Small Balls and Touchy Sensors

Not only is the Mighty Mouse Apple's first multi-button mouse, it is also their first mouse with a scroll wheel, or to be more precise, scroll ball. 

Despite what some originally thought, the Mighty Mouse's scrolling mechanism isn't the same thing as the trackpoint devices that we've seen on laptops; instead, it is actually a very small ball that can spin in all directions. 

The scroll ball lets you scroll in both X and Y directions, as well as in combinations of the two (e.g. diagonally left).  The scroll ball isn't active unless it is slightly depressed. In other words, you can't scroll with it without putting a very slight amount of pressure on it. The whole "not active until you push it" aspect caught me off guard initially and it took a little getting used to, but it wasn't a huge deal. 

Hold mouse over image to see how far the scroll ball can be depressed.

The scroll ball will also act as a middle mouse button, but just pushing it down doesn't register as a middle-click.  You have to push the ball down and actually push the surface of the mouse down until it clicks to register a middle-click.  Although this may seem more complicated than it is, it actually works very well.  I never found myself accidentally middle-clicking or, alternatively, the Mighty Mouse never middle-clicked when I was scrolling. 

When scrolling, the ball does provide you with feedback; it feels like you're using a scroll wheel with more frequent and quieter clicks than any other mouse that I had used before.  With much less distance between scroll "clicks", the Mighty Mouse gives you much finer grained scrolling than with my Logitech MX1000.  The clicks are also far less intrusive than on the Logitech, making Apple's scroll ball more of a hybrid of the Logitech MX1000's scroll wheel and the newer click-less Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer 4.0 scroll wheels in terms of tactile feedback. You get smoothness similar to the Microsoft mice, but with the aural and tactile feedback more like the Logitech wheels. 

Scrolling up and down is business as usual with the Mighty Mouse, although even at the highest scroll speed setting, it takes more time to scroll rapidly through multiple pages than on the Logitech; it's the trade-off that you make for the finer grained scrolling, which the Mighty Mouse offers.  The problem with the finer grained nature of the scroll ball is that scrolling large distances is often a lot quicker using the actual scroll bars in an application.  Apple's Mighty Mouse drivers don't provide a setting for controlling how many lines each scroll "tick" corresponds to, and they err on the side of under-scrolling rather than scrolling too much.  I'd guess that this is something that can be fixed with a simple updated driver with a new option, but until then, it is a complaint that I had about the mouse. 

From my experience with the Mighty Mouse, scrolling along the X-axis worked fairly well, but I'm not sure if a ball is the best suited for horizontal scrolling.  The best way to think about it is like this: note the range of motion of your index finger when you wave to someone with just that finger (in a manner similar to operating a scroll wheel); now, try moving your index finger from side to side and note the significant reduction in its range of motion.  Obviously, the way that your fingers are jointed dictates that they will move much freer and easier in the former manner rather than the latter, and unfortunately, it also means that scrolling left to right with a device like the Mighty Mouse isn't as perfect as it could be. 

Left to right scrolling works on the Mighty Mouse - it just doesn't work perfectly, thanks to the fact that your index finger doesn't naturally want to move left to right as easily as it moves up and down.  This is one area where I think Microsoft/Logitech actually have it right. Their horizontal scrolling is handled by pushing the wheel left or right and holding it there until you are done scrolling.  This method means that you don't have to keep moving your scroll finger left to right (or right to left), which makes it a bit easier than what the Mighty Mouse requires of you. 

Apple's other claim to fame with the scroll ball is that it lets you scroll in all directions. After all, it is a ball and balls tend to allow that sort of freedom.  While getting used to the horizontal scrolling wasn't too big of a problem, scrolling at angles isn't as glamorous as you would think.  Pretty much the only time that I have to scroll in both X and Y directions at the same time is when I'm looking at or editing a big image, so I fired up Photoshop and gave the scrolling a try. 

The problem with scrolling diagonally is that it isn't smooth at all; it's not smooth and it's slow.  You would naturally want diagonal scrolling to be as smooth as horizontal or vertical scrolling, but it ends up being more of a jaggy operation; scrolling at a 45 degree angle feels a lot like scrolling right a bit and then scrolling up a bit, and repeating that over and over again with the abruptness of switching directions included.  It's not horrible, and it is useful for those times when you do need to scroll a short distance in a direction other than strictly along either axis, but overall, it isn't too useful.  The other problem is that half of the time, I found myself scrolling left/right or up/down when I was trying to scroll diagonally.  Instead of dealing with the frustration of the scroll ball not going where I wanted it to go, it was usually easier just to scroll left/right then up/down separately.  And once again, because of the fine granularity of each scroll click, I found that often times it was a lot quicker just to grab onto a scroll bar and get to where I needed to go that way. 

