09/06/2011

Many people prefer using a mouse rather than a trackpad or the "it's not quite right" system built into their laptop, but using a "normal" mouse means finding a work area that's large enough for it to move around. That generally means no mouse for mobile workers who want to use their laptop on a plane or on train (or even in a car, but probably not a good idea while driving).

Now a New Zealand company called Swiftpoint have come up with a solution, the Swiftpoint Mouse, which is a tiny wireless mouse that works with Apple Macs and Windows PCs. It's about 5cm long and 4cm at it's widest with contoured sides so that your fingers sit comfortably. There's a space to rest your thumb (coloured red) and your index finger sits on the top operating the mouse buttons or scroll wheel and your 3rd finger tucks on to the other side and rests in a little nook.

It's been designed so that it will work on the surface of a laptop next to the touch pad (or even on a touch pad) even on the metalic surface of a Macbook.

Cleverly the mouse detects when your finger is present on the thumb grip and turns off the power when your finger isn't there.

The two buttons on the top of the mouse correspond to left and righ buttons on a standard mouse for Windows or Click and Control-Click for Macs. The scroll-wheel can go back or forwards, but is stepped so you know you're moving it and it's pretty precise.

The mouse also performs some clever tricks, if tilted to the right so the scroll-wheel is then in contact with the surface, moving the mouse will then scroll the window you're in rapidly up or down (in-line with what the mouse is doing), which is useful for rapidly moving though documents. If the front button is pressed and the scroll-wheel moved, then the screen will magnify i.e. zoom in and moving the mouse backwards then zooms-out. Pressing the back button while moving the scroll-wheel will mean a document will move a page at a time.

It's a wireless mouse and it comes with a USB adapter that is just under 3cm long and just over 1cm wide (including the USB connector) so it protrudes about 1 1/2cm out of the socket. Unfortunately that's just wide enough to block other USB devices (at least on a Macbook) unless they're very thin. The adapter has three little metal connectors on it and acts as a mouse charging station with the mouse sitting on the adapter. That also means it will only work on USB ports that are on the side of a laptop (or similar) and not say on the USB ports on a Mac keyboard which are slightly under it. The device is plug-and-play and is recognised by pretty much any version of Windows and MacOS X 10.4+. The USB adapter magnetically attaches to the mouse when not plugged in, so it's harder to lose when not in use.

On MacOS X the operating system initially thought a keyboard has been plugged in, but just exit from the keyboard set-up utility (which automatically pops up) and the mouse just starts working.

The mouse has a 1000dpi (laser tracking) resolution and requires very little movement to move things around on screen, both the buttons and scroll-wheel are easily accessed and though initially fiddly, you rapidly become accustomed to using them and then it's actually very easy to drive the mouse and use all of it's features.

Placing the mouse on the USB (connected) dock for 30s will charge the mouse for around 1 hour's use, while a full 90 minute charge will power the mouse for between 2 to 4 weeks.

It's not that cheap, retailing at £49 in the UK. But if you're the person that prefers a mouse to a laptop trackpad, this could be just the right device for you.

It can be bought on-line from Swiftpoint.
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