Comfort is key to building a long-lasting relationship with your mouse. If possible, test several units before you buy one. Your hand should fit comfortably around the device, while remaining parallel to the desktop. Test the tactile feel and button positions, as well as the texture of the device's top and sides. Push the mouse around to make sure it rolls easily and smoothly.
Warranties range from one to five years. Some vendors offer unlimited free technical support; others offer free support for a limited time, often 90 days. Ask if the company has a Web page, a bulletin board, a fax-back information service or a toll-free support hot line.
A premium mouse costs $59 to $69.
Your mouse is more than just a piece of hardware. Software bundled with high-end devices lets you increase the mouse's functionality by assigning commands to a combination of buttons. Macros let you program the mouse to perform a string of commands with a single click. Many models let you change the size and color of your cursor. You can snap the cursor automatically to a predefined hot spot, such as the default button in a dialog box. The cursor might also wrap around the screen-for example, if you move it all the way to the right edge of your screen, it will automatically come back out on the left edge.
Newer computers have a special PS/2 mouse port, but many pointers still come with a serial connector. Make sure you can also get a PS/2 adapter if necessary.
You may want more than the typical two-button mouse if you spend a lot of time at the keyboard each day. Premium pointers offer ergonomic designs and sophisticated software at a not-so-premium price. Bundled software lets you program the mouse to perform a variety of functions, and three-button mice offer even more options.
If you give a lot of presentations-or have a hard time sitting still-a cordless mouse might be right up your alley. These devices come in two varieties: infrared (IR) and radio frequency (RF). IR is currently the more popular technology, since it is affordable and allows for long-range control (up to 40 feet). On the downside, the mouse must be in the control unit's line of sight. RF signals, on the other hand, can go around and through walls. But these devices remain expensive, power-hungry and easily influenced by other signals. A cordless mouse costs about $20 more than a traditional unit.
If you have unusually large or small hands, look for a mouse that comes in different sizes. Left-handed users have two mouse options. Symmetrical mice fit comfortably in both left and right hands. Other mice are designed specifically for southpaws.
Gamers aren't playing around when it comes to choosing a joystick. Whether you want to drive your computer, fly it or take it to the depths of some complex virtual world, there's a joystick for you.
Until recently, you had to count on your keyboard and mouse to accomplish difficult moves. Now, for about $50 to $100, you can upgrade to a unit that can perform dozens or even hundreds of functions. Some can even simulate keyboard strokes, so you can punch in your favorite cheat codes without missing a beat. A solid midrange joystick runs about $80. Leading joystick vendors include CH Products, Microsoft, Logitech and Advanced Gravis.
If you're a die-hard fan of a particular game type, look for a joystick designed especially for your obsession. For example, Thrustmaster sells units with a steering wheel for driving games (a fast-growing category). Logitech's Wingman Warrior has a spin control that allows 3-D maneuvers in DOOM and similar games. And for the new generation of 3-D games, SpaceTec IMC has designed a game controller called the SpaceOrb 360 that lets you rotate and slide along three axes with a single control. But be careful-these joysticks could make your head spin!
|$59.95||Three-button mouse in multiple sizes to fit your hand||Program buttons, macros, customize cursor||Serial and PS/2||
1 year; toll-free and Internet technical support
|$99||Two-button mouse with an integrated gyroscope||None||Serial and PS/2||1 year; toll-free and Internet technical support|
|$89.99||Four-button mouse||Program buttons, macros, customize cursor, create hot spots||Serial and PS/2||5 years; toll-free or Internet technical support|
|$59||Three-button mouse||Program buttons, macros, customize cursor, instant menu access||Serial and PS/2||3 years; toll, fax-back or Internet technical support|
|$64.95||Two-button mouse||Shortcuts, autoscroll, virtual third button||Serial or PS/2||1 year; toll-free and Internet technical support|
Make copies of this checklist and fill it out for each mouse that you are considering.
Product Name __________
Buttons _____ Two-Button _____ Three-Button
Interface _____ Serial _____ PS/2 _____ Both
Software _____ Programmable Buttons _____ Record Macros _____ Customize Cursor
Warranty _____ 1 Year _____ 3 Years _____ 5 Years
Cordless _____ Infrared _____ Radio Frequency
Support ____________ Toll-Free Number ___________ Toll Number ____________ Internet ___________ Bulletin Board ______ Fax-Back
Multiple Sizes _____ Yes _____ No
Left-Handed Version _____ Yes _____ No