Review Roundup: Keyboards and mice
Want to add a little zing to your desktop or traveling gear? Older accessories becoming sluggish or outdated? A new keyboard or mouse may liven up your act, get some wires out of the way, or help you work faster, more accurately, or more comfortably. We’ve scoured the marketplace for innovative new keyboards, mice, and keyboard-mouse sets and chose 28 products from a dozen vendors to review for our roundup, published in the December 2008 issue of Macworld. (Jump to our mouse and keyboard tables.) These pages contain additional information about the keyboards and mice we reviewed, which we could not, for space reasons, include in the magazine. It also includes information about left-handed mice and the wireless connections you have to choose from.
While we don’t pretend to cover every single new mouse or keyboard out there—indeed, new products are introduced regularly, this is far from our last word on the subject of Mac input devices.
Lefties: Where’s the love?
If you’re a southpaw, you’ve surely noticed—both in our recent flood of mouse reviews and on the shelves of your local retailers—that most hand-specific mice, and especially most ergonomic mice, are designed for right-handed people. Back in late 2006, when we published our last big keyboard and mouse roundup, we published an Editors’ Notes blog entry about this dearth of left-handed mice. Unfortunately for lefties, not much has changed since then. You can read that original article for the full scoop, but here’s a quick recap.
According to input-device vendors we’ve spoken to over the years, the biggest reason for not making left-handed versions of their mice is cost. Creating a lefty version of a mouse isn’t as easy as sticking the same parts into a differently shaped shell; many components need to be completely redesigned as mirror images and then produced separately. Considering estimates that only 9 to 11 percent of Americans are left-handed, and as many as half of those choose to use a right-handed mouse, the market for left-handed models is often too small to justify the costs. For many vendors, this means that only the best-selling models even have a chance at a lefty status; for example, Logitech’s $60 MX610 Left-Hand Laser Cordless Mouse is the left-handed version of the popular MX610 (which has since been replaced, in the right-handed version, by the MX620). Other left-handed mice come from smaller vendors focusing on ergonomics, who pass on their higher costs in the form of higher retail prices; for example, Contour Design’s $110 Perfit Mouse Optical, which is also available in sizes for small, medium, large, and extra-large hands.
Wireless input devices use one of two technologies: radio frequency (RF) or Bluetooth. RF devices connect to your computer using a small receiver that plugs into a USB port; your Mac immediately recognizes the mouse or keyboard. Bluetooth devices require either a computer with built-in Bluetooth or a USB-based Bluetooth dongle. Connecting a Bluetooth input device requires you to pair it with your computer, a process that’s a bit more complicated than simply plugging in a cable; however, once you have set up such a connection, the mouse or keyboard should maintain it unless you intentionally delete the pairing.
Because it’s newer, many people assume Bluetooth is better, but each technology has its advantages. Bluetooth is convenient if your Mac has built-in Bluetooth—as all current Macs do—since you don’t have to keep track of a USB dongle and you don’t sacrifice a USB port. On the other hand, many of today’s USB dongles are so small they barely protrude from your USB port, and RF offers instant plug-and-play use. (Bluetooth input devices can exhibit reconnection delays after your computer wakes from sleep or after a period of inactivity.) It’s also easier to use an RF mouse or keyboard with multiple computers; you just move the USB dongle. Finally, both technologies are susceptible to interference from nearby wireless signals and electronics; one or the other may perform better in your particular home or office.—DAN FRAKES
Keyboards and mice—the full story
The keyboard and mouse roundup that runs in Macworld’s December issue highlights some of the practical, ergonomic, and stylistic issues you’re likely to encounter in deciding which input devices to purchase. Keyboard and mouse sets, products that are sold together, are appealing because they can provide uniform functionality, and, of course, they are designed to go together and often look quite stylish in your office.
Looks may not factor heavily into your calculation, however, and while you may be perfectly satisfied with the keyboard or mouse that shipped with your Mac, one component or other may not meet your needs. If you bought a laptop, then no mouse or keyboard accompanied that purchase, so if you want to use something other than you laptop's built-in keyboard and trackpad, have a look at some of the products we reviewed here.
In the end, keyboards and mice are personal—what feels comfortable for one person, may cause pain for another. Luckily, there is an abundance of input products to choose from, which brings us back to the December roundup.
