Refashioned rodent with laptop leanings
Review Mice are nice, but you need desk space to use them. The large trackpad on my MacBook Pro is a decent substitute, but regular notebook trackpads usually seem to me too meanly proportioned. And when it comes to netbooks the dancefloor is getting really tight.
Netbook habitat: Swiftpoint's Futuremouse
Me, I favour the Glidepoint that IBM positioned in the dead centre of the keyboard when it introduced the ThinkPad series twenty years ago, but that seems to be a diminishing option these days.
The New Zealand based outfit Swiftpoint claims to have come up with the ideal alternative that takes us back to the mouse. The main focus is not only to make it small but to design it differently so that the diminutive size doesn't bring on hand cramps.
This is backed up with a 1000dpi resolution, and an optical sensitivity that allows it to be used on any kind of surface, including – if your notebook's on your knees – over the keyboard itself.
The pen-like grip is designed to minimise hand cramping experienced with small mouse use
You hold the Futuremouse like a pen, gripping it lightly between your thumb and your craned second finger. The index finger operates the equivalents of the left and right buttons as well as the scroll wheel, which is off to the side on the right. Those are the basics, but there are a couple of ingenious refinements too.
Thumbing a lift
A sensor on the right hand side can optionally be activated to switch off the mouse action when the second finger is lifted. This makes removing the second finger equivalent to lifting the mouse, so that in limited space you're able to slide the mouse across the surface with just your thumb without moving the mouse pointer. This turns out to be very useful when, for example, the keyboard is doubling as your mouse pad.
The wireless USB adapter has a magnetic charging point too
The other refinement takes advantage of the side mounted scroll wheel. Slightly tilting the mouse to the right allows the scroll wheel to be rolled along the work surface for fast scrolling. Hold down the right button while you do this and the screen zooms. Holding down the left button and scrolling gives you Page Up and Page Down.
The mouse connects wirelessly through a small USB adapter that also serves as a charging station. For charging, the mouse latches magnetically onto the adaptor, and can pick enough juice in 30 seconds to run for an hour. A full charge takes 90 minutes and will power the mouse for at least a couple of weeks.
The Futuremouse docked on its USB adapter
The magnetic latch has the added advantage of physically attaching the mouse to your laptop so that you can easily carry the two together. But the combination probably won't go into any protective case, and the mouse can be knocked off rather easily, so you'll want to use this feature with caution.
This clever rethink of Doug Englebart's invention does what it claims, does it well, and is a near-perfect solution for my MSI Wind. Shame that it's not Bluetooth, making the USB adaptor necessary, but the adaptor's triple role as wireless transceiver, charger and docking station goes a long way to justifying its existence.
Get a grip to minimise netbook navigation niggles
Overall, the Futuremouse is very nicely crafted piece of kit, Christmas-cracker-sized but built like real jewellery. Priced like real jewellery too, alas. For the money you could opt buy a couple of standard bulk wireless mice from decent brands, but how you'd fare using them atop your keyboard is another matter. ®
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