Apple Mouse Not So Mighty

Not long ago I happened to get a deal on an Apple Mighty Mouse from a friend who was unloading one. Figured it would be worth a try. I'd been curious to see how the thing performed, and the only real way to test how well you and something like a mouse get along is to actually use one for an extended period of time. So that's what I did. I didn't mind the Mighty Mouse, actually. If I'd been coming from anything other than my beloved $13 dollar Logitech optical — perhaps the greatest mouse ever invented, quite possibly mouse perfection — I probably would've liked the Mighty Mouse. It feels just like the old one-button Apple optical, but has the additional convenience of three-button, scroll-wheel goodness. And the omnidirectional scrolling is quite ingenious. Unfortunately, I can't say I was totally sold. While I didn't hate the mouse as much as a lot of folks, I did find the small, nipple-like scroll-wheel, and the overall lack of physical feedback unsatisfying and at times difficult to use.

Apple Mighty Mouse: Pretty but Dumb
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But this isn't just a review of the Mighty Mouse. That's been done to death at this point. What I really wanted to talk about was design over function. And, of course, how all this relates to The lab.

Not long after my first foray into Mighty Mouse usage, we purchased a bunch of Quad G5s for the lab. These machines shipped with the Mighty Mouse. In years past we replaced our Apple mice with three-button mice (yes, those very same Logitechs I mentioned above) because many users — particularly those using Maya — really require three-button functionality. I was actually pretty excited that, with the Mighty Mouse included, this would be the first year in some time I didn't have to go buy new mice for our Macs. There was some initial confusion among users, as the Mighty Mouse is configured in one-button mode by default. So educating the students about configuring the mouse for three-button functionality was necessary. That turned out to be quite easy, and before long those folks who wanted to be were up and running. But after a month or two I got a request generated by the student body in one of the Student Representative meetings for — yup, you guessed it — new mice. The consensus was that people really hated the Mighty Mouse, preferring, like I do, the cheap but wonderful Logitech alternative.

The Logitech El-Cheapo Premium Optical Mouse: Best. Mouse. Ever.
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Let's look at this Logitech mouse for a minute. The Logitech Premium Optical Mouse lists on MacMall for $12.99 as of this writing (it no longer appears at Logitech's online store, and is becoming hard to find, sadly). That's less than 1/4 the price of the Mighty Mouse. But, while the design of the Apple mouse is beautiful, the Logitech's design is brilliantly functional (and not terribly hideous, actually). The Logitech features big buttons and a big scroll-wheel. The buttons make a both an audible and a physical click when pressed, and the scroll wheel also makes physical clicks when you move it. This feedback, and the size of the controls let you know that you're actually using the mouse in the way you intend. I'd bet the resistance of the buttons and wheel even reduce the likelihood of repetitive strain injuries, though if not they're certainly far more psychologically satisfying to me than the practically invisible Mighty Mouse controls. Do they look as nice? No. But they feel great. And how much time do you spend looking at your mouse versus holding it? The other thing I appreciate about the Logitech is that it has a great ergonomic shape. This is something I'm really picky about, and it was the initial thing that sold me on the Logitech. This basic, early-nineties mouse shape — the one with a little hump on the back where your palm rests — is ideal for me. I find it very comfortable. Feedback and comfort: two important things that the Mighty Mouse simply lacks. (Sorry, but a speaker-generated "click" sound just doesn't cut it for me.)

I think it's great that Apple finally decided to start making three-button mice. And I think they did so in some truly innovative ways. I can't even say I really hate the Mighty Mouse. It's just that there are far better alternatives for a lot less money. And I expect more from Apple. The look of Apple's mice has long been stunning, if not always very functional. Unfortunately, design over functionality just doesn't fly for those of us who use computers all day long. A mouse needs to feel good more than it needs to look good. It is, after all, a device for the hand. And while it may just be my opinion that the Mighty Mouse is bested by the cheapest Logitech mouse on the market, a whole department of staff, faculty and students agrees with me. Not at all scientific, but that's pretty damning evidence, if you ask me.

Apple is king when it comes to combining function and aesthetics. You see it in the iPod. You see it in their computers. You see it in their software. Their monitors are heaven to look at. Their products usually work the best and look the best, in my experience. But they always seem to blow it when it comes to mice, and unfortunately, the Mighty Mouse is no exception. While Apple made the right move supplying its users with a true three-button mouse solution, I'm afraid they blew it on the implementation. Here's hoping they keep at it, though. I'd love for Apple to produce a mouse I can love.