SpacePilot PRO (My experience so far)

I’ve seen someone say that either you hate 3DConnexion 3D mice or you love ’em. Now that I’ve been using the SpacePilot PRO for a little while, I can honestly say I don’t see that. Personally, I like my device, but I could live without it. Since I only have one, I kinda do have to live without it at home anyway. With a capable mouse, one can maneuver a model in SolidWorks just fine.
SpacePilot PROThe advantage of the 3D mouse is that you can maneuver the model and continue to work on the model at the same time. So, the 3D mouse does help me work faster. I like things that allow me to work faster.

It did take me more than a week to get use to how it functions and to find the settings that work best in my environment. Finding the right sensitivity is paramount to using the SpacePilot PRO.

Adjusting the sensitivity is accomplished in two ways.  When adjusting it, make sure the affected application is open (i.e., SolidWorks). Overall sensitivity is controlled by a togglish button. On one side is a minus symbol. On the other is a plus symbol. Pressing either will yield results that are immediately appreciable when moving the control knob. If one wishes to change relative sensitivity of specific controls there is a program included called 3Dconnexion Control Panel. This has several tabs that get in to the functionality of the SpacePilot PRO. Relative speed control is on the Advanced Settings tab. Pan right/left, Pan up/down, zoom, tilt, spin and roll can all be set to their own specific relative sensitivity (which 3DConnexion calls “Speed”).  I like mine set up like this.

SpacePilot PRO Speed Settings

Once I set sensitivity to a comfortable level, this device has proven itself to be a useful tool that has made my work easier.

SpacePilot PRO (Smudge Factor 10)

The SpacePilot PRO is a clean looking device right out of the box, with its swoopy shape and classy mix of matte black, patent black and dark grey colors. It even feels comfortable when I rest my palm on it and place my fingers around its control knob.

SpacePilot PRO

Size and placement

SpacePilot PRO is larger that one might expect for a control device. Its size is almost sprawling as it takes up a considerable portion of any desktop. I had difficulty in trying to find a location for my SpacePilot PRO. 3DConnexion recommends that their 3D mice be placed on the left of one’s keyboard and operated with the left hand. In the literature, it shows a mouse, keyboard and the SpacePilot PRO placed comfortably on a desktop. Unfortunately for us ergonomically educated individuals, this is not practical. I use an adjustable keyboard shelf. On most keyboard shelves, there’s room for the keyboard and the mouse (usually). So, where am I supposed to place my 3D mice?  Well, I like the device enough to consider a modification to my keyboard shelf.

Look and feel

When taken right out of the box, the pristine device is handsome.  It looks like it is meant to be used.  It doesn’t take long to realize that usage (particularly of the upper patent black region around the LCD screen) quickly envelopes the device with smudges.  On a scale of 1 to 5, I give the SpacePilot PRO a Smudge Factor of 10.  Touching the shiny surface (heck, maybe just breathing on it) will leave a smudge that quickly gives the SpacePilot PRO a worn-in look.

There are a lot of buttons on this device.  They are kinda spread out.  The device could take up slightly less desktop space if the buttons are brought in closer to the knob.  This would allow them to be more readily accessed by one’s fingers.  As for the number of programmable buttons, the device seems appropriately equipped.

One may find that sometimes the left hand will shift a bit while using the control knob.  The are guidelines on the side of the knob, but these are not easily felt.  Strangely, the most obvious location for guiding features would’ve been on the top of the knob, or around the knob’s top ledge, but none are there.

Do not take my criticisms as a reason dislike the device.  These are minor details that should to be a addressed by 3DConnexion in future versions of this device.  They are not show stoppers.  It is great to have a control device with programmable buttons.  I actually like the SpacePilot PRO for the programmable buttons as much as the 3D flexibility granted by the control knob.

3Dconnexion’s new SpacePilot PRO 3D Mouse

Before this month, I’ve never owned any 3Dconnexion 3D-mice in my life.  Heck, I wasn’t even exactly sure how to pronounce 3Dconnexion.  That “x” in the middle of the name throws me off.  Despite this, I’ve had some interest in their devices.  This has never taken me to the point of testing one on my own.  After all, I feel I’m pretty fast with my mouse-work and keyboard shortcuts.  So, when 3DConnexion asked to meet with me at SolidWorks World 2009, I was interested in seeing what they wanted to show me, yet skeptical about finding any game changers.

SpacePilot PROThey introduced me to the SpacePilot PRO 3D mouse.  (It may already be available on Amazon or other locations if someone is interested in looking for price comparisons.)  The SpacePilot PRO is the latest 3D mouse in a long line of professional 3D-mice which “have rewritten the rules on the way design engineers and professionals interact with 3D environments,” as noted by Dieter Neujahr in the official press release.  OK, so what am I doing quoting press release comments?

Now, anyone that reads my product reviews knows I’m no sell-out.  I don’t give shiny reviews to get free stuff.  I don’t run promotions.  For full disclosure, I must say that 3Dconnexion did give me a free SpacePilot PRO a few days ago.  This was given to me without any strings attached.  Technically, they didn’t even ask me to write any review or comment on the unit they give to me.  I made it clear back in February that if I did review the product based on the unit they were going to give me, it was going to be unbiased.  They seemed to insist upon that.  Even at that time, I had a few critical comments about the device (which I cannot remember now), to which they were receptive.

Does getting a free $499 device impact my opinion?  You betcha….JUST KIDDING!!  However, I do feel it is appropriate for me to write about my experiences, to give others a sense as to whether these devices are worth the cash.  Expect my usual sarcastic comments juxtaposed with well deserved praise, and demands for further improvement.

I’m not going to write one all encompassing review.  This is a highly capable device.  I doubt I can write completely about my experiences with this unit in one review without the article getting excessive in length.  I mean, just look how long this article is already, and I haven’t even started my review yet!  More information will come soon.