The Sidewinder X8 clearly has similarities with its siblings in the design department, and of course lefties are out in the cold on this one as it’s a right hand only product. Most notably the X8 retains the far more comfortable shape of the X5 and the aluminum scroll wheel of the original Sidewinder. Like its siblings, the X8 makes use of an LCD display to report things like DPI setting, located near your right thumb. Charging is also indicated in this display with a battery symbol. It also takes the original Sidewinder’s replaceable feet feature and the heavy use of LED lighting.
The Sidewinder X8 has a ton of buttons (twelve in this case) with up to seven of them being programmable (up from the 5 programmable on the original Sidewinder and the X5). This gives loads more flexibility for users that like to make all their buttons do other things or to fine tune DPI button settings (stock settings are 500, 1000, and 4000). All of this is accomplished using the Intellipoint software. They also tweaked the vertical side buttons to make them less likely to be pushed by accident in the heat of battle and I have to admit, it is a good tweak.
Macro programming functionality is also retained in the X8’s internal memory using the dedicated Macro button located in front of the vertical side buttons. This allows you to customize the settings right in the game without the use of the Intellipoint software, which many hardcore gamers skip installing anyway (the CD makes a great drink coaster though).
The Macro programming button is well placed and won’t be a burden in battle as it cannot be easily pushed by accident. Press it down to get it in the mood, tap the button you want to macro-ize, do your thing, then tap it again to save the macro. The X8 does retain the Quick Launch button for Microsoft PC Gaming features that no one uses.
The most unique feature of this mouse is the fact that it can go from wired to wireless quite easily. This allows you to game on whether you’re running low on juice or not. Although there is a wire running from the mouse to the PC when you put it into charge mode, it doesn’t actually turn it back into a wired mouse. It’s still running wireless even tethered for charging.
Installation and Setup
The first thing you need to do is install the included rechargeable AA battery into the belly. The use of an off the shelf battery type makes it easy to replace if and when the time comes, which I like. Just plug it into a USB port and it will start to charge up. If you’re a fan of Battlestar, you’ll like the cylon like glow in the tail section of the mouse when it is charging (gallery on the last page has a good pic). When it needs to be charged, the tail light turns orange. Unecessary since the LCD does indicate charging as well, but cool nonetheless.
To install or not to install: That is the question! Again, most serious gamers scoff at the idea of software running in the background that dictates the behavior of their mouse. Although the tag stuck to the USB connector says install the software first, this isn’t actually necessary to make the mouse function. However, if you want to fine tune the DPI settings on the mouse or remap buttons, you will have to install it. Installation with and without software worked perfectly fine on both Windows Vista 64 and my MacBook Pro (which I have no games for).