Toothless Mouse

Back in September, I talked about the RadTech BT-500 (   ; ), an excellent wireless mouse for Bluetooth-equipped PowerBooks and iBooks. That review generated a number of requests for a similar recommendation for Bluetooth-less laptops.

The easy answer is to add Bluetooth via a USB dongle -- such as the D-Link DBT-120 USB Bluetooth Adapter ($40) -- and then use a Bluetooth mouse such as the BT-500. If you have other uses for Bluetooth, like synching with a Bluetooth mobile phone or PDA, this is probably a good approach. But if you don't, you're spending $55 for the mouse plus another $40 for the Bluetooth module -- that's a lot of dough just to mouse around cord-free.

A better solution is a mouse that comes with its own transmitter, such as the slick $40 BenQ M310 (   ; ). Like the BT-500, the M310 is an 800 dpi optical mouse featuring left and right buttons and a clickable scroll wheel, all of which are supported by OS X right out of the box. However, it gets its wireless funtionality via an included RF (radio frequency) dongle that plugs into any USB port. What sets the M310 apart from many other RF mice is that this USB dongle is stored inside the mouse itself. When you want to use the mouse, you press a button and the dongle pops out (an action that also turns the mouse on). When you're done, you unplug the dongle from your computer and then slide it back into the slot on the mouse, which turns the mouse off. Although I'd prefer not to have to use a dongle at all, the M310's implementation is one of the best I've seen: It's convenient and it helps prevent the loss of the dongle from your bag during transit or storage.

BenQ claims the M310 will run for over three months on 2 AAA batteries "under normal usage." I haven't yet reached the three-month mark, so I can't tell you how accurate that estimate is (or what "normal usage" means), but my batteries are still going strong after two months. (To preserve battery power, the M310 "sleeps" after approximately 30 seconds of inactivity -- it wakes up the next time you move the mouse -- and turns off completely after 5 minutes without use. A click of any button turns the mouse back on again, although it takes a few seconds before the cursor is responsive.)

For those concerned about size, unlike many RF mice the M310 strikes a good compromise between portability and usability: 3.5 inches long by 1.75 inches wide by 1.25 inches high. It's also covered in hard rubber for a good grip yet weighs less than 3 ounces. (A soft carry pounch is included to keep the mouse clean and dust-free.)

Although I still like the BT-500 for Bluetooth-enabled laptops, the M310 has become my personal favorite for non-Bluetooth models. Our iBook never goes anywhere without it.

UPDATE 8/22/2005: A number of Macworld readers have indicated that the current M310 mouse does not function properly with Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4)—when the M310 is connected, the mouse cursor moves to the corner of the screen whenever the mouse button is pressed. Macworld has contacted BenQ about this issue and received the following reply: “BenQ will be providing wireless receivers for replacement for the users that are experiencing the mac Tiger OS issue. Also, a new version M310 plus will be announced next month that will fix the problem and also be a rechargeable unit.” If you’re experiencing this issue with Tiger, we recommend contacting BenQ’s technical support department and requesting an updated receiver.

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