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Summary:

Wireless, portable, optical, multi-button, and equipped with a scroll wheel, MacAlly’s BTMicro is the go-anywhere mouse for modern road warriors.

MacAlly, the venerable Mac accessory maker, recently introduced the BTMicro, a $50 portable Bluetooth mouse in the ubiquitous two-button/scroll-wheel format. This tiny silver-and-white optical mouse matches modern Macs well.

The BTMicro is easily the smallest mouse I’ve ever used. The mouse and charging cradle together are smaller than an Apple Pro Mouse. The mouse itself is about the same size as most flip-style cell phones. I’ve included a photo of the mouse sitting on the palm of my hand to give you some impression of its diminuitive size. The photos on MacAlly’s site don’t really convey a good sense of size or scale, which can only be truly appreciated in person.

MacAlly BTMicro Mouse Since I have fairly large hands, small mice tend to be less than optimal, but this one is surprisingly comfortable after a few days of getting used to it. The small size makes it extremely portable, and if you’re a road warrior who can’t stand the built-in trackpad on your laptop, this is definitely worth a look. This would also be a great mouse for young children, as it seems fairly rugged and will fit their hands very well.


The trick for us large-handed folks seems to be letting the hand assume a natural curved position, as if typing, and resting the index and middle fingers on the mouse. Don’t try to wrap your hand around the mouse like you would with a full-size rodent, because that will only lead to discomfort and stress. The soft rubber grips can be squeezed lightly between the thumb and ring finger should you find yourself in need of something to hold. The mouse is small enough that most cursor movement can be done merely by moving the fingers, giving your wrist and arm trackball-like relief.

There is no software to install with the mouse; it relies on Mac OS X’s built-in support for multi-button scrolling mice. This simplifies things greatly, but an optional driver that gave the user control over button assignments would be nice, especially for left-handed users. Setup is fairly painless, involving a quick trip to the Bluetooth Setup Assistant application and a press of the “pairing” button on the bottom of the mouse. Since mice are the default Bluetooth device, you need only to launch BSA and then hit return until the mouse is recognised and paired.

Scrolling and tracking are smooth as silk, even if your mousing surface isn’t. Like other optical mice, the BTMicro has no problem tracking smoothly over nearly any non-reflective surface. Tracking and scrolling speed are controlled by Apple’s built-in drivers which, though feature-poor in comparison to Kensington’s, are perfectly adequate for most needs. As most portable mice are designed to be a compromise between usability and small size, it’s hard to fault the mouse for this minor shortcoming. Pixel-pushing graphic artists will just have to make do with the limited control Mac OS X gives them while on the road.

As a wireless device, the mouse relies on its included rechargeable batteries for power, and herein lies its biggest weakness. To conserve battery life, the mouse has a fairly aggressive built-in sleep timer that turns off power after a factory-specified idle time (another setting that a custom driver could control, but doesn’t). It also has an on/off switch for manual power control. Waking up the mouse involves hitting both buttons, which is no big deal, though it takes some getting used to. The problem is that despite the conservation measures, battery life is fairly poor. After 24 to 36 hours away from the charging cradle, the mouse often spontaneously disconnected and stubbornly refused to work at all until recharged for a few hours. Fortunately, the mouse charges fairly quickly.

While you can use standard alkaline AAA batteries in the mouse, the manual — which, incidentally, is written in fairly entertaining Engrish — recommends against it. (Attempted recharging can cause alkaline batteries to leak or explode.) This effectively means you’re required to bring the charging cradle and rather bulky power adapter on the road with you, which somewhat diminishes the portability of the mouse.

The BTMicro cannot be used while in the charging cradle, and in fact, won’t maintain a Bluetooth connection whilst charging. Fortunately, it’s designed to be very easy to re-connect with a Mac after a pairing interruption (mouse sleep, computer sleep, recharge cycle, etc.). All you need to do is click both buttons simultaneously, just like you’re waking up the mouse. Re-pairing with Bluetooth Setup Assistant should only be necessary in very rare cases. Kudos to MacAlly for making this process so painless.

The other problem with the BTMicro is one it shares with several scroll-wheel mice where the wheel is supposed to be a third button. Clickable scroll wheels are almost universally unusable, with the notable exception being the Intellimouse series from Microsoft. The BTMicro’s scroll wheel is darn near impossible to click because of the mouse’s small size, but it has a terribly mushy and unreliable action that is reminiscent of MacMice’s The Mouse, further exacerbating the problem. Don’t expect to use the scroll wheel as middle-click.

