Review: Kensington PilotMouse Optical Pro

by on September 29, 2005

A few months ago, we reviewed Kensington’s Expert Mouse, a $100 trackball, that has easily become one of our favorite input devices. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to spend that much on something like that, no matter how good it is, so we decided to look at one of Kensington’s lower-end offerings, the $25 PilotMouse Optical Pro, a 5-button optical rodent that utilizes the same software as its expensive bretheren.

PilotMouse Optical Pro

PilotMouse Optical Pro (Left Side)

PilotMouse Optical Pro (Right Side)

Expert Mouse
MouseWorks Buttons (Click for Larger View)

Expert Mouse
MouseWorks Scrolling (Click for Larger View)

Taking the PilotMouse out of the box, it looks much like any other mouse in the $15-$35 price range—silver and black, two buttons, clickable scroll wheel, ample cord. Also included are two other small buttons located on the left side. This PilotMouse is obviously designed for right-handed users, but shouldn’t be too much trouble for lefties. If not, they should look into the slightly cheaper, but less-equipped PilotMouse Optical.

Another unique twist with this mouse is that if offers rubber surfaces all over for excellent grip-ability. The sides feature a “tread” for your thumb and fingers, and the top buttons feature smooth rubber for your index and middle fingers.

Just like the Expert Mouse, the PilotMouse utilizes Kensington’s highly-acclaimed MouseWorks software. Unfortunately, the version that was installed by the ExpertMouse didn’t recognize the PilotMouse. After a quick update, we were able to change settings, just like any other Kensington product. Also, for what it’s worth, the CD that ships with the mouse offers the latest version. Also, since nothing has changed, I must reiterate what I said about the software in the Expert Mouse review:

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.

Another cool feature of this mouse is that when the scroll wheel is clicked, the scrolling direction changes from up/down to left/right. If you’d rather not use this, it can be turned off, but is mighty handy, especially since many normal middle-click tasks (like opening a link in a new tab), can be reassigned to one of the side buttons.

The mouse tracks very accurately, and should be fine for anyone looking to do some gaming, graphics work, or just wants a precise mouse. It’s comfortable and fits most hands well.

It should also be noted that the mouse includes a PS/2 to USB adapter so you can use it with an older PC. On Mac OS X, the mouse can be used without the software, but the extra buttons do nothing.

Finally, the PilotMouse features a five-year, transferrable warranty. This is quite impressive, especially since it seems like only some cars have a warranty like this. It feels durable anyway and should provide years of reliable service.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The PilotMouse is our new favorite mouse in the “inexpensive, but never cheap” range.

Pros: Comfortable, rubber grips, lots of buttons, top-notch software

Cons: Lefties should look into the 3-button variant

The Facts

5/5Product: PilotMouse Optical Pro
Company: Kensington
Platform: Mac/Win
Price: $24.99

This post has been filed in Input Devices, Reviews