Check out this page of charts to get all the information we gathered about the keyboards, mice, and keyboard-mouse sets that we reviewed for the December issue. For space reasons, we had to cut much of this information from the print edition, but it's all here side-by-side.
Keyboard-Mouse Sets Compared
|Product||Ci70 Wireless Desktop Set||SlimBlade Media Notebook Set||Wireless Laser Desktop 7000|
|Key Type||Notebook-style keys||Notebook-style keys||Sturdy desktop keys|
|Ergonomic Features||Foldout feet let you adjust keyboard angle; shallow key travel distance; good key resistance; ambidextrous mouse.||Slim mouse design for relaxed hand posture; ambidextrous.||Comfort Curve keyboard; curved right-handed mouse.|
|Special Features||1 USB receiver for both pieces; 10 hot keys.||Compact; laptop and travel-friendly; detachable number pad.||Customizable buttons on both keyboard and mouse.|
|Pros||Good for travel; good resistance on keys and mouse buttons; ten convenient hot keys; five-foot USB extension cable included;ambidextrous mouse; cross-platform.||Attractive; solidly built; detachable numeric keypad helps travelers; ambidextrous mouse; doesn't require drivers; cross-platform.||Nice looking;comfortable wrist rest; long range; ergonomic design; easy-to-use software; programmable mouse buttons.|
|Cons||Fussy mouse-docking system; superfluous photo pocket on underside of keyboard; requires drivers.||Pricey; no keyboard tilt adjustment; two of five hotkeys are Windows-only; poorly designed case makes using the spacebar painful; included software is not functional.||Needs caps lock and F-lock indicator; some aspects of the product don’t feel Mac-like; mouse right-handed only; some users may find mouse uncomfortable to use; requires drivers.|
|Full Review||Ci70 Wireless Desktop Set||SlimBlade Media Notebook Set||Wireless Laser Desktop 7000|
|Product||AccuGlide||Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000||Ci73 Wired Mouse||Ci75m Wireless Notebook Mouse|
|Connection||USB cable||Bluetooth||USB cable||RF receiver and USB cable|
|Portable or Desktop||Portable||Portable||Desktop||Portable|
|Ergonomics||Tiny, flat, and awkward to use.||Despite small size, humpbacked shape aids control.||May be too light for some; comfortable rubberized grip.||Comfortable rubberized feel to the body.|
|Special Features||Extremely small; drivers required for button customization.||Thumb button for right-handed users.||Easy-grip rubber edges.||Comes with a USB cable for emergencies; 1,000-dpi tracking; comes in four colors.|
|Pros||Slim enough to slip into your pocket; versatile software.||Bluetooth wireless connectivity frees up USB port; left-side thumb button can activate Exposé or Dashboard; carrying case included.||Inexpensive; accurate 1,000-dpi tracking; five-year warranty.||Both wireless and wired operation; USB cable curls up inside easy-to-open body; excellent tracking performance.|
|Cons||Portability defeated by attached USB cable; poor ergonomics; poor fit and finish.||Some Windows-only features; no button-customization software; awkwardly positioned thumb button.||No button-customization options; tough-to-roll scroll wheel; cable is too long for mobile use; somewhat hard to control.||No button-customization options; flimsy cover for dongle’s mini-USB port; cable too short for comfortable right-handed use on left-ported notebooks.|
|Full Review||AccuGlide||Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000||Ci73 Wired Mouse||Ci75m Wireless Notebook Mouse|
|Product||Ci95m Wireless Mouse with Nano Receiver||MX 1100 Cordless Laser Mouse||Pebble||Pebble Wireless|
|Connection||RF receiver||RF receiver||USB cable||RF receiver|
|Portable or Desktop||Portable||Desktop||Portable||Portable|
|Ergonomics||Slim form's relaxed hand position will be comfortable for some and not others.||Comfortable curved frame fits well in the hand.||Comfortable, slightly rubberized grips.||Buttons too rounded for comfortable use.|
|Special Features||Tiny RF receiver tucks into mouse; 1,000-dpi tracking||Good gaming mouse; ten programmable buttons; drivers required; right-handed.||On-the-fly resolution switching; drivers required for 5-button customization.||Very small but solid; drivers required|
