One look at Swiftpoint Limited’s minuscule £49 Swiftpoint Mouse (just over 50mm long, a little under 40mm across at the widest point, and weighing less than 30g), and you might think the company has simply tried to make the smallest mouse on the market. But this tiny size serves a purpose. (Updated, February 8 2011)
The Swiftpoint aims to be the ultimate travel mouse by letting you use it in situations - while your laptop is on your lap, or when working on a plane - when the only flat surface is your laptop’s own palmrest. The Swiftpoint Mouse is small enough and precise enough (1,000dpi) that you can stick it on the palmrest of a MacBook Air and move the cursor about when there’s no other flat surface in sight.
(Yes, some portable PCs - including Apple’s laptop range - feature large, multi-touch trackpads. But many of us still prefer to use a mouse when possible.)
Swiftpoint Mouse: Small but comfortable
Unlike many compact mice we’ve tested, the Swiftpoint Mouse’s design is surprisingly ergonomic. You place your thumb in the large rubber groove along the left side, resting your index finger on the two buttons - for left-click (front) and right-click (back) - on top. Your bent middle finger rests in a vertical rubber groove on the right side. It feels a lot like holding a pen, and we were able to work with the Swiftpoint Mouse for extended periods without discomfort. Alas, the mouse is made only for the right handed; southpaws are out of luck.
Just to the right of the mouse’s buttons, in front of your middle finger, is a large (compared to the size of the mouse itself), rubber-coated scrollwheel. You can use the scrollwheel comfortably with either your index or middle finger, but the Swiftpoint Mouse’s design offers an additional option: tilt the mouse slightly to the right, and the bottom of the wheel comes in contact with the mousing surface, letting you scroll by moving the mouse itself forward or back. It’s a nice option that at times we found more comfortable than using either finger.
The scrollwheel also offers two additional features you wouldn’t discover if you didn’t read the user guide. First, if you hold the right-click (back) button and scroll, you get page-at-a-time scrolling instead of line-by-line. Second, if you hold the left-click (front) button and scroll, your onscreen view zooms in and out. This latter feature actually sends a Control-key-modified scrolling signal to your computer, so, for example, it works by default in all Microsoft Office programs. It also works for Mac OS X as a whole if you’ve activated the 'Zoom using scroll wheel' option, with Control as the modifier key, in the Mouse pane of System Preferences.
We found the Swiftpoint Mouse to be both responsive and precise - much more precise than a trackpad - although when using the mouse on a laptop's palmrest area, we bumped up the tracking speed a few notches to get more 'coverage' out of the limited space. The scrollwheel is likewise responsive, although we did miss the freewheel action of our trusty Logitech mouse.
Swiftpoint Mouse: Works anywhere, but optimised for palmrests
Of course, using a mouse on your laptop’s palmrest raises practical questions about what to do with the mouse when you’re typing.
Swiftpoint includes a couple of clever solutions. The first is that the mouse’s tiny USB receiver (which provides a radio-frequency or RF wireless connection) also serves as a storage cradle and a charger. When you don't need the mouse, it snaps firmly on to the receiver and sits there, suspended from the USB port, charging up all the while. A 90-minute charge gives you up to four weeks of daily use, although if you ever find yourself with a dead mouse, the convenient RapidCharge feature gives you an hour of use from just a 30-second charge. (The mouse’s battery LED flashes every five seconds when the battery is getting low.)
Placing the mouse on the receiver may block a neighboring USB port, but if you’re using the mouse - and thus the cradle - it’s probably because you haven't got desk or table space, which means you probably aren’t in a situation where you’ll be using a lot of other USB devices at the same time. The receiver/mouse coupling is also handy when storing the mouse in your bag, as it keeps the receiver with the mouse; alternatively, the cradle is secure enough that you can carry your laptop around with the mouse attached (although you’ll want to remove the mouse before putting your laptop in your bag).
The second 'Where do I put it when I’m typing?' solution is the included Parking Accessory, which is essentially a clear, thin mouse pad you can cut to fit your particular laptop’s palmrest area. The film-like piece improves mouse tracking on laptops that have highly reflective finishes (the mouse works fine on Apple’s current laptops without it) but it also has a 'parking area' that’s positioned near the bottom-center of the trackpad. It turns out that the base of the Swiftpoint Mouse hosts a tiny magnet, and the parking area hides a thin, metal plate; stick your mouse here, in between your hands, and it won’t slide off your laptop while you’re typing, even if you tend to tilt your laptop at precarious angles.
Swiftpoint anticipated possible issues here as well. Because you’ll be moving the mouse on and off the palmrest during use, or to and from the parking area, there's an optional feature that automatically turns off mouse tracking whenever you lift your middle finger from the indentation on the side of the mouse. You can then slide the mouse around - say, to the parking area - using your thumb, or even pick up the mouse, without moving the cursor. Turning on this feature requires a simple procedure, using the two mouse buttons and the scrollwheel, described in the manual.
(With this feature enabled, you can still use the mouse’s scrollwheel and buttons. In fact, the feature makes the Swiftpoint Mouse an effective presentation remote: the front button advances to the next slide, and the back button takes you to the previous slide.)
Finally, there’s a special feature that makes palmrest mousing more accurate. When you use a traditional mouse, you position it to the side of your keyboard, and your hand and the mouse naturally point directly ahead. But when using a mouse on your laptop’s palmrest, chances are your hand is angled inwards slightly. Instead of making you wrench your wrist outwards to get the mouse to track normally, Swiftpoint includes a neat - and easy-to-use - feature for quickly recalibrating which direction is 'up'.
You just place the mouse in your preferred position and hold down both mouse buttons; after a few seconds, the cursor will move to the bottom of the screen. Let go of the mouse buttons and move the mouse 'up' - whichever direction up is for you - and that becomes the New North, so to speak. We really appreciated this feature, and found that we regularly recalibrated the mouse as we switched from using the mouse on a palmrest to using it on an actual desk back at the office.
Swiftpoint Mouse: No software needed
It's notable that none of the Swiftpoint Mouse's special features requires software - they’re all implemented in hardware. Because of this, when you first connect the Swiftpoint Mouse's USB dongle to your system, you may see a 'could not recognise your keyboard' window. This is because, as noted above, the mouse sends both mouse and keyboard signals to your computer. You can dismiss this window.
The downside to these features being implemented in hardware is that, unlike with many mice on the market, you can’t customise the Swiftpoint Mouse’s behaviour beyond the features it provides.
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