Apple’s Magic Mouse has the advantages of multi-touch and more than just a dab of Apple’s distinctive design style, but it’s also beset with a few odd problems that belie its status as a premium-priced mouse.
There’s not too much to say about the Magic Mouse’s basic shape that you can’t glean just from looking pictures of it. It’s flat and deliberately feature free. This has a definite aesthetic cachet, as it’s quite an eye-catching mouse, and the flat shape also makes it suitable for left-handed users. At the same time, there’s an ergonomic price to pay, as there was with the older Mighty Mouse. Being flat gives it no contours for your hand to rest on which could lead to sore wrists after a while, although that can be mitigated somewhat by holding your arm at an optimal position.
The Magic Mouse is powered by two AA batteries, and for once they’re supplied in the box. Our review sample came as part of the bundled pack supplied with an iMac (Apple were unable to supply a retail boxed Magic Mouse), but there should be no difference between that model and the $99 retail system.
The AA batteries in the Magic Mouse aren’t rechargeable, though, as there’s no point of contact between the Magic Mouse and a Mac. The Magic Mouse uses a Bluetooth connection, and you’ll need to download the Wireless Mouse Update 1.0 software from Apple (http://support.apple.com/kb/DL950) to even get an older iMac, Mac Pro or Macbook/Pro to properly detect the Magic Mouse.
The big selling point for the Magic Mouse is that Apple’s done away with buttons and wheels entirely. Well, sort of. The mouse itself still clicks downwards when pressed upon, so it uses the older Mighty Mouse ‘The whole mouse is a button’ style approach, but matched to a multi-touch capable surface that allows you to use downwards swiping gestures on the surface anywhere as a scroll wheel, use left clicks with ease and perform a number of other multi-touch gestures for navigation and object movement.
The Magic Mouse’s basic functions – right and left clicking, as well as scroll wheel functionality – work very well indeed, and certainly a lot better than the often kludged up ball on the older Mighty Mouse. It does feel a little odd scrolling on “nothing”, but muscle memory quickly adjusts.
What’s tougher to adjust for are the newer multi-touch gestures, at least if you’ve been a user of any of Apple’s other multi-touch devices. If your brain is already wired for two, three and four finger gestures, you’ll have to relearn them for the Magic Mouse, as they’re implemented in a different style. As an example, zooming requires you to hold in a button on the keyboard — you can pick between Control, Option or Command while zooming the scroll wheel. It’s not exactly intuitive if you’re used to pinch zooming on an iPhone, for example. If you’re a fan of a mouse that uses the scroll wheel as a third “clickable” button, you’ll also have to adjust, as the software only allows for two buttons and a wheel.
We also found that, from time to time, the need to lift fingers for specific multi-touch features meant that we tapped and moved the mouse slightly off what we were pointing at. For some that imprecision won’t matter, but heavy Photoshop users, for example, will quickly find it annoying.
There’s a fair amount to like about the Magic Mouse. The underlying technology is quite cool, and it’s a stunning looking piece of technology. At the same time, its implementation of Multi-touch is inconsistent with Apple’s previous Multi-touch implementations, and it’s not a terribly ergonomic mouse model. At the same price you might not get a mouse that’s as pretty as the Magic Mouse, but you could get one that packs more features in, even without the hook of integrated but limited multi-touch.