Magic Mouse: out with the old, in with the new.

Tech Life

Mighty and Magic

First impressions on my latest purchase

After tolerating its shortcomings for too long, a couple of days ago I decided to stop using the Mighty Mouse with my primary Mac, pass it to my faithful G4 Cube, and buy a Magic Mouse.

Magic Mouse comes in a minimal, elegant packaging, somewhat reminiscent of that of the iPods. A nice surprise was finding two fresh Energizer alkaline cells included. So, out of the box I just had to turn it on and pair it with my MacBook Pro. In a few moments I was already clicking, panning, and, most of all, scrolling.

Scrolling is something I was awfully missing, thanks to the dreaded scrollball of the Mighty Mouse. It worked flawlessly for months when the mouse was new, then it stopped functioning in a reliable way. Either it scrolled only up or only down. I tried all the suggested methods to clean it (except, admittedly, taking the Mighty Mouse apart), but after furious cleaning sessions the scrollball would work for no longer than 2–3 hours. Then I gave up the scrolling function entirely, and for the last three months I’ve been using the Mighty Mouse just to click and drag and went back to scrolling pages by clicking and dragging the window scrollbars.

All in all the Mighty Mouse hasn’t been a lousy mouse. Its single weak point is just the scrollball. It could have been a nice idea if the mouse had been easier to open and allow for internal cleaning, like the mice of old.

But let’s talk about the Magic Mouse.

I love the build. The materials used and the finishes give the Magic Mouse a higher quality, more expensive look and feel than the Mighty Mouse. I don’t know if it’s due to the shape of the bottom part of the mouse, but it seems it gathers much less dirt than the Mighty Mouse. But speaking of feel, I must say the Magic Mouse won’t definitely fit any hand. It’s shorter and flatter than the Mighty Mouse, and those who are accustomed to resting their hand over the mouse’s surface will need to adjust to the Magic Mouse’s shape.

Mighty and Magic side by side

Here you can see the difference in size, shape and height between the Mighty Mouse and the Magic Mouse.

It fits perfectly in my hand because I have small hands and also because I’m used to handling the mouse by not putting my palm over it: I just hold it between my thumb and ring finger (or little finger or both), keeping the index and middle finger slightly raised. In practice is less fatiguing than it seems. I’ve used and loved the infamous USB round mouse that came with the G3 iMacs (soon nicknamed “hockey puck”) and have held it that way for very long without having the least of hand or wrist strain.

That’s why, after two hours with my new Magic Mouse, I felt as if I’ve had it since forever. After pairing, Snow Leopard recognised it was a Magic Mouse, offering the specific settings in the Mouse panel in System Preferences. I enabled everything: Secondary click [right], Scroll [with momentum], Screen Zoom and the Two Fingers gesture. Scrolling with momentum is fantastic and very smooth: it’s nice having the same kind of scrolling of the iPhone on my Mac. When the Magic Mouse was introduced, many people were disappointed by the lack of side buttons (like on the Mighty Mouse) and the limited gestures available on its multi-touch surface. Considering the way I use a mouse, those aren’t limitations for me. When I purchased the Mighty Mouse, I immediately turned off the side buttons because I kept invoking Exposé by mistake while moving the mouse around. As for gestures, Apple only has to release a software update to enable new ones if it deems them necessary. Those who love multi-button, multi-function mice can try MagicPrefs (Macworld recently reviewed this software), which adds a lot more clicks and gestures. I can do without.

Anyway, I think that the multi-touch technology applied to the mouse is genius: no more moving parts that may get dirty and stop working reliably, or break altogether. This is the best feature of the Magic Mouse, hands down. Scrolling has never been so smooth, in fact, and another thing I noticed is that I’m actually using the mouse more than before to move around inside documents and webpages (I kept using the Page Up/Page Down keys before). Also, perhaps due to its flatter surface, I find right-clicking to be more precise and responsive than on the Mighty Mouse. With the Mighty Mouse, at times, when I right-clicked to invoke a contextual menu, it was registered as a left click, with annoying consequences.

As I said at the beginning, I don’t believe this mouse is for everyone, especially if you come from bigger mice like the Mighty Mouse or the previous USB Pro Mouse, or non-Apple mice with many hardware buttons. The Magic Mouse is truly a “try before you buy” kind of mouse. Despite my enthusiasm when Apple introduced it, I spent some time myself with one of the iMacs on display at the store, which had a Magic Mouse connected to it, because I wanted to be sure the Magic Mouse was what I was looking for.

Those who prefer a mouse with a more traditional shape and feel can still purchase the Mighty Mouse (which Apple now calls simply “Apple Mouse”). It is available on the Apple Store for $49, but only in the wired variant. The only Bluetooth mouse made by Apple is currently the Magic Mouse.

Update: Magic Mouse needs Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later with Wireless Mouse Software Update 1.0 or Mac OS X 10.6.1 or later with Wireless Mouse Software Update 1.0. If you’re using Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, you can use the Magic Mouse, but without multi-touch support. That means that only tracking, left-clicking and right-clicking will work.

The Author

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