Reviewed: August 23, 2003
Type: Wireless Mouse/Keyboard
Supports Macintosh system running OS 8.0 or later (right mouse button not functional on Mac and GyroTools software is Windows only). Other systems supporting USB 1.1 or higher may be supported
Slowly but surely, cords are on their way out. Be it phones, console controllers, or mice and keyboards, the days of being tethered to your electronics are coming to an end. Helping bring the Cordless Age about is Gyration with their Ultra GT + Full Size Keyboard Suite, a package that no only lets you use you keyboard and mouse on any surface, but even in midair. Has Gyration delivered a product that not only meets the needs of the average PC user but the hardcore gamer as well? Read on to find out.
In a Nutshell:
Installation of the Ultra GT + Full Size Keyboard Suite is a synch. Run the installation CD, plug the receiver into a free USB port on your PC, press the “learn” button on the receiver and then the “teach” button on the mouse and keyboard and you’re all set. In fact, I forgot to remove my MS Office keyboard during this process and was surprised to discover both it and Gyration’s keyboard both worked at the same time. A small point to be certain but it opens the door to using a standard keyboard on your computer desk and the wireless Gyration keyboard on your coffee table/nightstand if that should suit your needs. Also worth mentioning is that the software does not need to be run at all times. Therefore, gamers need not worry about yet another program hogging up their PC’s resources.
The receiver itself is around the size of a compact mirror with a small antennae sticking out. It has four LED’s—three dedicated to “Num”, “Caps”, and “Scroll lock”, and the last to show that it is receiving a single from the mouse and keyboard. Its actually a very attractive little piece of hardware but may induce flashbacks of Mathew Robbins’ UFO flick “*Batteries not Included”.
The Gyration Wireless Keyboard:
Gyration’s keyboard follows the basic layout found on most other 104 key. It does, however, offer a few high-end features such as a detachable armrest and a host of Internet and Multimedia buttons. The keys are very quiet and I found them to be neither too stiff nor too flimsy and so was happy with the product as a hole. As for power, the keyboard runs off four AA batteries. In my household, the computer is used about 16 hours a day and the batteries lasted me just short of 2 weeks so--should you invest in 8 rechargeable batteries--the extra cost and hassle should be minimal.
Still, there are a few quirks in the keyboard’s design. Firstly, the retractable feet come loose far too easily for something meant to be hauled around. Secondly, the “Caps Lock” LED is on the RF receiver, presumably to conserve battery power. It makes sense but is nevertheless an inconvenience. Although not truly a problem, I would like to see Gyration release an ergonomic base for the keyboard that doubled as a battery charger to make the setup self-sufficient.
The Ultra GT Cordless Optical Mouse:
As someone who has always stuck with ultra-ergonomic, high-end mice from Logitech and Microsoft, I had my reservations about the Ultra Mouse. The shape of the Ultra Mouse looks like a standard, $10-$20 mouse except that it is slightly narrower and stands a bit higher than most. The right and left buttons are also uncommonly long--starting at the middle of the mouse and then extended forward until they stop just short of your desktop. The Ultra Mouse’s wheel--which can be pressed downward to act as a third button--is where you’d expect it to be but might be a bit noisy for some. Flip the Ultra GT over and you’ll see where its design diverges from standard optical mice: a large grove with an inch long “trigger” button cuts through the centers. This is the button that switches the mouse into its gyroscope-mode.
The mouse comes with a rechargeable battery pack and cradle. To recharge the Ultra Mouse, you simply rest it on the cradle and let electricity work its voodoo. I never let the mouse recharge for more than 6 hours and at no point ran into trouble with the batteries running out. However, there will be those times when one will forgets to recharge the mouse so it wouldn’t hurt if future models let out a stern “beep” should the mouse go uncharged for a certain period of time.
So how does it feel? When used as a standard optical mouse, the Ultra Mouse is excellent. Its relatively slim design and arching back fit my hand perfectly. In fact, after spending some time with the Ultra, my Logitech and Microsoft mice felt bulky and unwieldy. As an added bonus, the Gyration’s symmetrical design makes it suited for both left and right-handed people.
However, when using the mouse in the air, things fall a bit short of ideal. To start with the positives, the mouse’s design is such that holding it is very comfortable. Your hand naturally slips back a bit when you pick up the Ultra and the trigger, left and right buttons are exactly where you’d want them to be. The trigger system also works quite well since you can “numb out” any movement when you need to double click an item or perform any activity that may cause the mouse to jiggle. It still would have been nice to have an extra button to act as an automatic double-click. However, try as I might, I was unable to see how that would be possible without removing the Ultra’s ambidextrous nature so this “flaw” is entirely forgivable.
