A4 Tech Mini Size Mouse and New Motion Tech Super Mini MouseReview date: 2 October 2001.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Psst. You want a little mouse?
No problem, man. Got what you need right here. $AU51.70 delivered for either of 'em.
Do you want little, or do you want real little?
You're looking at a couple of optical mouses which are, electrically, not very remarkable. The bigger one's your normal two button wheelie-mouse with a USB connector and a PS/2 adapter, which lets you use it with pretty much any somewhat recent PC or Mac. The smaller one's got just the two buttons and no wheel, and only a USB connector and no PS/2, but is just as standard as the other one as far as USB-equipped computers are concerned. Both mouses come with software that lets you configure the buttons to do different things, but you needn't install it. They'll work fine with the standard Windows mouse drivers.
What's unusual about them is that even the bigger one isn't very big. And the smaller one is downright minuscule.
This one is the A4 Tech "Mini Size MOP-35" mouse. It has the same basic shape as A4's other curvy optical mouses, like the "GreatEYE Optical 4D" mouse I review here, for instance. It's just smaller. At its largest points, it's about 103 by 56 by 32 millimetres in size (4 by 2.2 by 1.25 inches). Unlike some "ergonomic" mouses, the MOP-35 is symmetrical, so people of either handedness can use it.
A4 describe the MOP-35 on their page for it as a "5 button" mouse, but that's wrong, unless they're counting each wheel direction as one button. This is a normal wheelie-mouse, except for its size; you've got a left button, a right button, and an up/down wheel that gives you button number three when you push it down.
This second one is the New Motion Tech Super Mini Mouse. It's currently listed by Aus PC Market as an A4 Tech product as well, but they'll no doubt fix that shortly.
The Super Mini Mouse manages to pack a normal all-surface optical mouse pickup and two buttons into a body only 67.3 by 30.9 by 18.9 millimetres (2.65 by 1.22 by .74 inches), at its largest points.
How small is that?
It's this small.
This thing looks as if lipstick ought to pop out of the end of it.
The Super Mini Mouse comes with a little cloth storage bag, and a software CD-ROM. In keeping with the bonsai theme, the CD is a 77mm "cd single", which'll work in pretty much all CD-ROM drives, but not some slot-load ones. It's no big deal, of course, because this is just a plain USB two button mouse that should need no special driver software on any current Windows box.
What's the use of a mouse this small, assuming you're not a very small person indeed, for whom even the MOP-35 is too hefty?
Well, it takes up very little space. You can cram this mouse and its cable into the "Zippo" pocket in a pair of jeans. That's not necessarily a great idea, though; the Super Mini Mouse's cable is quite thin, like a portable stereo headphone lead, and probably won't appreciate being squished and bent all the time.
But if space and weight are your absolute prime concerns, or indeed if you're just in the market for a gag gift for someone who also owns a preposterously small mobile phone, then the Super Mini Mouse fits the bill. There's nothing else like it.
There certainly aren't any ordinary opto-mechanical mouses (the type with a ball) that are this tiny. Well, no half-way useable ones, anyway.
For a mouse ball to work properly, it needs to be fairly weighty - which is why all decent mouse balls are made of metal with a rubber coating - and it also needs to be big enough to ride over discontinuities in the surface it's being used on, and handle dirt on its rollers. And to handle slight mouse-to-surface alignment oddities, too; I remember fooling around with a "mouse pen" product, some years ago, that had a tiny opto-mechanical mechanism built into a plinth on the end of a pen-like body. It had no tolerance whatsoever for the angle changes that normally happen when you're writing, and so it was every bit as useful as a ball-point paintbrush.
Mouse balls work better when they're bigger, for the same reason that the wheels on a Unimog deal with rough terrain better than the wheels on a shopping trolley.
A mouse ball less than a centimetre across - which is how small one would have to be, to fit into a casing the size of the Super Mini's - will tend to stick and skip a lot, especially when its rollers have accumulated a bit of scurf. A tiny-mouse like this is likely to be a laptop accessory and end up being used on all sorts of unusual surfaces - bedspreads, dining tables, your leg. And so it needs a reliable pickup.
Which is why optical is the only choice, if you want a tiny mouse that actually works. Optical mouses can require cleaning, on the rare occasions when a hair or bit of fluff manages to obscure the little lens...
...which you can see on the bottom of each mouse in this picture. But this cleaning is very seldom necessary, and is easy to do. No solvents are needed, and there's no chipping away at accumulated schmutz on little rollers.
