Spending much of my time online, it’s quite important for someone like me to have a good set of input devices for the physical navigation of digital spaces (e.g. Internet). So it comes with no surprise that I’m always on the look out for a good mouse that does it all, and the latest hit on my wallet is Kensington’s Slimblade Presenter Media Mouse.
In the realm of consumer input devices, the Logitech brand often comes to mind with their their amazing range of mice. In fact, I transitioned from Apple’s Mighty Mouse (remember how I ran out to buy one?), to Logitech’s Revolution VX which I later realized that it wasn’t as “ultimate” as Macworld claimed.
While I couldn’t stand how the Mighty Mouse scroll ball seemed too sunken in to roll (perhaps it’s just mine), I appreciated how I could scroll in any direction, perfect for navigating those gigantic web pages. Having used the Logitech Revolution VX, it seemed like a decent replacement since it had lots of buttons and 4-way scrolling, yet maintaining a certain aesthetic. Well, that’s where good hardware went to waste thanks to bad software. As seen in Logitech’s forum and on my blog, the Logitech mouse driver for Mac was dismal to say the least, often leading to crashes and general sense of hopelessness. It seemed like there’s no such thing as a perfect mouse for the Mac.
Having recently received a CircitCity gift card, I browsed their aisle of mice to check out the latest offerings. I’ve seen Kensington Slimblade Presenter Media Mouse before at the Apple Store, but CircuitCity had it on sale and the design seemed decent with a metallic finish. The media / presentation controls underneath seemed smart, much like Microsoft’s Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000.
After quickly checking prices and initial reviews on Amazon.com (Amazon’s new iPhone site is awesome!), I broke down and bought it for “further research”. On left, you see how the 360 degree scroll works, as well as the built-in media and presentation remote. On right you see what came in the box, sans the two AAA Energizer batteries which I promptly inserted into the mouse.
As you can see, there’s the standard two-buttons, and a scroll ball in place of the usual wheel. For this alone, it emulates the original Mighty Mouse experience, but there are three main differences:
1) Being slimmer than the mighty mouse, it’ll fit in more places (e.g. shirt pockets)
2) Clicking the right mouse button doesn’t require mighty mouse skill.
3) There’s no middle third mouse button. No-nada-macarena.
IMHO, the middle, third, fourth, infinity button doesn’t matter to me, I’ve got keyboard modifiers to jump through fiery hoops. More mouse buttons only serve to complicate things, as experienced with my popular yet troubled Logitech mouse. The scroll ball works everywhere you’d expect to scroll.
Being wireless and slim meant decent portability, but I was wary of mousing comfort. Being too small meant that it was going to be hard to find and grab during long sessions in front of the screen. Fortunately, a well placed rubber grip around the mouse to prevents the kind of slip-ups that would otherwise end up getting you pregnant with frustration.
What this particular Kensington mouse lacks in (for middle mouse button fanatics), is pretty much made up with the media and presentation controls underneath. Flip it over and you get Apple Remote interface likeness, with a switch on the right side for going between media (e.g. iTunes) or presentation (e.g. Powerpoint, Keynote).
What’s the point of media controls if I can already do it from my keyboard? Besides controlling your Mac from afar (like your Apple Remote), it offers convenience I never realized. The media controls works straight out of the box, for changing tracks on iTunes as well as your Mac’s system volume. This works even when iTunes is in the background, so while I’m writing this in MarsEdit (worth the $29.95), I could just flip the mouse over and hit next track or reduce volume just with my thumb. I see two major difference between this and the original Apple Remote:
1) No “Menu” button to launch Front Row (Command-Esc works as well)
2) You won’t lose it as easily (unless you lose the mouse, klutz!)
For the presentation controls, you’ve to flip the switch. Picking the mouse up, this media /presenter switch can be quite
a bitch hard to pop with the typical thumb flick action of the holding hand, so a well-placed index finger’s nail from your lazy-ass spare hand will do the trick. I tried the presentation mode on Apple Keynote and found it behaving strange at first, then I figured out what was going on.
Now I’m not sure if this happens in your case, but under my dual-screen setup, when I go full screen into Keynote, flip the mouse over, then flick the switch, instead of letting you switch slides with the forward / backwards buttons, I seem to be able to only change slides in my presenter screen instead of the public presentation screen. After gawking like a monkey for the next five minutes, I discovered that if I were to flick the switch underneath before flipping the mouse over, I could control the presentation as expected. It almost seems as if the mouse had some accelerometer detecting how it’s oriented.
Also, after you make the switch, mousing controls get cleverly killed to prevent accidental button presses while doing your billion-dollar VC deal-breaker of a presentation. In case you’re wondering, this isn’t the case when you’re in media control mode; mouse buttons still work when flipped over. The volume up button activates the laser pointer, while the volume down button makes your presentation go black, which is awesome when you don’t wish for your slides to distract your audience while you’re yapping away.
Onto the batteries, which consists of two AAAs as kindly provided in the package. Kensington’s web site claims a six month battery life, though how they achieve this gets rather cryptic: The back of the box mentions the mouse going into sleep mode when the computer does, while the manual claims that keeping the dongle inside the mouse shuts it down, as detected and verified by a green battery icon lighting up on top near the scroll ball. I really hope it isn’t the latter, since I’ve used my Logitech Revolution VX as a desktop mouse, never really keeping the dongle inside. This lead to the mouse never shutting off, leaving me to swap out batteries every few weeks (fortunately I switched to Energizer Rechargeables).
One clear disadvantage versus Logitech Revolution VX’s ejecting USB dongle, is that you have to open the Kensington’s battery cover every time you wish to access the dongle port. To make things worse, this battery cover is very flimsy, as there’s no satisfying click to lock it in. See how it dangles above? I literally have to hold it in one hand while smashing the cover straight inwards to make sure it doesn’t open up again. Not sure if that’s just my bad luck with mice again, but do let me know if you’ve seen this happening as well. As a saving grace, you won’t ever lose the battery cover, as seen in the previous photo, there are two clear plastic strips that let you flip the cover over instead of detaching it completely.
These last three screenshots lets you compare the size of the Kensington Slimblade Presenter Media Mouse with Logitech’s Revolution VX and Apple’s Mighty Mouse. Logitech’s mouse is the most comfortable of the three, though not all the buttons work thanks to the poorly developed Mac drivers. Apple’s Mighty Mouse has its own share of fans, though I’m not one of them. I just got the comparatively slimmer Kensington mouse and off the top it’s been great.
Something I haven’t mentioned throughout this review is that I didn’t even have to install Kensington’s Mac drivers to get full functionality. Everything I’ve mentioned in this personal review simply works, which is exactly what I’ve always wished for. To be sure, I downloaded and read what the Kensington driver does, and all it says is for iTunes control (which already works). Do note that I’m using it on Mac OS 10.5.2, so hopefully your experience won’t vary.
If you’re interested, remind me to check back a few weeks later to see if battery and comfort are still at decent levels. Meantime, you can get your own Kensington SlimBlade Presenter Media Mouse from on Amazon.com. FYI, your purchase via Amazon financially supports this blog.