Pros: Keyboard is excellent. The mouse is an interesting novelty.
Cons: Handheld mousing not practical, can't customize keyboard hotkeys.
After spending six weeks on a document review project which involved using a laptop set on top of a conference table for 8-9 hours a day (not the most ergonomic workstation in the world, but a contract lawyer has to take what shes offered), my shoulders were killing me and I was desperate to get my keyboard and mouse down to a reasonable level (i.e., my lap). I tried simply putting my laptop on my lap, but that was excruciatingly uncomfortable after half an hour, and I still had to reach up to the tabletop to use my primary mouse (I hate that awful button thing on the laptops keyboardworse than useless), and the network and power lines coming from the back of the laptop were like an anchor. So I needed either a wireless keyboard and mouse set, or one device containing all my typing and pointing needs, like a keyboard with built-in touchpad, as well as some kind of portable lap desk on which to use them. I wanted to be wire-free, but I also wanted a compact keyboard. I also couldnt find any touchpad keyboards that were wireless. According to the staff at my local computer warehouse store, the Gyration is the only keyboard on the market thats both wireless AND compact. Since its only available in my local stores as a package with the Gyration Ultra Mouse, I decide to give both mouse and keyboard a try.
The Gyration Ultra GT Suite is a slightly different product, with a different model number, than the version without the "GT" designation. The difference appears to be the inclusion of the GyroTools software, which allows you configure all kinds of custom commands for the mouse. At Buy.com, both versions sell for the same price of $91.01. The version I bought has a 30-foot range. For $245, you can get the Pro version with a 100-foot range, although I can't imagine when you would need to mouse from 100 feet away from your computer.
The package comes with the keyboard, mouse, AC charging cradle for the mouse, a round corded receiver with a small antenna, and a CD with optional drivers and software.
The Gyration keyboard and mouse are both pure Plug-n-Play devices in Windows XP. However, the GT Suite includes the GyroTools software, which you can use to customize mouse button/movement commands for your personal use. For example, a double-right-click defaults to Copy, and a right-click-left-click defaults to Paste. You can set up a whole slew of these commands, of increasing complexity, including the direction in which you swipe the mouse combined with the click command, or using a screen edge or corner.
When you first set up the Gyration keyboard and mouse, you must attune the radio frequency they emit to the receiver attached to your computer. This is done by way of Learn and Teach buttons on the various parts. The keyboard was completely trouble-free. Initially, I had some problems getting good response from the mouse-- it seemed to act sticky, like a rollerball mouse with dirty rollers, similar to what other reviewers have described. It also had very poor response at distances of more than about two feet from the receiver. However, a second Learn/Teach session seemed to resolve both problems. Once I had it properly set up, the mouse was beautifully responsive on my regular mousepad, on the plain wood surface of my desk, and on the rubberized surface of the lap desk I bought. Response was almost as good in the air, although not quite as crisp. According to the packaging, the radio signal has a range of 30 feet, and I found that it really works from as much as a room away, through walls! If you have a problem with radio interference, the keyboard and mouse each have a Channel button you can use to select a new frequency. Each time you change frequency, you will need to re-teach the receiver.
Using the Gyration Ultra Mouse
What makes the Ultra Mouse unique is that its the only mouse designed to be used either on the desktop like a traditional optical mouse, or held in the hand, somewhat like a laser pointer. Its handheld function operates by way of a tiny gyroscope that senses the movement of your hand as you hold it. Desktop and handheld functions are seamlessly integrated. If you just need to make a small adjustment of your cursor, simply leave it on the desk and slide it, but if you need to do a lot of mousing, pick it up and cradle it in your hand like a TV remote (or for Trekkies, imagine holding a phaser).
The Ultra Mouse has two standard buttons on top and a scroll wheel/button. It does not have any thumb buttons or any other fancy gadgets. It also has a trigger activation button on the underside, easily pressed by your index finger as you hold it. This button locks and unlocks the cursor, or if you double-click, the mouse will go into free-move mode where it tracks every movement of your hand and never locks in place. Free-move mode can be a little tricky to use, since the cursor tends to jitter out of position as you use your thumb to click the top buttons. But when you leave it on the desktop, you dont need to worry about the activation button and it acts exactly like an ordinary mouse.
Using the mouse in the air has a learning curve, and takes a few days of practice to really become fluid at it. To use it in the air, imagine holding a laser pointer which is pointing at the screen. But unlike a laser pointer, you dont have to point the Ultra Mouse directly at the screen-- you can hold it at whatever angle is most comfortable for you. You can even drop your arm and point it straight down at the floor if you like. However, I found my intuitive desire to actually point it at the screen very hard to squelch!
