A Mighty Mouse replacement

Microsoft? Are you crazy?

I’m on my third Apple Mighty Mouse – the one with the neat little scroll wheel. The first was wired and the last two have been wireless. Each failed for the same reason. The small scroll wheel gets clogged with grease and debris and eventually ceases to function properly. Apple’s recommended cleaning method is to place the mouse upside down on a clean sheet of paper, bear down hard and move it around. Certainly that works a few times and dirt comes out but after a while the fix fails, even if you soak the paper with isopropyl alcohol.

I tried the new Magic Mouse and was unimpressed. Transverse finger swipes are anything but natural for horizontal scrolling and the lack of the Mighty Mouse’s side buttons takes away the biggest feature of the Mighty Mouse for me – the ability to jump to the desktop, which is immensely useful for drag and drop of pictures into emails and the like.

After a bit of research I narrowed my choice down to a couple of competing products which were reputed to work well with OS X on the Mac. I finally decided on the …. wait for it …. Microsoft 6000. Yes, a product from the Beast of Redmond, at half the price of the one from Cupertino.

The 6000 comes with a DVD disc of software and, unsurprisingly, installation failed on my Mac Pro. Nothing changes.

However, I went to System Preferences->Mouse and found the Apple utility works fine (OS 10.6.2 – Snow Leopard) and that the buttons were set identically to those for my Mighty Mouse. I turned down the pointer speed which was crazy fast and everything was sweetness and light.

The (not so) Mighty Mouse and the Microsoft 6000 for comparison.

A couple of observations. The 6000 uses 2.4gHz Radio Frequency to transmit the signal, not Bluetooth, requiring the (included) receiver (the size of a dime) be plugged in to a USB port on your computer. So if you need to use it on another computer, you will need to transplant the receiver first. Scrolling is not quite as smooth as on the Mighty Mouse but close enough. Pointer movement is fine – I do not use pointer acceleration and cannot comment on it, preferring a ‘hard coupled’ feel. Fit and finish is excellent and Microsoft claims a 10 month life for the (included – alkaline, not lithium) single AA battery. We will see. While there’s an on-off switch, I’m leaving mine ‘on’ permanently and will see how long the battery lasts. Finally, if you do switch the 6000 off, the cursor appears immediately when the mouse is switched back on, unlike the multi-second delay with Bluetooth.

The ergonomics are fine. This is not a big mouse. I have an average sized palm and long fingers and the mouse fits well. Users with really large hands may find it too small. Those with smaller hands will probably feel right at home. The feel is slightly superior to that of the Mighty Mouse, the position of the side click buttons slightly worse – they are too high. The scroll wheel is smooth, unlike on Microsoft’s cheaper mice and also tilts from side to side for (dead slow) sideways scrolling. Finally, a first for Microsoft – their product does what they advertise. The 6000 scrolls smoothly on every surface I tried – glass, vinyl, rough carpet. Why, it even works on a mouse pad. The physical shape is symmetrical so ‘lefties’ should have no issues.

Some reviews have stated that the receiver overheats and blows but, so far, mine is running at room temperature.

Given my simply awful experience over many years with Apple’s unreliable hardware, I can’t help thinking the computing world would be a better place if Apple stuck to making software and Microsoft only made hardware.

That’s an awful lot of words about something as simple as a mouse but when they are focused on one of the primary interfaces with your photographs in Lightroom or Photoshop, it may make sense to get into so much detail, detail in which the devil resides. In the spirit of fairness let me conclude with words I thought I would only use when that same devil’s residence froze over: “Well done, Microsoft”.

Battery life update – March 30, 2010:

The red tell tale light started flashing through the top of the mouse today meaning I got some 9 weeks of use from the single alkaline battery – I use the mouse some 3-4 hours a day and never switch it off. I replaced it with one AA Lithium – it takes only one – and expect to get some 30+ weeks from it. When you install the new battery a green light shines through the top of the mouse for a few seconds telling you all is well. I remain delighted with the device.

I also managed to install the Microsoft software from their site and side scrolling now works properly; the software shipped with the mouse did not work.

Second battery update – July 1, 2010:

The second Lithium AA battery just died – so 12 weeks of hard use from that one. Impressive, and it only takes one battery. I remain very pleased with the performance of this mouse at a fraction of the cost of Apple’s jewelry alternative.

Better vertical scrolling – July 2, 2010:

The Microsoft Intellimouse mouse software is not very good at providing smooth vertical scrolling. To improve this, uninstall Intellimouse software (Applications->Utilities) and install SteerMouse in its place. All button functions are retained and remain programmable, and vertical scrolling is smoother. You can optionally switch on scrolling acceleration if you like.

Even better vertical scrolling – july 9, 2010:

Well, it turns out the SteerMouse people want $30 for their software which is too much. Shopping around I came across SmartScroll whose version 3.7 works with OS Snow Leopard 10.6.4 and improves significantly on Steer Mouse. Vertical scrolling is now even smoother, lateral scrolling is preserved and it comes with a free trial period, $19 if you buy. Further, the occasional erratic behavior of the mouse cursor I have experienced with SteerMouse is gone. A superior product.

Get it in white: The white version makes for a nice match with the Kensington Mac wired keyboard I use (a far superior feel to the ‘chicklet’ keys used on Apple keyboard and it doesn’t fail. Half the price, obviously, need I add?) right down to the matching chrome strips on both. Further, unlike the glossy black version which is a fingerprint magnet, the white one is matte and has no such issues.

Microsoft wireless mouse in white – a superior product

3 thoughts on “A Mighty Mouse replacement

  1. Hmmm, I looked at the Apple offerings and they simply looked like “every expense had been spared to give the impression that none had been spared… ” (Douglas Adams). I went with the Logitech BT Laser Travel Mouse device @ 40% of the Mighty Mouse price and considering the MAC Book Pro 15′ has only two USB ports the need for an additional USB dongle was a ‘luxury, bloody luxury’. The look and feel is excellent and build quality is fit to purpose. MAC OSX picked the thing up with no problems and the Logitech driver is configurable via System Preferences – it also works well sans driver although the driver offers additional config settings. The scroll wheel is excellent and configurable. Pick-up isn’t as instantaneous as you describe but that’s a BT thing. I’ve used it for about a year now (OSX Tiger and Snow Leopard). Battery life is just shy of 8 months on 2 AA Alkaline batteries with daily use.
    Regrds

  2. Jonathan – fine, but the Logitech seems to be missing the side buttons which I find so useful for jumping to the desktop – something I do a lot as I’m visually oriented and generally include pictures with my content, be it blog or email. The Douglas Adams aphorism strikes me as spot on. Good point on the scarcity of USB sockets on (Apple) laptops.

  3. That’s very interesting. My wireless mouse has laid idle, gathering dust, for some time. I use a chunky old Logitech MX900 via BT and it’s ok, but showing its (considerable) age. I too like the side buttons but in considering the Magic Mouse I felt it just wasn’t going to cut it, the swiping movement on a mouse that’s already difficult to hold, no side buttons – no way. I shall give the 6000 a try.

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