• The Mac Night Owl Review: Some Face Time with a Mighty Mouse

    August 6th, 2005

    Before I go any further, yes, Apple has full authority to use the name Mighty Mouse, by virtue of getting permission from to use the name of the famous cartoon character direct from Viacom. With that out of the way, it’s fitting that I actually review the product, not as a result of spending 20 minutes with it, but an entire day. What’s more, rather than deliver another out-of-focus photo, I’m using the official version supplied to journalists by Apple Computer, with appropriate copyrights and credits, of course.

    I’ve also taken the time to read the information and misinformation that has spread around the Mac universe about Mighty Mouse, the input device, not the cartoon. To think that some commentators can’t even describe such a simple device as a computer mouse correctly. No matter. I’ve made an effort to separate fact from fiction and truth from rumor here.

    First of all, yes, the main or top shell switch does produce a genuine mechanical sound, very much the same as the standard Apple mouse. The twin buttons at the side of the Mighty Mouse also have a faint mechanical sound that is genuine. The sound of the scroll button, however, is partly electronic, as you can determine for yourself simply by unplugging the device from your Mac’s USB port and trying it out.

    Now let’s get to the meat of the matter. If you ignore the tiny scroll button at the top of a Mighty Mouse, you’re probably going to mistake it for a conventional Apple mouse. That’s part of the magic of its design. Even better, you aren’t forced to operate it as a multibutton device if you still prefer the standard single button variety but, then, why would you want to buy one?

    I rather suspect, however, that Apple is eventually going to bundle these things with brand new Macs, so you can have whatever button configuration you prefer. Mighty Mouse’s capabilities are dependant on the operating system. For Mac OS 10.3.8 and earlier, Windows 2000 and Windows XP, it is a standard issue multibutton scrolling mouse. Mac OS 10.3.9 through 10.4.1 allow you to customize the primary and secondary (context menu) buttons and activate Exposé. You can, of course, display Dashboard only in 10.4 and 10.4.1. With 10.4.2 and the supplied software, Mighty Mouse becomes more like its competition from Kensington, Logitech, Microsoft and others, because you have the capability of switching and opening applications.

    Why Apple restricts software support to 10.4.2 is anyone’s guess, other than to sell more copies of Tiger of course. I have a suspicion, however, that Apple will eventually deliver software for Windows that provides similar capabilities. That’s in keeping with the company’s policy of exposing its technology to a wider audience.

    No matter. The proof is in the pudding, and the Mighty Mouse acquits itself as one of the better input devices out there, and the design is not just “mighty,” but mighty smart. Its single top shell button serves multiple functions, depending on how it’s configured. Even southpaws will feel comfortable, because you can, if you prefer, make the right-click a left-click simply by changing the primary button settings. In contrast, some of those oddly-shaped mice are more suited to right-handers.

    The scroll button works as smooth and flexibly as the best scroll wheels, with the added benefit of being able to function in any direction, more or less. There are exceptions to its functionality. With Firefox, for example, a left and right scroll simply switches from one page to the next. Like a Kensington input device, the side click must be “chorded,” that is you need to press both buttons at the same time to perform the programmed functions. But remember its functions are only available with 10.4.2 and later, using Apple’s custom drivers.

    Mighty Mouse feels little different from Apple’s standard Pro mouse in actual use. It’s smooth, reasonably comfortable, and cursor speed is as fast as the best thirty-party input devices without the need to install a custom accelerator. The side switch strikes me as a tad awkward in regular use, at least for my long, thin fingers. I suppose I’ll get used to it in time. I have it configured to activate the Application Switcher but, frankly, find the standard Command-Tab shortcut more flexible. Ask me again in a few days.

    In recent months, I’ve been using a far larger mouse, the Logitech MX1000, and I’m not yet certain if I prefer the feel of the Mighty Mouse. That, too, will take a little time to decide, but I’ll give the Apple mouse its due and I’ll see if it stands the test of time.

    Considering that the Logitech mouse, a wireless device, is currently available at a street price of $59, paying $10 less for the wired Mighty Mouse is a pretty decent deal. But Apple ought to consider delivering a Bluetooth version, as soon as the initial demand dies down.

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