Apple’s Magic Mouse- A Review

November 7th, 2009 | Posted in It's All Geek to Me!

The New Magic Mouse

Whenever I get a new techie toy that I use in conjunction with my work I try and post a review of it from a visual artist’s perspective… in other words how does it affect my work on the computer or in business? You can read my reviews of the Cintiq 12wx,¬¨‚ĆOS X Leopard and the iPhone from previous posts.

I wanted to review the new Apple Magic Mouse from such a perspective, but to be honest it’s still just a mouse, and has no real impact positively or negatively on my illustration/graphic work on the computer.

It is a cool new toy, though. Thus the review. 🙂

First off, some complaining. Apple has a very annoying habit of announcing new hardware and then have it unavailable for an unacceptable amount of time. It’s frustrating when you walk into an Apple store with $70 in you hand and you are told they don’t want your money because the product they have been crowing about for a week is still not in their store, and it’s over a week before it ships if you order it online. Yet every new iMac on display has one. That is some serious arrogance. Vaporware is one thing, but when the product is obviously in production and included with new computers, Apple should just wait until it’s got that product boxed and in stock before announcing it… especially at the premium prices they charge. $70 for a MOUSE??? That better be an amazing pice of equipment.

Well, for the most part it is pretty amazing. I finally received mine the other day after ordering it online, and immediately realized I can’t go back to the old wheel and button style. In case you have not read about the Magic Mouse, it is an innovative new design in mice that combines the technology of the iPhone touchscreen and the new multi-touch pads on Apple notebook computers to create a button-less mouse than responds to the movement of your fingers across it’s surface.

Like the old Mighty Mouse, you click the entire mouse unit rather than indivdual buttons, but it is sensitive enough to recognize both left and right clicks as the Mighty Mouse did. Unlike the Mighty design, this mouse has no¬¨‚Ćscrolling ¬¨‚Ćball sticking up from the mouse’s surface. Instead your finger slides across the touch-sensitive surface to scroll up or down a document or web page. You can also scroll about a large document or web page in a circular motion or to right and left. Momentum of movement also counts, so a slow drag of your finger down the mouse surface moves the page accordingly, while a fast flick sends the page rolling downward and slowing up naturally like spinning the Price is Right prize wheel. Movement is very responsive.

You can also do a two fingered sideways swipe, that will navigate in programs like iPhoto, iTunes and the Finder to browse folders, photos and such in “cover flow” and other modes. It also works to go backwards and forwards to browse web pages in browsers like Safari. Handy but only for a small number of programs.

Design wise it’s as elegant and attractive as most everything Apple comes up with. Not that you need your mouse to be pretty, but it’s a great combination of aesthetics and functionality. It’s got a lower height profile than the old Mighty Mouse. It moves nicely on the surface of the desk and seems to work better on natural surfaces eliminating the need for a mouse pad.

The control panel

It’s also very customizable, and the mouse’s control panel in “Preferences” is very well done with nice little video demos on the right showing the feature highlighted on the left. Most of the preferences from the old design are here (like switching to a left handed mouse) and new features like “momentum” can be turned off. It looks like there is plenty of room for future features as well.

It was a welcome change from the Mighty Mouse, which was a really poor design. Being impossible to open up to clean, it was difficult to keep the scroll ball from becoming virtually unusable. The Lovely Anna hated that mouse as it would quickly become dirty and the scrolling useless, and she loves the new design for eliminating that problem. Please do not write me or comment on how to turn the stupid thing upside down and rub it vigorously on a piece of white paper or similar instructions on cleaning it. We did all that over and over and at best it helped for a little while, but eventually it could not be cleaned up to work like it should and needed replacement. I even found a tutorial on the web on how to open and clean it which involve breaking iti open and re-gluing it, and ruined one mouse in the attempt.

Which brings me to the one complaint I have with the Magic Mouse, and really on ongoing issue I have with Apple in general. The complaint with the new mouse is the lack of side buttons to activate Expose or a way to bring up the dashboard like the old mouse so conveniently had. Yes, there are simple keyboard shortcuts for these but I miss the mouse features. So why did Apple leave them out? For the same reason they designed the old mouse to be sealed and unable to clean thoroughly… they think their customers are morons. Really, they must. They don’t trust them to be able to do the simplest of tasks, like open up a mouse, remove the tracking ball, clean the wheels and reassemble the unit. The guts of a Mac and the nuts and bolts of the software are hidden and inaccessible to the average consumer as well. They keep designing their hardware to be more and more simple, seemingly because they don’t think their customers are smart enough to handle things like extra buttons on the mouse. I’m all for clean design, but give me a little credit in that I won’t fall apart and be hopelessly confused because there are a few extra buttons on my new mouse. I keep squeezing the sides of the Magic Mouse expecting the Expose feature to activate and then grumble as I reach for my keyboard. oh, well.

So, does the new Magic Mouse make working on the computer easier? No, but I don’t have to get angry because my mouse won’t scroll to one side or the other anymore. $70 is pretty steep for a mouse but it works very well, despite the dumbing down of the features.


  1. Ray Gardner says:

    No comment on the mouse, but on the tech subject in general, have you seen Alias’ Sketchbook Mobile?

    It’s the iPhone version of Sketchbook Pro I guess. Pretty cool to have when you’re waiting on an appointment or something.

  2. robinson says:

    Gosh, I don’t miss the old days of cleaning the mouse ball–and those rollers– it was a mess, took time, the mouse was forever getting goop in it and then not working well.

    I much prefer those IR mice (the ones with the flat surface and red lights). No cleaning ever necessary.

    This Mighty Mouse sounds cool though- being able to scroll both directions– I have a scroll wheel mouse, which I enjoy for the up and down paging or scrolling, but keep wanting the left-right scrolling ability.

    Agree 100% on the need of extra buttons–my mouse has some side buttons and I’ve programmed macros linked to ’em

  3. ktopera says:

    Interesting review, Tom.

    You may try “hot corners” with Expos?¬© and/or Spaces to get around the mouse exclusion. 😉


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