Microsoft's new SideWinder X5 Mouse is a stripped-down version of last year's SideWinder Gaming Mouse. Where the original model was a packed-to-the-gills gaming powerhouse, the X5 feels flimsy and expensive for the AU$99.95 Microsoft wants you to spend. We're willing to accept a more basic version of a product for a lower price, but what you get with the X5 doesn't quite scale appropriately, either in its features or in its design. While Logitech's still outstanding G5 Laser Mouse retails for AU$149.95 according to its website, both it and the X5 can be found online for around AU$60, and with this in mind, we can't recommend the SideWinder X5.
In outward appearance, the SideWinder X5 looks more-or-less the same as last year's higher-end SideWinder. Two distinct, round thumb-side buttons poke out noticeably, and the three sensitivity-switching buttons run down the middle in-line with the chunky scroll wheel. Microsoft has improved the sculpt in this newer model, it has fewer hard angles than the original. The pinkie-side especially has been refined, and in a good way. A ridge on the right side still cradles your little finger, but even more comfortably than last year's mouse. It also uses a moisture resistant material on the sides that helps keep the mouse dry.
In general, the SideWinder X5 certainly delivers most of the core features PC gamers look for. You can customise the sensitivity setting for the dpi buttons, ranging from 200dpi to 2,000dpi, with 400, 800, 1,000, and 1,600 stops in between. However, unlike Logitech's MX 1100, the software won't let you completely customise every button on the SideWinder X5. The dpi buttons have to control the sensitivity, and there's also no way to tell the "Quick Launch" button to do something other than open Microsoft's less-than-useful Games folder in Windows Vista, or the mouse setting screen in XP.
You get no hardware macro-recording functions in the X5 as with the original SideWinder, but we can't fault Microsoft for leaving them out in a lower-end product. We're more surprised that the weight kit was also left out.
You could reasonably argue that customisable weights and feet for mice have a certain gimmicky feel, but we especially miss the weights for the SideWinder X5 because it desperately needs some added heft. It feels less like a precision input device and more like a hollow hunk of plastic, even when you play with the sensitivity. Even without its weights, the Logitech G5 Laser Mouse feels substantial. Instead, this new SideWinder X5 feels like a toy.