My only major complaint when using the Ultra in midair is the position of the wheel. I was never able to find a comfortable position where both the trigger and wheel were easy to reach. In future models, I’d love to have the ability the drag the wheel assembly backwards when I’m using the Ultra’s gyroscopic abilities.
Of course, the real question is, “how well does it perform in games?” My first test simply consisted of using my ATI All-in-Wonders 9700pro’s TV output to see how well the gyroscopic combo worked for a little PC gaming from the living room couch and coffee table. The results require virtually no explanation since the hardware performed perfectly and the controls felt no different than if I were sitting at my computer desk. I even wired things up so that I could do a little PC gaming in bed and the results were exactly the same (obviously, a mouse pad or book was needed to keep my bedding from bunching up). Therefore, as a standard wireless mouse/keyboard setup, the Ultra GT + Full Size Keyboard Suite performed perfectly.
Switching the mouse into its gyroscopic mode, I then repeated the process. The games I used were PlanetSide, Star Trek: Bridge Commander, and Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic. PlanetSide was a complete failure. When in gyroscopic mode, the mouse seems to lose some resolution and makes playing any FPS title nearly impossible. However, since you need to use a keyboard to play an FPS anyway, you’d presumably be playing on a semi-level surface and wouldn’t need the Ultra’s gyroscopic abilities anyway.
While playing Star Trek: Bridge Commander, the Gyration mouse really began to shine. Since Bridge Commander can be played without using the keyboard, I was quickly issuing orders from the comfort of my couch and the mouse is sensitive enough so my wrist never felt overly taxed. As an added bonus, even when playing in front of my monitor, I was able to lean back comfortably which added to the effect of “being in the captain’s chair”. Simply put, as far as Bridge Commander and Gyration are concerned, there is no going back.
My experience with Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic, falls somewhere between PlanetSide and Star Trek: Bridge Commander. While AoW’s interface does not require the use of a keyboard, the double-clicking issue mentioned earlier once again raises its mildly unpleasant head. I got better as time went on but never reached a point where controlling the game came naturally. In the end, Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic was certainly playable but just a little too awkward for my tastes.
Sadly I had no point-and-click adventure games to test out but given my experience with the Gyration mouse thus far, I’d have to say that the two are a match made in heaven—especially if your video card supports TV-out. I did take a moment to hop onto Microsoft’s “Zone” for a quick game of Chess and here again the Ultra Mouse performed perfectly.
If you’re tired of tangled mice cords or interested in playing PC games on the family TV, Gyrations Ultra GT + Full Size Keyboard Suite could very easily be worth its $99 price tag. In addition, if you’re like me then the ability to write email and watch downloaded videos from the comfort of your living room couch without the added cost of a laptop is priceless. Finally, Gyration has included a small but highly versatile software package that allows the user to switch/stop/pause MP3s, control their PC’s volume, and even execute programs or turn on their screensavers from anywhere within 30 feet of the receiver and without needing to see the screen (accomplished by a combination of “gestures” and button presses). Extras:
Although we did not receive them from Gyration, there are a handful of accessories that should be mentioned. The most important would be a spare battery pack that comes with its own charger. The obvious benefit here is that you’ll have a backup battery should you forget to charge your mouse or if your PC’s environment is such that it is used twenty-four hours a day. Also available is a battery pack that accepts standard AA batteries. While its use may be a bit vague, those with a girth of rechargeable AA batteries may find it to be a cost-effective way of ensuring that their mouse is always operational. Furthermore, for those who do a great deal of flying and are not fond of touch-pads, the Ultra Mouse could be ideal. Therefore, knowing that you can grab a set of AA batteries during a switchover between long flights provides much-needed insurance.
Despite its handful of shortcomings, after having used the Ultra GT + Full Size Keyboard Suite for a few weeks, there is no going back. More than simply some cool, “gee-wizardry” or a way to escape the headaches of tangled cords, Gyration’s Ultra GT + Full Size Keyboard Suite has given my computer extra functionality and has allowed me to extends its capabilities far beyond my desk. Essentially, if you’re ready to move into the ‘World of the Wireless’, the Ultra GT + Full Size Keyboard Suite is an excellent way to get there.