It really galls us to say this, but we have a soft spot for Microsoft's latest range of gaming peripherals. We were very fond of the X5 mouse and X6 keyboard, but this new mouse goes one step further and actually brings some true innovation to wireless peripherals.
One of the real issues with using a wireless product when you're gaming is dealing with it when it runs out of charge or the batteries die. It's usually a pretty solid brick wall, stopping your experience dead and leading to grief and the gnashing of teeth (hey, we love our gaming!). But Microsoft - and we don't say this often, so enjoy it - has outdone itself to come up with an elegant solution to the problem. Magnets!
The X8 (gallery here) features a base station like many wireless products, that plugs into your PC's USB port, and deals with the fiddly process of beaming signals from your PC to your mouse. But that's not the only cable snaking from it - there's a mouse cable that ends in a magnetised adapter. It's designed in such a way that at the first signs of trouble you can simply tap it with your mouse and it'll attach, correctly, first time every time.
It is, simply put, brilliant.
The mouse itself combines the best features of the X5 and previous MS mice. It's well weighted, erring on the heavier side of things, which suits us just fine. It's technically bigger than the X5, but, oddly, feels smaller. We think it's the subtle differences in the curves, allowing you to grasp the mouse with thumb and ring finger just about perfectly. It has on-the-fly DPI switching (which you can adjust in the mouse's settings on your PC), well placed thumb buttons that improve on the X5 as well, and all seven of the buttons (the scroll wheel tilts left and right also) are programmable.
The placement of the laser is a little odd, though. It's slightly off-center from most other mice, which leads to an initial feeling that the X8 is simply not that accurate. However, with continued use you quite quickly get used to this, and the mouse is as responsive and accurate as you could want.
We still think the X5 wins on scroll-wheel performance, but the X8's metal wheel is certainly more responsive than previous MS attempts. And, impressively, it's still in the $100 range. For the ease of use of the magnetic cord, and solid and precise wireless performance, this is a mouse we love - with no reservations.