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Review: Kensington Expert Mouse 7.0

by on May 24, 2005

This weekend I was sorting through some old books and magazines and I decided to finally put all of my Macworld issues in order. While sorting, I noticed something — on the back of almost every issue I had (dating back over 10 years), there was an ad for Kensington products, most notably the Turbo Mouse.

After seeing the Turbo Mouse evolve, being redesigned every few years, it hit me. This product was the ultimate Mac input device. The Turbo Mouse has become the Expert Mouse, in its 7th version and USB has replaced the longtime standard ADB. At $100 the Expert Mouse might seem pricey, but there are some reasons why you should give it a chance.

At first glance, the current Expert Mouse doesn’t look much different than the Turbo Mouse of 1995. The colors are different, as an attractive black and silver scheme has replaced the bland beige. Upon closer examination, there is a ring around the huge trackball, a wrist rest, and optical tracking.

I know plenty of people who have used trackballs in the past, only to complain and hate them. Usually there are the marble-sized laptop ones, or the offerings from Logitech or Microsoft. They’re uncomfortable for long periods of time or just awkward. This causes some to shy away from other products. Well, the Expert Mouse is the descendent of the original Mac trackball, and proves it.

The Expert Mouse has a huge trackball, which allows for very precise mouse movements. The optical sensor gives this the same advantages as optical mice (precise traction and no rollers to get gummed up with dirt that get picked up). The Expert Mouse does pick up some dirt from normal use, as gravity does not help keep dirt out of the trackball’s mechanism. Cleaning is as easy as removing the ball and blowing any dust and dirt out of the recessed area.

Why would someone want to ditch their mouse in favor of a trackball? Desk space and ergonomics are two key reasons. Trackballs take up less desk space and don’t require as much wrist movements. Furthermore, without getting into the Apple Mouse vs. the World argument, extra buttons allow you to do all kinds of extra things without taking your hand off of the mouse. Unfortunately, the software to program these extra buttons might be mediocre, leaving you little choice except right-click and scroll.

Kensington’s software is highly customizable, but also very simple to use, something any Mac user can appreciate. Although I haven’t used previous versions of Kensington’s MouseWorks, I’ve read plenty of praise for it, even for the earliest versions. The current one is no different. After installing the Preference Pane, configuring is a fairly straightforward process. Tabs adorn the top of the window to pick which aspect you want to configure (buttons, scrolling, click speed, and acceleration). From there, you can change various attributes. What is worth noting is that speed settings are based on the Keyboard & Mouse Preference Pane, so they’ll only be as fast as you select on there. I found scrolling to be a bit slow out-of-the-box, but it was fine after turning things up.

Button configuration is on a per-application basis, so you can have as many different configurations as you can think of. This is handy for anyone who uses Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, or even iMovie. This also allows you to set up controls for managing tabs on Safari. Exposé will never be more than a button-press away.

The scroll ring will be familiar to anyone who’s used an iPod or jog dial. Turning it one way scrolls up and turning it the other scrolls down. The MouseWorks software lets you chose the direction, and special settings for each program.

The included wrist rest is comfortable and sturdy. Kensington suggests trying the Expert Mouse with an without the wrist rest to find which way you prefer. It snaps in place with two clips and requires a bit of work to remove it.

A cordless version is available for $20 more and uses RF and C batteries. For most, the corded version will be fine, especially due to the 6′ USB cable and stationary nature.

Finally, the Expert Mouse features a five-year, transferrable warranty. This is quite impressive, especially since it seems like only some cars have a warranty like this. Of course, this helps the $100 price tag easier to swallow on such a high-quality product. To steal a quote from Ferris Bueller, “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The Expert Mouse provides a better alternative to all of those USB rodents roaming around your desk.

Pros: Comfortable, excellent software, highly-customizable, uses less desk space than a mouse usually requires
Cons: None significant
Rating: 10/10

The Facts

Product: Expert Mouse 7.0
Company: Kensington
Platform: Mac/Win
Price: $99.99

This post has been filed in Input Devices, Reviews