Playing CAD and Mouse

30 Nov, 2013 By: Heather Livingston,Robert Green

Cadalyst Labs Report: Cadalyst Labs navigates the maze of input device options for users of 2D and 3D computer-aided design.

3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator
Corded 3D navigation device
Overall Grade: A

Pros: Reasonable cost; no batteries required; quality construction; compact enough to carry in a laptop bag; ambidextrous design.

Cons: You'll still want a conventional mouse for non-CAD use.

Price: $99 retail ($87.99)

3Dconnexion | 781.890.8452 |

Highly RecommendedIf you've ever had the chance to use a 3Dconnexion controller, you're familiar with what the 3D mouse has to offer. If not, imagine a mouse that sits stationary on the desktop and acts like the stick control on a flight simulation game, plus an integrated z-axis controller — you can pull the controller up or push it down — and you'll start to get it.

Using a wired USB connection, the 3" x 3" x 2" SpaceNavigator installed just fine and worked alongside other installed keyboards and mice on both test machines. Upon launching into CAD programs, the ability to translate, rotate, and move along the z axis can only be appreciated in 3D graphics environments. Using a 3D mouse for 2D CAD drawing wouldn't make much sense, but to visualize almost any type of 3D model environment, the 3Dconnexion units are unparalleled in functionality. You simply can't understand how easy it can be to spin around, translate, or slide along axes until you've used this device. And even if you still like to use a conventional button mouse for command input, you can add the Space­Navigator for visualization; it isn't much more expensive than a high-end traditional mouse.


3Dconnexion's SpaceNavigator lets users navigate intuitively through 3D design space.
3Dconnexion's SpaceNavigator lets users navigate intuitively through 3D design space.

Everything about the SpaceNavigator is solid, well constructed, and highly tactile. It hardly takes any hand motion at all to operate the device, which you'll get used to quickly. The SpaceNavigator comes with a two-year limited warranty that covers breakage but not returns for aesthetic or other subjective reasons.

After we concluded our review of this model, 3Dconnexion introduced the SpaceNavigator Wireless ($129), which includes a micro-USB receiver and a rechargeable battery.

My only issue with 3Dconnexion products in the past has been cost — as high as $399 for the top-end model, which is simply too much for many CAD budgets. But the SpaceNavigator offers 3D navigation functionality for less than $100. At that price, if you do 3D CAD with any regularity, you really should try out the SpaceNavigator yourself; a short review doesn't do it justice. Highly Recommended.

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