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Apple Magic Mouse review: Apple Magic Mouse

Apple fans are likely to be pleased with the wireless Magic Mouse. It looks right at home among other Apple devices, and some of its multi-touch functionality is extremely useful. While it's not the most comfortable mouse we've used, it's suitable for both left- and right-handed users too

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Justin Yu
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Justin Yu

Associate Editor / Reviews - Printers and peripherals

Justin Yu covered headphones and peripherals for CNET.

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5 min read

Apple's latest pointer, the Magic Mouse, is included with its new iMac desktops, but you can purchase it separately for £56. Just don't confuse it with the Mighty Mouse, which differs greatly. The Magic Mouse has had an aerodynamic facelift and also supports application-sensitive touch gestures. 

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6.5

Apple Magic Mouse

The Good

Slick design; vertical-scrolling functionality works like a physical scroll wheel; pairs easily with Mac computers; equally suitable for left- and right-handed users.

The Bad

Awkwardly narrow profile; doesn't work with Windows PCs; laser sensor not as advanced as the Darkfield and BlueTrack competition; you can't customise the swiping functions; no pinch-to-zoom functionality.

The Bottom Line

Apple's wireless Magic Mouse looks sleek and has multi-touch controls, but it's better as a portable laptop companion than a full-sized desktop accessory. The swiping gestures are useful for Web browsing and media playback, but the awkwardly narrow design leaves us reaching for better mice from Logitech and other companies

Adheres to Apple aesthetics
Apple has again succeeded in producing a beautifully designed product that retains the company's classic stamp. We measured the Magic Mouse at 114mm long by 58mm wide by 13mm tall. Compared with the oval Mighty Mouse, the rectangular Magic Mouse is definitely smaller overall, but it's a few grams heavier because of the two AA alkaline batteries that power it.

The clicker is ostensibly buttonless, with a smooth, white top shell that blends naturally into the silver undercarriage. The only visible mark is a near-subliminal, grey Apple logo on the bottom of the mouse, which will quietly send wonderful Apple products flying through your dreams at night. Underneath, the mouse is almost as bare, except for a latch that spans the length of the undercarriage and covers the batteries. There's also a power switch to shut off the mouse, as well as an indicator light, and it even goes into battery-conservation mode when not in use for an extended period.

The Magic Mouse's underside is home to the power switch and battery compartment

As with Apple's previous mice, the Magic Mouse feels as if it's been carved out of a lump of aluminium. While that does wonders for its looks, its comfort and usability suffer. The Magic Mouse's slim profile means it sits just too close to the table to use efficiently, and we struggled to find a comfortable position for our fingers on its narrow body.

Granted, its uniform shape easily accommodates both left- and right-handed users, but the average mouse jockey will certainly find the lack of ergonomics disappointing, and maybe even painful after 8 hours of work. The lack of two physical buttons is irritating, as usual with Apple mice, but you can go through the preferences to enable the right button and swap the left and right buttons.

The Magic Mouse connects to computers via Bluetooth, but it only works with Apple computers running Mac OS X version 10.5.8 or later, and you must install the Wireless Mouse Software update 1.0 that comes included with OS X version 10.6.2. We tried to pair it with a Windows PC and it didn't recognise the mouse. That said, the process of connecting it to a Mac is almost hands-free -- our new 27-inch iMac automatically discovered the mouse, displayed a small icon, and we were ready to go.

The Magic Mouse incorporates a standard laser sensor that can track on nearly every surface. We say 'nearly' because it's impossible for such devices to work properly on cloth and shiny surfaces, such as glass, mirrors, marble countertops, and highly varnished wood. Logitech recently introduced a new kind of glass-tracking technology called Darkfield that lets its mice maintain a reliable signal on fully transparent glass, carpet, trouser legs and so on. This kind of feature isn't as big a deal as Logitech and Microsoft would like you to think, but we're disappointed that Apple is still clinging to older laser technology.

Multi-touch chops
Support for multi-touch gestures sets the Magic Mouse apart from the competition. The multi-touch area is spread across the entire surface of the mouse, so you can swipe your finger anywhere and expect the same results. Aside from the two main buttons up top, you can also use a single finger to scroll 360 degrees anywhere around a Web page, photo or document. Swiping two fingers horizontally across the top surface lets you quickly navigate forward and back on the Web or while playing back a video.


Unfortunately, you can't pinch to zoom, as you can on an iPhone, but you do get access to a basic zoom feature by holding down the 'control' key on the keyboard while scrolling up and down on the shell with one finger. You can activate this function with a keyboard on any Mac by toggling the 'universal access' setting in 'preferences'. Finally, Apple's momentum feature senses the speed of your drag and adjusts the corresponding action intuitively.

Our take on the Magic Mouse's multi-touch functionality is bittersweet. We like that the vertical-scrolling functionality of the mouse acts almost exactly like a scroll wheel, except for the fact that you don't get the precision of notched scrolling. Regardless, a simple flick of a finger can send the scroll bar flying down a page, and it's easy to stop by simply tapping once again. The ability to pan 360 degrees is also incredibly useful, and similar to using an actual touchpad, but our main issue lies with the two-fingered swipes.

Up until this review, we simply used the forward and back buttons on the side of our Logitech MX 1100 mouse, but navigating through Web sites using the Magic Mouse is considerably more awkward, especially if you use your index and middle fingers, as advised by Apple. Additionally, if you don't have a uniform grip on the sides of the mouse with your thumb, ring and pinky fingers, the shell can easily get away from your hand. This is why a touch surface with no hard buttons just doesn't make sense on a mouse.

Our last complaint with the Magic Mouse is that the software doesn't let you reassign the effects of your finger swipes. In other words, you can't tell the mouse to open a program or stop playback by swiping two fingers across the surface. The custom preferences for the Magic Mouse include check boxes to turn off the secondary click, momentum scrolling and screen zoom, as well as options to alter tracking, scrolling and double-click speed, but it doesn't make sense to trade in our MX 1100, with nine customisable buttons, a ratcheted/free-spinning scroll wheel, and an advanced sensor, for an Apple-branded accessory with none of the same features.

Conclusion
New users should expect to spend a while adjusting to the narrow shape and 'buttonless' design of the Apple Magic Mouse. We suspect that many Mac users will regard it as the first entry in the next generation of input devices, but we still prefer the Logitech MX 1100, which gives you a more comfortable, sculpted shape, more customisable buttons, a combination scroll wheel, and a more versatile sensor for about £10 less.

Additional editing by Charles Kloet

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