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Computerized Investing > May 22, 2014
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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

$265

Unique Ergonomic “mouse” offers excellent precision and control.

When I was at SXSW in March, one gadget really captured my attention both because of its uniqueness and its functionality: It was the RollerMouse from Contour Design, Inc. I have never been a fan of mice or touchpads and use trackballs with both my home laptop and primary office desktop. I like them more because you can use them in a tight spot without the need the desk real estate needed to maneuver a mouse. Furthermore, I read on an ergonomics website recently that the “reach and grasp” motion required to use a mouse is like “shaking hands with the devil.” For those with carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis, the RollerMouse is also a more ergonomic option, albeit with a steep price premium.

Out of the Box

For anyone who has never experienced a roller mouse, and I have a feeling most of you haven’t, the best way I can describe one is equal parts wrist-rest and rolling pin, but I say that with the utmost affection.

The body of the RollerMouse Red is made of aluminum and measures 3.9 inches by 16.1 inches by 0.9 inches with the optional padded wrist rest attachment, which is 2.9 inches deep. The RollerMouse also comes with two keyboard risers that place the keyboard at the same height as the RollerMouse. That being said, if you use a keyboard with a rounded bottom, common with many ergo-friendly keyboards, as well as my ROCCAT gaming keyboard, integrating the RollerMouse with your setup will be difficult. The risers allow a straight-edge keyboard to butt up against the RollerMouse without inhibiting the movement or action of the roller bar.

Setup is very easy—just plug it into a USB port on your Mac or Windows PC and it works with the standard driver software. There is also an optional Windows download that lets you reprogram the buttons to functions for web browsing or application-specific functionality.

The RollerMouse puts the cursor controls of a mouse just below the keyboard, thus eliminating the reaching and grasping you would normally do with a traditional mouse. In addition, there is no special configuration required to accommodate left-handed users.

Slightly offset to the left of the RollerMouse is a bank of buttons for copy/paste and double-click as well as right- and left-click. The clickable scroll wheel is useful for navigating up and down long documents and web pages. In addition, there is a button for controlling the cursor speed of the RollerMouse, as indicated by the arc of blue LED lights just above the scroll wheel. You can also control the click force and click volume for the roller bar.

The actual roller bar, which is coated in ribbed rubber for non-slip use, lies at the top. To use it you slide the bar side to side for horizontal navigation and roll it toward or away from you for vertical navigation. As one reviewer put it, it’s like using a Ouija board. You can also use the roller bar to double-click, eliminating the need to use the left-click button.

Performance

The first time I used the RollerMouse I was amazed by how responsive it is while at the same time offering a high level of precision. This became especially obvious when taking screen captures of specific areas or regions of a website or spreadsheet. I also had no problems using the roller bar and integrated buttons for highlighting text, dragging and dropping or copying and pasting. The roller bar moves effortlessly and in no time I had picked up the feel for it. Having the roller bar and mouse buttons positioned immediately below the keyboard reduced the repetitive motion that causes problems for some mouse users.

The one real drawback is that the positioning of the RollerMouse also led, initially, to some inadvertent clicks. However, once I properly adjusted the risers to elevate my keyboard, this happened less and less. Adjusting the click force of the roller bar is another way to reduce the number of accidental clicks.

I also use the scroll wheel on my trackball quite a bit so I was glad to see the RollerMouse has one too. It comes in very handy when reading long documents or scrolling through a long web page.

Bottom Line

Due to its unique nature, the RollerMouse does take some getting used to. However, I caught on in no time and others in the office who have used it have reported similar experiences. I was pleasantly surprised by how responsive and precise the roller bar was. The biggest drawback for me is the price. At $265, this may be too much, especially when you can find a high-quality trackball for less than $100. Even as someone who doesn’t have to deal with carpal tunnel or tendonitis, I can feel the difference between using the RollerMouse and a traditional mouse or trackball. If you are afflicted with these maladies, this may well worth the money. The nice thing is, Contour Design offers a 30-day loaner program. You provide a credit card when you order your loaner, but you aren’t paid until you intend to keep it beyond 30 days. If not, you can send it back and the company even covers the return shipping.

Pros

  • Ergonomic alternative to traditional mouse
  • Smooth, precise operation
  • No special configuration needed for left-handed users

Cons

  • Very expensive relative to mice and trackballs
  • Accidental clicks are common when first starting out
  • Requires keyboard with a straight lower edge

Contour Design RollerMouse Red

$265

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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