By Andrew Liszewski
The technology exists to make most of our compact gadgets even smaller than they already are. But unfortunately there’s a point where things get too small for human hands and fingers to operate. And that’s exactly what I thought the first time I saw the Swiftpoint mouse, which has been around for a while, but only recently available in North America. It’s smaller than even the smallest of travel-friendly mice offered by the likes of Logitech, and I wondered if its compact design traded functionality and usability for portability.
But it turns out my concerns were completely unfounded, and after only a few days the Swiftpoint has not only become my travel mouse of choice, but it’s even starting to encroach on my Apple Mighty Mouse’s territory for day-to-day use. I’ll explain why in my full review after the jump.
I first came across the Swiftpoint mouse online a month or so ago, but when I discovered they’d have a booth at CES I decided to hold off writing about it until I had the chance to play with it in person at the show. I liked the idea behind it, but like I already mentioned, I had my reservations as to how usable it could really be given its size. But when you first start using the Swiftpoint you instantly realize that the designers have put a lot of thought into its ergonomics and usability, and not just “how do we make this thing smaller?”
The photo above is actually a shot of the front of the mouse, and when using it the red rubber textured grip ends up on its left side. But given how small it is, you don’t use it like a traditional mouse where your hand basically covers the whole thing. Instead, you kind of hold the Swiftpoint as if you were holding a stylus or a pen, as pictured below.
So you really only end up holding it with the tips of your fingers, which not only actually feels rather comfortable, but also feels like you have finer control than with a larger mouse. There’s a reason designers prefer to work on a PC using a Wacom tablet and stylus, myself included, and the Swiftpoint provides a surprisingly similar user experience. I still wouldn’t use it for heavy Photoshop or Illustrator work, but it’s certainly better than relying on just your laptop’s touchpad. The mouse is also incredibly lightweight making it easier to move and slide around with just your fingers, but I can’t help but feel that even just a little more weight would have provided some much appreciated resistance when using it. But maybe that’s a personal preference derived from using larger and heavier mice my whole life.
On the top of the Swiftpoint you’ll find the left and right mouse buttons arranged in a vertical orientation instead of side-by-side, but it feels completely natural and is a non-issue. There’s no middle mouse button though, so if you’ve come to rely on that for certain applications this isn’t the mouse for you. You’ll also notice a perfectly positioned rubber scroll wheel on the right side of the Swiftpoint. While it doesn’t have the ‘fly wheel’ capabilities of Logitech’s mice where you can disengage the ratcheting mechanism and give the scroll wheel a good spin to navigate a long page, its half-sphere shape means if you angle the Swiftpoint just right you can actually drag it along a flat surface to quickly spin the wheel and scroll a page.
Instead of Bluetooth the Swiftpoint comes with its own USB receiver which plugs into your PC for wirelessly connectivity. And while it’s not the smallest receiver available today, there’s a good reason for that. It also doubles as a miniature charging dock!
Because of its compact size the Swiftpoint mouse features a built-in rechargeable battery, but instead of requiring some additional cables to top it off every now and then, the USB wireless receiver does double-duty. It features a magnetic nub and a couple of leads that connect to a similar set found in a cutout section of the underside of the mouse.
So besides serving as a wireless receiver and a charging station for the mouse, the USB dongle also serves as a secure dock allowing you to easily up and move your laptop with the Swiftpoint securely in tow. And speaking of charging, that’s one thing I particularly like about this mouse. On a full 90-minute charge you can expect to get about 2-4 weeks of normal use which is totally reasonable given how small the mouse is. But on just a quick 30-second charge with the battery depleted you can actually get a full hour’s use which is fantastic if you’re in a situation where you need to get work done but don’t want to sit and wait for a full charging cycle to complete.
I also like that the Swiftpoint has some simple but effective power-saving techniques to maximize its battery life. Built into the finger grips are touch sensors that know when you’re actually holding the mouse, and when you’re not. So if you happen to brush the mouse out of your way with your arm, or move it in any way without holding the finger grips, the movement won’t be detected or translated to the cursor. So besides conserving battery life when not in use, it’s also a handy way to get the mouse out of your way when typing, without pushing the cursor to the far side of the screen.
And while I chose not to use it myself, the Swiftpoint even comes with what the company refers to as a ‘Parking Accessory’. It’s basically just a clear, reusable decal that you can cut down to size and attach to the palmrest area of your laptop. In addition to providing some texture for the 1,000 dpi optical sensor to read if your laptop happens to have a polished, high-gloss finish, there’s also a thin magnetic patch that will hold the Swiftpoint when it’s placed on top of it, stopping it from sliding around or off onto the floor.
Overall the Swiftpoint mouse is a well-designed product that’s hard to fault after having had the chance to actually put it through its paces. It’s difficult not to be skeptical at its minuscule design at first glance. Particularly since we’ve all spent our lives using monstrous alternatives. But the Swiftpoint is well designed for the task it was created for, which is basically on the palmrest area of a notebook computer while it’s being used on your lap, on an airplane’s tray table or anywhere with limited desktop space. It may not be the perfect solution for everybody’s day-to-day needs, but I certainly recommend that road warriors who are not completely satisfied with their laptops built-in solutions give it some serious consideration.
+ The smallest mouse you can buy that still remains completely usable. Even to the point of being more useful than some full-sized mice.
+ No drivers to install, perfectly plug-and-play on MACs and PCs.
+ Tiny wireless USB receiver doubles as an extremely handy charging dock.
+ Provides a user experience similar to using a tablet and stylus.
+ RapidCharge feature gives you an hour of use after just a brief 30-second charge when the battery is depleted.
+ Intelligent battery conserving features knows when you’re not actually using the mouse, just moving it.
– It’s a little on the light side, I would prefer a bit more weight and resistance.
– No middle mouse button.
Swiftpoint Mouse – $69
If you have any questions about the Swiftpoint Mouse you’d like answered, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to respond to them as best I can.