A brief review of the HP three button USB optical mouse

April 20, 2016

The short background is that I'm strongly attached to real three button mice (mice where the middle mouse button is not just a scroll wheel), for good reason. This is a slowly increasing problem primarily because my current three button mice are all PS/2 mice and PS/2 ports are probably going to be somewhat hard to find on future motherboards (and PS/2 to USB converters are finicky beasts).

One of the very few three button USB mice you can find is a HP mouse (model DY651A); it's come up in helpful comments here several times (and see also Peter da Silva). Online commentary on it has been mixed with some people not very happy with it. Last November I noticed that we could get one for under $20 (Canadian, delivery included), so I had work buy me one; I figured that even if it didn't work for me, having another mouse around for test machines wouldn't be a bad thing. At this point I've used it at work for a few months and I've formed some opinions.

The mouse's good side is straightforward. It's a real three button USB optical mouse, it works, and it costs under $20 on Amazon. It's not actually made by HP, of course; it turns out to be a lightly rebranded Logitech (xinput reports it as 'Logitech USB Optical Mouse'), which is good because Logitech made a lot of good three button mice back in the days. There are reports that it's not durable over the long term but at under $20 a pop, I suggest not caring if it only lasts a few years. Buy spares in advance if you want to, just in case it goes out of production on you.

(And if you're coming from a PS/2 ball mouse, modern optical mouse tracking is plain nicer and smoother.)

On the bad side there are two issues. The minor one is that my copy seems to have become a little bit hair trigger on the middle mouse button already, in that every so often I'll click once (eg to do a single paste in xterm) and X registers two clicks (so I get things pasted twice in xterm). It's possible that this mouse just needs a lighter touch in general than I'm used to. The larger issue for me is that the shape of the mouse is just not as nice as Logitech's old three button PS/2 mice. It's still a perfectly usable and reasonably pleasant mouse, it just doesn't feel as nice as my old PS/2 mouse (to the extent that I can put my finger on anything specific, I think that the front feels a bit too steep and maybe too short). My overall feeling after using the HP mouse for several months is that it's just okay instead of rather nice the way I'm used to my PS/2 mouse feeling. I could certainly use the HP mouse; it's just that I'd rather use my PS/2 mouse.

(For reasons beyond the scope of this entry I think it's specifically the shape of the HP mouse, not just that it's different from my PS/2 mouse and I haven't acclimatized to the difference.)

The end result is that I've switched back to my PS/2 mouse at work. Reverting from optical tracking to a mouse ball is a bit of a step backwards but having a mouse that feels fully comfortable under my hand is more than worth it. I currently plan to keep on using my PS/2 mouse for as long as I can still connect it to my machine (and since my work machine is unlikely to be upgraded any time soon, that's probably a good long time).

Overall, if you need a three button USB mouse the HP is cheap and perfectly usable, and you may like its feel more than I do. At $20, I think it's worth a try even if it doesn't work out; if nothing else, you'll wind up with an emergency spare three button mouse (or a mouse for secondary machines).

(And unfortunately it's not like we have a lot of choice here. At least the HP gives us three button people an option.)

Written on 20 April 2016.
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Last modified: Wed Apr 20 23:43:54 2016
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