Let's jump into the way-back machine and travel to last year's E3. I was walking around the fun and often absurd productsin Kentia Hall, and had the chance to test-drive one of Sandio's 3D Mice. I bashed it in my write-up: the test was limited to a first-person shooter and using the "3D buttons" on the left, right, and top of the mouse wasanawkward way of controlling the camera. The company wrote in to defend its product, and I've since received a review sample. Now that I've started to give PC gaming more of my time with the new gaming rig, I thought this would be a good time to take another look at the product.
The representative from the company was right in that I didn't give the mouse a fair shake in my first write-up, but then again I don't think it was presented very well: this is not a good mouse for first-person shooters. The main selling point here is the inclusion of three four-way joysticks on the mouse. While these can be changed to any command via the included software, it's easy to think of them as ways to manipulate objects in 3D space. The diagram on Sandio's site lays it out for you, and you're forgiven if it all looks a little complicated. There is a demo in the software where you can use the three joysticks to manipulate a cube, and while I thought it was nifty when I first played with it, I was left wondering what use this would have in gaming. It would take me way too long to retrain my hand to use this for FPS titles, and I don't think that's the point. Keeping all that movement on one hand would cramp you up pretty bad.
However, the mouse is a dream for real-time strategy games. WhereFPS games let you think about 3D movement naturally with a mouse and a keyboard, being able to swing the camera around in RTS titles, zooming in and out of the map using only your right hand, is an intuitiveprocess with this mouse. You can keep your left hand free to group your units, set up some hot-keys, or simply drink a soda.Perhaps the mouse wasn't the problem, and Sandiohad just shown it off with the wrong sort of game. This is a very nice product for 3D RTS games, and with Command and Conquer 3, Supreme Commander, and even Dawn of War keeping that genre popular, this may be a good time to look at a mouse to help with your RTS needs.
The build quality is neither shockingly good nor obviously bad, and that's not a good sign from a product that carries an MSRP of $79.99. The wrist guard that's included with the mouse is nice to have, but I removed it after a few minutes of play. Other people who used the mouse liked it, though, so your mileage may vary. The ability to change DPI on the fly is a nice one, giving snipers another reason to take a look.
Sandio's site also tells us the mouse works well in applications like Google Earth, and with some trial and error I found a few other things I enjoyed using it for. While I don't think the mouse will ever replace the keyboard, it was easy for me to replace the strafe command in FPS games on my keyboard to the mouse, andanything with a 3D camera was a joy to use. AutoCAD and 3D Studio Max support is coming in the future, which could make this a favorite mouse for professionals using those tools. As it stands, this is a solid but expensive mouse that works very well for a very specific type of game. I've been impressed with it in my time using the peripheral, but it remains a niche product that some gamers will go crazy for, and others will be safe ignoring.
Verdict: RTS fan? Buy. Everyone Else? Skip.
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