Magic Mouse, by Apple

Posted: 15-Jul-2014

4 out of 5 Mice Vendor: Apple Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Tim Wooley Class: HARDWARE

Overview

For many years Apple was criticized for providing a one-button mouse when Microsoft Windows users had two button mice. With the Magic Mouse Apple introduces a zero button mouse with more features than any previous mouse I've seen or used. All right, the Apple Magic Mouse only appears to lack buttons because it incorporates button functionality into the mouse surface. The Apple Magic Mouse also dramatically expands the Macintosh user's mouse vocabulary with new feature names like flicking, 360 scrolling, panning, left-to-right two-finger swipes, and right-to-left two-finger swipes, all while maintaining our need to understand primary (left) and secondary (right) button clicking when no buttons are obvious. And yes, we still get to double-click objects.

The Magic Mouse presents itself as a white, rectangular curved plastic surface about as long, but just a little narrower, than an iPhone. (The surface is actually transparent, just its underneath side is white.) The only feature visible in the surface is a light grey Apple logo centered near one end. (The logo indicates how to orient the mouse, i.e. the logo should appear right side up to the user.)

Apple Magic Mouse

Features

  • Bluetooth Wireless connectivity (Apple does not make a USB version)
  • Smooth surface (no surface gaps)
  • Click, double click, secondary (right) button click
  • 360 degree scrolling
  • Zoom (with Control key)
  • Two finger swipe (where software supports)
  • User programmable functions
  • On/off switch and power indicator light

Requirements

  • Macintosh computer with Bluetooth
  • Mac OS X v10.5.8 or higher with Wireless Mouse Software update 1.0
  • Requires existing keyboard and mouse (or laptop track pad) for set up
  • Two double A (AA) batteries (included)

Test Machine

  • 20 inch 2.4 GHz iMac with one Gigabyte of RAM
  • 13 inch 2.0 GHz Macbook with one Gigabyte of RAM
  • (Both running Mac OS X v 10.6.2)

Price

$69

Installation

  1. Ensure your OS is up to date. (I did not download the Wireless Mouse Software update as Apple website indicates it's for Mac OS X v10.5.8 and my Macs are running 10.6.2.)
  2. Install the included batteries properly and turn on your new Magic Mouse.
  3. In Bluetooth Preferences choose Set up Bluetooth Mouse.
  4. When your Mac finds your Magic Mouse confirm you want to pair them.
  5. In Mouse Preferences select how you want to configure your new mouse. (Mousing over the various options brings up a short video illustrating the feature. This is helpful for introducing the feature before activating or deactivating it.)

Mouse Preferences Control

In Use

Many of my previous mice were lightweight plastic, but not the Magic Mouse. The Magic Mouse feels solid. The base appears to be metal and the plastic top is thick. The Magic Mouse has a lower profile than many other mice, including previous Apple mice. Primary and secondary clicks, sometimes called left and right click, are smooth with the mouse providing both tactile and audible cues to the user. The Magic Mouse recognizes/accepts primary clicks from the left edge to past the left-to-right centerline of the mouse surface. This provides a larger primary click area than the secondary click's area. The Magic Mouse accepts clicks from front edge to just beyond the front-to-back mid line for both primary and secondary clicks, but further back, toward the user's palm, the Magic Mouse does not accept clicks when pressed near the left or right edge, i.e. outside the footprint of the rubber rails under the mouse. Switching the Magic Mouse so primary clicking is on the right side of the mouse and secondary clicking is on the left somehow retains a larger response area for primary clicks. [Mouse Preferences unexpected quit the first time I switched the left/right orientation for one of my Magic Mice, but successfully made the switch and did not quit when I switched back. The problem may have been I right clicked when I meant to left click.] Accidentally clicking with two fingers is interpreted as a primary click even if the second finger is far to the right of center and you exert more pressure on the right side.

