Review: Apple Magic Mouse

Posted by Minnaar Pieters 16 Jan 2010

At the end of 2009 Apple surprised everyone with the stunning new iMac - bigger display, more horsepower, and perhaps more significantly, a new (good) mouse. Apple has never really been able to make a decent mouse up to now - true, they have always been cool looking but not very functional. Even the most recent Mighty Mouse was not great - despite interesting control schemes like squeezing buttons and a scroll ball (not button), many people still despised it.

With the Magic Mouse Apple is hoping to change this. Typical of Apple, the Magic Mouse looks awesome, and is a stark opposite of the mice that have been on our desks up to now. We all enjoy having multi-button mice, but the Magic Mouse does away with most buttons. In fact, the entire surface of the Mouse is just one button.

Made of a sleek aluminium base with a white/clear plastic top, the Magic Mouse is very slick looking, and needs a second glance to even see that it is mouse. The symetry in its design makes you forget which side is the front of the device if you do not look. However, you will quickly feel the way the button pivot moves when you click. The bottom of the mouse has two large low friction panels to make it easy to move around. This is also a laser mouse - which makes it much more capable to work on a variety of surfaces - wood, cloth etc. It does not work on glass however. It is also a bluetooth mouse, which means there is one less thing to plug in, and no need for a dongle.

What makes the Magic Mouse unique is that the top surface of the mouse is a multi-touch sensitive panel similiar to iPhones and multitouch trackpads. At any moment, the mouse is aware of where your fingers are placed on it. This means that clicking on the right side of the mouse has a different effect than on the left. The same goes for scrolling - the entire top surface functions as a scrolling pad, regardless of directions. It also ignores unintended swipes, something I was weary of when I first saw the mouse.

So how is it to use then? Pretty great. At first I had some trouble getting used to the low profile of the mouse - it is quite a jump from typical mice that fit almost like a ball in your hand. This thing you work with your fingertips. Not just scrolling and clicking, but the actual movement of the mouse. It is so light, it moves effortlessly around on your desk. Now I have to admit this is not everyone’s cup of tea. If you are someone who like big heavy mice, this is not the mouse for you.

Despite the ergonomic issues I had at first, I quickly started the “light - fingered” approach to mousing around. Why? Because once you start using multitouch on a mouse, you wont go back. You start to appreciate simple things - for example, scrolling has a momentum effect (like the iPhone) meaning you can quickly flick your finger to make it scroll all the way to the end of a document. Simple yes, but you miss it once you start playing around with another mouse.

Tracking performance was faultless, and the mouse did not loose connection with my Macbook Pro ever. For kicks I hooked it up to my Lenovo S10 netbook running Windows 7 as well. I found some unofficial drivers, but soon it worked a treat. Talking about laptops, the magic mouse is also a pretty decent travelling mouse, but I do recommend you protect it. I put mine inside a sunglass bag inside my computer bag - the mouse does look susceptible to scratches.

So would I recommend the Magic Mouse? Yes, but not if you have big hands or really prefer big mice. The multitouch feature is just so effective that it is hard to go back to anything else.

The Magic Mouse currently goes for R850 at iStores, and for more at Incredible Connection. If you can have a buddy bring you one form overseas, consider it. It goes for about 55 pounds in the UK, so about R660 at the time of writing. Yes Core, we are watching your prices.

Overall I give it 8 out of 10.

Great tracking performance
Good battery life

Very flat profile - try before you buy
Tad expensive
Standard Apple System Prefs on doesn't give much customization - get MagicPrefs

PS: If you did go and buy the Magic Mouse, you NEED to download MagicPrefs. It goes way beyond the standard swipes, flicks and clicks that Apple enables with the Magic Mouse.
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I am a R&D Analyst in Stellenbosch South Africa who has a immense passion for all things tech related. I embrace technology, open source and web standards, and I participate and contribute to the social web.