Review: Microsoft’s Excellent Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse
I’ve been working while traveling since last Friday, and been using my beloved Surface Pro 3 as my laptop replacement. But knowing how much I enjoy using a mouse when I work, I went ahead and bought the Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse, a slim accessory that’s perfect for traveling to another state, or to a coffee shop. Priced at $70 from Microsoft (or $60 from Amazon) it’s a bit pricey for a mere mouse – but to be completely honest, I couldn’t be happier with the purchase.
The Arc Touch Bluetooth mouse is a pretty excellent name to describe this device. Echoing Microsoft’s minimalist approach to design with the Surface line of devices, the Arc Touch is a relatively unassuming slab; it’s a slim trapezoid with a smooth plastic covering the mouse buttons, with a shiny, metallic scroll sensor in the middle. Underneath the buttons lie the two AAA batteries that power the mouse (and after over a week of use, they’ve yet to show any sign of slowing).
The scroll sensor provides a few different functions. The main function, of course, is that it acts as a physical scroll wheel that you’d find on a traditional mouse. One of the most wonderful things about it, though, is that it provides subtle force-feedback with every “click” of the scroll, even making a click-like sound as you scroll up and down on webpages or Word documents. It’s such a small detail, but it’s easily one of the most satisfying aspects of the Arc Touch.
As for the other functions of the scroll sensor, double-tapping in the center allows you to “middle-click,” which scrolls up and down by moving the mouse itself. Tapping the top or bottom half of the segmented scroll sensor pages up or down. There’s an app that allows users to change the functions of the scroll sensor, but I can’t really say much about it (more on that in a bit).
Below the buttons, where your palm rests, the Arc Touch sports a slightly textured covering that feels like a cross between soft rubber and microfiber. That’s also the part of the mouse that literally “arcs.” When you want to turn your mouse on, you flex the device into the shape of a mouse and you’re ready to go. When you’re done working, you flatten the mouse out and pack it away. It’s a simple, yet fun, way to activate the mouse, and it works perfectly.
Pairing the Arc Touch was also a snap. I simply opened the control panel, set the computer to look for a new device, and hit the pairing button on the bottom of the mouse. I haven’t had any interruptions in performance since then, unlike some other Bluetooth mice I’ve tried.
There isn’t a lot to fill out this section – the Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse does everything it says it will, and does so with style. It isn’t perfect, though, since different surfaces give it some problems here and there. When using the Arc Touch on glass, I experienced a few hiccups. Using the Arc Touch on my fabric couch was even harder, to the point that it was much more trouble than it was worth. I acknowledge that these different surfaces aren’t traditional work environments, but my Logitech Wireless Performance Mouse MX has no issues at all in either of those scenarios.
As for the app I alluded to earlier, I haven’t actually been able to use it a single time, meaning that I’m stuck with the preset functions in the scroll sensor whether I want them or not. The problem, it seems, is that because I’m running Windows Technical Preview, the Arc Touch app that I downloaded from the Windows Store simply doesn’t want to work. Obviously if I were running Windows 8.1 as I had been, I’d be telling a different story. On the other hand, I’m not going to go to the trouble of reinstalling Windows 8 on my Surface just to test out an app that I didn’t even know about until I sat down to write this review – so suffice it to say, if you’re on Technical Preview, the app won’t do you any good. That said, it’s also really unnecessary if you’re happy with the functions that the Arc Touch Mouse provides right out of the box.
While the Arc Touch Bluetooth Mouse is clearly built for travel in mind, it could easily be the mouse I use at my desk in my home office. It’s comfortable and fits easily in my hand, and has no trouble with accuracy (as long as I’m not on my glass table or working on my couch). As an added bonus, its great design actually gets people to stop and admire it – when was the last time anyone stopped to ask you about the really cool mouse you’re using? Showing off the bending and flattening function – simple though it is – never stops being fun.
In the end, if you’re in the market for a good Bluetooth mouse for your laptop or tablet PC, you won’t regret the $60 or $70 you could spend on the Arc Touch Bluetooth mouse. There’s a cheaper version of the Arc Touch that doesn’t rely on Bluetooth if you’d rather take up one of your USB ports for the nano-receiver, but with the Surface Pro 3’s single port, it’s wonderful to leave that space open and still enjoy all the awesome mouse action I can handle.