How an ‘ergonomic’ mouse saved my wrist and made me hate my life

Ergonomic peripherals — a fancy term for more comfortable computer accessories — are the next big thing. Everyone seems to be usingstanding desks these days, and more ergonomic mice and keyboards sneak into bestseller lists every year. These products are designed to promote your health and comfort, and to avoid Carpal Tunnel, repetitive strain injuries and other common office afflictions.

Enter the Evoluent VerticalMouse 4 , a mouse which purportedly “avoids forearm twisting for comfort and good health.”

Yeah, that picture you’re looking at is not photoshopped, and your eyes aren’t deceiving you. They literally took a mouse and flipped it on its side.

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For several months, I have been using this strange-looking mouse. Many coworkers have raised their eyebrows, or done double takes as they passed my desk. The intrepid ones ask “Is that a mouse ?” My gamer friends mock me incessantly for it, flashy Logitech accessories in hand.

Oh, and by the way, this thing is $89.95. Given that Amazon’s top PC gaming mice range from $8 to $60, you’d think a whole 90 bucks should rake in a top-of-the-line product. But this, uh, isn’t.

It’s not terrible

There’s one thing that I really like about this mouse, and that’s that when you click it, you feel like you’re shooting a gun. I had a grand old time pretending I was shooting tiny editorial bullets at typos in my morning story.

After a hot seven minutes, the novelty wore off, and I was back to attempting to click around my tabs with a dented snail shell.

The mouse is a large egg-ish shape, with three buttons and a scroll wheel on the right side, and a large indent for your thumb on the left. The top button left clicks, the bottom button right clicks. I have no idea what the middle button is supposed to do, although if you click a link with it, the link opens in a new tab, which is handy.

It only comes in one color scheme, black and blue, but the aesthetic, while boring, could certainly be worse.

Image: haley hamlin/mashable

The buttons that adjust the pointer speed, under the scroll wheel, are easy to reach and press. Two small buttons that border the thumb pad also function as left-clickers, for reasons that are also unclear to me. Seriously, if anyone figures out why you’d want to use these, please let me know.

And finally, it probably is actually good for your wrists or whatever.

Dr. Phil Mitchell, Colorado emergency physician and the Vice President of Medical Affairs and Medical Director at Dispatch Health, told me, “An upright mouse that helps keep your wrist in a more neutral position can certainly prevent strain on the muscles over time.”

“Something as small as a slight wrist tilt on a computer mouse might not seem like much, but having the wrist in that position for multiple hours over multiple days has the potential to aggravate, especially if you’re prone to wrist issues or have had injuries in the past,” he added.

So if you’re at risk of an RSI, the extra few bucks could be worth your while. As someone who clicks and types for a living, I’m glad to hear that my wrist is safer. I’ll probably continue to use the mouse, because a wrist injury that inhibited my ability to type or click would be disastrous in my profession, and I’d rather be safe than sorry.

The problem is that the people at highest risk of these injuries are office workers and gamers. I can’t imagine that most people are dropping $90 on their office mouse. And this is a terrible, terrible mouse for gaming.

…but it’s still pretty bad.

A product that markets itself on being comfortable to hold needs to be, in fact, comfortable to hold. The VerticalMouse 4 fails spectacularly at that goal.

For people with big hands, the vertical mouse design is a nightmare. If your fingers are too big for a normal gaming mouse, your pinky can wrap around the edge. Not so with this vertical mouse. If your pinky and ring finger are too fat to cram themselves onto the bottom button together, your poor pinky is forced to drag itself along the table behind the mouse. You can try folding your pinky under your ring finger, but unlike with horizontal mice, gravity is working against you here.

My boyfriend, who can palm a basketball, settled on playing League of Legends with his pinky stuck out British-teacup style, but something tells me this isn’t a viable long-term solution.

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Gravity hurts the VerticalMouse 4 in another way: It’s just hard to hold onto. It’s an incredibly slippery mouse, lacking the rougher surfaces that you’ll often find on high-end mice.

But while slippery grips aren’t much of a problem on horizontal mice (when’s the last time your hand fell sideways?), they’re a huge hassle on vertical mice, from which it’s easy for your hand to slip, especially if it’s trying to move quickly in a DOTA game.

And even if this thing is better for your wrist, it comes at the cost of usability, which is a dealbreaker for all the gamers I know. Most people, when they use horizontal mice, rest their arm on the table, meaning their wrists handle the majority of their mouse movement. This allows for convenient and quick motions: gaming, highlighting, closing Facebook when your boss walks by.

The vertical mouse forces you to hold at least a few inches of your wrist off the desk, meaning your entire lower arm is now pitching into mouse motion. It’s cumbersome, and makes quick motion a lot more difficult.

The mouse isn’t as accurate as other mice in its price category, which also makes it hard to use. The cursor is a bit like a distracted puppy: It often follows you, but it trails off and gets lost a little more often than you’d like. While I’ve gotten used to the device’s feel after a few months, in my first few weeks of using it, zeroing in to click the Google Chrome icon on my doc required a few seconds of zigzagging back and forth.

There’s also no way to modify the mouse’s weight, a feature sported by the lineups of major competitors like Logitech .

And finally, the most unfortunate thing about this mouse is that there’s no place to store the tiny USB receiver. A sticker on the bottom of the mouse helpfully recommends that you store the receiver under the battery cover where it, of course, doesn’t really fit. Hey, mouse developers, FYI: People aren’t going to keep using your mouse if they lose the receiver after three days.

Look, it’s not the worst mouse that’s ever been made. It’s fun, and it might save your wrist. But $90? For the price of some of the best ergonomic gaming mice on the market today, this one just doesn’t cut it.

And if Evoluent wants to solve the problems of repetitive stress that notoriously affect gamers, they need to make a product that can compete on a market of snazzier, cheaper gaming mice. They need customizable buttons, a better place to store the nub, and accuracy settings that don’t make gaming a crapshoot.

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