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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 25 Sep 2013
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This review is from: SpaceMouse Pro (Accessory)
I've been using this for just over a month now (I avoided writing a review before now to avoid "New Toy Syndrome"). I bought it to replace my dying Space Navigator. That served for more than 5 years of abuse and neglect without issue. The SpaceMouse Pro is a worthy addition to the 3dConnexion line up and, depending on what you plan to use it for, worth adding to your kit list.

The controller arrived in a couple of days in perfect condition, well boxed and packaged as you'd expect. I really can't fault the vendor for providing an excellent service.

First and foremost; if you've never used a 3d controller before, there will be a learing curve involved. When I first started using my old Navigator, there were many times in the first couple of weeks when I though "That's fifty quid I'll never see again." Five years on and it's like I'm missing a hand when I have to start modelling without one. Navigating around 3ds Max is so pedestrian and, as for setting up cameras, I can't remember how you do it. None of that jockeying nonsense. Select camera. Switch to Camera View. Use the controller to sort out the view you need and job done.

AutoCAD. If you're a user, beware! Autodesk have taken on the responsibility of writing the AutoCAD drivers since release 2011. I'm guessing this is all part of them trying to easing you into using a BIM solution instead, as there is no support for any release since 2010 for the Spacemouse Pro, and the Autodesk-inspired drivers up to release 2013 have been less than brilliant. There are hotfixes for drivers up to 2013, but nothing for AutoCAD 2014 that I could find. Anybody out there in Amazonland who knows more/better would have info I'd love to have/pass on with gratitude.

The only other software hassle I've come accross is with Sketchup. You STILL have to download and install the driver patch and add it to your Ruby Scripts. There was me thinking we're in the 21st century...

OK, so the unit has the reasuring heft of a quality instrument we've come to expect of 3dConnexion. Build quality is excellent. The ergonomics are pretty good, though if you have very large hands, accessing the keyboard shortcuts to the left of the puck could be awkward. Accessing the 3rd and 4th preset buttons along the top are equally awkward, regardless of hand size, but this is the only real criticism I have of the design and one that can't really be avoided. Overall though, a nice piece of functional design that looks seriously cool, in my humble opinion.

So why buy this over the basic navigator? Well, to me, the sensor is the key to these devices. Doing a back-to-back- comparison (with a nearly new Navigator) shows that the sensor on this device is far more sensitive than the older devices. Not only does this allow for a faster movement like-for-like, but the accuracy improvement is startling over smaller incremental movements. I still miss the old toolbar the software loaded which allowed for a specific point to be selected for the axis of rotation (thank you, Autodesk) but, that aside, the ability to make tiny adjustments without thought is simply brilliant.This model is a real step forward. The old models were good, and better than anything else on the market, but this takes accurate movement to a whole new level.

The 2 buttons before the puck gives access to the 3dConnexion software (menu) and Fit (think Zoom>Extents). The generic software is good, but not exceptional and is beginning to look a little dated now. Here you can flip specific axis, control the speed of them individually and set functions to the various buttons. A tip to new users: back off the overall speed whilst you get the hang of it. You'll soon max it out with practice. I seem to be using Revit more and more these days, though I have used it with the other software mentioned above and Inventor. In Revit, as with the others, you can use the 3dConnexion software to assign application-specific commands to each of the buttons. In Revit (and Inventor, to a lesser extent), the pre installed command options you can assign to each button are somewhat limited. I haven't played with creating custom commands as yet. In AutoCAD, you simply write out the desired command structure as you would a macro. Simple as that. I have been too busy to play with this yet, but I'm assuming the Revit keyboard commands can be used. Again, if anyone out there knows more about this/has useful routines that work, I'd love to hear from you.

To the left of the puck, you have Alt, CTRL, Esc and Shift keys. These, like all the buttons on this device, can have alternative commands attributed to them if desired. These have proved to be a real boon with Revit, as you use the Alt, CTRL and Esc keys quite often and having them under your pinky is a real time saver.

Accross the top you have 4 unassigned buttons. 1 & 2 are well placed, 3 & 4 less so, but it's difficult to see how you'd improve this without a radical redesign. Whatever, all four are at your finger tips, you just have to think about 3 & 4 is all. I guess it's indicative of the soundness of the design as a whole. Within a couple of days, you're using the rest of this device without thought.

To the right, there are 5 view presets. Well, 3 really. Top, Front and RH Side elevations of your model. One spins the model 90 degrees around its central axis for a given view. The central one disables the Tilt/Roll function of the puck, reducing availlable movement to Up/Down/Pan & Zoom. This has proved to be surprisingly useful, especially when working on 2d sheets, as the 2d Mode option provided by Autodesk (back to AutoCAD here folks) is not always successful.

All of these buttons are well seated and positive to use, with just enough resistsance to prevent accidental use. Fit and finish is impeccable and the service support is quick to respond and actually supportive. That's a novelty in itself these days.

Being really picky; I don't like the way the direction of movement enacted by movement of the puck changes when you swap from 3d to 2d views in Revit. Direction of travel remains constant to the 3d view, regardless of which view you're in. Not a deal breaker by any means, but annoying when you consider that it wouldn't take much coding to sort it out. Perhaps further evidence that 3dConnexion should consider a major revamp of their software in the near future.

This is the only real criticism I have to make of this device. It is very well made, well packaged and simple to use. Once you've gotten used to it, you'll never go back to being without it. And yes, I firmly believe the productivity gains claimed by 3dConnexion are fully justified. The example I cited above using 3ds Max is one of many (many) examples I can think of detailing how these things really do earn their keep.

Oh, and speaking from years of personal experience; these things just go on and on and on. Of course, they aren't cheap, but they are good value for money. So few things these days are built with quality and longevity in mind. 3dConnexion's offerings happily buck this trend. I have yet to see a shoddy one, and I know many users who, like me, have had their devices for years without issue. Yes, there are a number of alternative manufacturers out there these days, but their products, whilst cheaper, can't match 3d Connexion's offerings for performance or quality. The SpaceMouse Pro seems to match the quality of its forebears with ease, whilst taking performance to a whole new level.

The only caveate to this review, as mentioned above, relates to anyone predominantly running AutoCAD 2014. If you are, the software drivers aren't supplied/suppoerted by 3dCOnnexion. From release 2011 on, the drivers have been written by Autodesk, and there are no drivers currently availlable for the SpaceMouse Pro in AutoCAD 2014. If anyone can correct/update me on this, it would be much appreciated.

This device really does pay for itself once you've gotten the hang of it. If you already have a lesser model, I'm preaching to the converted. Think of this as the same, but better. It is very well made and good value for money in the long term. For anyone thinking of moving up, this is money well spent. Software glitches aside (Autodesk!), I can heartily recommend this to anyone (not using AutoCAD 2014). as a chance to aquire a useful, trusted friend for years to come.
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SpaceMouse Pro by 3DConnexion
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