A Mouse Made For CAD: Review of the 3Dconnexion CadMouse
Michael Alba posted on November 09, 2020 |
A hands-on look at the CadMouse Pro and CadMouse Compact models.
3Dconnexion has sponsored this review.
The CadMouse Pro Wireless. (Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)
The CadMouse Pro Wireless. (Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)

“It’s really hard to beat a mouse," said James Dagg, CTO of Altair, when asked if he thought engineers would be using touchscreens for CAD in 50 years. He is convinced the humble computer mouse isn’t going anywhere soon, and we would have to agree. For power users of professional software, a good mouse can make all the difference.

That’s certainly what 3Dconnexion believes. The company makes peripheral products for professional CAD users, among them a mouse called the CadMouse.

There are five versions:

(Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)
(Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)

3Dconnexion sent us all five models from the CadMouse product line—plus a mousepad, the CadMouse Pad Compact—to test if they live up to their name.

Introducing the CadMouse Product Line

The CadMouse product line is built with a specific type of user in mind: the CAD professional. Whether you use AutoCAD, SOLIDWORKS, Solid Edge, Creo, CATIA, Inventor, Fusion 360, NX or any other CAD program, you’ll be performing a lot of similar actions. Zooming, panning and orbiting will be a near constant. Then there are the dozens of common commands you’ll need throughout the day. The CadMouse line puts these at your fingertips.

Each CadMouse features a left, right and middle click (the latter is great for manipulating models and sorely missed when not present); a scroll wheel with tick-by-tick precision; two thumb buttons for zooming in and out quickly; and a top button behind the scroll wheel that brings up a customizable radial menu of common commands.  

There are seven buttons (including the scroll wheel) on the CadMouse Pro Wireless (pictured) and other mice in the CadMouse line. (Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)
There are seven buttons (including the scroll wheel) on the CadMouse Pro Wireless (pictured) and other mice in the CadMouse line. (Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)

The CadMouse models have an optical sensor with a resolution of 7,200 DPI and a polling rate up to 1,000 Hz, which makes them both responsive and precise. The buttons are built to withstand 50 million clicks, so you could click once per second for over six years of standard work weeks before you’d even start to think about failure. The CadMouse line is ergonomically shaped with a built-in thumb rest and feels comfortable in the hand.

The CadMouse Family

The CadMouse lineup consists of two sizes (pro and compact) and two connection styles (wired and wireless). For southpaws, there’s one left-handed option (pro size, wireless). That makes five models in the CadMouse product line.

CadMouse Compact and CadMouse Compact Wireless

The junior member of the CadMouse family is the CadMouse Compact, available for $89 USD. The CadMouse Compact Wireless is ten dollars more at $99 USD and comes with a semi-rigid carrying case, a braided 1.5m Micro USB charging cord and a 2.4GHz USB receiver called the Universal Receiver because it’s compatible with up to five 3Dconnexion devices.

Otherwise, the two CadMouse Compact models are identical in terms of buttons and functionality.

CadMouse Pro and Pro Wireless

The Pro tier of the CadMouse family is physically larger and includes the wired CadMouse Pro for $99 USD and both the CadMouse Pro Wireless and CadMouse Pro Wireless Left for $119 USD. As with the CadMouse Compact, the wireless versions of the Pro come with a carrying case, charging cable and Universal Receiver. While I appreciate the braided charging cable, both for its 1.5m length and its quality, it would’ve been nice to have USB-C rather than Micro USB.

Note that the wireless mice are also equipped with Bluetooth, so you have three connection options: wired with the charging cable, wireless via the Universal Receiver or wireless via Bluetooth.

Differences Between CadMouse Compact and CadMouse Pro

Size is the main difference between the CadMouse Pro and Compact. Here’s how the dimensions compare between the CadMouse Compact (foreground) and CadMouse Pro (background, tinted):

(Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)
(Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)

Though both the Pro and Compact CadMouse have the same ergonomic shape, I personally find the Pro size to be more comfortable—and that’s coming from a guy with pretty dainty (read: graceful) hands. I suppose the Compact size is marginally more portable, but neither option is difficult to fit in a bag.

The CadMouse Pro also comes with an extended warranty from 3Dconnexion—three years, versus two years for the CadMouse Compact. Finally, there are some minor cosmetic differences between the two versions, but they truly are minor (see if you can spot them in the images above).

The CadMouse Pad Compact

3Dconnexion also makes two different mousepads to complement its mice, the CadMouse Pad and CadMouse Pad Compact. We used a CadMouse Pad Compact for this review. The Pad has a grippy silicone base, a rigid middle layer, and a lightly textured surface that provides both low friction and some tactile feedback. It’s less slippery than my desktop, and while I had no trouble using the CadMouse without the Pad, it did make the experience a fraction more comfortable. The CadMouse Pad is $29 USD, and the CadMouse Pad Compact is $19 USD. 

(Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)
(Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)

Here’s how their dimensions compare:

Customizing the CadMouse

As you’d expect from a device aimed at power users, the CadMouse can be completely customized. The 3DxWare application (available for download here) allows users to configure every aspect of their CadMouse on an application-by-application basis. For example, if you open 3DxWare on top of SOLIDWORKS, it looks like this:

3DxWare shows you the remaining battery life of the mouse as well as the connection type (wired, USB receiver or Bluetooth), along with a slider for the cursor speed. I normally like a quicker cursor, but the top speed of the CadMouse is like trying to run a hundred-meter dash on a skating rink. I kept my cursor around 75 percent for the right-handed CadMouse and 25 percent for the left (my subordinate hand). 3DxWare also lets you import and export settings so that you can quickly get up and running on a new computer.

Everything about the CadMouse is customizable. 3DxWare allows you to control acceleration, scrolling rates, polling rates and more. Note that the polling rate is dependent on the connection type: 90 Hz for Bluetooth, 125 Hz for the USB receiver, and 1,000 Hz for wired (you can adjust it to be less, but I’m not sure why you would want to).

You can also customize nearly every button on the mouse (except left and right click). There are many predefined functions available for button mapping, some universal and some application specific. SOLIDWORKS, for example, offers dozens of custom shortcuts in the 3DxWare menu. And if you can’t find the function you’re looking for, you can easily create custom macros.

Button mapping in 3DxWare, with a sample of available SOLIDWORKS shortcuts. Custom macros can also be defined.
Button mapping in 3DxWare, with a sample of available SOLIDWORKS shortcuts. Custom macros can also be defined.

The CadMouse Pro Wireless Left includes an extra setting to swap the right and left clicks. If you’re used to wielding a right-handed mouse in your left hand, this is an essential feature.

The radial menu button is an extremely handy shortcut. It opens a four or eight section wheel around the cursor, and to access the function in any section you simply move the cursor in that direction. Most major CAD programs have pre-defined radial menus with common tools or actions, but you can build any custom menu you like.

The default radial menu for SOLIDWORKS (left) and Fusion 360 (right).
The default radial menu for SOLIDWORKS (left) and Fusion 360 (right).

Which CadMouse is Right For Me?

There are three questions to answer here: Do you want the big CadMouse or the small CadMouse? Do you want the wired CadMouse or the wireless CadMouse? And are you left-handed?

Having used all of these mice, my recommendation is to go for big and wireless: the CadMouse Pro Wireless. The bigger shape is more comfortable to use, in my opinion, and wireless is more convenient and saves a port on your computer (if you use the Bluetooth connection).

If you’re the kind of person who prefers a wired connection, you could always wire up the wireless CadMouse models. Then the extra $10 or $20 would buy you the option of wireless—plus a handy case and longer warranty. I will admit, however, that using the Wireless CadMouse as a wired device is less comfortable than using the wired version, as it has a slightly thicker cord and adds 2 cm of inflexible Micro USB housing that can tug on the mouse.

If you plan on being wired most of the time, the wired CadMouse Pro (right) is more comfortable to use than the plugged-in CadMouse Pro Wireless (left).
If you plan on being wired most of the time, the wired CadMouse Pro (right) is more comfortable to use than the plugged-in CadMouse Pro Wireless (left).

In the few weeks I spent reviewing the wireless CadMouse models, I never ran out of battery—and all the mice were around 20 percent when I took them out of the box. According to 3Dconnexion, the battery will last up to 3 months of 40-hour weeks.

Conclusion

I have a confession: I typically avoid mice. For ergonomic reasons, I prefer trackpads and tablets. That said, I found all the CadMouse models—particularly the CadMouse Pro—to be comfortable enough for daily use, and I’ve voluntarily ignored my Wacom tablet for the past few weeks. However, I would love to see 3Dconnexion offer a vertical version of the CadMouse. In my experience, it’s a more comfortable and natural position for the hand (even if it looks a bit weird at first).

Also, as much as I like the CadMouse line, whenever I open up a 3D application, I feel incomplete without a 3Dconnexion SpaceMouse. To the uninitiated, these devices are like sensitive joysticks that rotate and zoom 3D models (see our review of the SpaceMouse Pro Wireless for more details). The CadMouse on its own is good for CAD; the CadMouse with a SpaceMouse is great for CAD.

Using a CadMouse with a SpaceMouse. (Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)
Using a CadMouse with a SpaceMouse. (Image courtesy of 3Dconnexion.)

Overall, I think the CadMouse line delivers a great experience that’s as customizable as any professional user could ask for. The radial menu button is a particularly handy feature that can go a long way to increasing efficiency in CAD and other applications.

Pros of the CadMouse:

  • Great customizability through 3DxWare
  • Highly responsive
  • Long battery life
  • Variety of connection options (wired, Bluetooth, and 2.4GHz receiver)
  • Feels comfortable in hand
  • Professional aesthetic with nice braided cable

Cons of the CadMouse:

  • No vertical mouse style
  • Left-handed version only available for CadMouse Pro Wireless
  • Micro USB port would be better as USB-C

To learn more about the 3Dconnexion CadMouse, visit 3Dconnexion.com.


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