When you first unpack the Arc Touch Mouse, you'll be taken by how flat it is. Out of the box, the Arc Touch resembles an evil, mirror-universe version of a Star Trek tricorder in design, with a hard black style and a chunky end that incorporates two mouse buttons with a touch-sensitive panel that acts as a scroll wheel in the middle. With a tiny amount of what feels like slightly chiropractic force, the spine of the Arc Touch arcs up, forming an archway and switching the mouse on. This is the Arc Touch's real reason for existence; it's designed to be a mouse for travelling types who want to be able to pack it away as flat and simply as possible.
In order to keep things as slim as possible, the actual mouse button surface is a flat glossy plastic, and the receiver for this wireless mouse isn't much bigger than a USB port itself. The underside of the Arc Touch includes a small magnetic area, making it easy to clip onto the Arc Touch for transport.
The underside and wrist rest part of the Arc Touch are covered in a soft felt kind of material. It's rather like what we'd imagine The Terminator would feel like if he were a Muppet.
For a mouse with such a unique design, it's something of a shock to realise that the actual feature set of the Arc Touch is relatively meagre. It's a standard wireless two-button mouse with a scroll area and no other additional buttons or features. The touch scroll area uses haptic feedback to supply a small physical response as you move, as well as a small amount of almost-scroll-like noise. Tapping on the top or bottom of the scroll area also acts as an instant page up or down command.
Like many of Microsoft's current mouse offerings, the Arc Touch uses Microsoft's BlueTrack blue laser technology, which promises better mousing accuracy over a variety of surfaces, as long as you steer clear of glass.
Microsoft's BlueTrack laser worked well across all of our test surfaces, and predictably poorly over glass surfaces. We couldn't say the same for the touch scroll area, however. It does work, but not always entirely reliably. There were times when its in-built acceleration would fail, or overcompensate, and there were other times when testing for page up and page down functions that it wouldn't register the tap, or presume we were scrolling anyway.
The physical make-up of a mouse as it relates to your own hand will always determine how comfortable it is to use, and that's something that varies on a personal level. We found the Arc Touch a little tough to use for extended periods as our hands sat over it in a slightly uncomfortable, non-neutral position. We'd certainly advise giving it a test run with your digits to see if it suits.
The Arc Touch is an interesting concept for a mouse, and for a certain style of hyper-efficient traveller we can sort of see the point. It's certainly the flattest mouse that wasn't already a trackpad we've ever seen. At the same time, there's no shortage of really tiny "traveller"-style mice from other vendors out there at a lower price. Tie that in to the fact that any traveller would have a notebook with its own touch pad, and the market for the Arc Touch shrinks. We're all for nifty gadget ideas here, and the Arc Touch is a nifty gadget, but we're struggling to find the consumer it's ideal for.