The Air Mouse Elite is the latest addition to Gyration's Air Mouse line, a series of computer mice that use motion sensors to provide mid-air cursor control, freeing you from the shackles of the mouse mat. The Elite uses a 2.4GHz USB transceiver to allow you to work wirelessly up to 30m away from your PC. Ideally suited to anyone who delivers plenty of presentations, or for those who use a computer to handle their home media, there's much to like about this device. It's available now for around £90.
To the undiscerning observer, the Elite looks very much like a standard mouse. It has a slim, ergonomic body, with a mouse wheel nestled between the left and right buttons. With a black gloss finish and silver trim, it has a highly professional appearance.
As well as its mid-air chops, the Elite functions as a standard desktop mouse. During testing, it performed solidly in this capacity. Curved to fit snugly into your palm, the Elite is light, easy to manoeuvre and comfortable to use. It also works consistently well on an impressive range of surfaces, so you're unlikely to experience any loss of performance if your desk surface is slightly uneven, for example.
Moving on up
To make use of the Elite's motion-sensor capabilities, you'll need to hold it in your hand as you would a remote control. The device's arched underside provides a hollow for your index finger, and there you'll find a trigger button that switches the Elite into motion-sensor mode.
Holding the Elite thus, right-handed folk will find their thumb rests naturally on the left-click button. It's worth noting that, if you're left-handed, reaching the left-click button is slightly more of a stretch, but not so much that using the Elite becomes uncomfortable. Your thumb will also have access to the four context-sensitive buttons that sit atop the Elite. Thankfully, these buttons are resistant to accidental presses when you're using the device as a standard desktop mouse.
The Elite uses internal motion sensors to determine where you're pointing, in a manner not dissimilar to the Nintendo Wii's controller. Unlike the Wii remote, however, you don't have to point the Elite at your computer screen -- whichever direction you're pointing it in, moving the mouse up will shift your cursor up on the computer display, and moving it to the left or right will shift the on-screen cursor correspondingly. This means you're free to face away from the display and even wander around, which will grant you more freedom during a presentation, for example.
Using the Elite in motion-sensor mode is a pleasingly intuitive and very smooth experience. You won't find yourself fiddling around trying to point at some tiny object on the screen.
Get wise and customise
The context-sensitive buttons can be customised to respond differently depending on what kind of program you're running. For example, if you're using a Web browser, you can assign one of the buttons to refresh the page, but you can also set that same button to skip to the next slide if you're working in PowerPoint.
This set-up works well. The only problem we had was remembering which keys we'd assigned to which kind of program, so, if you're skipping between a browser window and slide show, for example, you might find yourself hitting the wrong key and doing something you didn't mean to. There is a 'cheat sheet' function -- hold down the centre button and it displays what you've programmed on your computer screen -- but we found it took a while to load, so it might not be that practical to use when you're delivering a presentation, for example.
The Elite also supports gesture input, so you can assign various actions to your movements. For example, you could flick your wrist to the left to skip a track in your music player. We found this functionality tricky to get to grips with, however, and, while it's a decent feature, it's not as reliable or as simple to use as the contextual buttons.
Customisation of the mouse is handled via the included software. We're normally wary of software that comes bundled with computing accessories -- these programs often turn out to be bloated memory hogs that take up valuable disk space and fill your desktop with unwanted shortcuts. We were surprised, then, to find that the Gyration MotionTools software is pleasingly elegant, with a fast installation time. This software's only real function is to customise gesture controls and button assignments, but it does so effectively, even if some of the icons are rather cryptic.
At around £90, the Gyration Air Mouse Elite is pricey. Although it functions impressively as a standard desktop mouse, its high price means we wouldn't really recommend it unless you can think of a particular use for the motion-control capability. If you think mid-air mousing would make your life easier, the Elite fulfils its promise admirably.
Edited by Charles Kloet