Low profile may not be comfortable for bigger hands
Limited customization options
The top surface of the Magic Mouse has a nice, smooth feel, while the aluminum along the sides has enough texture for gripping. Like the Apple Mouse—the new name for the Mighty Mouse—the Magic Mouse has no visible buttons; it also does not have a scrollball.
The Magic Mouse has a very low profile, the lowest of any mouse I’ve used. It measures 4.50 inches long and 2.31 inches wide, rising 0.93 inches off the table. If you like having the lower part of a mouse resting against your palm, the Magic Mouse may be too low. Generally, I don’t need to have the mouse against the palm of my hand, but if this is your preference, you may have a problem with this mouse.
Turn the Magic Mouse over, and you’ll find the battery compartment, which houses two AA batteries. The laser optics are located near the top of the mouse. The power switch is next to the optics. The bottom of the mouse also has two plastic rails upon which the Magic Mouse moves.
Multi-Touch technology is used in the iPhone and on the MacBook trackpads; in the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch acts in place of a scrollball. You can use the whole surface above the Apple logo for finger swipes. You can swipe up, down, left, right, diagonally, or even in a circle, and your onscreen window will move in the respective direction. Scrolling with Multi-Touch is easy and feels natural.
The other helpful Multi-Touch functions are two-finger swiping left or right for going forward or back in iPhoto or Safari, and holding down the Control key on your keyboard and swipe up and down to zoom. I had to practice the two-finger swipes because at first, my touch was too heavy and I would move the whole mouse.
You can’t use Multi-Touch if you run a non-Mac operating system on your Mac, even through a virtualization application like VMware, or via Boot Camp. The Magic Mouse then becomes a basic two-button mouse.
Multi-Touch works smoothly on the Magic Mouse, but it doesn’t feel more advantageous or worse than a scrollball. And because of this, I’m left feeling that Multi-Touch on a mouse has the potential for more. Hopefully, driver updates or third-party applications will include more functions that will demonstrate the input advantages of Multi-Touch on a mouse. There is a maintenance advantage; the lack of moving parts means you don’t have to worry about a clogged or broken scrollball.
There are only two buttons on the Magic Mouse, a severe limitation—especially for anyone who’s already using a mouse with more than two buttons, like the Apple Mouse. I bring up the Apple Mouse specifically because it features a pair of side buttons that, by default, launch Exposé. The Magic Mouse doesn’t offer Exposé access. When I asked Apple representatives if it was possible to offer Exposé access in a future driver revision, the response wasn’t yes or no, but to suggest using an F-key on the keyboard.
When you right- or left-click the Magic Mouse, the whole top of the mouse presses down and there’s an audible click sound. Despite the lack of delineation between the two buttons, I never inadvertently clicked the mouse or clicked the wrong button.
And as mentioned earlier, there’s no scrollball button. On the Apple Mouse, the scrollball button is set to launch Dashboard by default. As with Exposé, Apple recommends using an F-key to launch Dashboard.
I didn’t have any transmission problems with the Magic Mouse’s Bluetooth, which has a range of 33 feet. After sitting idle long enough to trigger the mouse’s sleep mode, the mouse reconnects with the Mac virtually instantaneously—a pleasant surprise. I’m used to Bluetooth mice and keyboards taking a few seconds to reconnect.
The on-screen tracking is excellent. I never experienced gaps, and the cursor always kept up with both long and precise movement. However, the biggest disappointment with the Magic Mouse is the way the mouse feels as it moves on a table, mouse pad, or desktop. As I described earlier, the Magic Mouse rests on two plastic rails, and the rails need to have enough grip on the surface so the Magic Mouse stays still while you perform Multi-Touch gestures. The result is a grinding, rough feel. I found the Apple Mouse to have a smoother ride than the Magic Mouse.
To use the Magic Mouse, you need to have Mac OS 10.5.8 or later and the Wireless Mouse Software Update 1.0 software installed. You can download the Wireless Mouse Software for Leopard or for Snow Leopard.
Although it’s not perfect, the Magic Mouse successfully combines design and usability. It’s great as a two-button wireless mouse, but if you need more than two buttons, the Magic Mouse is not for you.
[Editor’s note: Updated 10/27/2009 at 3:35PM PT with download links for the Wireless Mouse Software Update 1.0.]
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Roman has covered technology since the early 1990s. His career started at MacUser, and he's worked for MacAddict, Mac|Life, and TechTV.