Inside the Super Mini Mouse is the standard complement of optical-mouse components; they're just a bit closer together than usual. One high intensity red LED to illuminate the surface under the mouse (the mouse is still plugged in in this picture, which is why the normally water-clear LED looks red), one imager/processor chip, two button switches.
The dark-tinted top of the Super Mini Mouse lets the whole thing glow while you're using it. As normal for optical mouses, it glows at full brightness only when you're moving it, and drops to a lower power mode after a moment of inactivity, to make it less dazzling.
The A4 mouse glows as well, but it's got a more restrained tail-light instead of a whole glowing body.
My usual mouse of choice is a Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer. I reviewed it a couple of years ago, when these all-surface optical mouses were a new and exciting concept; the review's here.
The Explorer is a sculpted silvery right-hand-only mouse that's substantially larger than most computer rodents. Its curvy shape means that it doesn't feel like using a shoebox to control your pointer, but if you've got tiny hands, this isn't the mouse for you.
It's fair to say that the Explorer looms over the two baby mouses.
Even at its narrowest point, the Explorer is wider than the Super Mini Mouse is long.
I took advantage of the wonders of USB, plugged both teeny-mouses in next to my Explorer, and took turns using them for a while. The baby mouses weren't as annoying as I thought they'd be.
For someone with normal sized hands, the A4 Tech mouse isn't horribly uncomfortable. It's impossible to put your hand on top of it, as with a normal mouse; instead, you find yourself holding it between your fingers, with the tips of the little and ring finger in the hollow on one side, and the tip of the thumb in the hollow on the other side. This isn't the world's greatest ergonomic arrangement, and I wouldn't care to use is all day every day. But it works.
The MOP-35's wheel is a normal clicky type. Some A4 Tech mouses have a smooth-rotation wheel that gives you no tactile feedback when you've rotated it one "step", but this one has clear detents, like every other good wheel doohickey.
The wheel's button-three click-down mode, though, is rather too heavily sprung. It's much harder to press the wheel down than it is to press the other buttons.
Apart from that, this is an OK mouse. The right and left buttons have a nice sharp click, the tracking is as good as that from any other basic optical mouse, and the USB and PS/2 compatibility means you can plug it into a wide range of PCs.
The smaller Super Mini Mouse isn't as fiddly to use as you might think. You'll be holding it between your fingertips again, of course, but the buttons are big enough that people with normal-sized hands can have a finger on each one without the fingers touching.
The shape of the Super Mini Mouse may be rather uninspired, but it's not actively user-hostile. It's just tiny. If you can't abide the TouchPad or TrackPoint pointing device on your portable computer, but don't have room to carry a "proper" mouse, the Super Mini could be your salvation.
The Super Mini feels a little slow compared with my Explorer - I got the impression that I had to move it further to get the same amount of pointer movement. That impression was mistaken, though; the two mouses actually seem to have exactly the same "dot per inch" rating. The Super Mini just makes it feel as if you're moving it further, because of the delicate hold you have to use with it.
The silvery piece of trim just behind the buttons on the Super Mini Mouse is just a clip-on piece of plastic, by the way, and can come off. It's not likely to drop off in normal use, but it could get lost if the mouse is bouncing around in a bag. The mouse isn't really any harder to use without it, though.
If you're looking for a small and lightweight mouse with standard functions to shove into your laptop bag with the rest of your junk, or if you're a system administrator type who wants a mouse that can fit in your pocket without making you feel as if you're carrying a pair of bedsocks around, then you might like the MOP-35. But its intended market is people with small hands - petite adults, and kids.
If you've got a child who knows how to use a computer, but has trouble with a full-sized mouse, the MOP-35 looks like an excellent alternative to some seriously uncool pastel-coloured My First Mouse That Mummy Bought Me. This mouse is not a strange awkward shape, it'll work with a variety of computers, and it's not so small that nobody can hold it comfortably.
The Super Mini Mouse really is likely to be too small for the hands of virtually anybody who's old enough to know how to use a mouse, as opposed to how to suck on one. If you're a secret agent or an astronaut or something, and need a mouse that's the size of a cigarette lighter, then, well, this is the mouse you need. But, really, I bet you don't need this thing. It's got no wheel, its skinny cable looks a bit fragile, and if you're not some sort of woodland fairy then your hand will be too big for it.
So the A4 Tech MOP-35 gets a Recommended from me, provided it's going to end up in the hand of a small-handed person. The Super Mini, though, is pretty much just a novelty item.
A4 Tech's page for the MOP-35 mini mouse
Readers from Australia or New Zealand can purchase all kinds of input devices from Aus PC Market.
(if you're NOT from Australia or New Zealand, Aus PC Market won't deliver to you. If you're in the USA, try a price search at DealTime!)