The SpaceNavigator and larger big daddy the SpaceExplorer are essentially a chunky joystick you use to navigate in ways an ordinary mouse can't. Instead of just panning up, down, left, and right, the SpaceNavigator moves in "3D" , by tilting, rotating, pressing in/out, and shifting left/right and up/down.
This is not a plasticky gimmic. The design is classy - in particular we were impressed by the heavy base on the smaller circular SpaceNavigator, which tips 700grams and feeling like a lead weight. The controller has a textured black, rubberized plastic which gives the right amount of feel for fine-touch jobs - pressing forward or rotating the joystick and there's a spring-like feel, with the controller snapping smartly back into place when you let it go. The SpaceExplorer is the larger version, with a smooth wrist pad, and button pad.
Would we throw out our regular mouse for this? We're not sure - it's a damn fine way to rotate photos and 3D models. It's not really meant for panning around the Windows desktop though - we couldn't get the device to work outside of specific apps, and until Windows goes completely 3D (please no), there's probably not much point.
|My mouse is better than yours...the 3DConnexion SpaceExplorer|
There is, however, interesting potential for 3D mice as a secondary gaming device - the people at 3Dconnexion are pushing it as a Second Life controller, but we can see it also being useful in FPS games, either as a quick way to rotate your view, or look up and around at the sky, or for extreme fine-touch aiming.