iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail






Creative Optical Wireless Mouse Review

Last time we dealt with Creative's optical mouse which couldn't boast of its functions but was a beautiful creation :) Today we are going with the top-of-the-line model, Creative Optical. It's similar to the previous solution but belongs to a different class due to the radio PC connection.

The mouse is packed in a bigger box compared to the previous solution. The box contains a receiver (very compact) with the USB interface (no adapters provided), the mouse, two AA batteries, a brief instruction and a warranty card for a long period. There is no software because under any OS supporting USB peripherals three-button mice don't need additional programs to be installed.

The mouse is only a little bigger than the wireless Creative Lite and much smaller than any wireless "rodent" (even Cherry M-3000 included into CyBo@rd Plus is bulkier). Wireless mice grow so big because of the batteries. Optomechanical mice utilize two AAA batteries placed across the mouse's body. The battery compartment is located in the lower section of the mouse as the upper one is too narrow. It makes the mouse larger. Optical mice use bigger AA batteries. The battery compartment gets bigger, and it's irrational to place batteries across. Developers, thus, have to place them along the mouse and shift the optical sensor. Hence the massive size and unusual behavior of wireless optical mice. But in the Creative Optical the sensor is located right in the center. The engineers put the batteries in the upper section of the mouse where they do not disturb any vital components. If we remove the upper cover we will see two seats for two AA batteries. The solution is interesting and allows for a compact wireless mouse. However, the mouse is still heavy.

According to the specs, the mouse consumes 50 mA at 3 V. I used the rechargeable batteries (the Optical works perfectly with them in contrast to some other modern solutions) of lower voltage. The voltage of 2.4 V increases the current up to 60-63 mA. It means that two AAA rechargeable batteries of 650 mAh will suffice for 20 hours (it will be actually longer as you won't use the mouse nonstop, and its sleep mode is perfectly realized). That is why it can be easy to solve the problem of weight. But remember that you will have to charge the batteries "manually" after such redesigning :)

The PC connection makes no problems; when we connected the mouse we instantly got a HID compatible mouse. Actually you can buy an adapter and connect it to the PS/2 port, but it's not so necessary here as in case of the Lite. Usually it's done to avoid USB's limitation for the sampling frequency (125 Hz against 200 of PS/2). But wireless mice don't have a high frequency anyway. However, the Optical has it 70 Hz irrespective of the connection type. This is less compared to almost all wired mice, as well as Logitech MX700 or Microsoft Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer, but most wireless solutions (especially optical) have only 50 Hz. That is why I'm inclined to consider the characteristics of the Creative Optical to be good rather than bad :)

The mouse looks very similar to its junior sister (except the tail) - this is an old-fashioned mouse equipped with three buttons and a rubber scroller. However, it doesn't illuminate the room anymore in order to save batteries power (there is only a tiny LED in front of the scroller which goes on when batteries need to be replaced). The microswitches seem to be the same - they are very pleasant by touch under the buttons and a tight one under the scroller. But it's more convenient to rotate the scroller now. Earlier there was a central inset (which disappeared with the LED), and the scroller towered a little above it.

There is one more button typical of models working with low-frequency radio waves. Together with such button on the receiver, the Connect button makes both components find each other after connection or replacement of batteries. I don't consider such button convenient (especially because you must press it after replacing batteries, in contrast to Logitech devices), but you can avoid it only by using SHF (2.4 GHz). Long waves make impossible to move the mouse far from the receiver. Officially, the limit is 1.5 m, though in the tests the mouse ran stable at 1.7 m as well. At the distance of 1.7-1.95 m it worked unstable and at further distances it had no effect on the pointer. Well, it must be enough for desktop utilization. Household devices didn't affect mouse at all.

Although the mouse is very compact, it excellently fits into the hand, either left or right. The thumb and little finger fall exactly on the rubber pads on the sides, and the other fingers get exactly on the dedicated buttons and scroller (the mouse is rather wide, and the buttons are wide as well; that is why the fingers do not disturb each other). The mouse is narrower in the lower part, and you can easily lift it up even if your hand is sweated. Ergonomics is a subjective thing indeed, but I like Creative Optical (though I'm not keen on little mice).

What can I say more about its utilization? Almost nothing. Since the mouse utilizes only three buttons, there are no peculiarities in its usage. Just note that the pointer speed has to be set to maximum (like in case of Creative Lite). But the speed is sufficient, especially if you set a more conventional resolution of 1024x768 instead of 1600x1200. But still, the developers should correct that (at least, in future models).

I think, this model will be most interesting for mobile users since the mouse itself and the receiver are pretty small, especially in contrast to Logitech MX700. It can be a good home solution as well - a durable radio mouse of the popular but not hackneyed trade mark. However, the Creative Optical is not very functional. Other mouse makers offer monsters equipped with 5-8 buttons and other gems. This simple 3-button Creative Optical looks rather pale next to them. As we know, Creative is able to make perfect software comparable to Microsoft's or Logitech's ones. Maybe, a similar monster will crawl out of this company's den as well. But now Creative's new field of application can be of interest for those who prefer classic 3-button mice with a scroller.

Andrei Kozhemyako aka Korzh (korzh@ixbt.com

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