posted by Thom Holwerda on Fri 12th Aug 2005 21:08 UTC
IconMany reviews of Apple's new Mighty Mouse have already appeared on the web, and most of them were quite negative. Walter Mossberg even concluded: "Microsoft has beaten Apple on hardware design, at least in this one case." Are these findings correct? To find out, we put the Mighty Mouse to the test.

Packaging

The mouse comes in a fairly standard Apple box, but on closer inspection an oddity jumps into view: the text on the side of the box, containing the usual "Designed by Apple in Cailfornia", is a sticker, and not actually printed on the box itself. This might seem insignificant, but according to AppleInsider, this is due to the fact that the Mighty Mouse was originally planned to be released alongside Tiger in April.

Anyway, the box contains everything you'd expect: a user guide (in ten languages), a disc with drivers, a warranty notice, and of course the mouse itself.

Upon first inspection (see a video here), the mouse looks solid, and well-built. The cord is very short, only 74 centimeters, and that is a major setback. If you're using a PowerMac with a non-Mac keyboard or a PC, you're going to need an extension cord. The fact that the mouse isn't cordless has raised some eyebrows, but for me, this is a major plus. I'm not a fan of cordless mice; they're usually heavier, require batteries and/or recharging, and in the end you still have a cord that leads to the receiver.

Design Flaw I: The Scrollball

The scrollball looks very fragile and small, and initially I was afraid that it was far too small to be of any use. After usage, I can tell you that that is not the case. It gives very gentle tactile feedback, just enough to feel that something is actually happening. It is really also a relief to be able to scroll in any direction; this will be especially important to graphics artists. Of course there are other mice that can do this too, by either tilting the scrollhweel (Microsoft mice have this) or by having a horizontal wheel, but those solutions are not as elegant as Apple's scrollball.

The scrollball has one major downside though: it is placed just a few millimeters too far south. This means that you either have to scroll using your index finger, or you have to curl up your middle finger to reach it. This is a serious problem, and not something I came to expect from Apple. It's quite obvious, so I would have expected Apple to identify the problem.

Design Flaw II: The Squeeze Button

Another function touted by Apple is the 'squeeze' button. On their website, it may look like it's got two sidebuttons, but don't be fooled: it's actually only one button. And, on top of that, one button that is close to unusable. You have to squeeze really tight to get it to do anything. And, if you don't watch out, you might end up pressing one of the normal buttons. Another major design flaw, and quite frankly, another very obvious one. A sidenote is appropriate though: it might be that due to usage, the squeeze buttons will 'wear' a bit, and this might lead to less squeezing needed.

Design Flaw III: Touch Sensor Technology

The touch sensor system is a nice feature, and it helps to keep that single-button look that I personally really love, but it also has a major problem: you cannot right-click without lifting your index finger from the left-side of the mouse. This is quite odd, but to be honest, I already lifted my index finger sometimes, when right-clicking! I never knew that, but I did it unconsciously. It doesn't resolve the issue with the Mighty Mouse, but it does alleviate it a bit. I do classify this as the third design flaw, though.

OS X and Mouse Acceleration

OS X has a real problem with mouse movements. This problem is well known, and yet Apple has not addressed this issue. I'll try to explain what the problem exactly is: when you want to go from i.e. one menu item to the other, the acceleration is way too slow, and you end up clicking the item where you left. Okay, so you try to move a little longer, but then the acceleration kicks in and you end up clicking another wrong item!

For 'overall' mouse movements, from say the top to the bottom of the screen, this is no problem. However, for smaller and more accurate movements, this is a real showstopper. Yes, I never used a mouse on OS X, other than my iBook's trackpad (which somehow doesn't have this problem), because of this.

However, there is a way to solve it, by using a 3rd party application called USB Overdrive. Tweaking with its settings can really alleviate the problem, although it never really ceases to exist. I had a faint hope that the Mighty Mouse might solve the problem. Well, it didn't. You will still need USB Overdrive, or a similar application, to make a mouse in OS X usable.

Conclusion

Is the mighty mouse worth the 59,- I payed for it? It's difficult to say. The three major design flaws (scrollball placed too far south, squeeze buttons too difficult to use, touch-sensor technology not advanced enough) make this a difficult buy to justify. If you already have a decent mouse, I really cannot come up with a reason to buy this mouse, other than "It's Apple".

However, if you are replacing an old one, and you have OS X, then do consider this mouse. The scrollball is truly a relief, even if it's placed too low. Lifting your index finger to right-click seems very annoying, but since OS X is perfectly usable without right-clicking (at least for me), this might not be a real problem either. Can it replace the 'ordinary' Apple Pro Mouse? Certainly, with the supplied utilities, you can always configure the Mighty Mouse to behave exactly like the Pro Mouse.

The gist: For true Apple fans only. The other reviews were right: this mouse could have been a lot better.

-Thom Holwerda


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