The Targus folks were in town last week, touting a new line of products for the Mac. I was curious about the products and the motivation behind them, so I went along to a briefing in San Francisco. I’ve always thought of Targus as the quintessential supplier of the Black Computer Bag.
I came away with the ‘press kit’- a 2- by 3-foot chocolate-brown cardboard suitcase containing one each of all the products (please note that all media/bloggers were given this kit – this wasn’t a freebie just for me) – and a bamboo-encased thumb drive with all the press materials, data sheets et al. A nice presentation for what turned out to be a better-than-expected group of products.
It turns out that the Anaheim-based company has a large business selling PC accessories – power supplies, mice, hubs, cords et al. This new product line marks their first foray into the Mac electronic accessory space (Targus does have a line of Mac laptop bags, with a ‘TSA-friendly’ model in the works). The new Mac lineup includes 2 wireless mice (Bluetooth and RF), a wireless presentation controller, a 4-port USB 2.0 hub, a MacBook/MacBook Pro laptop cooler and a ‘high-speed file transfer cable’.
The reason for this leap to Mac was strictly business, according to marketing VP Al Giazzon. Surging Mac sales, especially in the over-$1000 laptop category, caught the company’s attention, as did a failure by competitors to get traction among Mac buyers. “You can’t just slap white paint on a PC mouse” to attract Mac users, says Giazzon.
Toward that end, Targus invested in secondary research and conducted primary studies before commissioning a line of products designed from scratch to appeal to the Mac faithful. Targus’ goal, according to Giazzon, was to create a line of products with the elegant design and ease of use that Mac users have come to expect.
The products introduce at least one innovative new technology (an optical scroll ‘wheel’) and benefit from the latest low-power chip sets to approximately double the battery life (according to Targus) in the wireless products, compared to current offerings from Apple and competitors like Kensington. The products take full advantage of the latest version of Mac OS X Leopard (10.4 and up) to, for example, integrate Dashboard, Exposé and other Mac-only technology.
The products feature a clean, uncluttered design, with high touch glossy plastic and a softly textured rubbery material in light and medium shades of gray. All 3 products look right at home next to my 20-inch aluminum Cinema displays, and even my wife’s last-gen 23-inch plastic-bezeled Cinema screen. They have a heft and feel unlike most inexpensive PC accessories: they look and feel well-made – even as they are unmistakably distinct from Apple’s designs.
Targus, it should be mentioned, is committed to green manufacturing: it adheres to a process it calls EcoForm, meaning its products are made of – and, to a large degree, packaged in – recyclable materials. Targus is committed to offsetting the carbon footprint of its US operations each year.
The Targus Bluetooth Wireless Mouse
Since 3 of the products (the wireless mice and the presenter) incorporate the same ‘optical scroll wheel’ technology, I thought it best initially to use one product extensively and see what came of a thorough ringing out. Having used the Apple Mighty Mouse in both wired and wireless versions almost since launch, I chose Targus’ Bluetooth wireless mouse – the RF wireless mouse appears to be identical except for the nifty USB receiver, which is small enough to live in a USB socket, even on a laptop. Reviews of the presenter, file-transfer cable (which has a nifty trick to it, especially useful in a Windows/Mac world) and the laptop cooler will appear presently.
I took the Targus mouse out of the box, and, after pairing with my machine’s Bluetooth (using the familiar Mac dialogs), it ‘just worked.’ I could switch between the two devices comparing features – a very good sign. The only immediately-noticeable difference was the Targus mouse’s considerably more lively feel – moving the mouse an inch moved the cursor much farther on the screen than a similar move with the the Mighty Mouse. This may have to do with the Targus model’s 1200 dpi resolution (vs 800 dpi, reportedly, for Mighty Mouse). A visit to the control panel’s tracking and scrolling controls allowed me to set the Targus to mimic my preferred settings on the Mighty Mouse, albeit at the expense of setting tracking to its slowest setting (OK, so we’re getting old… ).
The other differences with regard to the Targus are a round window where the Mighty Mouse has a tiny scroll ball, and distinct, separated left and right mouse buttons (more on this in a bit). At first use, the optical scroll was, well, just different from the Mighty Mouse’s rubbery scroll ball. I wasn’t initially sure I liked it, although, after a couple day’s use, I feel right at home with the optical scroll, and use it it to wizz through very large collections of documents and other files using Leopard’s iTunes-like Page View mode. I think this difference is a personal prefs kind of thing, and not a better/worse issue.
As for the distinct left and right mouse buttons, this may be to Targus’s advantage: even after long use, I occasionally get Mighty Mouse positioned so that the mouse returns an undesired click result, especially when trying to get to the right-click. Mighty Mouse has a solid shell that only records a click request: it relies on proximity detectors to distinguish left from right. If you get the one-piece Mighty Mouse a bit askew under your hand, you wind up clicking on territory where Mighty Mouse has a hard time figuring out what you’re trying to do – not so for the Targus. In this respect, someone coming from the Windows world may find themselves more at home with the Targus, initially, than the Apple product, and Mac users may appreciate a viable alternative to Apple’s technology.
After four days with the Targus, I’m completely at home: like Apple’s Mighty Mouse, its profile is such that your wrist rests flat on the table when your palm is cupped over the mouse, making for good ergonomics. The Targus seems to glide more smoothly on my mouse pad than the Mighty Mouse, and its single programmable side button falls much more easily under my grip than the twin side buttons on Mighty Mouse. Other than that, it comes down to personal preferences: the Targus mouse is, at the least, in a league with Apple’s Bluetooth wireless product.
As with any 1.0 product, there are a few glitches: I couldn’t get diagonal scroll to work on the Targus – people who work with very large image files or spreadsheets quickly become fans of diagonal scrolling. The Targus mouse lost its Bluetooth connection a bit more frequently than the Mighty Mouse. For some reason, horizontal scrolling stopped working after I loaded the Targus drivers from the included CD. When I set the user programmable button #5 to ‘Application Switcher’ from the pop-down menu, the button behaved erratically, usually doing nothing.
At $69.99 MSRP, the Targus mouse will go head to head with the Mighty Mouse (though street price remains to be seen). Its promised long battery life (using standard alkalines vs. Mighty Mouse’s expensive, hard-to-find but recommended lithium cells) makes it a great candidate for a travel mouse.
Short take: the Targus products are more than worthy of a look by diehard Mac fans – they definitely are in a league with, and a welcome alternative to, products eminating from Cupertino. It’s very good to see a vendor with resources pushing Apple, and giving Mac fans an option that’s several cuts above what’s usually available in the ‘Mac accessories’ aisle.
– Chris Gulker
September 30, 2008
1) Regarding diagonal scrolling: our mice are only 4-way scrolling, not intended for diagonal.
2) Regarding lost connection: We have adjusted the sleep modes on the Bluetooth mouse so it won’t lose connection.
3) Regarding the horizontal scrolling: This issue was caused by the beta driver. We’ve since updated the driver, rectifying the problem. The final driver should be released next week.
4) Application Switcher has been deleted as an option. There were OS issues that prevented this from working correctly.
October 1, 2008