Any consumer tech company worth its salt knows that it's all about touch-operation nowadays and that's why Apple unveiled its Magic Trackpad back in the summer of 2010 and Microsoft announced its Arc Touch Mouse not long afterwards, following a series of hints and internet leaks.
Designed for maximum portability, the Arc Touch Mouse measures in at a compact 130.6 x 58mm when flat, so its lack of bulk will help it slip into your laptop bag without you even knowing it's there. To turn it on, you simply pop two AAA batteries into the compartment in the back and then bend the mouse. A green light flashes to show that your battery is working, and then turns off to save juice. To turn the mouse off again, you just flatten it.
To link the mouse up with your computer, you need to plug in the USB transceiver in order to download and install the mouse software. This enables you to tweak the settings such as swapping the buttons for left-handed use and altering the speed of the pointer. In order to make sure that the tiny USB device doesn't get lost, you can store the transceiver in the magnetic holder on the underside of the mouse.
Unlike Apple's Magic Trackpad, the Arc Touch Mouse hasn't completely done away with buttons. There are two conventional buttons for left- and right-clicking, and a navigation strip is placed between them. The palm rest has a non-slip rubberised finish, while the button panel is made from glossy, black plastic. We found the Arc Touch Mouse to be very comfortable and sturdy enough for all-day use, however, those with less than dainty hands may feel that the mouse is a little on the flimsy side for them.
You can slide up and down the navigation strip to scroll or you can you can quickly brush up or down with your fingertip to flick. When you do both of these, the mouse simulates the feel of a genuine click-wheel with slight vibrations, which is a nice touch that makes operation feel that bit more intuitive. However, we found that the scrolling was very slightly temperamental and sometimes needed a second go to get things on the move. You can also tap the top of the strip to page up, while tapping the bottom of the strip move the page down.
Double-tapping the middle of the strip to middle-click, will do different things in each application. In most Microsoft programmes, a middle-click will turn on Auto Scroll so that you can move your mouse around to scroll without moving your finger. However, in many other applications, the middle-click function doesn't actually do anything, so don't panic if nothing happens. Likewise, if you middle-click and hold in some programmes, Auto Scroll will start and when you release the middle button, it will be turned off, but this doesn't work on everything. Some applications will pan and grab when you use the middle-click and hold manoeuvre.
The device's BlueTrack technology means that it will work on most surfaces, whether they are rough, glossy or soft. Be warned, however, that the mouse won't work on clear glass or mirrored surfaces. The 2.4GHz wireless USB tranceiver connects wirelessly straight out of the box and has a wireless range of up to 30 feet. Presumably you won't often be that far away from your computer when using the mouse, but it could prove handy for presentations in the boardroom.
And what about the all-important battery life? According to the maker, you should get up to 6 months of use before the batteries conk out and need replacing.
Overall, the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse is a great product, and the bendy design has enough quirkiness to keep jaded gadgets fans happy while also offering the tangible benefits of a compact, portable device. Unsurprinsly, it's not as good as a full-size desktop mouse, but it is a superb alternative to the built-in trackpad on your laptop.
The only real downside was that the scrolling on the navigation strip was slightly unreliable. Also, it might have been nice to include side-mounted buttons for moving backwards and forwards on the web, using your thumb. And despite its travel-friendly credentials, the gadget may be a little too dainty for some. It's also a little on the pricey side, but if you're looking for an external mouse to use on the move then this is a solid option.