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Mouse On The Couch With The Gyration Air Mouse

Foreword – This post written by OWC customer Robert M. from New York, a Mac user since 1985 (or so) who I’ve gotten to know on a personal level over the last year after “blowing him away” with our approach to gaining his confidence and satisfaction. – OWC Grant

In my living room, I have a Mac mini connected to a 40″ Sony 1080p LCD TV. Typically, I use that set-up for watching both NetFlix video on demand (VOD) and content via via the web. Occasionally, I’ll plug an external hard disk drive filled to the brim with content and watch it via a selection of media applications. Unfortunately, since none of this is via Front Row, it means I must navigate the content via a mouse and keyboard. This is inconvenient to say the least as I prefer to relax on the comfy couch while enjoying media. Initially, I used a hardwire mouse and keyboard. While this required getting off the couch and sitting on the floor in front of the TV, it did work. For a while. I even bought a super slim, non-marking mouse pad for the mouse. Both the keyboard and mouse stored away beneath the TV stand when not in use. But, it annoyed me that I’d have to actually get off the couch to navigate my mini run home theater.

Enter Logitech Cordless Optical Mouse.

I bought the Logitech Cordless Optical Mouse many years ago and use it as a mouse with my Mac Pro. It works well and uses off the shelf AA alkaline batteries, which I swapped out for standard off the shelf NiMH AA batteries. So, I said to myself, “why not use it with the home theater mini? It’s wireless. I could mouse on the couch.” So, I juggled mice and gave the Logitech a try with the home theater mini. It worked! I dropped the mousepad on my coffee table and moused to my heart’s content. But, being the lazy individual that I am, I didn’t want to have to sit up to mouse control the mini. I wanted to navigate while reclining on the comfy couch. Unfortunately, placing the mouse and mousepad on the floor in front of the couch and reaching down to use it was awkward. I needed a new solution…a mouse that worked more like a remote control.

Enter Gyration Air Mouse.

Mice require a hard surface. At least that’s what most people think. Gyration believes otherwise. The Gyration Air Mouse is a cross between a mouse and a remote control. On a hard surface, it works like a normal mouse. Lift the Air Mouse, press a button on its underside and lo and behold, it’s supposed to work in the air as if it was on a solid surface. What more could a lazy couch potato like me ask for in a mouse for use with a home theater computer? But, having never owned a Gyration product, I had to see for myself if this was really the solution for the problem at hand.

The mouse itself is a good size for people with smaller hands, i.e. ladies, guys like me, kids, etc. It enjoys reasonable good build quality and a nice overall feel. Fortunately, it isn’t exceptionally heavy as can be the case with battery operated mice. Unlike many battery operated devices, the Gyration Air Mouse uses plain ol’ AAA batteries instead of AA or a non-removable lithium ion battery. Gyration includes a set of heavy duty batteries in the box. I prefer rechargeable NiMH batteries. I slipped them into the mouse, plugged the “receiver” into a USB port on my home theater mini and synced them. This was as easy as pressing a couple of buttons.

The Air Mouse works nicely! It offered smooth tracking on a hard surface and if there was any lag, I didn’t notice it. However, I didn’t buy an air mouse to use on a solid surface like my living room floor or coffee table. I wanted to surf from the comfort of my comfy couch. So, I lifted the mouse up, pressed the button on its underside and waved it around to see if it lived up to its name.

Air mouse! And, I ain’t saying it just because that’s its given name.

It works as advertised! I watched in amazement as the pointer zipped across my TV as if I was using the mouse on a solid surface. Admittedly, it took a few seconds to get used to mousing around and pressing the regular mouse buttons and the “activation” button simultaneously but it worked! It really worked!

However, and it’s a big one, using the mouse in the air is definitely not for everyone. It does require a tad more manual dexterity as compared to using the mouse on a solid surface. Definitely not insurmountable. One thing that may prove an issue with people isn’t the mouse itself. It’s the size of everything on the TV. If you have a very nice 1080p TV like me, everything is sharp but a tad small. So, I had to squint now and again as I moused around the TV screen. Then again, I usually don’t wear my glasses while watching TV though I should. So, this issue is likely the fault of my eyes and not the mouse. Still, it is worth mentioning.

Another nifty touch is the on/off switch. Yups! Unlike other battery operated mice, you can turn off the Air Mouse when you’re not using it. This is very cool since I don’t use the home theater mini nearly as often as my cable box DVR, so it’s nice to know I can turn off the mouse to save juice. This makes the Air Mouse even more suited for the living room.

All isn’t perfect in the world of couch potatoes, though. The specialized Gyration software that makes the Air Mouse incredibly more capable is only available for Windows. Fortunately, basic mouse operations work perfectly on the Mac. No special software necessary. Sync the mouse and receiver and the mouse is rearing to surf the air. Based on my experiences as limited as they are for now, I’m not missing the software. I really only need the mouse to move the pointer around and let me click or double-click as necessary.

So, if you’re looking for a nifty addition to your Mac or PC driven home theater, definitely consider Gyration Air Mouse. I bought one because I wanted a solution that allowed me to mouse from the comfy couch. Including a wireless keyboard only made it an even better deal. People with larger hands may want to check out the Air Mouse Pro or the Air Mouse Go. Both are larger than the plain ol’ Air Mouse. However, if I remember correctly, neither use plain ol’ AAA batteries. One requires a special charging station that is connected to a wall outlet. Not sure of the other. To me, this is a problem as more wires defeats the purpose of buying a wireless mouse, even if you leave the charging station on a nearby end table or somewhere else within the vicinity of the comfy couch.

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  • Oh! And a quick question to Robert M., should he see this. Have you considered using Plex with your Mini? It’s a great front end to for a Home Theater Mac, and supports both Netflix and Hulu as well as a bunch of different video formats.

    We’ve got a great overview on our site, showing you how to use Plex to integrate your Mac mini into your Media Center a little more seamlessly.

  • If you have an iPad or Iphone or iPod touch you could always download the app “air mouse” which does exactly the same thing but used your devices gyroscopes etc. you can also use the screen for visual feedback.

    • Actually, we reviewed a very similar app back in March. While Touch Mouse is more like a trackpad, and doesn’t rely on the accelerometer, it is also a valid option for a HTPC. In a similar vein, I am also liking HippoRemote Lite, which works in much the same fashion without the need for server software.

      The only downside to this sort of setup is that it assumes that you have a wireless network, as this is how most of these apps communicate with your computer. While most Macs have AirPort built-in, unless you have a base station of some sort (or set up your computer to act as one) it’s not always in use.

      In these instances, the Air Mouse is possibly an overall better solution.