capsule review

Apple Wireless Mouse and Apple Wireless Keyboard

At a Glance
  • Apple Wireless Mouse

    PCWorld Rating

Apple Wireless Mouse and Wireless Keyboard.
Photograph: Rick Rizner

Apple's Wireless Keyboard and Wireless Mouse ($69 each; sold separately) are designed to take advantage of the Bluetooth support built into the Mac OS X operating system. They have the same white-and-clear-Lucite color scheme as current IMacs and IBooks, and the same minimalist design. Taking a cue from the 12-inch PowerBook, the keyboard is no wider than all of its keys--the keyboard is encased in a clear Lucite tray that provides no border, so the keys appear to be floating. And in keeping with the minimal theme, there are no cords to be found anywhere on either input device.

Apple included Bluetooth support in its Mac OS X operating system, and Apple's system requirements for both keyboard and mouse specify running OS X 10.2.6 or later. You also need either a PowerBook (all models have a built-in Bluetooth radio) or a USB Bluetooth adapter (about $40 to $50); Apple recommends the D-Link Bluetooth USB Adapter. That limits the audience for these products to owners of fairly recent Mac systems. But if you have the hardware and software requirements covered, the experience of installing these peripherals is a breeze. You simply power up the devices, open the Mac's Bluetooth Preferences dialog box, and let the wizard walk you through recognizing and pairing the devices. The typical Bluetooth security is built in, so you know that you're sending signals only to the system you've paired the mouse and keyboard with. (For a report on how a Bluetooth installation on a Mac compares to a Bluetooth installation on a Windows PC, check out "Mac Skeptic: Is Bluetooth Better on the Mac?")

Both the mouse and keyboard are fairly comfortable to use; the mouse is smooth and low-profile, about the size and shape of a bar of soap, with rounded edges. There is no button at all: To click, you simply press down on the mouse, and it responds with audible feedback. Apple mice have never had the second button that Windows users rely on for right-clicking. To call up context-sensitive menus--that is, whenever you need to right-click something--Mac users have to press Ctrl and click. For Windows users, once you've gotten used to having that menu available with one button press, it's hard to live without it.

I also sorely missed having a scroll wheel like that on many PC mice, because I use it extensively for scrolling through documents. Having to pick up the mouse and drag it felt primitive and awkward. Mac users who want more bells and whistles on their mice--including a scroll wheel--must buy them from third parties like Kensington, Logitech, and Wacom.

On either side of the Apple Wireless Mouse there are inserts in a contrasting shade of white, which are deceiving; you'd guess that these spots for your thumb and pinky have some function, but they don't--they're not even indented rests for your fingers. Apparently, they're just a tactile and visual cue: "Put your fingers here."

The mouse's cursor tracking was reliable, though I noticed a slight lag in its response after it had been sitting idle for awhile. (Testers of other Bluetooth peripherals have reported similar experiences, and companies said that this latency is deliberate--as a way to preserve battery life.) Apple built two levels of power conservation into the mouse and keyboard; the "lighter sleep" begins after 10 seconds of inactivity and the "deeper sleep" starts after 10 inactive minutes. This represents the best compromise between long battery life and usability, according to an Apple representative. It would be nice to be able to specify when the power management kicks in, but it is not user-configurable. You can adjust the cursor tracking speed and the double-click speed in the Mac's System Preferences dialog, and you can adjust the amount of pressure needed to click the mouse button by taking the mouse's bottom cover off and sliding a lever.

In all, this is a nicely designed, attractive mouse that works fairly reliably. But if you need two buttons--and like using a scroll wheel--it isn't a good choice.

The keyboard has a full complement of keys--only its case is pared down. It has 16 function keys, a 10-key numeric keypad, volume-control keys, and an Eject key for the optical drive. Three of these function keys are preprogrammed to execute OS X's slick Expos?? navigation shortcuts, and two more adjust screen brightness, but the other eleven are completely available to be programmed through System Preferences (the equivalent of Windows' Control Panels). The single best thing about the Wireless Keyboard, at least for someone who usually works on a cramped IBook keyboard, is the presence of a Forward Delete key. (Confusingly for PC users, on Mac keyboards, the Backspace key is labeled Delete, and what Windows users know as the Delete key is labeled Delete with a forward arrow.) There are no keys dedicated to starting e-mail apps or browsers, nor are there other extra features or customization options.

The keys give quite a bit of audible feedback but have a soft feel and a fair amount of vertical travel. If you're used to a springy keyboard, typing on this one will feel mushy. There is a gentle upward slope to the keyboard that made hand placement comfortable for our reviewers, but the angle is built in and not adjustable. When I placed the keyboard on a slightly uneven typing surface I definitely noticed some instability. A keyboard with feet would have compensated for the unevenness better than this flat-bottomed one. With the keyboard, I noticed the same kind of lag between input and response after an idle period as I did with the mouse.

Both the mouse and keyboard are powered by AA batteries; the keyboard uses four, the mouse two (Apple includes the first set of batteries in the box). Apple estimates that the mouse will last for three months on one set of batteries, and the keyboard nine months, depending on usage patterns. Both also have switches that let you turn them off to conserve battery life. The System Preferences dialog box has battery level indicators for both devices.

Mac OS X users who want a clean-looking desk will like these input devices.

Rebecca Freed

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Pros

    • Long range
    • Bluetooth
    • On/off switch
    • Tension adjustment

    Cons

    • Not programmable
    • No battery recharge
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