It's no secret that one of our major gripes with some of today's laptops are their wonky and uncomfortable touchpads, and well, apparently Swiftpoint understands the pain. No, that tiny, oddly shaped optical mouse that your eyes keep gravitating towards up there isn't just any minuscule mouse -- it's designed to be used in place of a laptop's touchpad... on the palmrest itself. Wait, what? Yep, the idea is that you can still use your laptop anywhere -- on your lap while sitting on a couch or train -- but unlike other mobile or desktop mice, you don't need to find another surface to rest it on. It's certainly a creative and very futuristic-looking gadget, but more than that the $69.95 Swiftpoint has some other neat tricks up its sleeve – it latches onto a tiny USB stick to charge, can last for over an hour on a 30-second charge and you can tilt it to scroll. It all sounds extremely promising, and even took two years to finally make it to market, but is it at all comfortable to use? And more importantly, accurate enough to effectively navigate within Windows or Mac OS X? We've been using the Swiftpoint to push around the cursor on a number of laptops over the last week, so you'll want to hit the jump for those answers and more.%Gallery-99292%
When not sitting next to a laptop, the Swiftpoint is likely to be confused as some sort of bionic rodent or futuristic remote controlled toy car. It definitely doesn't look like a computer peripheral -- one friend that spotted it on a desk thought it was one of those pen or pencil grips for kids, which actually isn't too far from off from how the company designed the critter. Swiftpoint CEO Grant Odgers says he took on all the ergonomic issues facing mobile mice with the gadget, and designed it with a pen-like grip so it would feel natural and comfortable for users to pick up.
That's all very interesting, but how does it actually feel in hand? Well, there's no doubt that the first few minutes of gripping the mouse with three fingers is awkward, but after awhile it became natural for us to take our right hand off the keyboard and automatically assume the pen-grip position. (We should mention here that Swiftpoint is planning to release a mouse for southpaws, but for now it's righties only.) It's not as comfortable as sprawling your hands out on a large Logitech or Microsoft mouse for long periods of usage, but the red rubber groove for your thumb and black one for your middle finger do feel soft and quite homey. The core mouse controls are fairly straightforward – the left mouse button is on the front, the right mouse button right in back of it and the scroll wheel lives on the right side.
The mouse comes with a small USB receiver that's adorned with a magnetic piece that attaches to the bottom for charging purposes. We like the convenience of just affixing the mouse to the dongle, but depending on the laptop you're using, it can end up blocking other ports. Still, the beauty of the little guy is that it doesn't have to sit on there too long to charge – our mouse came topped off with juice, so we haven't had to charge it in the last five days of use. Unfortunately, or actually fortunately, that means we haven't been able to test the RapidCharge (30-second charge / 1 hour of juice) promise, but once it dies we'll let you know how that works out.
Setup and everyday use
The mouse itself is extremely easy to setup on both a Mac and PC, and requires no extra software. We just plugged in the USB dongle and we were up and running. Even quick pre-programmed shortcuts worked – such as holding down the left mouse button and scrolling to zoom in on webpages or images. The lack of any Swiftpoint software does present a problem in terms of assigning different functions to the buttons, but we didn't have any trouble reassigning the right-click function to our liking with USB Overdrive on our MacBook Pro.
As we mentioned, the mouse became fairly comfortable to use over the past few days, but Swiftpoint claims that it's 30 to 40 percent more efficient than a touchpad. We take a bit of issue with that claim since we're assuming we all have varying degrees of efficiency with a touchpad, especially depending on what sort of pad you're used to. For example, we happen to be extremely adept with our MacBook Pro's touchpad, so in the case of using the mouse with that laptop we wouldn't say we were more efficient by any standard. However, that's not to say we weren't productive with the little guy. With our MacBook Pro on our lap, we put the mouse on the right palmrest and navigated the desktop smoothly. We had a similar experience when using the HP Envy 14 and Sony VAIO Y laptop. On a desk the mouse was just as capable, but we found ourselves having to give it more of a push than larger mice to move across the desktop, especially when using an external monitor. By far our favorite feature is the tilt to scroll. You can simply use your index finger on the scroll wheel, or you can tilt the mouse to the right so the wheel is resting on the palmrest or table and drag it up and down. There's something about all the movements that remind us of flying some sort of futuristic vehicle.
There are some other neat tricks hiding within the Swiftpoint, though we can't say we really utilized them much. The first is that you can lock the mouse so it won't move the cursor while you're typing or doing something else. Actually, included in the box is a small adhesive pad with a magnetic area that can keep the mouse in place, but you can also activate a touch sensor, or what they call SmartTouch. Holding down the right and left button and scrolling upward, we didn't have a problem locking the cursor in place, but it oddly wouldn't unlock by repeating the same command. We're told that our unit does have early software, so that could be the issue, but even if we did get it working correctly we're not all that sure we'd use the feature. It seems like too many steps to just disable the mouse. Heck, just move the thing out of the way!
You can also customize the mouse's "up direction" by holding down the right and left buttons and dragging the mouse upwards. The idea is that you may change the direction of the mouse when working in certain in environments, but that just doesn't happen to us all that frequently and we'd like the top of the mouse to send the cursor upwards no matter what.
The tricks that have been packed into the mini-mouse are impressive, however, it goes without saying it's lacking in functionality compared to some other laptop mice. For instance, it only has two buttons, so configuring shortcuts is really a no-go. As we mentioned before, we do wish there was a way to customize some of the commands to do other things.
It's funny and a bit ironic that while companies like Apple are trying to make mice more like touchpads, Swiftpoint has birthed a mouse that's got the portability and efficiency of a touchpad. For the touchpad-haters of the world or those who simply despise the touchpad on their laptop, the Swiftpoint does make a really solid alternative -- not to mention, the tilt-scrolling is just brilliant. However, those looking for a mobile mouse with a bit more functionality will be best suited by an option like Logitech's Anywhere Mouse MX which has three extra buttons and a wider base. We also can't ignore the fact that we wish the Swiftpoint were a bit cheaper -- $69.95 just seems a bit steep for such a small mouse -- but ultimately, there's no denying that there's nothing quite like it crawling around out there looking to alleviate our touchpad woes.