The Magic Mouse supports both vertical scrolling and horizontal panning and the combination of the two, which Apple calls 360 degree scrolling. Sliding your finger in any direction on the mouse surface initiates scrolling, assuming the entire object is not visible within the window. Moving your finger down toward your palm scrolls down the page and conversely, moving them up toward the front of the mouse scrolls up the page. You might not notice horizontal or 360 degree scrolling in normal text documents and web pages because we typically display the entire page width in the window. The Magic Mouse surface is sensitive to any finger movement so it's easy to unintentionally scroll when reaching for the Magic Mouse or resting your hand on it. For me this occurs most frequently when writing, though I've noticed it when viewing long web pages and playing web games. The Magic Mouse is sensitive to finger movement over most of its surface with the area at and below the Apple logo, i.e. the area typically under the user's palm, being the only area it didn't scroll in response to finger movement.

The Magic Mouse also supports extended scrolling. When the user quickly flicks his or her finger up or down the mouse surface the Magic Mouse provides an accelerated scroll for traveling further with less effort. In testing on a 46-page text document I was able to flick forward an average of 10.5 pages with five being the fewest pages flicked forward, 16 being the most pages covered, and 11 being the median. Flicking backwards covered an average of 8.8 pages with four being the fewest, 17 being the most pages covered and six the median. I wonder whether over time, and with practice, I might develop more consistent flicking skills.

The Magic Mouse supports swiping two fingers horizontally across the mouse surface to act as a page turn. The two-finger swipe takes the user from the current page to the next or previous page, depending on whether you swipe left-to-right or right-to-left. (The Magic Mouse treats a vertical two-finger swipe as a finger flick and scrolls accordingly.) The two-finger swipe is best performed when you are not holding the mouse. The two-finger swipe must be done crisply across most of the mouse surface and only moves one page per swipe. Incidentally, switching the left/right click orientation does not change two-finger-swipe directions, a left-to-right two-finger swipe still takes the user to the next page and a right-to-left two-finger swipe take the user back a page. In Safari the two-finger swipe allows the user to move back and forth between visited pages. IPhoto supports the two-finger swipe for both photos and events. I tried to use the two-finger swipe in iTunes in grid view, but it did not move forward or backward from a selected album. In Preview the two-finger swipe takes you to the next or previous page in PDF files, but so. The two-finger swipe had no affect in my older (2004) versions of Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. The two-finger swipe is the one feature I quibble about the naturalness of the action. When turning the page in a book I drag my fingers right to left to turn to the next page. The Magic Mouse uses the left to right motion to move forward a page (or object). Since the feature works for objects other than pages it is appropriate/consistent for the left to right motion to be interpreted as move forward. As I mentioned this is just a quibble, nothing serious.

The Magic Mouse also provides the ability to zoom in on a portion of the screen. To activate zooming with the Magic Mouse the user holds down the Control key and then moves his or her finger toward the front end of the mouse. If the user holds down the Control key and draws a finger toward the back end of the mouse the screen is zoomed back out to normal perspective. The user cannot zoom further out than full screen. The zoom feature zooms in on every object on the desktop not just the active window. The level of zoom is maintained when switching from one Space to another. When zoomed in you can use the mouse to move your cursor to move the desktop area displayed. (You can use the Magic Mouse scroll feature to move up or down within a document window, but scrolling does not change the area of the desktop displayed.)

My wife and I have used one of our Magic Mice daily for two months (typically four or more hours per day) and the battery level is at 50 percent on the supplied AA batteries. Apple claims the Magic Mouse recognizes times of inactivity and conserves power. There have been a few times we've forgotten to turn off the Magic Mouse when we shut down the computer, but generally we turn off the Magic Mouse and store it in its case.

