Review: Apple’s Magic Mouse

CORD-LESS: I want to get rid of the cord attached to my mouse. All of the ports on the unibody MacBook Pro are on the left so if you want to use a mouse (and you’re right-handed) you have a long cord spanning the entire length of the chassis. Macally’s Turtle, a wonderful little mouse with a retractable cord, is my choice mouse because of two things: the disappearing cord when transporting it and the most satisfying click I’ve experienced in over a dozen mice that I have tried over the years. But I have a problem: because of how the lid mechanism is designed on the MacBooks the mouse cord can sometimes get in the way of the lid movement. The mouse cord gets stuck in between the lid and the chassis. It happens only once or twice a day but that was enough for me to earnestly look for a cordless mouse.

MAGIC MOUSE: As you can guess the cordless mouse I decided to try out is Apple’s Magic Mouse. There are 1270 reviews on Apple’s online store at the time of this writing. The overall rating is 4 out of 5 stars. Quite high. Here is a short list of what people like/dislike about the Magic Mouse:

  • Design: Flat design more comfortable.
  • Intuitive
  • Consumes very little power (for a Bluetooth mouse).
  • Smooth scrolling.
  • Glides well across the table.
  • Simple to use.
  • Momentum scrolling.

What people don’t like about the Magic Mouse:

  • Not ergonomic.
  • The feel of the feet.
  • Lack of customization in preferences.
  • Batteries do not last very long (for a Bluetooth mouse).
  • Confuses left click and right click.
  • Slow tracking.
  • No side buttons like the Mighty Mouse.
  • Sliding makes a lot of noise.

ERGONOMIC: It is interesting to see that some consider the design ergonomic while others disagree. Personally, I think it is quite ergonomic, probably the most ergonomic. My test for ergonomics is simple: Put your hand comfortably on your desk; remember the shape of your hand. Now put your hand over the Magic Mouse. Very little changed, and that’s why for me the Magic Mouse may be one of the most ergonomic mice available.

NOISY FEET: The rubber feet on the Magic Mouse is actually a bit noisy. It may be my 18-year old desk (actually a kitchen table) from Scandinavian Designs, but it is not. The Magic Mouse is noisy on almost any surface. The noise isn’t loud but just a bit higher-pitched than other mice. I think the solution is simple: make the rubber strips a bit softer.

CONFUSED: The Magic Mouse and the Mighty Mouse gets confused easily. Because of the inherent unibody design without distinct left and right buttons any mouse from Apple will most likely suffer. I have often clicked the “right button” on the Magic Mouse resulting in a left click.

BATTERY: I haven’t used the Magic Mouse long enough. The battery level is 89% after two weeks of use. I usually work home but in the last couple of weeks I have worked more at cafes. So this isn’t a clear indication of the battery’s longevity. After the Energizer batteries are depleted I will most likely replace them with Sanyo’s eneloop rechargeable batteries, which have had some positive reviews for use with slow-drain products such as mice.

I LIKE WIRED: I am biased against wireless mice and much prefer a wired version. In my experience, the direct connection transfers over to a more direct tracking performance. I can feel a slight lag, especially in Bluetooth-connected mice. Plus I like the mechanical feeling of the scroll wheel. Maybe that’s why I like to connect my MacBook Pro via an Ethernet connection when home and drive a stick shift VW. I just like direct, but, as I have said in the opening paragraph, when the wire gets in the way of my computing experience that’s when I am willing to seek wireless options.

LAG: Going from wired to wireless requires some getting used to, especially when you’re extremely sensitive to lag. I feel a slight lag and I don’t like it. After using the Magic Mouse for a while I went back to my Turtle. The experience was startling: the Turtle’s tracking was immediate. Is this to be expected in a wireless mouse? It depends on the wireless technology. My feeling is RF wireless is very close to wired in terms of direct tracking experience; Bluetooth is far behind. If you are sensitive to lag, as I am, you might not like the tracking experience with the Magic Mouse. I’m still using it despite the lag because the Magic Mouse is so much more than just a mere mouse.

DESIGN: Is it possible to make a mouse more simple in design than the Magic Mouse? Yes and no. The single piece of curved transparent acrylic showing a white background and Apple’s logo is quite a sight. Simplicity and elegance at their best on a mouse. But when I turned the Magic Mouse over I was a bit disappointed. Compared to the simple top the bottom was a bit cluttered. There were five elements: optical tracking cut-out, power indicator, on/off slider, black rubber for sliding and a black cover latch. I’m not a product designer so I don’t have any solutions to offer but to me all of these elements combined do not look simple enough, especially in light of the design simplicity embodied on top. Of course, this isn’t a big deal since the mouse bottom will be seen only a few times a year, to replace the batteries.

MULTITOUCH: A two-finger swipe to the left is equivalent to the “back” button on your browser. Want to go forward? That’s a two-finger swipe to the right. Unfortunately that’s about it for multitouch gestures out of the box. Fortunately there are tools to significantly augment the Magic Mouse. More on that in the next paragraph. Back to multitouch: Because the entire surface of the Magic Mouse is a capacitive touch sensor this curvaceous beauty can understand almost an unlimited number of gestures. The only clear limitation is the number of fingers you have!

BetterTouchTool: This is a must-have Mac utility that adds the ability to fine-tune tracking speeds and way beyond the limit for Apple’s default preference. You can also add gestures. I’m tinkering with BTT and have set a three-finger swipe down for Dashboard and a three-finger swipe up for Expose. BTT is absolutely brilliant.

Suggestions for improving the Magic Mouse:

The Magic Mouse is already far ahead of any other mouse available today, but it isn’t perfect. I would like a more direct feeling when tracking with the Magic Mouse, almost as if it was connected via a cord. Now that would truly be magical. Another improvement would be the left and right “buttons”. Apple needs to make the experience of clicking the left and right buttons more distinct. I have often clicked the right button and the Magic Mouse thought it was the left. Here are some far-fetching ideas that sound far-fetching but really isn’t:

INDUCTION CHARGING: Not everyone uses a mouse pad but Apple should seriously think about building an induction charging capability into the Magic Mouse and supply a induction charging mouse pad. I would certainly go back to using a mouse pad. Simple and intuitive.

BATTERY LEVEL: The sleek battery indicator on the unibody MacBook Pros are elegant and effective. I would recommend maximizing the same components and integrating it into the Magic Mouse so we can physically see how much battery is left. Of course with induction charging battery levels would always be topped but when you’re traveling this little indicator would come in handy just in case you were deciding whether to pick up those AA batteries along with your Red Bull. One of the lights would also work as a power indicator.

BOTTOM LINE: The Turtle by Macally has a more direct tracking feel and the click is more satisfying than the Magic Mouse’s click that requires a bit more push. But the cord gets in the way of my right-handed computing experience on the MacBook Pro, which has all the ports on the left. The Magic Mouse is simply beautiful, cuts the cord, and adds super-mouse abilities. This latest mouse from Apple isn’t perfect but it has the genes to become the very best.