The mouse has come a long way since Doug Engelbart's team of engineers designed the first model back in 1964. The twin wheels originally used for vertical and horizontal tracking were soon replaced by a roller ball, which in turn gave way to today's optical mice.
The cable has evolved too, with old-style serial connectors giving way to USB in the mid-90s, and then becoming optional with the arrival of wireless connectivity.
Today's mice connect to your Mac using Bluetooth or USB wireless, both of which use radio technology on the 2.4GHz waveband. The advantages of wireless connectivity are obvious. With no cables to trail across your desk, you can place your mouse wherever you like.
Modern Macs offer integrated Bluetooth for connecting to compatible peripherals, and non-Bluetooth wireless mice come bundled with a USB dongle that acts as a receiver. So using a Bluetooth model frees up a USB port - though most wireless dongles are small and compact, and can be connected through your keyboard's USB port.
The primary disadvantage of wireless mice is that they need batteries, with Bluetooth devices being a little more power-hungry. Also, many gamers prefer the extra precision offered by a cabled USB connection.
For this group test, however, we'll be looking at a range of Bluetooth and wireless USB mice.
Apple Magic Mouse - £57
Belkin Wireless Comfort Mouse - £29
Macally mMouseBT - £42
Mad Catz Eclipse mobilemouse - £47
Microsoft Wireless Mouse 5000 - £24
Razer Orochi - £52
Smartfish ErgoMotion Laser Mouse - £40
Targus Wireless Comfort Laser Mouse - £21
So let's find out which wireless mouse is best for your Mac...
Test one: Design and build
All the mice on test were pretty robust - there's no badly made rubbish here. Most offered interesting features too.
The Orochi can be used wirelessly or via a detachable USB cable for extra accuracy, which is very welcome news for gamers.
Apple's Magic Mouse takes a stylish, minimalist approach, and the mMouseBT is height-adjustable, so it works if you like a bulky mouse as well as for those who favour a slimmer design.
The Eclipse has a kickstand to raise it to a usable height, but folds back for portability. The Smartfish ErgoMotion is a specialist mouse designed to reduce hand strain. The raised body section pivots on the base to follow the natural movement of your wrist.
It's a pity the Microsoft Wireless 5000 and the Belkin Wireless Comfort use receiver dongles the size of USB keys. The tiny nano devices used by the Targus, Smartfish and Eclipse mice are more convenient.
Test two: Using the mouse
Apple's Magic Mouse is extremely configurable, especially if you download a free third-party app such as MagicPrefs. Its multi-touch surface allows for MacBook-style gesture controls and two-button functionality, but its low profile and lack of physical buttons don't suit everyone. For example, it's a poor choice for gamers as you can't press both buttons at once.
ErgoMotion's tilt function takes a little getting used to, but suits those who find a regular mouse makes their arm ache. The Eclipse tracks well and feels more comfortable than it looks, but why they put the power button so close to the third button is anyone's guess.
A 1000dpi sensor and BlueTrack technology gives Microsoft's Wireless 5000 great tracking abilities, but it's not so fine if you like a slim mouse. The Razer Orochi is comfortable and gives superb accuracy, via both Bluetooth and a USB cable.
Test three: Additional extras
The Magic Mouse gives you swipe and scroll features that are impossible on any other mouse. After downloading drivers, the Razer and Microsoft mice can be programmed.
The gamer-orientated Orochi focuses on assigning key presses and macros to its seven buttons, but the current driver is very flaky and unreliable. The Microsoft mouse lets you configure its five buttons with a variety of features such as Exposé and opening apps.
The Eclipse has a scroll ball that doesn't function as a button. It can't scroll horizontal and vertical at the same time either, and as there's no Mac version of the driver, you can't change this behaviour.
The Targus and Macally mice have scroll wheel buttons, but they're not programmable on a Mac. The Orochi and Eclipse come supplied with a useful carry pouch, and the Belkin's USB receiver also works as a magnetic perch for the mouse to sit on when not in use.
Test four: Value for money
To better reflect what you actually pay, prices quoted in MacFormat are the best online price from a reputable dealer rather than manufacturers' retail recommended prices. If the product has been out a few months or longer, the online price can be a lot lower than the RRP.
The Belkin and Targus models are fairly unremarkable, 'ordinary' mice, but if ordinary is all you want, they're both great value for money. The Targus especially is a bargain at a little over £20 for a solid, comfortable no-frills device.
The Apple Magic Mouse is the most expensive on test, but £57 is far from overpriced for a mouse of this quality. The Razer Orochi is only a little cheaper, and is still good value if you're a gamer, though if you want more traditional programmable functions - and prefer a mouse shaped like a Volkswagen Beetle to a lower-profile device - the Microsoft offering is the one to go for.
The best wireless mouse for Mac is: Apple Magic Mouse
When it comes to designing mice, Apple has a very chequered history. For years it stuck to single-button devices even when Mac users cried out for a second button. Its iMac launched with a circular, puck-like mouse that some found almost impossible to use, and although better received, the Mighty Mouse didn't wear well.
But Apple has finally got its act together with the Magic Mouse. Versatile, attractive and well built, it's by far the best yet.
For those who prefer a more rounded mouse, Microsoft's Wireless Mouse 5000 is an excellent alternative. The Razer Orochi deserves a mention too. It's comfortable and very capable, but let down by drivers.
First published in MacFormat Issue 231
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