While you might find cheaper Bluetooth mice out there if you look hard enough (good luck), you’re unlikely to find one this portable. MacAlly has always had a reputation for solid, inexpensive products, and the BTMicro is further proof that there are indeed bargains out there in the Mac accessory realm.

By Chris Lawson

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  1. I’ve been using a micro bluetooth mouse for some months now. Have no idea who made the thing, found it in an ‘on sale’ bin at the local London Drugs. It’s about the size of the BTMicro, though.

    I credit the small size for relieving me of some hand/wrist numbness I’d been experiencing. I’ve tried wireless fullsize mice in the past, and their weight (two AA batteries; noticably heavier than wired mice) aggravated my problems.

    On the battery front: a separate battery recharger (with, of course, rechargable batteries) may be a better on-the-road alternative. I keep a recharger plugged in by my desk, and when the batteries die, swap with the charged pair (no cradles in genericland). The one I have charges four batteries at a time, either AA or AAA, and is light though bulky, but I’ve seen much smaller chargers in hardware stores.

    As for drivers, USB Overdrive promises, for sure, no fooling this time, that the next release will have bluetooth support. Should provide much more fine-tuning as regards sleep/wake, etc.

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  2. Leonard Herchen Tuesday, January 17, 2006

    I like the mouse, but it has a problem with my G-5. Instead of sleepiing the keyboard and mouse hang if left to idle to long and he fan starts blowing at full power.

    I ‘m trying to find out the exact problem but have been unsuccessful so far.
    Leonard

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  3. Kevin Mancher Monday, March 6, 2006

    After about four months, my BTMicro stopped functioning as normal
    Each single click is a double click, effectively eliminating my ability to use this mouse in any but the most simple operations.

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  4. Frankly this mouse is useless. Avoid at all costs. The cradle does not charge the mouse unless pressure is applied so I have to wedge it between the table and wall so that it connects. Not only that but the mouse actually does not work, the cursor will not move at all, yet the buttons still function?! There is no way to charge extra batteries because the dock only accepts the mouse. It does have a nice feel, but anything positive about this mouse is greatly overshadowed by it’s non-functioning and glitchy behaviour.

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  5. I’ve been looking for a good Bluetooth mouse for a while and had passed over the BT-Micro online after reading about poor reliability and short battery life, and because I wasn’t sure about the size. But when I got a shot of it in my local Apple dealership, I decided to risk it. It’s a lovely mouse to use, at least for these small female hands, and I don’t have the difficulty Chris Lawson did in using the clickable scroll wheel — in fact I find it easier and more responsive than the Intellimouse. I would happily use it all day and ditch my old full-size mouse altogether, but its battery life is so dreadful I’m really pushing it to get 12 hours’ solid work out of it before it becomes unuseable. I’d very much like to know how it is that my old MS wireless Intellimouse can truck along for around 5-6 months of almost constant daily use on a pair of AAs and this one can’t even last a day. That’s surely a whole heap more than can be accounted for by the difference in capacity between AAs and AAAs and between different wireless technologies?

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  6. I bought that mouse along with my MacBook and have been experiencing big Intel compatibillity problems, loads of kernel panics when the item was connected to the laptop and none when it was unplugged… is there an updated driver somewhere ?

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  7. As far as I’m aware there’s no driver specific to this mouse. It uses the generic OS X support for multi-button scrolling mice. I’m running mine on an Intel Mac (MacBook Pro) and have had no problems with kernel panics, so maybe it’s your mouse unit that’s at fault? The one I had expired last month because the left button stopped working completely. The store exchanged it for another one and no kernel panics with the new unit either. The battery life on the replacement, though a bit better than the first at about 20 hours continual use, still sucks. And what’s more, doesn’t fit into an overnight charging cycle as the previous one did.

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  8. I’ve bought one of these about a year and a half ago. I keep it in my laptop bag and use it off and on. I’ve had nothing but problems with it. 80% of the time when I plug it in, only the buttons work…no movement. Turning it off/on does nothing. I have to actually remove the batteries and wait a minute. That doesn’t always fix it still, so sometimes I have to do this over and over again for 5-10 minutes before the cursor will move. I have also have problems with it not seating in the charger properly, so I put it in the charger only to come back later and realize that it wasn’t charging the whole time. Since I only use it occasionally when I’m mobile I got used to these annoyances. However, just today the left button started doing double clicks instead single. I haven’t changed anything, it just started to do it and I’m unable to find a fix for it. I Googled the issue and got this article. Most posts about this product I’ve been able to find mostly say that it sucks. So, that’s the last straw, I’m going to drop this piece of junk in the trash and shop for something else.

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  9. Another unit with the single click > double-click problem.

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  10. Yet another single click -> double-click problem, with a different mouse from the same maker.

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