Last up are the new side buttons on the Mighty Mouse, the buttons that for me are the worst design element of Apple's mouse.  Although there is one button on each side of the Mighty Mouse, they need to be depressed together in order for them to activate and operate, which means that the two buttons only really act as one. 

One of the two side buttons

By default, pressing the two together activates Exposé across all windows, but it can be mapped to any number of functions.  The functionality itself is useful, and even having to use both buttons at the same time isn't too big of a deal. The problem is that in order to use them, I found myself having to reposition my fingers to get a better grip on the mouse to squeeze the sides of the mouse to the point where the buttons would activate.  Apple did their best to make their first multi-button mouse look and feel like a single button mouse, and with the exception of the side buttons, they did a good job.  Unfortunately, in an effort to make the side buttons not look or behave like regular buttons, they have effectively, in my opinion, made them a useless part of the mouse.  These aren't side buttons like you may be used to on Logitech or Microsoft mice. Rather, these buttons require you to almost completely reposition your hand in order to use them and as such, aren't very desirable to use.

Left, Right, Left, Right, Left High Resolution LCD and Gaming Performance


View All Comments

  • Homer1946 - Sunday, March 19, 2006 - link

    The review was reasonable and gave that persons subjective impressions. However most of the comments are extreme.

    I would strongly suggest that Apple has a good history of implementing good function WITH good form. OS X is largely an example of this. Certainly they have had some partial and complete misses as well. Also mice are very subjective and NO mouse will feel right for everybody. I have found that in evaluating new Apple products that Apple puts a lot of thought and effort into their designs (hardware and software) and in order to evaluate a new product or idea you need to use it with an open mind for at least a week. Often you find that it is actually a big improvement, sometimes not.

    Anyway my two bits. Note that I am a longtime Mac user but have LONG since gone to using two button mice exclusively. I am picky (like most power users) and really like the feel of MS mice.

    1) The trackball works great and has a nice feel. Horizontal scrolling works much better in Cocoa native applications.

    2) I don't have problems with missing right clicks but I don't leave my finger resting in the mouse. (Just dumb luck.)

    3) The side buttons are better thought out than it seems. You only have to press one and the buttons are placed so the users thumb should naturally lie over one of the buttons such that they can activate it with just the thumb and counter pressure from wherever their other fingers naturally lie.

    3) Their are lots of little touches and evidence careful thought:

    - The side buttons take a fair amount of pressure so you don't press them accidently while moving the mouse. When the mouse is picked up they require even more pressure to activate than they do when the mouse is not being held to help prevent accidental activation, but they can still be activated with adequate pressure.

    - The scroll ball requires a little pressure to activate to prevent incidental movement from your finger brushing it but requires enough pressure to depress the mouse casing to active its button feature to allow scrolling without pressing that button by accident (not that other mice have problems with this either)

    - For most (all?) buttons a quick click will act normally but a click->hold->release will toggle the linked function. For example with the default behavior of having the scroll ball button activate dashboard just clicking it normally brings up dashboard, but clicking and holding brings out dashboard and then closes it when you release.

    My overall impression.

    A very good mouse. The trackball is great, better than the MS mice scroll wheel (although they are very nice as well). I think the side buttons are awkward but I feel that way about ALL side buttons on mice.

    Although the cord is perfect for use with Apple keyboards, it is too short otherwise. I wish they had included an extender. (I note that the new MacBook Pros have USB ports on both sides.) I personally like the size and shape of the larger MS mouse better.

    The Apple mice (and most other mice) are a little small for me. Others I know think the opposite. Apple should IMHO add the ability to map a key combination to a button as part if its standard preferences. I think this would greatly expand the flexibility for a number of users without overly complicating the interface.

    This mouse is not perfect (nothing ever is) and not for everybody. However Apple is trying to re-think this, at least a little, and it is going to take some experimenting and some revisions. To those people who actually say 'Two button mice are already good enough and Apple is stupid to attempt to improve on it' I say this: The difference between Apple and the others is Apple understanding of how wrong that thinking is.

  • softonero - Friday, August 19, 2005 - link

    First of all... I'm from Argentina, so please excuse me if my english is too bad ;)
    I've readed the article, all the comments and even tried the mouse (on an apple reseller near my home) but didn't buy it, i have a MX500 thas is very good and the "mighty" is too for my buck... 1 dollar = 3 pesos :(
    But I think it's very important for Apple the double functionality (1-button or 2-button) just look at this page:">, there are a lot of people who still wants a 1 button mouse from Apple (I have a few in my family), and this means that apple is thinking in it as the possible next "apple mouse" (the one who ships with macs)... possibly with "MacIntels"? So it would be nice to see it in all new Macs. Even better, you will have the Apple Pro Mouse... perhaps THIS is the mouse you are looking for (the one who wants Anand) at least, this is the beginning.
  • SuperTyphoon - Saturday, November 19, 2005 - link

    Crap. Complete crap. Just buy a regular PC mouse with two buttons and a scroll, and save money.

