Being increasingly reliant on mobile devices to get some level of work done, I had a sudden need for another Bluetooth-capable mouse. While the Logitech M337 continues to serve me well with its rather unusual colour scheme, I was looking for something perhaps a bit more affordable – it just seems rather silly that after all these years, a Bluetooth mouse is still something that is sold for $37 or even more!
While the common solution for this was to just “go to eBay” and order from overseas, the addition of GST on low value items has dampened the appeal somewhat, along with a tide of sellers who claim to have shipped items that never turn up. Add to that the uncertainty of quality and description accuracy – it’s a reason why I’ve really curtailed my eBay spend. This led me to discovering that one of my local retailers stocks a Bluetooth-capable mouse for just $10, the Alcatroz Airmouse Duo2, so I decided to grab one to see whether it was any good.
Alcatroz is not a brand that is commonly heard of in Australia and it seems only one of my local stores carries its products. It’s always on the cheaper end of the market, which is often where a lot of less pleasant items tend to live, but I wasn’t quite going to condemn it before I had given it a go. It seems that this company is part of Leapfrog distribution which is a Singaporean company which is responsible for several other brands (such as Armageddon, SonicGear and Audiobox).
The Airmouse Duo2 comes in a blue box with hang-tab. It is available in black and white colour, and claims to have 2.4Ghz Wireless (with matching “nano” USB receiver) and Bluetooth 4.0 dual-support. It uses 2xAAA batteries which come included (a nice touch) with a claimed 100 hour usage battery life. The unit is capable of 1200dpi, is Made in China and is backed by a 2-year warranty.
Inside the box is a multilingual instruction leaflet, the mouse inside some protective foam bag and a pair of alkaline AAA batteries.
The mouse itself has a rather familiar shape, although is a little flatter than some others I have used. The lower plastic is matte in finish, whereas the top section is gloss.
The mouse is branded with some grey printing on the top. The scroll wheel itself has a wide rubber surface, and like the buttons, is also slightly stiff, refusing to “coast”.
The underside has the relevant model information and QC labels, but also is where the battery compartment and USB receiver are.
The design of the battery compartment is somewhat poor, with the two batteries sitting staggered with no release-aids.
The supplied nano receiver is rather anonymous looking and like most miniature USB devices, has a small PCB hiding within the connector shell.
Once connected, the device appears with a VID of 248A and PID of 8367. This suggests the device might be manufactured by Maxxter, although this is no smoking gun.
Curious to find out what powers the unit, I decided to take it apart almost immediately. To do this, two rubber feet need to be removed revealing two small Philips head screws that need to be removed. Afterwards, the case halves separate.
Et Voila! That’s one wireless mouse. Rather surprisingly, the battery leads are connected by a connector to the main PCB – many manufacturers save a few cents by omitting this as most units would never be repaired if they failed.
Taking a closer look at the PCB, we see the silkscreen marking of FJP-B+2.4G-WK6 FTM10 V1.1 dated 18th October 2017, making this a rather recent product. It seems that the PCB was configured so that you could have a DPI button as well as back/forward buttons, but these were not fitted. The wireless antenna is a PCB trace that is on the left-side of the PCB nearest the index finger when holding the mouse. Two different types of switches seem to be used – Huano (white) for the left and right click button and ZDN (? green) for the scroll-click.
Surprisingly, or rather not, the whole operation of the mouse falls down to one integrated SoC from Telink – the TLSR8261 which seems to be optimised for smart remote control applications. The IC is clocked from a 12Mhz crystal.
The underside is pretty much bare, except for the through-hole solder joints which is rather expected. Still, not bad for $10.
On the whole, a mouse is fairly easy to set up and use with this one being no exception. Putting the batteries in the mouse, it sprang to life practically immediately with the USB receiver being plug and play. However, if you want to use Bluetooth, you need to hold down both mouse buttons until a green LED comes on, and then release.
This activates the Bluetooth mode, allowing it to be found or connected to via Bluetooth Low Energy. This can be seen with the resulting scan from a BLE analyser application.
Because it is a BLE device, it cannot be connected to older Bluetooth Classic (i.e. 3.0 or earlier) devices, requiring Bluetooth 4.0 “Smart” or Low-Energy capabilities at a minimum. This is catered for in most modern devices made in the past few years, otherwise you can revert to using the USB receiver.
The mouse can be toggled between operation in 2.4Ghz mode or Bluetooth Low Energy mode by repeating the “hold-both-mouse-buttons” routine, allowing for controlling two devices from the one mouse. However, the routine can get tiring as it is not as convenient as pressing a single button.
I found the body of the mouse to be a bit short, the plastic to be rather “hard edged” and the stiffness of the switches to make it less comfortable than the Logitech mouse. But it was still a lot better than being without a mouse and acceptable for the price. The 1200dpi resolution is fairly normal, and is sufficient for most office/productivity scenarios on smaller/single screens (e.g. a laptop).
The lack of a power switch was somewhat disappointing. While the mouse does have some aggressive energy saving strategies, it is easily accidentally awoken in transit by a click or scroll which wastes energy and also does not avoid waste from quiescent standby consumption.
For $10, this mouse is a lot cheaper than any other retail Bluetooth-capable mouse option. The build quality feels downright average with a basic 1D scroll-wheel configuration with no additional buttons. The click switches and scroll wheel feel slightly stiff and the DPI is relatively pedestrian, but the unit is functional and quite usable. Ergonomically, it is a little “flat” for my liking, although as a “travel” mouse, this is not a bad compromise. The biggest annoyances for me are the lack of a power switch for conserving battery life and the slightly lengthy mode-change routine of holding down both mouse buttons until an LED lights up.
The biggest downside is that the mouse is (as it says on the box) a Bluetooth Low-Energy device, meaning that it cannot connect to older Bluetooth chipsets that only have Bluetooth Classic capabilities (e.g. 3.0 and earlier). You must have Bluetooth 4.0 with Low Energy capabilities (i.e. Bluetooth Smart) to be able to connect, although most recent smartphones, tablets and laptops will have this. For those that don’t, the dual-mode functionality allows you to use the USB receiver to work with the mouse as well. In fact, you can even use it between two devices, toggling the mouse mode between USB receiver and Bluetooth to swap between computers.
In all, as long as one is aware of the limitation, the mouse is actually fantastic value for money and a big saving compared to the branded alternatives. Sure, the Logitech M337 I have before is a Bluetooth Classic device which ensures wider compatibility and has an extra left/right scroll ability with nicer feeling buttons and shape, but I don’t think it’s quite worth the extra dough. As a result, it seems the Alcatroz Airmouse Duo2 is actually a pretty decent choice for those wanting a wireless mouse on the cheap.