking news, mass misanthropy and weaponised geekery. A time when computers and games seemed on the verge of creating infinite possibilities for excitement.

    But did the net truly change, or did our older, more cynical selves simply pick up on the ugliness of selfishness inherent in human nature that our younger, niave selves was blissfully unaware of, perhaps more of that being present in other mediums?

    Anyway, the mouse sounds good. All ot really needed was more DPI and it seems to have delivered.

    • airmikee99 says:

      It’s the cynicism. Best way to prove that is to ask people what they think about crime rate trends. The vast majority of people will say that crime is far worse today than it has been in the past, but the actual numbers disprove that. With few exceptions, crime rates peaked in the early 90s, and they’re hovering near record lows right now.

      In the early 90s most people had access to a local newspaper or two, a couple local news channels, and maybe a cable news channel or three. They’d read about crime in their local area and the major stuff that was picked up nationally and brought to other news markets. Today almost everyone has access to almost every local newspaper, almost every local news channels, and dozens of cable news programs, in addition to blogs, youtube, and plenty of other information sources.

      We can read about more crime today compared to nearly 30 years ago, we have access to more information about crime, but the crime rates have plummeted. Populations have continued to rise but crime totals have dropped, reducing the crime rate even further than the drop in crime totals. Crime isn’t worse today, racism isn’t worse today, sexism isn’t worse today, it’s just easier to find information about those things today so most people trick themselves into thinking that crime, racism, and sexism are worse today.

      Ignorance is bliss, and before the internet most humans were blissfully ignorant.

      • geldonyetich says:

        In that vein, the problem might not be cynicism as much as it is sensationalism. News has become all about the ratings, and with that, a post-truth kind of drama mongering.

        You’re not wrong that there’s a lot of cynicism out there, but I’d say there’s even more fear. I can’t blame people for believing the world is a terrible place when they’re being perpetually bombarded with stimuli that portrays the world as much because it was deemed better ratings.

        Something probably ought to be done about that, but big money owns the networks, big money is how politicians get voted in charge, so there’s really no force on Earth to stop the easily-manipulated to fall into a sensationalistic tizzy about everything.

        Here’s hoping it bites them in the butt before I’m put against the wall.

        • airmikee99 says:

          Sensational news existed long before the internet, almost as long as news organizations have existed. WWI and WWII news headlines were far more sensational and over the top than anything today because those wars were far more sensational and over the top than wars today. One word headlines like “WAR!” were common in those days, not so much today. There hasn’t been a crime headline as sensational as “Headless Body Found in Topless Bar” for more than twenty years.

          People have always been scared, and I’d venture that again, people from the past were far more terrified. No one has died during Trump’s immigrant roundup, dozens died during Eisenhower’s much harsher roundup. Putting Hispanics in asylum tents still hasn’t approached the level of what happened to Japanese internees.

          I don’t think there’s anything government or business can do to resolve the situation. Government wouldn’t be able to stem the problem without violating rights, and business won’t do it because they’d lose ad view revenues.

          The only real answer to the problem is education. When someone reads a headline about the slight increase in crime that one city saw recently and instead of getting emotional about it, look up the actual crime stats. Too many people treat the internet like a movie theater with a bulletin board and a newspaper attached instead of thinking of it as a library where they can find factual information on which to form their opinions.

          But none of this is new, most people have always been irrational, emotional beings that reject facts that contradict their world view. 500 years ago very few people experienced anything other than their own small, limited culture. Now anyone that wants to can observe and witness any culture. The internet hasn’t made anything worse, or better, it’s just magnified the well established flaws of humanity.

  3. frozbite says:

    Mouse for 30/40 GBP? Logitech G 102. Intellimouse of our days, abit smaller nowadays.

    • Malcolm says:

      Nah, Logitech m705 “Marathon” mouse. All the no-frills appeal, but no irritating wire and a pair of AA’s last literally years.

