Apple may have introduced the mouse to the masses, but superior mouse design has never been Apple’s forte. That’s not to say that all of Apple’s mice have been subpar (though the ill-fated hockey puck mouse that came with the first iMac comes to mind), but Apple, when it comes to mouse design, often seems to value aesthetics at the expense of functionality – and it’s latest offering, the multi-touch Magic Mouse, is no exception.
The first thing you notice about Apple’s new mouse is the design. Gone is the rounded oval look soft rounded edges of the Mighty Mouse, and in its place are sleek and sharp curves. Make no mistake about it – the Magic Mouse is a fighter jet in mouse form, but its eye catching design also happens to be a detriment.
The Magic Mouse is tightly designed, and its sharp curves evoke notions of high-end industrial design. But its impressive aesthetic doesn’t translate into a positive ergonomic experience. Maneuvering the mouse in hand doesn’t feel quite as natural as it should, and the contours of the Mighty Mouse, though it may not be especially sleek or modern, is a much more comfortable fit. This is problematic because when you use something as often as you do a mouse, comfort shouldn’t take a back seat to anything.
The next thing that stands out about Apple’s new mouse is that it lacks the scroll wheel of its predecessor. Instead, users can scroll up, down, or side to side via a number of swiping gestures, much in the way that users maneuver around a website on an iPhone. I found the scrolling on the Magic Mouse to be quite good, and the multi touch scrolling removes the headaches associated with a sticky scroll wheel.
Apple’s new Magic Mouse is, of course, a multi-touch mouse, and includes support for swiping gestures which allow users to navigate backwards and forward in a web-browser. That’s all well and good, but the dark cloud looming over the device is that users can’t reprogram the function calls associated with swiping. And since Apple has removed the side buttons, users have no way to bring up either Expose or the dashboard from the mouse – A HUGE NEGATIVE! The side buttons and the scroll wheel button on the Mighty Mouse gave users a plethora of configuration options. Below, check out the preference pane for the Mighty Mouse.
Check out all those options! The side-buttons and the scroll-wheel button allowed for a plethora of functions. Users could configure it to launch variations of Expose, to bring up the dashboard, and you could even program it to bring up the application switcher, spotlight etc. Now that’s a functional mouse!
Unfortunately, and presumably in the interest of of aesthetic design, Apple did away with the side buttons, and users no have no way to access Expose, Dashboard etc. from the Mouse. Check out the new preference pane below.
On the plus side, right clicking with the Magic Mouse seems to be a lot smoother than it was with the Mighty Mouse, but that still doesn’t compensate for the device’s limited functionality.
Overall, the new Magic Mouse looks great, feels okay, and operates just the same. It’s no clear-cut winner, and it’s a shame that Apple took a step backwards with this release, and hopefully they’ll soon issue a firmware update to enable users to reprogram the multitouch swipes for other commands.