Review – ThinkOutside Stowaway Bluetooth Mouse

by Reads (10,523)

ThinkOutside’s Stowaway wireless mouse is doubly unusual. Besides being a mouse for PocketPCs, it also crosses over to work with desktop, laptop, and handheld computers.

Left, Stowaway Bluetooth mouse. Right, desktop wireless optical mouse.

The Stowaway Bluetooth mouse is very much a travel mouse–the entire body is just under 3.5 inches long, and a little over 2 inches wide. Even so, it manages to fit in the full three standard buttons plus scroll wheel. The entire back half of the cover slides off so that you can change the 2 AAA batteries. It’s plastic all over, but feels like it could take the rigors of regular use.

Left, Stowaway Bluetooth mouse. Right, Targus Bluetooth mouse.

The Stowaway mouse supports almost any Bluetooth enabled PocketPC with the included drivers. You can also use the mouse with a Windows XP or OS X desktop/laptop, so long as the Bluetooth stack on the machine supports the Bluetooth Human Interface Device profile, or HID. Not all adapters or software versions do, so be sure to check.

To set up the mouse with a PocketPC, your first step is to install the drivers and software. Once you’re ready to actually initiate the Bluetooth connection, you have to press a button on the bottom of the mouse to make it discoverable to other devices. After a little while, the mouse returns to its normal, nondiscoverable mode to avoid attracting unwanted attention. Getting the connection started can be a bit troublesome, as the PocketPC driver software isn’t the friendliest. Still, after a few minutes of fooling around it connected and functioned perfectly.

Underside of Stowaway Bluetooth mouse.

The Stowaway mouse is, naturally, an optical mouse, meaning that it tracks the surface it’s used on via an optical sensor and LED illumination. You would think that this would make battery life a problem, particularly given that the 2 AAA batteries have to power a Bluetooth connection as well. Surprisingly, it isn’t. According to Think Outside, one pair of AAA batteries will run the mouse 3-4 hours a day for several weeks. I can’t vouch for this personally, as I still haven’t managed to drain the original pair of batteries, but it does look hardy.

Being an optical mouse also means that the Stowaway will work on almost any surface. The usual exceptions are glass or mirrored surfaces, where the optical sensor can’t see anything other than its own reflection, or rough and uneven surfaces that are hard for the sensor to track. Other than that, you can use it on wood, paper, cloth, or almost any surface, since it doesn’t rely on physical contact for tracking.

Provided that your Bluetooth-enabled computer supports multiple connections, the mouse will work simultaneously with other BT devices, such as a keyboard or mobile phone, as well as other options like WiFi. Thus, with a Bluetooth on your PocketPC, mouse, keyboard, and phone, you could set up a complete mobile office almost anywhere.

When running in PocketPC mode, you can assign a variety of functions to the mouse’s three buttons. By default, the left button acts as a tap, the middle button (activated by clicking the scroll wheel) loads the mouse settings app, and the right button brings up the tap-and-hold context menu that is the PocketPC equivalent of a desktop right click. If these functions don’t suit you, you can assign the buttons to scrolling, launching a program, or even activating a particular file on the device.

I must say, there’s something strange about using a mouse on a PocketPC. In truth, it’s no stranger than using a keyboard, I suppose, but somehow it still seems surreal to be manuvering a mouse pointer across the screen of something that traditionally you’d be tapping on.

The list price of the mouse is $80, but it can be found online for a far more palatable $50. All in all, not a bad price for a Bluetooth travel mouse that doubles as a PocketPC peripheral. And although it may be a little tough to get running in the first place, it’s fairly strightforward in operation. It’s probably not something that I’d use every day, but for someone who uses a keyboard extensively, it could be a life-saver, eliminating the need to pull out a stylus when screen input is called for. The only downside that I can see to it is that the small size would make long periods of use rather uncomfortable, but I can’t forsee this being a major problem for most people. All in all, it’s a solid performer.

Pros:

  • Allows laptop replacement feel
  • Minimizes screen tapping
  • Works on PocketPC, laptops, desktops

Cons:

  • Small size makes long-term use uncomfortable

Bottom Line:

One of the better games in town if you want a multi-role Bluetooth mouse.




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