    When clicking right and other buttons, it sometimes clicks the standard one. They don't feel separated enough.

    The scroll wheel is pathetic, too small, and hard to use.

    The smooth, slippery surface gets very slippery with sweat over time.

    The shape of the mouse is hard to use and uncomfortable compared to many pc mouses.
  • soosy - Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - link

    Nice review. I haven't used the Mightly Mouse in person yet...
    - Just to be clear for those who don't know, you can use 3rd party two button mice on Macs. The first page of the review wasn't totally clear on that I thought.
    - The article mentions a lack of control for how many lines are scrolled yet also mentions the slow/fast scrolling setting. Is there a difference? The beef really seems to be that the "fast" setting isn't fast enough. This should be built in but there is a program called USB Overdrive that many use to adjust mouse speed settings beyond what is built in.
    - I love the shape of Apple mice. Where the side buttons are now there used to be panels that you would grip to pickup up the mouse and move it since every where else on the mouse is essentially part of the main button. So using those panels as buttons makes a lot of sense to me. They obviously can't be seperate buttons because they are directly opposite each other and pushing one would mean pushing the other. So you end up with 4 buttons instead of 5 but I think it's a fine trade-off to keep the excellent existing shape/form and single button/multi-button versatility.
    - Other reviews have said you only have to push one of the side buttons, not both at once.
    - The track ball looks very cool to me as opposed to the bulkier scroll wheel that has resistant clicks on my current MS Intellimouse.
    - I have used multi-button and single button mice with my Mac back and forth. For a while, I went back to using a single button mouse but had to go back to a multi-button because of World of Warcraft. That game just isn't designed very well for a single button mouse. I'm very sympathetic to the Application Design argument for single button mice. Mac users are mostly fine with single button mice because using a single button is no big deal. Contextual menus are merely convenience. On Windows, too often the only way to do something is to right click.
    - The one thing I am dissappointed with is the having to lift up your left finger to right click. I notice I mostly lift up my left finger anyway... but even if I don't just 1% of the time... it will be annoying.
  • jbezdek - Tuesday, August 09, 2005 - link

    Apple has created something truly innovative with the Mighty Mouse: a single piece of hardware that can function as a 1-button mouse or a 2-button mouse. Personally (as a Mac power user), I find this to be brilliant. I can use the mouse in 2-button mode, while my wife, child, and any other user who prefers the 1-button mode can use that.

    In the many comments I've seen posted about the Mighty Mouse, I note one thing: those people who don't see any value in a 1-button mouse to begin with, don't see anything noteworthy about a mouse that can be 1-button or 2-button. ("1-button mice suck! Who cares if the mouse works in 1-button mode. Just give it 2-buttons and be done!") Those people who _do_ see the value of a 1-button mouse (better usability, encourages better application design, easier for average/inexperienced users to use) see a lot of value in a dual function mouse. You can have your cake and eat it too.

    On an unrelated note, in your section on "Ergonomics," you should note that the Mighty Mouse (and all of Apple's mice, for that matter) work equally well for right-handed and left-handed users. The other mice you compare it to work only for right-handed users. That is certainly an ergonomic plus.
  • MCSim - Thursday, August 11, 2005 - link


    On an unrelated note, in your section on "Ergonomics," you should note that the Mighty Mouse (and all of Apple's mice, for that matter) work equally well for right-handed and left-handed users. The other mice you compare it to work only for right-handed users. That is certainly an ergonomic plus.

    Ergonimics has very little to do with that, but all how it fits to your hand with minimal strain. You just can't make better ergonomics for mice that can be used by left or right hand. In other words you have to make compromises. When the mouse is perfecly fitted to left/right hand it's pretty much better than the "hybrid" ;)

    Only ~10% of the humans are left-handed. It's quite big compromise. But again those are who should get that mouse. ;)
  • SuperTyphoon - Monday, August 08, 2005 - link

    apple has finally made the break through in the two button mouse!!! its a miracle! that mouse must suck big time for games. Reply
  • Windaria - Monday, August 08, 2005 - link

    I don't think that I could stand anything less than 5 anymore. I mean, 4 buttons? You mean I have to give up a function? NO!

    Oh well... I have never understood Apple's hardware anyway. The only thing that they made that was better than anyone else was the Apple Cinema displays, ant that may even be eclipsed by the Dell monitors entirely soon, even though they are in certain aspects already.

    Everything else... bah.
  • toot - Saturday, August 06, 2005 - link

    Doesn't it look just a bit phalic? :p Reply
  • Jalf - Sunday, August 07, 2005 - link

    Just a bit... :)
    At least, the little logo thing for the article does

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