Apple Magic Mouse £55
27th Oct 2009 | 15:16
Multi-touch meets mouse - is this the cleverest mouse yet?
Apple Magic Mouse: Overview
Let's be clear about this from the start - Apple does not have a good track record with mice.
For years Apple mice had just one button, and Apple, thinking it knew best, refused to budge from this overly simplistic design even in the face of rising criticism from its own customers who simply wanted to stop being laughed at by their PC-using colleagues.
Right-clicking is now such a fundamental action when using desktop computer that it's hard to believe that Apple held out until the Mighty Mouse (now renamed Apple Mouse thanks to a law suit) in 2005.
While the Mighty Mouse gave Mac users the ability to right-click without having to switch to a Microsoft or Logitech Mouse (which almost all of them had done at that point), it was still not without its problems either - chiefly that the "revolutionary" trackball for 360 degree scrolling clogged up far too quickly with grime, in some cases rendering it completely unusable.
It was also bulky and the right-click could be unresponsive. In short, it wasn't a hit.
Fast forward to 2009 and Apple has re-invented the whole concept of mice (again) with the Magic Mouse.
But why the short history lesson? Well, Apple's new Magic Mouse isn't like ordinary mice. We're not talking about the fact that it's the world's first mult-touch mouse here (there is no two button/one button debate anymore, since the whole mouse IS a button).
We're talking about the fact that it won't actually work on a Windows PC. Yes, the Magic Mouse is Mac-only, so if you're a PC owner you might as well stop reading now.
Apple Magic Mouse: Basic features
Still with us? Good, now those PC owners have gone, we can have a real discussion about what this mice means to Mac owners.
First of all, it's Bluetooth-only, and there's no wired option. Its body is a graceful convex curve. In your hand it feels a lot weightier than the Mighty Mouse, and in pristine Apple white it certainly looks the part.
The big news, of course, is mult-touch technology. The whole top surface of the Magic Mouse is touch-sensitive, so you can perform gestures on it, like you can with Apple's iPhone or MacBook trackpads.
Simply drag your finger up and down the mouse to scroll up and down inside any open windows. This also works with a left and right action to scroll sideways, and you can move your finger around in a circle to scroll 360 degrees in graphic apps, like Photoshop, Preview and iPhoto, when you're zoomed into a document.
This works much better than the old trackball, since obviously there are no moving parts to get clogged up.
By default you scroll "with momentum", which is similar to the way lists on the iPhone continue to move a bit after you flick your finger, then slow down to a stop, however you can turn this off in the preferences if you don't like it.
According to Apple you're only supposed to use one finger for scrolling about, but if you've used a MacBook trackpad before you'll be used to using two finger tips for scrolling, and the mouse still seems to handle two finger scrolling perfectly well, it's just not officially recommended, because you might get the occasional stutter.
When you click the whole surface depresses with a satisfying sound. Clicking anywhere can register as a left-click, but the top right area is reserved for right-clicking. If you're one of the 0.002% of people in the world who don't want a right-click area you can assign this back to a left-click in the preference settings.
Now we've covered the basics we can get into the features that will make Windows users jealous.
Apple Magic Mouse: Multi-touch features
You can swipe two fingers horizontally (the Magic Mouse can tell the difference between two fingers touching and just one) to move forward or backwards between web pages in Safari and photos in iPhoto. It's a neat feature, and once you get used to it you'll find you do start to use it a lot.
Hold down Ctrl and drag a finger up or down and you can zoom into the whole of your Mac screen. This feature has been available in OS X for a long time (as part of the Accessibility settings), but its nice to see it being utilised so well here, but it will mainly be of interest to visually impaired users.
And, unfortunately, that's it… With multi-touch technology finally being implemented on a mouse we were expecting more. The ability to scroll, swipe, and left or right-click seems a bit limited. What about the famous pinch gestures for zooming-in that we're used to using on the iPhone? For once Apple is lacking enough innovative new features here.
A few concerns have been voiced about its ergonomics, too, but we'd disagree. We've been using it in Photoshop, Safari, iTunes, Microsoft Word and all manner of other apps without a problem. In all cases, the Magic Mouse is sharp and responsive, but the fear is that all this new finger twiddling will leave people crippled with RSI. We'd beg to differ.
The increased range of motion it puts your fingers through actually means your actions are less repetitive. In fact, we'd say it was a pleasure to use, especially after our daily battle with trying to get a two-year-old Mighty Mouse to simply scroll up and down within a window in Safari.
It also lacks the side buttons of Mighty Mouse, too. These were popular choices for Exposé or Dashboard, and some Mac users used the trackball as a button itself, which was the Apple equivalent of a middle-button. None of these options are now available, so again the Magic Mouse ends up feeling a bit basic, despite all its advanced technology.
But while button-obsessed gamers will be disappointed, graphic designer-types will be overjoyed. Graphic designers have to frequently drag windows and palettes around very large screens and often run out of desk space.
Because of this they hated the Mighty Mouse because if you lifted the mouse off your desk to re-position it, you'd stop clicking, which made dragging windows difficult. The Magic Mouse has none of these problems. Click and lift it off the desk to reposition the mouse and you stay 'clicked'.
Apple Magic Mouse: Verdict
So, the Magic Mouse arrives with more of a whimper than a bang. It's a solid performer and definite improvement over all of Apple's previous mice, it's just that it feels like there's a lot more Apple could have done with this technology.
We love Apple's desire to simplify everything down to the bare minimum, because with computers that means no horrible logos, unnecessary buttons on keyboards and an elegant operating system. However, with mice, less is sometimes just that - less.
Maybe Steve Jobs and co are holding out to add more features via a future software update, in a similar way to the way that they periodically update the iPhone with new features. Let's hope so.