Requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7, available USB port
What if a mouse was built and shaped like a pen? Would it be more efficient? Would it be easy to use? These are the questions Genius would like us to consider with the release of their new Pen Mouse. Designed to “…give you a brand new experience on cursor control for better handling and more comfort than a regular mouse,” this accessory aims high in an attempt to give users a better way to interact with their PCs.
The Pen Mouse uses a nano-sized, 2.4 GHz wireless connection to interact with any PC. Setup is a breeze, and the proprietary software configures the Pen Mouse for lefties and righties. It takes about five minutes to set up, and then you’re ready to go. Utilizing a laser with 1200 dpi tracking capability, the mouse easily detects movement and translates it very well. It also understands x and y axis movements in a sensible way, moving a cursor around not unlike a pen on a hard surface. And it’s not too picky about how it’s held. This is a pleasant surprise, as I had visions of having to angle it just-so to get it to work properly.
As for interacting with icons on your interface, the Pen Mouse comes with three buttons. Two of them are on the top and near the tip. One controls right-click functionality and the other acts as mouse button three. To left click, you press the tip of the mouse (which houses the tracking laser) down. It takes some time getting used to this, since standard mice users have muscle memory for a finger pushing down to click rather than the whole hand. The advantage of this design choice is that dragging and dropping is quite easy and intuitive. It also works well with the Pen Mouse’s ability to use most surfaces as a mouse pad; any laptop user can whip out their Pen Mouse and start dragging and dropping without too much effort. The item’s size and shape means it can be used in cramped quarters that are inappropriate for a regular mouse. And let’s face it, mini-mice and track pads on laptops generally suck as a method of interaction with your PC if used for more than a few minutes.
All of that being said, I can’t say that I found my time with the Pen Mouse to be completely pleasant. Its tracking was very responsive, but I found left-click and right-click functionality laggy and unresponsive at times. I thought this might be a reception issue at first, but some experiments in different environments and on different machines demonstrated that the reception is fine. The problem is that the Pen Mouse doesn’t always catch your clicks. I also found that the inability to use the proprietary software to remap the buttons on the mouse to be a serious shortcoming. I really wanted the option to tell it to left-click using one of the topside buttons and to set the pen-tip as the scroll wheel/mouse three. This inability to remap, coupled with laggy button responses and the fact that the mouse has only three buttons, makes this device unsuitable for serious gaming.
That is not to say that this device is bad; quite the contrary. I found it somewhat useful as a lightweight and slender alternative to mini-mice and my laptop’s touchpad. It’s lightweight, relatively power efficient, and can work well for anyone who takes the time to learn how to use it. Just make sure you don’t try to frag your friends in multiplayer with it. The joke is likely to be on you.