Long-suffering mouse users rejoice–Apple’s round mouse has breathed its last. Born as part of the original iMac’s revolutionary design, the round and colorful input device would ultimately be bundled with every Mac that came with a keyboard, and would ultimately become Apple’s most maligned product since the Newton–with good reason. Its round shape was difficult to position and too small for adult-sized hands. The device itself was so light that you could easily make it lose contact with the mouse pad.
Apple’s second attempt at a designer mouse is a much more worthy rodent. And while it won’t make all Mac users deliriously happy (especially those waiting for an Apple-branded two-button input device) it’s a vast improvement over the so-called hockey puck.
A Shiny New Mouse
From a design standpoint, the new mouse is a far cry from the round mouse with its color-coded side panels that look like they were attached with Elmer’s Glue. Formed seemingly from a single block of Lucite, the new mouse looks more like a drop of mercury than an input device.
The mouse is also a breakthrough in technological design. Apple will be the first company to bundle an optical mouse with all its desktop systems. An optical mouse uses a beam of light and an optical sensor to detect movement over a surface — there are no moving parts. Not only does this make the mouse more reliable, it makes it much more precise. It can also operate on over any solid and opaque surface, including the palm of your hand. (I can see it now: web sites will be dedicated to listing all the surfaces people have successfully used this mouse on.)
The mouse won’t work on surfaces that pass through or reflect light, such as glass tabletops or mirrors. Otherwise, the sky’s the limit.
In addition to negating the need for a mouse pad except for personal expression, the new mouse’s optical technology will make it a good alternative for PowerBook and iBook owners who don’t like those computers’ built-in trackpads.
Which brings me to my only major complaint: the cable. It’s just too short, barely reaching from the back of the PowerBook to the left side of the keyboard (this reviewer is left-handed, and especially militant about products that don’t offer easy access for southpaws.) I don’t know what it would have cost Apple to add another foot of cable, but it would have been worth it.
From a usability standpoint, the new mouse is practically flawless. Gliding over most surfaces with the ease of an Olympic skater, it’s a vast improvement over any mechanical mouse I’ve used. The entire top of the mouse is a button, allowing you to click by simply applying pressure with your palm — a boon for people who have concerns about the ergonomic correctness of using a single finger to click.
The Two-Button Debate
Which brings me to an issue that, in some circles, is as controversial as religion: Apple’s continued adherence to a one-button mouse design. A number of users have complained that the new mouse offers only a single button. Reasons for going to a two-button design include improved ergonomics, the ability to support other operating systems such as Linux, and easier access to features such as contextual menus. However, Apple continues to use the one-button mouse for a single, overriding reason: ease of use. Two-button mice are harder for beginners to comprehend. I also prefer the single-button design because, as a lefty, I don’t like having to mess with flipping the mouse button functions.
For those users who must have a two-button mouse, a wide assortment of options are still available from other companies. For now, those alternatives will have to suffice.
Priced to Go
At $59 (free with the purchase of a new desktop Mac), the Apple Pro Mouse is decently priced, although it’s a bit more expensive than Microsoft’s Intellimouse, an optical device with two buttons and a scrolling wheel). But in any event, this new mouse is certainly a solid option for all the Mac users other there who are tired of mousing in the round.