  4. Addie says:

    Best thing that Microsoft ever made – got mine sat right next to my Model M keyboard, desktop HID perfection. Except that Windows 10 kind of expects you to have a ‘Windows’ key for shortcuts, but that’s just all the more reason not to use Win10 in my opinion.

    Wireless mice are great until the batteries go flat, and seventy-button gaming mice with their own control panels are all very well until they don’t work with a particular app for some reason, but for me having a simple thing implemented really well is all you need.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      You say it’s the best thing Microsoft ever made but you’re forgetting about:
      The Microsoft Sidewinder 3D Pro. The greatest consumer joystick ever made. They should bring that one back, because there’s else like it on the market today.

  5. Arglebargle says:

    Bought a pair of these at $5 a pop on a blowout deal. Used them for a decade, til they broke. Perfectly fine beasties….

  6. thekelvingreen says:

    I still can’t get to grips with side buttons.

    Pun sort of intended.

  7. reddog says:

    I used an MS Intellimouse as my favourite gaming mouse for many years around 2003-2010. I tried out different mice every now and then, but always went back. I wore out maybe 2-3 of these.

    Back then wireless mice (or at least the ones I tried) were lousy. Nowadays I use a Logitech G403 Wireless, which, in a similar fashion, is a simple mouse with not too many buttons or extraneous frills. It’s kind of the same comfortable thing, but with wireless that works perfectly and a modern long-lasting battery.

  8. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    I still have no clue where my Intellimouse Optical ran off to. Its cable didn’t deteriorate and get it relegated to a box of tangled computer parts like my (Logitech) MX500; it just…disappeared. That thing got me through many a good game and good homework assignment. Cheers, MS!

  9. syllopsium says:

    Meh. Logitech MX518,now you’re talking. Good at both gaming and productivity and works in both USB and PS/2

  10. Jason Lefkowitz says:

    Looking at that picture of the bottom of the new Intellimouse, I can’t help but be struck by how… well… labial the opening for the sensor is. And this appears to be one of those things that, once seen, can never be un-seen. (Depending on how you feel about that, either I apologize or you’re welcome.)

    I used an original Intellimouse with an optical sensor for years and never noticed that, though judging from pictures on Google Images it seems it was that way on the original models too. Perhaps I’m just getting pervier in my old age.

  11. Menthalion says:

    The original had an unintended groundbreaking sensor for gaming at the time in the MLT04 which legend lasted for over a decade.

    The sensor in the current revision is decidedly subpar for gaming though.

    Now there are far better sensors, with the 3360 and derivatives (3366 / 3386) and Logitech Hero sensor at the top.

    Funnily enough there’s a crowdfunding campaign for a light modular mouse with a 3360 sensor, with two of the shape options being close to the IMO and WMO.

    It even has an equal amount of mirror options for lefties.

    link to indiegogo.com

  12. Det. Bullock says:

    I still have my Microsoft Basic Optical USB Mouse (the white and grey one) and it works fine, I still remember when I used it with the included PS/2 adapter on my Pentium II.

    • Premium User Badge

      alison says:

      Every time I source a new mouse (usually each time i start a new job) it’s been the Microsoft Basic Optical. I don’t know how they do it, but it is just so comfortable, so accurate, so exactly what I look for in a mouse. All the heavier, more elaborately formed or button-festooned mice just don’t work for me. I wish I could get into a multi button mouse, it would probably be handy for gaming. I wish I could click with a wireless to save the spaghetti. But that Basic Optical is possibly the best piece of hardware I ever used. Two buttons, one tail, one scroll wheel, the end. Lordy do i love that mouse.

    • lofaszjoska says:

      I have no idea what to look for in a gaming mouse so that’s what I’m using at home right now.
      The scroll button was liable to trigger when the right button is held so I had to file down the inner edge of the RMB a little, but with that I got a perfectly comfortable mouse.

