Mac Musings

Make Mine Optical

Daniel Knight - 2001.01.26

I've been content with traditional mice for years, going all the way back to the Logitech Mouse I had connected to my Zenith Z-158 8 MHz PC clone about fifteen years ago.

I've also become something of a connoisseur of mice since discovering the Kensington Mouse-in-a-Box handled better than Apple's ADB mouse - and cost half as much. I eventually settled on the Kensington Mouse (their two-button model) at home.

Then came USB. As almost everyone agrees (yes, there are a few who love the round mouse), Apple blew it with their round mouse. Their new Pro Mouse is a big improvement, but for a couple years the market was wide open for anyone who wanted to make a USB mouse.

Contour Design was kind enough to send me their UniMouse for review in February 1999; I wrote a very positive review. Until this past Tuesday, I'd been using that same UniMouse at home; I also use a UniMouse at work. From my perspective, it remains the best mouse I've ever used.

Second to it is my Kensington Mouse-in-a-Box USB/PS2, which I also reviewed. Unlike the Contour, this one has a scroll wheel, something that never really caught my interest. That mouse is now connected to my wife's iBook; she also doesn't see the point of the scroll wheel. Still, I consider it the second-best mouse I've ever used, and very close in handling to the Contour.

Going Optical

That said, for a couple days my UniMouse was driving me crazy. It just doesn't want to track smoothly from side to side. I've cleaned the mouse ball and rollers. I'd jiggle the mouse, slam it, and knock it about, but it remained sticky. After two years of heavy use, maybe I've just worn it out.

Fortunately I picked up a couple new mice at Macworld: one Contour MiniPro optical mouse for my forthcoming PowerBook G4, another for my wife's computer or the kids' Wintel laptop. (They each have Macs, but their home schooling curriculum requires Windows. We've got Virtual PC, too, but with three kids being home schooled, we needed another station. Other nice features of the Wintel laptop: they can't surf the Internet, don't have games, and can take it along on trips.)

Anyhow, Tuesday evening I started using the Contour MiniPro Mouse (I keep wanting to say Mini Mouse, but have a feeling Disney would disapprove). It's a small optical mouse - and I just love the way it glides over my mousepad. No ball to get gummed up. No rollers to accumulate gunk. No Teflon feet to catch on the edge of the mousepad or come loose.

It's a temporary solution; I much prefer a normal sized mouse, at least until I get my PowerBook. But it has convinced me to bypass all the mice with rubber balls and look for an optical one. Too bad Contour isn't making an optical version of the UniMouse - I'd buy one without a second thought.

On the other hand, I've had good luck with Kensington over the years, and they do make several optical mice. I ordered their two-button optical USB mouse from (free shipping!) Tuesday evening, and it was waiting for me when I got home on Wednesday. I've been very impressed and already written a review. I find myself liking the smooth, well defined tracking.

If Contour comes out with an optical USB UniMouse, count on seeing that reviewed here, too.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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