Sandio 3D Game O2 Mouse Review

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$79.99

Pros: Innovative concept; Sporty design; Native support for Google Earth and SketchUp 6

Cons: Unintuitive software; Limited control profiles; 3D navigation requires two hands; Software is not compatible with Mac OS X

Verdict: This innovative mouse offers a new way to play the latest games but falls short on ease of use.

As new 3D software and games emerge, we need better hardware to keep up. The Sandio 3D Game O2 Mouse is intriguing, in that instead of using the mouse and keyboard in tandem to manipulate an object in 3D space--say the Earth in Google Earth, or the player in a first-person shooter game--Sandio uses three analog joysticks on what looks like an otherwise traditional mouse. The concept piques our interest, but software woes diminish this device's mainstream appeal.
The 2000-dpi Game O2 has an attractive design; the large optical mouse looks sporty with black, red, and gray coloring. Two of the joysticks are positioned on either side of the mouse, with another joystick between the traditional mouse buttons on the front, along with a scroll wheel. We like the blue LEDs that light up the joysticks, which make usage in the dark easier. The mouse felt comfortable and sturdy in a normal 2D interface, and we appreciated the two extra mouse buttons along the left edge.
Using the 3D options comfortably requires two hands, which takes some acclimation. Essentially, you hold the bottom of the mouse in one hand and place your other hand over the top to manipulate the analog sticks and scroll wheel. This was slightly awkward, especially since we sometimes had to switch between 2D and 3D functions and use the keyboard. The teflon feet, however, did provide perfect resistance to our desktop surface in 2D mode. We were able to flick and move our reticle across the screen with ease.
This 3D mouse is intended for gaming. Specifically, it's for games like World of Warcraft or first-person shooters like Call of Duty. To play these games in 3D mode, you need to set up a profile with Sandio's bundled software, which includes 40 profiles for games such as Call of Duty 2, Civilization IV, and Half-Life 2. For all other games, however, you need to either create your own profile for the game by mapping the joysticks to keystrokes or use one of the other profiles and tweak it as needed.
We tried the Game 02 with City of Heroes and Call of Duty 2. City of Heroes doesn't come with a profile, so we had to create our own. Because the software offers no automation, you have to scrutinize the control menu of your game in order to configure the mouse, a very imprecise science. You can also program up to 16 commands using the software. For instance, we were able to program greeting macros when we met friends in City of Heroes. A simple click of the fourth mouse button allowed us to say hello, group, and buff (cast power-up spells on) our friends.
In the end, we were dissatisfied with our own configurations and resorted to preset profiles for other games. We eventually found a profile that worked reasonably well, but it proved too unwieldy for the tried-and-true keyboard-and-mouse combo. For instance, running and jumping off a pier onto a nearby docked boat took several tries using the mouse in 3D mode, but only one with a traditional keyboard and mouse configuration. Call of Duty 2 provided similar lukewarm results. The movement and crouch options were well represented, but aiming with any accuracy proved difficult using two hands on the mouse. We found ourselves reverting to plain old 2D mouse mode, and to that end, the 2000-dpi Sandio mouse does work well compared with other high-precision models on the market.
Switching resolutions was simple. To switch among 400 dpi, 800 dpi, 1600 dpi, and 2000 dpi, you can either click the top 3D button (which is also the front joystick), or use the third and fourth mouse buttons on the side. We especially like that you can tell which resolution you're using by looking at the mouse wheel, which changes color depending on your resolution. We were able to switch resolutions easily in both 2D and 3D modes, and the Avago 6010 laser sensor proved extremely accurate for twitch motions or when operating 3D games with high frames-per-second rates.
Google Earth was perfectly intuitive and required no preliminary setup. Using the 3D mouse in Google Earth, you can soar though the sky by pushing the two side joysticks forward and adjust the tilt using the front joystick. Pushing the side joysticks alternately forward and back spins your view around in a circle; scrolling the mouse wheel zooms in on the Earth's surface. Google SketchUp worked roughly the same way by using the joysticks to manipulate our view of 3D space. Other tools, however, such as the free 3D modeling tool Daz Studio 1.7, didn't support the mouse natively. Another major drawback is that the Sandio software isn't compatible with Mac OS X, so some Mac-exclusive 3D designers will have to take a pass for the time being.
The Sandio 3D mouse is a solid 2D option for both gamers and designers. If your usage is limited to Google Earth and SketchUp or if you're looking for an affordable precision mouse with some scalability, the Sandio 3D Game O2 Mouse is a good fit at a reasonable price. But gaming in 3D mode was just too awkward and clunky.
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