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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Apple Mighty Mouse Review

Mighty MouseApple releasing a mouse with more than one button? Isn’t that a sign of the apocalypse? In a bewildered daze I must’ve clicked some buttons and ordered one, because a Mighty Mouse arrived today. Yeah, I know you’ve probably read dozens of reviews by now from bloggers who live in tents outside Apple stores, but here’s mine anyway.

The name

I suppose naming it after a singing superhero rodent finally makes ‘GarageBand’ look sensible.

The hardware

Needless to say, it feels well-made, but the first thing that struck me was how short the USB cable is: a measly 75cm or so! Great for users plugging into keyboards, but barely long enough to reach around my tiny 12" PowerBook and no good for my PC, so you might need an extension cable. There’s no strain relief on the cable, which is mildly worrying given Apple’s record.

Left- and right-clicking is detected based on how you apply pressure to the front of the case, and there’s a crisp tactile and audible click, but right-clicks tend to get overridden by any pressure on the left (Ars Technica’s dissection offers an explanation for this).

The tiny Scroll Ball takes a bit of getting used to, as it needs less force to roll than you expect. You can move in any direction, but the mechanism works smoothest along the four axes. Hopefully it won’t pick up too much dirt, as there’s no way to clean the innards (a scroll wheel can cope fine with dirt as the sensors can be kept well away from the surface of the wheel).

The side buttons (used to trigger a single action) don’t work so well. Firmly pressing both at once with thumb and little finger is very awkward, and they can be hard to find by touch despite being separated from the main shell. A small speaker generates a click for these otherwise-silent buttons. Perhaps I’ll get used to them, but at the moment they seem like a clunky gimmick.

The overall shape of the mouse is a bit flat for my liking, it doesn’t support my hand as well as the Microsoft mice.

The software

You can plug it into a Mac or PC and use it as a normal 3-button scroll mouse right away without installing anything, but if you have OS X v 10.4.2 there’s software to configure the 4 buttons and scrolling features.

The software installed smoothly but took a surprisingly long time (almost as long as to upgrade from 10.4.1 to 10.4.2) and required a restart. By default the Scroll Ball button toggles Dashboard, the side buttons activate Exposé and there’s no separate right-click action.

The verdict

The Scroll Ball works pretty well, but the iffy right-click, awkward side buttons and short cable mean it’s probably not worth a whopping 35 quid… unless you simply must have something shiny and new to match your Mac.


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