There was a time when I spent a significant amount of time watching Dragons' Den on BBC America. To watch various products and ideas get pitched to potential investors was always fascinating – the ideas ranged from the supremely fantastic to the utterly ridiculous, but every entrepreneur who went before the Dragons believed in their idea and pitched it to the best of their ability. One of my major disappointments though with the series was that it was based in England and that none of the products or ideas that the Dragons approved were something readily available here. Consequently, when the opportunity came up to get my hands on a Dragons' Den product I was quick to jump at the chance.
The product in question is the Motormouse. Originally developed by an entrepreneur who went on Dragons' Den, the licensing for the product was sold to a different company here in the States, and the car-shaped computer mouse is now available for purchase.
With a look "inspired" by the Porsche 911, the mouse is wireless and available in silver, red, and black. It operates with a 2.4GHz wireless USB connection – a small USB connector just pops right into a USB port on the computer, sticking out approximately one-half centimeter from the port. Inside the mouse's "trunk" one live the two AAA batteries required to power the device and a small crevice into which the USB connector can be stored. It has two buttons, a scroll wheel, and a 1200DPI optical sensor. Additionally, rather than containing an on/off switch, the mouse turns itself off after a set (but not apparently user adjustable) period of time and can be turned back on by clicking the left button.
The Motormouse is roughly the size of your average mouse, but lightweight. It comes with a carrying pouch (and a mini-mouse pad) as well, but frankly the plastic used for the trunk as well as the mechanism by which it opens and closes feels rather flimsy, giving the impression that too much travel could easily result in its breaking.
On the plus side, despite the somewhat odd car shape, the mouse is quite comfortable to hold, never feeling quite like a regular mouse, but never being different enough to make using it feel awkward. Though gamers won't find the DPI as high as they require, it is certainly accurate and responsive enough to please the average consumer. The two buttons and the scroll wheel, which is quite wide, all provide satisfying clicks (and movement in the case of the wheel).
The few issues with the Motormouse – though none really overshadow the novelty aspects of it – lie in the mouse pad and the actual look of the mouse. First, the "specially coated" mouse pad, which the instructions recommend one use in order to enhance battery life, is too small. One constantly feels when using the pad that they are about to run out of road. Additionally, the mouse doesn't slide very well along the pad; instead, the friction is greater between the mouse and the pad than the mouse and a simple desktop. These two drawbacks make the pad far too annoying, specially coated or not. As for the actual look of the mouse, many may be slightly distressed that the wheels don't turn. One assumes that the need to move a mouse left to right while the wheels would only turn for up and down movements may be why they remain immobile, but the look of the car moving without the wheels turning is disconcerting (perhaps it would have been possible to have the wheels rotate but never actually come into contact with the surface). Then, while it is cute that one can sometimes see the red light of the optical sensor for the mouse reflected in the cars tail lights, seeing it from the back of the trunk only serves to highlight the flimsy sense one gets about the trunk's construction.
Our last issue relates to the USB connector itself. As mentioned above, it is small, but it simply does not feel small enough. The connector contains a black portion that sits outside the computer and a gold-looking portion that is meant to be completely within the computer's USB port. However, in trying the Motormouse on several computers, never did the connector's black portion actually meet the computer, some of the metal portion always sticks out of the port. This makes the connector appear as though it is not fully seated in the port even when it is and is greatly distracting.
Regardless of these issues, the Motormouse with its racing car looks, lightweight, and comfortable feel do make the device an attractive computer peripheral. Currently available for purchase at the Motormouse Web site, the device's $49.95 price tag ($54.95 with gift wrap), plus shipping, may put some novelty gift seekers off, but it will no doubt please car enthusiasts.
Article first published as Product Review: Motormouse on Blogcritics.