Sandio Technologies delivers a solid product in the 3D Game 'O Mouse, but a less than intuitive interface. While the mouse is designed to target the hardcore gamer, its usability varies across different genres. It works well with slower titles like Medieval 2: Total War, and not so well with fast paced games like Call of Duty. As with any specialized piece of equipment, the goal is to improve your performance, and unfortunately the 3D Gaming 'O Mouse - as often as not - turned into an obstacle to be overcome instead.
The mouse has all the normal features, two buttons and a mouse-wheel. In addition to the normal features, the mouse has three analog joysticks. One is positioned atop the mouse, between the mouse buttons and forward the wheel. This moves the mouse wheel further back than is customary, making it harder to use for things such as FPS weapon-changing. The other two joysticks are mounted on the side, with one near the right-hand thumb position. This joystick is much more intuitive to use than the others for me. In fact, the top joystick occasionally gets in the way when playing twitchy games, such as FPS titles.
The pre-configured game drivers are able to be selected from the taskbar interface alone. There is no game-recognition built into the drivers, so that loading new configurations between games must take place before the game launches if you're changing from one game to another. So, if you are changing from a 'WASD' style game to one using the arrow keys and forget to change configurations, the previous configuration will not work, rendering the benefits of the three analog joysticks null.
For game testing, I played three titles from differing genres. I chose a FPS title I had played often before, and which used only basic FPS functions. Call of Duty is a good representation of the genre, and its controls are basic as far as FPS games go.
Secondly, I chose to play Medieval 2: Total War from Creative Assembly and Sega. As a real time strategy title, I wanted to see how the mouse's built-in joysticks worked with camera controls and battlefield commands.
Lastly, I played a few nights in World of Warcraft with the Sandio mouse. The controls for WOW are fairly simple, and I wanted to test out mapping macro keys and bound keystrokes to the three joysticks. As a popular title, this game would be one of the first that a new user might use the new mouse technology for.
When playing COD, I chose to first test the mouse's controls on an empty server, moving and shooting as one might in a training mode. This is when the learning curve for this mouse presented itself. Moving forward, backward and to each side, the movement was fairly quick to pick up. Other movements, however, became very difficult to master well. Jumping into a window or through a window, a commonplace action in the fast-paced world of COD, became difficult to master. Also, as mentioned before, the by moving the mouse wheel back towards a user's palm, switching weapons requires moving your fingers back away from the firing buttons. In short, the benefits of the mouse were outweighed by it's shortfalls in this genre.
The Sandio's joysticks worked well with the camera controls of Medieval 2: Total War. In fighting battles, it was easy to move the camera about the battlefield simply by moving one of the mapped joystick controls. The position of the controls is not detrimental to the use of the mouse with this title. Through several battles and a hundred year's worth of turns, I had no problems using the mouse with the game. Again, however, if you have played another game, you need to remember to change configurations before loading the new title.
Using the Sandio with WOW, I mapped the controls of my character to the mouse's configured joysticks. Working through a few nights of quests, the controls worked well. With movement and a few spells mapped to motions of the three joysticks, I saw no drop-off in my playing ability. In fact, the mapped keys worked well for freeing up one hand for other controls. The one time I had problems with the keys was again due to the steep adjustment curve of the Sandio's controls. In a high-charged environment such as PvP in WOW, the control locations again can lead to confusion. The top joystick proved troublesome when - on more than one occasion - my fingers triggered motion on the joystick rather than right or left clicking the mouse buttons. It is very easy for someone not dexterous to bump the top joystick rather than pressing a mouse button. I found it easier to change the configuration to ignore the top joystick entirely, not ideal when this removes 4 mappable keys from the mouse.
Because of the need to adjust from a 2 or 3 button mouse world, and the poor performance of the top joystick and mousewheel in fast-action games, there are more problems to learning how to use the Sandio mouse than I believe it would benefit a gamer from taking the time to learn. I found myself turning off buttons on the mouse to prevent it from interfering with my gameplay. After Call of Duty, my attitude changed from, "Let's see if this mouse will help me play better," to, "Let's see if I can play as well with this mouse."
Perhaps with more work from Sandio's engineers, the Sandio Technology 3D Game O' Mouse will be the next evolution in mouse hardware. Solving the problem with the top joystick and mouse buttons would be the first priority I would suggest. Until then, the benefits are outweighed by the drawbacks.