If, like me, you use your Magic Mouse in different places, i.e. desk, conference room table, coffee shop table, lunch counter, et cetera, you'll find it adapts well to different surfaces. The Magic Mouse sits on two rubber (or rubber like) rails that should be cleaned regularly to prevent dirt buildup. The dirt may not affect the laser operation, but will make movement less smooth and no mouse needs to be coated with chai tea latte residue. [I don't know why, but I have noticed my keyboard surface needs more frequent cleaning than the Magic Mouse surface.]

The Magic Mouse lacks the two side buttons of the previous Apple Mouse (Buttons I disabled in Mouse Preference shortly after I started using that mouse.), but it also lacks the mini-ball button. I used the mini-ball button to call up the Dashboard, but I disliked it because the mini-ball attracted dirt; was extremely difficult to clean; and according to discussions of that mouse, the most common point of failure. The Magic Mouse certainly addresses the shortcomings of its predecessor, while providing more useful features. As the next generation the Magic Mouse appears to have overwhelmingly addressed the issue of keeping mouse innards clean. As mentioned above, the rubber rails are one of the few places dirt can gather, but they're easy to clean.

Apple claims the Magic Mouse will work at a distance of 32 feet. I can't see my cursor at that distance so I didn't test the accuracy of this claim. The only legitimate use for this feature I envision is to control your computer where the display is projected for an audience and the computer and projector equipment are some distance from your vantage point. [Illegitimate uses include swapping co-workers' Magic Mice so they attempt to control each other's Macs and controlling someone else's Mac from a distance, but you didn't read that here.]

Because the on/off switch is underneath the Magic Mouse you may want to lift the mouse up to see whether it's on or off. When on, a green patch is visible within the slide path of the switch - assuming you're operating with adequate lighting. The patch can be difficult to see, but the Magic Mouse also has a small green light that turns on when the mouse is on and the user picks it up. This light also blinks when you initially turn on the mouse; ultimately providing another way of indicating you should have changed the mouse's batteries your Mac told you the batteries were low. [Somehow picking up a computer mouse and turning it over in my hand brings back memories of standing in the pet shop trying to determine the sex of the small mammal my daughter was begging me to buy.]

Apple doesn't mention it, but the Magic Mouse surface seems to be tuned to the touch of human fingers. Only the click functions require pressure on the Magic Mouse. The scrolling features are activated with the slightest touch, but for the most part, the Magic Mouse does not respond to the touch of things other than fingers. (I've found one exception, the bottom edge of a soda can, and that really puzzles me.) I can't claim to have tested everything you might have on your desk, but things like pencil erasers, pen barrels, and PDA styli don't set the Magic Mouse to scrolling. The Magic Mouse responds to the human finger even when a piece of paper is placed between the mouse surface and the finger. It didn't respond when I wore a thin leather-driving glove, but did when I wore a rubber kitchen glove. I've concluded there's more to the Magic Mouse surface than meets the eye.

Summary

The Magic Mouse provides significant advances in mouse features without overwhelming the user with a plethora of buttons and without forcing the user to learn esoteric button combinations. My only negative observation is the Magic Mouse initiates scrolling with the slightest finger movement. The lower profile and general featurelessness of the Magic Mouse's case may take some getting used to, but the effective button areas give the user freedom of finger placement. The written documentation provided with the Magic Mouse fits within the plastic case in which the mouse comes. The Mouse Preferences window provides short video clips of the Magic Mouse's settings, which are very helpful in understanding both what the function does and the finger motions required to trigger the function. Apple's website also provides video clips and text explaining the mouse's features. The Magic Mouse design should alleviate the problem of dirt in the mechanics experienced by earlier mice.

Pros

  • Well-designed and solidly built mouse
  • Works well on a variety of surfaces
  • Expands the usefulness of the mouse as a navigation tool by providing new, but familiar, ways of moving around or among objects.
  • Mouse Preference illustrates mouse functionality aiding set up.

Cons

  • Incidental scrolling initiated with the slightest finger movement.
  • Only two button functions
  • There is no wired (USB) version of the Magic Mouse. (although I do not consider this a negative, it may be a con for others)

Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice