Article Author :1nteger Date : 1st Sep 2005 Comments :6
As I write this review I am using the new wireless, battery-free, optical mouse from A4-Tech (the very same company that produced the anti-RSI keyboard that was recently reviewed). Most of their kit seems to be pitched on the basis of some little gimmick and this mouse is no different – it needs no battery! Hey! Wow! Sounds real cool doesn't it? Well it's more gimmick than magic, so don't rush to buy one until you've read the following review.
Nothing special needed. It should work with just about anything with a USB port, and a Windows® operating system from Me onwards. You won't even need a CD drive as it doesn't come with drivers – it's pure plug-and-play (unless you're a Mac user in which case you'll have to download drivers from www.a4tech.com and you should be running Mac OS 8.5 or later).
It's strangely comforting that the only things in the box are the mouse, it's special mouse pad (more on that soon) and a small leaflet that provides some essential guidance on things like how to plug a USB device in, and where and when the mouse won't work properly. This minimalist package confirms that you're not going to be faced with a complex installation procedure and your mum can probably provide all the technical support you'll ever need.
The battery-free mouse comes in two flavours: the NV30 and the NV50 (this review sample is the NV30). It has two buttons and a scroll-wheel/third button. The NV50 is its 5-button big sister. (Who knows, there may be an NV70 out there with more knobs to tweak, or even an NV90 that requires the use of both hands to operate it). On the NV30 that I'm using, the two main buttons, like many mice these days, are simply extensions of the palm grip area. The central wheel is wider than most, and the chassis is framed in an opaque plastic that allows the body to glow red when in use. Lack of a battery makes it very light indeed and this allows good control with just the slightest move of the fingers.
Now for the explanation of the wireless and battery-free gimmick and this should be fun, because you can do this at home! First, consider a standard wired USB optical mouse. Next, take a big knife to this imaginary mouse and cut out all the USB connectivity bits. Then stick all those into a small but shiny mouse pad. What you end up with is a USB mouse mat and a wireless mouse. The mouse draws all its power from the pad through the magic of electromagnetic induction. As long as the mouse is kept in close proximity to the pad, it should work. This is , essentially what A4-Tech have done, and by just focusing on the mouse and ignoring the fact that you have to use its special pad with it, they can say that it's the world's first wireless battery-free input device. Clever eh?
So you still have the hassle of a wire and the need for a USB socket, and your mouse is restricted by the size of the pad. Couldn't you just call any old USB optical mouse ‘battery-free' and have even less clutter on your desk?