Tools Of The Trade, 3Dconnexion SpaceExplorer Review

3Dconnexion is synonymous with tools designed for 3D graphics so I thought a review on their IF DESIGN awarding winning SpaceExplorer was in order. When I started learning 3D graphics (not going to mention how many moons ago that was) 3-button mice were mandatory unless you were proficient with numerous keyboard commands and shortcuts. Designed to make life easier and more efficient, does the SpaceExplorer deliver on its promises?

You still need a mouse to manipulate your OS’s GUI. The SpaceExplorer is just a complimentary companion designed specifically for 3D applications. Drivers are included but I suggest going to their website for the latest updates. I love the midnight blue coloring. In keeping with their other products, the wrist pad and knob are covered in a grippy rubber. Tiny rubber feet on the bottom keep it from sliding around. There are a total of 15 buttons but before you scream in ambidextrous confusion – there’s a rhyme to this madness.

The buttons on the left basically replicate your ALT/SHIFT/CTRL/ESC buttons along with 2 programmable buttons marked “1″ and “2″. On the right side are standard view buttons; top, left, right, font and 2D. The 2 buttons below the knob are FIT and VIEW which brings up different panels depending on the application environment.

It took some getting used to since my left hand is about as coordinated as my left foot but there is nothing like flying thru your models and environment. It’s all very fluid, fast, and intuitive. The knob is conveniently marked with raised points for tactile positioning. Moving the knob forward and back zooms in/out tho that can be customized. I prefer using it to change and position my camera view. – far more intuitive than a mouse.

I only tested it with Maya but 3Dconnexion supports nearly every major program on the market with more to come. Drivers are available for Windows, OS X, and Linux but at $299 it may be out of reach for some people. Thankfully you can purchase it with a student discount and the improvements to any professional’s workflow far exceeds the initial investment. Would I recommend it? Yes.

 

What we liked:

  • Solid build, grippy and nice touch with the glowing blue LEDs
  • Buttons feel clicky and tactile
  • Included drivers and software make customization easy
  • Beautiful design, unique dark blue coloring
  • Offers significant workflow improvements reducing the number of mouse clicks
  • Simultaneously zoom, rotate, pan and move without ever touching the keyboard

 

What could be improved:

  • The FIT and VIEW buttons are oddly placed as it requires you to move your hand or contort your thumb to reach them
  • Wrist pad is a nice addition but found it uncomfortable while trying to manipulate the knob. The angle and arch seems off
  • Cost is slightly prohibitive

 

Designer: 3Dconnexion [ Buy it Here