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Apple Mighty Mouse

Re-inventing the wheel... er... ball

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First UK review Apple has insisted that mice need only one button for so long that its stance has become an article of faith for many in the Mac community. What a shock then that this week it should release a mouse with essentially not one but four buttons. And some of you thought the shift to Intel was bad...

Apple Mighty MouseTruth is, Mac OS X has had multi-button mouse support for ages, and I for one have been happily pushing a Logitech job around my desk in order to get fast access to contextual menus, now a key component of the Mac UI - though not, of course, when Apple began shipping one-button mice.

With a one-button mouse you can still access contextual menus, either by holding down the Control key, or simply clicking and holding. But there's no doubt a dedicated mouse button is best. Ditto a scroll wheel, for navigating long documents, and the Mighty Mouse, as the new Apple peripheral is styled, has one of those too.

The Mighty Mouse works straight out of the box, sort of. Mac OS X 10.4.2's Keyboard and Mouse control panel already spotting the presence of the scroll wheel and introducing a speed setter control accordingly. But installing the bundled software adds the ability to customise the buttons and, crucially, allowing the 'right-hand button' - Apple calls it the "secondary" button - to work.

I say 'right-hand button' in quotes because in truth it isn't. The Mighty Mouse has a single button as earlier Apple mice did. Inside, a sensor detects where your finger is - they work by detecting changes in the circuits' capacitance - and on that basis decides whether the click should be treated as a left-hand button or a right-hand one. This is fine if you keep your fingers ever poised above the mouse, only touching it when you want to click. But if, like me, you rest both fingers on the mouse's surface, it can't work out which kind of click you want and defaults to left.

The Mighty Mouse is comfortable enough to use, particularly if you're used to Apple's rounded-rectangle design. If you've become accustomed to something more contoured - my Logitech notebook mouse is distinctly fatter at one end that the other, for example - it feels unusual.

There's a third button positioned on the left-hand side of the mouse where your thumb rests, and an identical one on the other side, similarly positioned for left-handed users. Apple talks about the Mighty Mouse's 'squeezability', but it's a simple thumb-switch. It could have allowed you to customise both of these buttons, but it assumes you'll be using just one, with your thumb, though it's perfectly possible to operate both.

Well, almost. The buttons are positioned too far forward for my shortish fingers, though lank-fingered arty types should have no problem. In any case, I'd have liked a little more 'give' in the either switch, which have almost no movement. There's some audio feedback, courtesy of a clicker inside the mouse - unplug it and you can't hear a thing - so I suspect it too operates through a sensor.

Pressing the scroll wheel in activates the mouse's fourth button, though I should say it's not really a wheel at all but a tiny ball. The upshot is vertical and horizontal scrolling without the need for the convoluted rocker mechanism Microsoft builds into certain of its mice. The Mighty Mouse's ball is perhaps no easier to use, but it feels better. It's not as 'steppy' as other scroll-wheels feel, but it's not totally smooth either. It's precise enough to give you pixel-level scrolling in some apps, though not others.

Apple Mighty Mouse

As usual Apple has provided a cable that's rather short, but since its mice are usually connected to a keyboard or a notebook, that's less of an issue than it might be for PC-connected rodents that need to run to the floor and round behind the system unit. A USB extension cable would solve the problem had Apple chosen to bundle one. Given the price, it should have, particularly since it notes the rodents ability to work with Windows XP and 2000.

The cable is thin, too - about three-quarters of the width of the one on my Logitech mouse. At least the cable seems well secured at the mouse end - I've seen too many transparent Apple mice where one of the fine wires has broken here, rendering the device useless.

That's not an issue with cordless mice, and hopefully a Bluetooth Mighty Mouse is in the works.

Verdict

I like the Mighty Mouse. The thumb button is tricky, but otherwise it's reasonably comfortable to use. The single physical click/two virtual clicks mechanism works well, and the scroll nipple is a joy to tease... er... push. But while the Mighty Mouse is better than some I've tried, I'm not sure it's worth more than double the £15 I spent on the Logitech. ®

 

Apple Mighty Mouse
 
Rating 75%
 
Pros Good solution for horizontal and vertical scrolling; does just what it says on the tin.
 
Cons Favours the long-fingered; rather expensive.
 
Price £35/$49
 
More info The Apple Mighty Mouse site

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