Astropad, to be or not to be deceived…

I’ve seen the newest doo-dad app that was launched lately that’s supposed to make use of the ipad as a makeshift cintiq. And by that I mean astropad.  I’ve also tested it, and I’ll outline my personal impressions below.

At first I thought I would be a regular 9.99 app. Boy was I in for a treat. This app costs 49.99. 50 bucks in order to be able to just use it. I would say off the bat that it’s overpriced. Given, it has nice features like panning, and in some way it tries to emulate a wacom’s ring dial/button. But it pales miserably in comparison to that.

Now in all fairness, I have to admit I don’t own a wacom pen or a 53 pencil. But as far as I’ve seen, they don’t offer much on the pressure side. And a tablet without pressure sensitivity for a painter is about as  useful as a potato. I somehow have my doubts that with a pen, things would fix themselves. I’ve used a regular stylus. It sucks. It feels like using paint. Incredibly neanderthalian. The performance is better than that of duet, what speed and fluency is concerned. But I would still not spend 50 bucks on a glorified duet app. My sense of practicality would just go and wring my neck.

So, 50 bucks for the software, another 50 or more for a “pressure-sensitive” stylus and you got yourself a poor-man’s cintique, right ? Wrong. For about 100 bucks you could just as well get a first hand wacom (small but still useful, 1024 levels of pressure beat the shit out of 0 levels of pressure on those overpriced styluses) or a second hand one, which could be bigger even if it’s older. You would gain far more.

For me personally I think astropad is a waste of money and time. Others might differ. But think about this: if you still want to use you ipad to paint or sketch, why not get a 53 + paper and use that, rather than use cluncky photoshop and pan around to see parts of the UI ? It’s like shooting yourself in the leg. Ugh.

Magic Mouse – A designer’s nightmare review

So, I decided to get a magic mouse as well to accompany me in this new Mac-ish experience I’ve started of late. Aside from the fact that getting it meant going through all kinds of hell with the courier (on that on my other blog, Anti-Turma), I had some very high hopes set for this tiny piece of engineering.

Design & Ergonomics

I can’t say I’m disappointed by the design. Its tasty with a side of drool. It’s like a jewel. Very high quality build, look and feel. No complaints in this department, but the ergonomics are complete and utter shit. Its very very shallow and doesn’t feel well in my hand. Given that most of my life I’ve only used gaming-grade mice, this particular one struck me as a cumbersome experience. Being heavy and the weight being distributed along the whole of the mouse, it feels like trying to move a brick around the table. Not cool at all.

It’s noteworthy to add the fact that this mouse has a lot of gestures that enable it to be more productive, which is great, but at the same time, those really crap ergonomics, make it a nuisance and hinder in usage. The low profile makes it virtually impossible to slide with 2 fingers from app to app without moving the mouse at the same time. This is crap ! Apple, what the fk were you thinking ? Same goes for the single-finger swipe to go back or forward. It happened to me several times. Would’ve been nice if the front profile would’ve been higher so as not to strain the finger(s) and move the mouse around.

Another annoying this is the fact that the whole damn surface is one huge button. I can’t rest my fingers on it without making it click, especially because I got heavier fingers/hands and I do sometimes feel the need to not click anything, you know ?!

Features

Again, comparing it to gaming-grade mice, it falls short of being able to set the dpi on the fly. This is especially useful when playing but also when doing illustration. Illustrator has some very cool vectoring tools, that need a mouse with a very low DPI setting to work properly and have accuracy. The only thing that is adjustable and not on the fly, is the tracking speed, which is not the same thing and it somehow does a weird combination between the windows cursor acceleration and the pointer speed. Not ideal.

What would also be nice was if the mouse had the start-stop switch redesigned. If you just cut your fingernails, its some kind of special hell to have to turn it off and on. Also, it doesn’t have a lithium-ion battery pack, but runs on regular joe batteries. This is both positive and negative, depending on the situation. I wouldn’t have minded if it would’ve used a 3200 amp li-ion battery charging through USB/Lightning to the Mac. Also, why not include VOOC ? Its a device you use every day, so it gets depleted fast. Would be nice to be able to charge from 0 to Hero in 1 hour. In that way, it feels a bit stone age.

On the other hand, if you really ran out of juice on your mouse, you can just pop open a bunch of batteries and start it right up back again if saaay, your laptop was shut. But then, if you wouldn’t have any juice left in your Macbook, what would you possibly want to do with the mouse ? Its only compatible with Mac computers anyway ?

Usage

Even with all its inconveniences and annoyances, the Magic Mouse is still a nice thing to have, especially if you really hate wires and are not an OCD designer that wants all his vector knots looking spic and span. I would even go as far as to say this a perfect mouse for desk and everyday office work, as well as programming. Its very easy to switch from a desktop to the other with a flick of a… well 2 fingers. Provided the mouse doesn’t go wild and starts to slide away during the gesture like it did in my case.

The Magic Mouse feels very nice on web pages and when editing a lot of documents. The reason for that is because, there, you need little to no precision and the gestures are really helping your productivity jolt forward. So I’d say, if you’re a secretary or someone who’s handling copious amounts of text, do get it. It will save you quite some time.

If you’re a graphic designer, in love with product design, like me, and have hopes of using it as a every day tool, I have bad news for you. You will want your money back and will want to throw it out the window. Its that bad. Its quite shit for you, really. Unless you do a lot of traveling. Then it’s ok-ish. But even then, I would rather recommend getting the Logitech Performance MX instead. Its wireless too, and it’s far, far superior in terms of ergonomics and functionality. You can see some specs here: Logitech Performance MX Wireless Mouse – Product page

In conclusion

The Magic Mouse is a decently-performing, stunningly-looking mouse. It will not cure aids, it will not help you become a better anything, and it will definitely not help you automagically conjure up design out of thin air. Get real. It’s just a mouse. A decent one, but only a mouse. Make of it what you will, I for one, will go back to my trusty Roccat Kone XTD.

Ergonomics: 4/10

Design: 10/10

Features: 7/10

Overall Performance: 7/10

Accuracy: 6/10

Battery life: 0/10 Obs: The mouse was new, and so were the batteries, which is why, I cannot comment on battery life yet.