|Pros||Very small receiver; slim design; turns off automatically.||Scroll wheel can toggle between freewheel and ratcheted modes; can toggle between two cursor tracking speeds; feels solid.||Battery-free wired convenience; five buttons plus scroll wheel; versatile software; on-the-fly switchable tracking resolution.||Versatile software; on-the-fly switchable tracking resolution.|
|Cons||Does not work on shiny surfaces; not software programmable.||May be too big for smaller hands or too heavy for younger hands; right-handed only; no mouse recharger.||Cable-tethered USB inconvenience; no indication of which resolution is currently active.||Slippery and too-rounded left and right buttons; too-stiff scroll-wheel button.|
|Full Review||Ci95m Wireless Mouse with Nano Receiver||MX 1100 Cordless Laser Mouse||Pebble||Pebble Wireless|
|Product||ProClick Mobile Notebook Mouse||RF-7550A 2.4 GHZ Cordless Optical Mouse||SlimBlade Bluetooth Presenter Mouse||SlimBlade Media Mouse|
|Company||Razer Pro Solutions||i-Rocks||Kensington||Kensington|
|Connection||Bluetooth||RF receiver||Bluetooth||RF receiver|
|Portable or Desktop||Portable||Desktop||Portable||Portable|
|Ergonomics||Comfortable rounded frame.||humpbacked body is easy to grasp; heavy metal scroll wheel is a pleasure to use.||Too small for comfort; slippery scroll wheel; buttons hard to click.||Slim form's relaxed hand position will be comfortable for some and not others.|
|Special Features||High-precision 1,200-dpi optical resolution; comes in four colors.||Carrying case; good scroll wheel.||Drives Keynote and PowerPoint presentations.||Media controls for music and video.|
|Pros||Excellent precision; small enough to be portable but not too small; easy-to-use scroll wheel; no drivers needed; well made.||Affordable; five buttons; comfortable ergonomics; excellent scroll wheel; zippered carrying case.||Extremely portable; both a mouse and a presentation-software controller; horizontal-scrolling capability.||360-degree navigation wheel enables scrolling in all directions; media navigation pad controls iTunes tracks; slim design; receiver tucks into battery slot for easy storage.|
|Cons||Doesn't include a charging station or rechargeable batteries; no battery status information.||Thumb buttons don't work as advertised; mediocre battery life; hard-plastic body.||No button-customization options; limited presentation options; uncomfortable button and scroll-wheel performance.||Inconvenient navigation placement; no mute button; scroll ball is not a button; scroll ball is hard to control.|
|Full Review||ProClick Mobile Notebook Mouse||RF-7550A 2.4 GHZ Cordless Optical Mouse||SlimBlade Bluetooth Presenter Mouse||SlimBlade Media Mouse|
|Product||Turtle||VerticalMouse 3 Wireless||V550 Nano Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks||Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 3000 Special Edition|
|Connection||USB cable||RF receiver||RF receiver||RF receiver|
|Portable or Desktop||Portable||Desktop||Portable||Portable|
|Ergonomics||Comfortable shape and soft, grippable sides. May be too light for some.||Vertical orientation and side-mounted buttons allow natural grasp; right-handed only.||Good size and weight.||Small, but comfortable in the hand. May be a little too light for some people.|
|Special Features||Spring-loaded USB cable; drivers required for button customization.||Unique ergonomic shape; five buttons.||Includes laptop-mounting docks; two-speed scroll wheel; drivers required for button customization.||Comes in five colors; receiver tucks into mouse's bottom; drivers required for button customization.|
|Pros||Rollaway USB ribbon cable tucks away inside; versatile software; comfortable shape.||Allows for a more-comfortable arm position while mousing; wireless five-button convenience; precise 1,200-dpi resolution.||Tiny USB dongle; extremely long battery life; two scroll-wheel modes; exceptionally versatile software; two docks for laptop attachment.||Friendly for both lefties and righties; lightweight; stores USB receiver underneath body; coordinated in five delicious colors.|
|Cons||USB cable not as easy to manage as it should be; mouse a bit too light for regular use.||Expensive; requires third-party driver software for full use; takes some getting used to; no left-hand version available.||Docks not reusable; sofware must be downloaded; hard-plastic body.||May be too light for some users; short range.|
