BlueTrack vs. Laser: Unusual Surfaces Microsoft's new Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000 has BlueTrack technology that's supposed to work on "virtually any surface." It delivers.

Most modern mice use a red light or laser to track movement, but Microsoft uses what it calls BlueTrack Technology in some of its newer mice. The company's new Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000 uses the technology, and I decided to run it through its paces on some unusual surfaces.

Before that, a little about the 4000. It's small but surprisingly comfortable, even though I usually prefer larger mice. The USB transceiver for the mouse is tiny, barely sticking out of a USB port, but it's still easy to get out of a computer, and it snaps into the mouse for easy transportation. For a more serious look at the 4000, check out this article.

To give BlueTrack a challenge, I compared the performance of the mouse with that of a Logitech G9, a wired laser mouse that costs more than twice what you'd pay for the 4000.




Dark Glass Pan
The 4000's package specifically states that BlueTrack won't work on clear glass, so I gave the mice a shot on the darkest glass I could find, a baking pan. The laser mouse was jumpy and I definitely wouldn't want to use it regularly on this kind of surface.

The 4000, however, word very well, except when it bumped up against the textured logo on the pan. The smooth glass was kind of odd and I'd prefer a mouse pad, but it seems like dark glass makes a decent surface for a BlueTrack mouse. At least, dark baking pan glass does.




Clear Glass
Despite what the box says, I had to try a clear piece of glass from an entertainment center. To make sure the mice weren't reading from a surface under the glass, I held it in the air while I tested them.

With the laser mouse, the cursor jumped around at random. There's no way you'd ever get anything done with the laser mouse on a glass table.

The BlueTrack mouse actually worked on the glass, but it was choppy and would occasionally seem to get stuck and stop responding for a second. BlueTrack works much better than the laser mouse on clear glass, but it still isn't a good experience.




Carpet, Faux Wool Blanket
The 4000's box specifically says that it works on carpet. The mouse's sensor never had any trouble working, on either short office carpet or shaggy home carpeting, but in both cases, the carpet fibers pushed against the mouse, making the cursor jump around as I moved the mouse. The laser mouse had the same problem and performed similarly to the 4000.




Cat
The 4000 worked on this surface to some extent, but the irregularities on the surface made it impractical. The surface was surprisingly tolerant of the small, light mouse.

The laser mouse couldn't even be tested on this surface—the surface wouldn't tolerate the cord or relatively heavy mouse.

Surface Variety
The BlueTrack mouse really does work on more surfaces than the high-end laser mouse. If you're usually at a desk, this probably doesn't matter to you, but if you take your laptop everywhere, the ability to use just about any surface could come in handy. You can find other name brand wireless mice for much less than the 4000's MSRP of $39.95, though, so you might consider simply bringing a mouse pad with you. For more on the mouse, see Microsoft's Mouse 4000 site.