  13. Mungrul says:

    While the Intellimouse is good, I think my favourite mouse ever has to have been Microsoft’s Laser Mouse 6000. I used it for years, and I’m sure I would still be using it now if the cable hadn’t frayed. Since then, I’ve had a couple of Habu mice before moving on to their close relative, the Deathadder. But none of them have been as durable, reliable or comfortable as the Laser Mouse 6000.

    I’m in two minds about Microsoft software a lot of the time, but their hardware in my experience has always been excellent. I’m typing this right now on a Microsoft Sidewinder X6 keyboard, which I’ve similarly had for years, and foresee using for years to come.

  14. Pharaoh Nanjulian says:

    I do CAD and some relatively competitive online shooters, and I can’t say I’ve ever felt the mouse was at fault. I used an Intellimouse, I’ve used micro things with retractable cables with a laptop at friends’ houses because they were to hand, and always felt I was in the running online. I wonder how many readers here are in the same boat and just use what’s to hand and don’t fret about ‘gaming’ hardware?

    • GurtTractor says:

      Some mice do have either poor sensor implementations or just poor sensors unfortunately, which can exhibit such things as negative acceleration which can seriously affect your accuracy, both in games and in general pointing. I used to use an old Mionix Naos 3200 with an optical sensor that had some pretty gnarly acceleration issues. It meant that I just never really got truly comfortable with aiming in games actually, and it was only after finally getting a mouse with a ‘proper’ 3310 sensor that I realised how accurate I could actually be, it was like a breath of fresh air. Using a basic mechanical keyboard for FPS after enduring a creaky membrane piece of rubbish for years offered a similar revalation to me in how much an input device can matter. I think a 1 to 1 relationship between your input and what happens on a screen is super important, any delay or unexpected result just frustrates and gets in the way of immersion and focus.

    • airmikee99 says:

      I used to not care about gaming hardware, I didn’t think I’d ever notice a difference. Six months ago I decided to buy a $70 gaming mouse on Amazon to see if there was any difference from the regular $30 keyboard/mouse combo’s I’d normally pick up. A few months later I realized the truly remarkable difference.

      Gaming hardware is shit. Over priced, over designed, under performing shit. That $70 gaming mouse with extra buttons and removable weights and multiple options had one nonfunctional button and a broken scroll wheel within 90 days. I’m back to using the 10 year old, no frills, barebones four button mouse and I’m going to go back to my usual, jolly self that laughs at morons that waste money on unnecessary crap they’ve been brainwashed into thinking is a requirement.

  15. Veles says:

    I can’t unsee that the optics hole looks like a vagina

  16. waltC says:

    Try using an optical mouse on a solid white surface, like polished white tiles–or better yet, on a mirror finish…;) Good luck! But a laser mouse will handle both without breaking a sweat–I know because I am using a polished white-tile table top for my mouse surface…!

  17. racccoon says:

    You can not beat a mouse that was made for doing what it does best. Most new ones and I’ve bought a few, all in the bin, are too beefy scroll wheels and design and too many awkward buttons.
    Simple is best in a mouse. I didn’t buy the intelli this time but bought logitech’s m100 mouse its simple, reliable and precise. that’s all you need, and it’s surface is the arm of my living room chair! Amazing :)

    • RimeOfTheMentalTraveller says:

      I am actually JUST now looking to replace my M100 I bought back in 2011, only now has it started to show problems with misinterpreting number of clicks or left-clicks as right etc, even with constant use and a small but sizeable bit of abuse. Quality mouse. But now I want to use the opportunity to buy something that is more or less the same size, but higher DPI and sweat-resistant materials and a better scroll (sick of dander or however you call it collecting where I grip the mouse and of the feeling of slippage with sweaty palms).

  18. thinkforaminute says:

    What I would like to see back in stock is the Microsoft Natural Intelli-Keyboard or something like that. The one with the split keyboard. And if it was mechanical…

    It was huge and putty colored, but it was great for typing and almost indestructible. I used it for over a decade and my fingers never hurt after typing.

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