|Full Review||Turtle||VerticalMouse 3 Wireless||V550 Nano Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebooks||Wireless Notebook Optical Mouse 3000 Special Edition|
|Product||Apple Keyboard||Apple Wireless Keyboard||Celesta|
|Connection||USB (2 ports)||Bluetooth||USB (2 ports)|
|Design||Thin design; shallow key travel; stylish aluminum frame.||Thin design; shallow key travel; stylish aluminum frame; portable; power management conserves battery life.||Thin design; shallow key travel; tactile, responsive keys.|
|Pros||Thin; sturdy; good, low-travel key feel; 19 function keys useful for assigning keyboard shortcuts; good number of special OS X functions; doesn’t require third-party drivers.||Bluetooth wireless; travel- and lap-friendly without reducing key size; sturdy; good, low-travel key feel; excellent battery life; good number of special OS X functions; doesn't require third-party drivers.||Thin; great key feel; sturdy and attractive aluminum design.|
|Cons||Flat keys not ideal for touch-typists; function keys and Escape and Eject keys run together; no space between function-key row and number keys; can’t override special function-key functions.||Flat keys not ideal for touch-typists; function keys and Escape and Eject keys run together; can't override special function-key functions; no numeric keypad or dedicated home, end, forward-delete, page up, or page down keys.||Red-on-black key labels difficult to read; volume, mute, and eject keys oddly placed; few special features for the price.|
|Full Review||Apple Keyboard||Apple Wireless Keyboard||Celesta|
|Product||diNovo Edge for Mac||Freestyle Solo Keyboard for Mac||KR-6170M i-mini X-Slim Keyboard|
|Price||$160||keyboard, $99; ergonomic mounts, $40; keypad, $60||$30|
|Design||Thin design; shallow key travel; trackpad with mouse buttons; needs drivers.||Low-profile design; positionable left and right sections; driverless Mac hot keys; some keys require OS X 10.4 or later.||Shallow key travel; stylish frame.|
|Pros||Great key feel; thin; Bluetooth wireless; lots of Mac-specific and programmable buttons and keys; built-in touchpad with mouse buttons can be used for cursor control or scrolling; rechargeable battery; attractive appearance.||True ergonomic design in a Mac-focused keyboard; choice of ergonomic mounts; many media and special-function keys; dedicated editing keys; no third-party software drivers required.||Inexpensive; thin; laptop-style keys with decent key feel; true Mac power button.|
|Cons||Expensive; charging dock requires additional space; no numeric keypad; touchpad cursor control limited; glossy surface shows smudges and fingerprints.||No numeric keypad; can't lock keyboard halves in position without optional ergonomic mount; keys slightly mushy; F-keys run together on one line; home, end, page up, and page down keys oddly placed; no right-hand control key.||No USB ports; odd back-slash key placement; no volume or eject keys; too-bright power light.|
|Full Review||diNovo Edge for Mac||Freestyle Solo Keyboard for Mac||KR-6170M iMini X-Slim Keyboard|
|Product||Matias Folding Keyboard||Razer ProType||Wired Enhanced Visibility Internet Keyboard|
|Connection||USB||USB (2 ports)||USB|
|Design||Shallow key travel; navigation keys overlaid on main key area; portable; includes carrying pouch.||Thin design; shallow key travel; iPod dock; ten keyboard profiles; ten programmable keys; needs drivers.||Large key labels; cross platform; needs drivers.|
|Pros||Compact folding design; includes number pad; good key feel; navigation keys overlay right hand’s home area; tab key on number pad.||Lots of media, application, and programmable keys; built-in iPod dock for syncing, charging, and playback; good keyboard layout; support for keyboard profiles.||Large, easy-to-read key labels; 15 media and special-function keys, configurable via software.|
|Cons||Doesn’t fully lock into open position, which is bad for lap use; no dedicated caps lock key; odd layout of some keys.||Huge; iPod dock not usable with many desk keyboard drawers; requires two USB ports; keys feel slightly mushy; modifier keys use Windows labels instead of Mac ones.||Keys feel slightly mushy; no USB ports; must use System Preferences to swap Windows and alt keys to Mac command and option keys; extraneous Windows menu key; flimsy riser legs.|
|Full Review||Matias Folding Keyboard||Razer ProType||Wired Enhanced Visibility Internet Keyboard|