At a Glance
The Bad: No programmable side buttons
Unlike its Windows 8 sibling the Wedge Touch, the Sculpt Touch is a lot more functional. No, it's not nearly as portable, but it is a lot more comfortable in long-term use. Whereas the Wedge Touch seemed more fitting for portability-conscious Windows 8 tablet users, the Sculpt Touch can work with just about any other demographic.
Its smooth glossy body and metal touch strip call to mind the Explorer Touch, which was reviewed favorably on this site. The Sculpt Touch is a bit wider and a bit fatter, and it didn't feel just a bit too long to me as the Explorer Touch had. It should be noted that they carry the same MSRP ($49.95), so ideally you should try one out in a store if at all possible to see which dimensions your hand prefers.
As of this writing (November 2012), the mouse was offered in just one color -- Storm Gray - which features black rubberized side grips. There are no programmable side buttons on the Sculpt Touch, which is a bit unfortunate and seems like a missed opportunity.
The Sculpt Touch is designed to be used with Bluetooth devices. Since most new computers (and nearly all tablets) feature this technology, this isn't meant to be an issue. However, if you're nonetheless using an older laptop without built-in Bluetooth (as I do), you can still use the Sculpt Touch with an external Bluetooth receiver. I picked one up on Amazon for just a couple bucks. Unfortunately, the receiver does jut out the side and is rather ugly, but pairing it was effortless. You can read instructions on how to do it here.
One of the most complimentary things you can say about a computer peripheral is that it gets the job done without you having to think about it. The Sculpt Touch clicked and dragged smoothly, and the touch strip scrolled nicely and effortlessly. The touch strip does feature tactile feedback to mimic detent scrolling, a feature I personally prefer.
The mouse features side-to-side scrolling, which can be a godsend for those users who spend their days nose-deep in Excel spreadsheets, and is also an example of a Windows 8 feature. The Win8 OS is a touchscreen-friendly platform, and users swipe and slide the menus from left to right to access them. Those who do not have touchscreens, or those who don't always want to use them, can make use of the Sculpt Touch's touch strip instead.
The Sculpt Touch also has BlueTrack technology, which is designed to let you use the mouse on nearly any type of surface. The only exceptions, Microsoft says, are clear glass and mirrored surfaces, so still bring along your mouse pad if you'll be using it on that.
This is not an ergonomic mouse. It is an ambidextrous mouse, so while you can use it in both hands, it's not sculpted to fit in either one (despite its name). I did not face any discomfort during periods of heavy use.
Microsoft claims the battery life is nine months for the Sculpt Touch. I did not test it for that long, but I did not experience any problems. It is, however, just half the battery life of the Explorer Touch. There is an on/off switch on the Sculpt Touch to conserve battery life, which is always a plus when you remember to use it. (I am getting much better at this.) It uses two AA batteries.
The Bottom Line
The Sculpt Touch is a great option for a new Windows 8 user who's not looking for many more bells and whistles, or for a Windows 7 user who just wants a comfortable mouse with a touch strip. Add in Bluetooth, BlueTrack and side-to-side scrolling, and you have a decent feature mix, but it would have been nice if Microsoft had added in a side programmable button as well.
I want to note that I did drop the Sculpt Touch on a hardwood floor during my review, and I was unable to subsequently pair it with the Bluetooth receiver from then on. I contacted a spokeswoman for Microsoft Hardware, who assured me that the Sculpt Touch is designed to withstand many such drops. After unsuccessfully trying a few of her troubleshooting tips, she shipped me a new Sculpt Touch review model. I put it through the same tests as the previous model (including allowing it to fall off my desk), and I found no issues. I think it's more likely that I had a bad luck of the draw than it is that Sculpt Touch is especially delicate. I have dropped many a mouse on my office floor, and it is very rare that one does not survive the landing.