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Packard Bell Interchangeable Optical Mouse (model IO-3UP) Owing to my experience with computers for the past fourteen years, I became pretty much accustomed to the traditional ‘ball-type’ mouse. I was familiar with all it’s drawbacks like having to always clean the roller guides, making sure that the mouse pad kept it’s shape (if it didn’t, I always replaced them) and ensuring that I always had enough patience for times when the mouse-response was so poor that it would have been better to use the keyboard.
Although I own a laptop, I prefer not to use the built-in touch-pad because I can’t master the ‘art’ of applying the right pressure on the touch-pad whilst trying to negotiate any type of movement. Using an external mouse is thus, the obvious solution (throwing the laptop away is not an option). When using the Internet I am constantly opening up new windows, downloading files and performing a whole range of other functions and it really gets annoying when my ball-type mouse misbehaves (which is as frequent as chilly weather in England). When my patience finally ran out because of this, I decided to have a look at optical mice (sounds like a laboratory experiment gone bad).
I remember reading one or two Ciao reviews about these products and what appealed to me was the fact that one doesn’t need a mouse pad to use an optical mouse. I must admit that I was a bit hesitant as I assumed that one would need to spend a small fortune on a product that seemed so technologically advanced, but I was pleasantly surprised to find them priced from as low as £9.99 (this is what I eventually decided to spend).
What is an optical mouse? Before I tell you about my mouse, let me briefly explain how an optical mouse works. Inside, on the bottom surface, there is a light emitting diode (LED) and from its name, you can easily deduce its purpose. Once light from the LED hits a surface (example, your table top), it is reflected onto a sensor. This sensor is actually a camera and semi-conductor (all in one) and is usually made up of a special type of metal (not the camera component).
Silicone-oxide is used for microchips, but the sensor in an optical mouse is made up of different materials (depending on the manufacturer). Anyway, once this sensor picks up the reflected light from the surface, it sends the image to a digital processor. This processor then looks for changes in image patterns since the last image recording and then performs lightning-quick calculations to determine how far the mouse has moved. Now all this happens at a rate of approximately 2000 images and 20 million instructions per second (varies for different makes). This information is then handled by the software on your computer and the end result is a moving mouse pointer…quite simple, but ingenious. (You can get a better understanding of how an optical mouse works by visiting www.howstuffworks.com - I used this website and a Dixon’s salesman as my sources of research)
The mouse I chose to buy was the Packard Bell Interchangeable Optical Mouse and I purchased it from Dixon’s.
What’s in the box? To start with, the packaging is really eye-catching. It’s a colourful, neat little box that presents the mouse in such a way that it would appeal to even the most prudent of shoppers. In the box, you will find the mouse (of course), 3 mouse covers (apart from the one already on the mouse), a floppy disk, a user-manual and an adapter that goes from USB to PS/2 (see pictures). The contents are also protected by pieces of moulded plastic so you don’t have to worry about accidental knocks whilst on your journey home from the store.
What’s with the name! The mouse is called ‘interchangeable’ because you can snap on different coloured mouse covers (silver, black, blue and red). The bulk of the mouse-body is silver, so I prefer using the silver cover. I do like the range of the other colours and the black cover does match my laptop, but for that ‘sophisticated’ look, I still prefer silver. Having different covers may help with the hygiene factor – For example, if 4 people are using the mouse at different times, lots of germs, dirt and dust may tend to reside on the mouse cover. To reduce this, each person can have his/her own cover to snap on whenever they want to use the mouse. Putting on a new cover is easy – just push the clip that exists on the base of the mouse, slide out your old cover and snap on the new one.
Physical and Operational Features: The mouse has three buttons and a scroll-wheel (the scroll-wheel is the third button). Connectivity is not limited to a USB port only, but you may also use it via your PS/2 connector (please note that this does not refer to a Playstation!). If you are unsure about the types of connectors that your computer has, then take your old mouse to the store to find out, use your control panel or ask someone who knows a thing or two about computers.
Software for the mouse may be installed from the accompanying floppy disk and it has support for 9 languages. The software includes all the necessary drivers for the mouse and there are many more additional features that you can use. For example, you can choose the type of scrolling that the mouse uses (vertical or multi-directional); you can choose how many lines to scroll per unit of the scroll-wheel; mouse-pointer acceleration may also be activated; you can configure the mouse for left or right-handed use and you can eliminate the use of ‘continuous click & drag’. I particularly like this function (the latter one) because, when I move files around my computer, I don’t like to hold the button whilst dragging the mouse – now I am able to select an object by a single click and I’m free to drag until I click again.
Being able to control the mouse-pointer acceleration is another very useful feature if you want your pointer to move large distances at speed without having to mimic the actual motion with the mouse. So if you want the pointer to jump from one end of the screen to the other, you are able to achieve this with short-mouse movements and these movements don’t even have to be fast. It’s particularly helpful when editing a large document as not much time is wasted on mouse-movements.
So what does it feel like without using a mouse pad? Apart from the great feel you get from using the mouse due to a simple, yet ergonomic design, the 4 plastic pads on the base of the mouse allows you to slide it on surfaces with relative ease. Just make sure that the surface is free of large dust particles or dirt, as you don’t want to damage the sensor. I am able to use this mouse on a number of different surfaces without compromising the performance. The motion of the pointer (on the screen) is smooth, continuous and accurate. Please note that you shouldn’t transverse the mouse on red surfaces/objects as this may interrupt its functionality (since the LED emits a red light).
Installing the mouse and software/drivers This is done by simply installing the software/drivers from the stiffy disk – thereafter switch of your computer, plug in the mouse and switch it back on. Windows will automatically do the rest when the computer starts up and you’ll be experiencing the joys of your new optical mouse in no time at all. If you are still having problems, then use your control panel (add new hardware) to set up the mouse. Packard bell does provide you with a 24-hour Helpline (0906 7525600) but be warned – it costs 75p per minute.
The User-manual It’s a simple 9-page manual with a different language on each page but the installation and setup instructions, although straightforward, are extremely effective and helpful.
Minimum System Requirements IBM Compatible PC (Intel or similar) USB or PS/2 port Floppy drive 32MB hard drive space Microsoft Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP Please note that if you use this mouse with Windows 95, NT or earlier versions, you will experience problems, especially, when using the mouse via the USB port.
Concluding remarks I would definitely recommend this product to anyone that uses the old ball-type models and, for a relatively small investment, you will really appreciate the existence of the optical mouse. Using this product for two weeks now, I’m was able to find only one ‘flaw’; the delicate curves of this product hides its strength in build-quality, but really, there isn’t anything that I can find (at present) to fault this product. I can’t remember the last time I got value for money for as little as £9.99.
Pictures of Packard Bell Interchangeable Optical Mouse
A thorough and very helpful review! I think I might have to get one of these - I really get annoyed when my mouse lead gets caught up in the hinge between the keyboard and hand rest during a cruicial online game! A well deserved E, me thinks.