Those who travel for work with a small laptop know the value of a spare USB port. With Bluetooth still a rarity on mobile PCs, Hewlett-Packard's Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse offers an alternative way to free up some extra connectivity. For $49.99 when it debuts this June, the Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse will connect to your Windows 7 laptop directly via your wireless networking adapter, no USB receiver dongle necessary. In testing, we found the mouse easy to set up, and we were impressed by its robust connection strength, at least on newer laptops. We would make a few tweaks to the software, but despite some minor quibbles, we can recommend this mouse to laptop users looking to free up a USB port.
Aside from its unique connection method, the Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse isn't all that extraordinary. Its small size tells you that it's designed for travel, and its ambidextrous design invites anyone to use it. You will find the button on the side opposite your thumb difficult to press without changing your grip, but we like the four-way scroll wheel that lets you easily navigate up and down and from left to right through larger documents.
Wi-Fi connectivity is really the primary selling point for the Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse. HP says the mouse is meant for use with Windows 7-certified wireless adapters, which you'll find listed on Microsoft's Web site. That means the mouse works only with Windows 7-based PCs (we checked, and the drivers won't install on Windows XP or OS X), and only with certain wireless adapters.
We tried the mouse on Intel-based Windows 7 laptops from Sony and Lenovo and had no problems. The connection was far less reliable on a Dell XPS 8300 desktop with a Dell-made wireless adapter not listed among Microsoft's certified Wi-Fi devices. We had similar difficulties with a Gateway desktop that also lacked a Microsoft-certified adapter. Microsoft's list does mention all current Intel laptop-chipset wireless adapters, which covers a broad set of current systems.
Setting up the Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse involves nothing more than installing the drivers from the included CD and following the onscreen prompts. There's a brief pairing process, but it only requires pressing a button on the bottom of the mouse once. You need to have your wireless receiver enabled to detect the mouse, but your PC does not need to be connected to a network.
Once we installed the mouse, we had no difficulty maintaining a steady connection. The signal held up when we connected each laptop to the Web over a wireless network, and stayed just as strong while we browsed around and simultaneously downloaded a multigigabyte file. HP promises a 30-foot connection range for the mouse. We found the connection held up when we used it from more than 38 feet away in a large conference room. We were not able to test the battery life, but HP promises the two included alkaline AA batteries will last for nine months.
The Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse involves a few peculiarities. As mentioned, you lose the connection to the mouse if you disable your PC's wireless adapter. That's perhaps not surprising on paper, but it might be if you use the mouse while troubleshooting a network connection. And while we appreciate the mouse's responsive laser sensor, adjusting the sensor's sensitivity requires an awkward, poorly described process of pressing multiple buttons on the mouse simultaneously for 3 seconds to cycle through the various sensitivities. Why HP didn't employ a simple drop-down menu or a slider for selecting the sensitivities in the driver software is a mystery. Also, given the laptops out there without an optical drive, we'd encourage HP to make the mouse drivers available for download in addition to including them on a DVD.
We don't expect the HP Wi-Fi Mobile Mouse will replace wireless mice that use USB-based RF wireless or Bluetooth connections, but as an alternative for those who need more USB inputs, this mouse makes sense. Just be sure to do your homework before making a purchase, because the connection using non-Windows 7 certified wireless adapters can be frustratingly irregular.