Although the Ultra Mouses narrow profile is perfect for holding in the hand, its not the best shape for a desktop mouse. Its so narrow that I predict it may begin to hurt my hand over time because when I use it on the desktop, half of my hand sags down to the side of the mouse, with my third and pinky fingers dropping down to rest on the desk surface. In fact, after just one day of use, I noticed a disturbing twinge through my knuckles between my second and third fingers which Ive never had before. Its perfectly symmetrical, so its easily adaptable to left or right hand users.
Its built-in NiMH battery recharges on the included AC cradle, and has plenty of juice for a full days work. The battery makes it fairly heavy-- its about the same weight as other high-end mice, but of course theyre not designed to be hefted in the hand the way this one is. One other person here at Epinions complained that it was too heavy and caused arm fatigue and pain after a very short time, but I suspect this person may have been using it incorrectly. According to the instructions, you should not lift your arm at the shoulder to use it, but should rest your arm comfortably on your armrest or in your lap and use small motions of your wrist to control it.
Using the Gyration Compact Keyboard
The Gyration GT Suite package contains literally no documentation, either paper or software, for the keyboard. Fortunately, if you can insert batteries, you can probably handle it, since theres not much more to it. The Gyration keyboard gets its power from four standard AAA batteries, either alkaline or rechargeable. I had no problem using it all day at work with the included alkaline batteries, but due to external circumstances, I didnt get a chance to find out just how many days a regular set of batteries will last, or how long it will last on rechargeables, before I returned it.
Its set up like a laptop keyboard, and the keys are low-profile laptop-style keys. If you hate laptop keyboards, youll probably hate this one even more. Theres no number keypad, and the Insert, Delete, Num Lock, Scroll Lock, and other right end keys are crammed in around the right side of the main keyboard. Its even more tightly crammed together than the few laptop keyboards Ive worked with, and there is literally no space between any of the regular keys. I find this highly satisfactory, since I find regular keyboards too longtheres too much space between my right-hand typing position and my right-hand mouse location. However, I did have a bit of a learning curve with the locations of certain keys. For example, the Home key is immediately next to the Backspace key, and I often hit the wrong one. The same is true of Shift and Up Arrow. The feel of the keys is good, with a soft but discernible clicking action as you type, and no missed letters due to inadequate pressure. The only other thing I noticed is that it has no foldable feet to adjust the typing angle.
Like most modern keyboards, the Gyration keyboard comes with dedicated keys at the top that allow you to perform basic web browser functions (Back, Forward, Home, Favorites, Stop, Refresh, Search, and Mail) and basic media player functions (Prev Track, Next Track, Volume Down, Volume Up, Play/Pause, Stop, and Mute). Only trouble is, the media keys only work with Windows Media Player as far as I can tell. I hate Windows Media Player and I use Winamp instead, so these keys are useless to me, and theres no paper documentation or software that tells you how to reprogram these keys. I also hate Microsoft Internet Explorer, and I use Mozilla instead. I found that the browser keys mostly work just as well for Mozilla as for IE, except for the Favorites key, which wont bring up my Mozilla bookmarks.
So far, so good. So why did I return it to the store?
The most obvious drawback of the Gyration mouse is that it sports a hefty price tag relative to other products of similar quality. You can get a pretty nice wireless mouse these days for anywhere from $30-60, but the Ultra Mouse runs at least $80, and the mouse/keyboard package retails for about $120 at most local stores.
What I also found is that once the novelty wears off, the handheld function of the Ultra Mouse is just not that practical, at least for me personally. Most of my computer activities consist of intermittent mousing and typing, and constantly picking up the mouse and getting my hand around it was a hassle. So I ended up using it like a traditional desktop mouse 98% of the time. Trouble is, its awfully expensive and not that great for a desktop mouse. You can get much better mice, that feel better in the hand and have more bells and whistles, for less money.
However, if your computer time consists of more mousing with less typing, you may find it more useful than I did. Also, the ability to use it either on the desktop or handheld, as well as the ability to easily switch from left-hand to right-hand use, may provide some relief for those suffering from mouse-related hand pain. At the end of the day, I give the Gyration Ultra Mouse 3 stars-- it works as advertised, it's a neat idea, and it may be very useful for a certain niche of computer users. It's just not for me.
I give the Gyration Compact Wireless Keyboard 4 stars, with one subtracted for the failure to make the hotkeys customizable. Otherwise, I like it a lot. It's not worth keeping the whole package just to have the keyboard, but I discovered belatedly that you can in fact get the Gyration keyboard separately for $50 from Buy.com.