Spinning the Wheel
By Kenny Yeo
3D mice were thought to be exclusive to the realms of architects and designers - those who are in the creative fields. But more recently, 3D mice makers are focusing their energies on the mainstream users. Their pitch: 3D mice can speed up work processes and make tasks like scrolling and rotating easier and faster.
Enter the Orbita Mouse from Cyber E Sport, a 3D mouse that is capable of continuous scrolling and a few other smart functions. We take it out for a spin to see if normal users could really do with switching to a 3D mouse.
Aesthetically, the Orbita Mouse is decked in all white and is pleasing to the eye. Judging from the way it looks, we are almost certain that it was designed with Mac users in mind.
On the surface, there are two buttons but you'll probably notice the grey button first. This button is not mapped to any functions and you can change it to your preferences. There's also a much smaller triangular-shaped button. This is rather clever because it acts as an orientation button. It defines for the mouse where "up" is, and once configured, the Orbita Mouse will remember that no matter how much it is rotated. That is a pretty ingenious way of solving the orientation problem with these mice.
The Orbita Mouse is also touted as the world's first wireless 3D mouse and it communicates with your system via a 2.4GHz wireless connection to a USB dock. It comes fitted with fixed lithium-ion batteries and most conveniently, the USB dock also acts as a charging station, though the mouse can't be used when it is charging.
So far, the Orbita Mouse looks good and has some clever features, but does it really work out in reality? Not exactly.
Accuracy is very important in a mouse and the Orbita Mouse was, quite easily, one of the worst tracking mice we've ever come across. It didn't work well on our desktops and even using it on a Razer mouse mat did little to help. Every mouse movement felt like we were trying to wrestle a bull. It's like it has a mind of its own and was woefully inaccurate, making even the simplest of tasks a real chore.
To further complicate matters, the buttons are quite accident-prone. The left mouse button is the entire top of the mouse, so users are likely to click wrongly. The right mouse button is no better, as it is in fact the entire circumference of the mouse. Again, it was easy to click the right mouse button accidentally.
The main attraction of this mouse is instead of scrolling a mouse wheel, you rotate it continuously like dialing. This is indeed useful, especially when you have to go through large bodies of text, or huge spreadsheets. And though we are not into video or music editing, this spinning functionality should be useful to them.
In the end, the large surface areas of the buttons on the Orbita mouse were its main failings. It was too easy to unintentionally click on things and coupled with its below-par tracking, makes the Orbita Mouse a difficult product to recommend. Certainly, the spinning functionality might be neat and useful for some applications, but there are better mice out there that while lacking the cool factor of the Orbita, also won't cost you a whopping US$98.
Updated (on 13-03-09):
Given that our unit was an early production unit, we figured that its internal gyroscope might not have been properly calibrated. Fortunately, Cyber E-Sports was kind enough to provide us with a new unit and our impression of the Orbita Mouse has greatly improved after spending some time with this new unit. Tracking is now as much more accurate. It now goes where we want it to go and no longer feels like wrestling an enraged bull. The mouse still needs getting used to though, as we constantly found ourselves mis-clicking on things. Guess old habits really do die hard.