Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) is a rapidly growing health care problem. True, no one is going to die from this condition, but there are plenty of folks out there developing hand and wrist problems. This should not be much of a surprise to anyone, as many of us now “live digitally.” We work at a computer eight plus hours a day, with infrequent (or no) breaks, to make a living. Then we go home for a few more hours of emailing, web surfing, blogging, shopping, gaming, and even planning our next vacation from all of this (which typically involves most of the above activities!). Unfortunately, this involves interfacing through the lowly mouse. Is there any wonder with all of this mousing around, that we have a growing problem? On top of all this, we have an aging population, with increasing amounts of arthritis in our senior citizens.
Computer mice were never designed with this many hours of use in mind. The first mouse was patented in 1964, and has not changed shape over the last 40-odd years. Very few things in computers can claim that sort of longevity with so few changes. Through the years, variations have been tried with mild success, such as trackballs, but nothing ever really gained mainstream acceptance. True, there have been evolutionary improvements along the way (both scroll wheels, and cordless technology to enhance the experience come to mind), but nothing truly revolutionary.
Evoluent built a different sort of mouse. In fact, this is the company’s sole product. Attempting to provide the user with a more comfortable mouse was the goal with their original Vertical Mouse (released in 2002). In the different forums I researched, I found that some folks swear by it for making their computing more comfortable. With Evoluent’s release of the Vertical Mouse 2, they have updated their mouse to make it more competitive with current offerings. The Vertical Mouse improved from using a mechanical to an optical engine, and the styling was updated. Before I get to the specifics, let me point something out: I have no doubt that Evoluent has its work cut out for it as it battles “the establishment.” As any salmon will tell you, it takes a lot of work to swim upstream.
The idea here is that the wrist problems develop from the angulations of the wrist during long periods. Using a gel wrist rest helps to reduce this, but not eliminate it (I personally use the excellent Belkin mouse pad with the gel wrist rest). I find that it helps a lot, but during long periods of computer use, there is still some stiffness. The Vertical Mouse 2 attempts to solve the problem differently. Instead of having the hand in a horizontal position, the hand is in a vertical position. This is a neutral position for the hand and forearm as it approximates a hand shake. With the vertical configuration, the pressure stays naturally off the wrist.
Enough of the biomechanics, let’s look at the product itself.
The Evoluent Vertical Mouse 2 is available in both left- and right-hand configurations. I evaluated the right handed model. The product is corded, and comes ready for USB, with a PS/2 adaptor included. This allows it to work with any computer, even notebooks. The mouse’s color scheme sports a matte black body with glossy purple buttons. This gives it a youthful, up-to-date look, but ensures it will match only the Abbey (the lab tech) on NCIS’s Gothic décor. It will look more in place on The Apprentice’s desk than in Donald Trump’s office. I personally would have preferred it without the purple, and either all glossy or matte, but this is just my opinion.
The optical sensor uses a high (1200) dpi configuration. This mouse tracks on every surface I threw it on including clear Plexiglas. The mouse covers more distance on the screen for a given movement on the mouse pad than some others I have tested. This does make the mouse a little jumpy when trying to execute a small movement, but I acclimated to it fairly easily.
The Vertical Mouse 2 is larger than most regular mice, especially in the height department. The size is 11.7 cm by 7.6 cm by 7.6 cm, and the cable is a generous 2 meters. For some perspective, the Logitech V500 Notebook Mouse was only 1.125″ high, and is quite hobbitlike next to the Evoluent unit.
The Vertical Mouse has three buttons along the right side, with the scroll wheel in between the 1st and 2nd buttons. There is an additional button along the left side which the thumb can press. There is a cutout on the left side that the thumb fits naturally into. When the mouse is first plugged in, without any driver or software installation, the 1st finger depresses the left mouse click button, and the 3rd finger depresses the right click mouse button. The scroll wheel also functions with no ‘clicks’ so it feels smoother, but I missed the feedback that the clicks provide. The middle button and left side thumb button are not enabled without the software installed.
The software installed smoothly, and enables additional functionality. Now each of the buttons can be custom configured to your needs and tastes. I chose to make the middle 2nd finger button a “double click” button. This automatically double clicks the selected icon, with a single press of the button. The left sided thumb button I selected to be a backspace button. As my 5th finger never seems to be able to reach the backspace key easily on the keyboard, this worked well for me. Additional available options included adjusting the double click speed, and setting how many rows the scroll wheel go at a time. The mouse is reported to be compatible in Windows 98SE, ME, NT, 2000 and XP, as well as Mac OS 9 and 10 (extra driver and cost needed for all buttons), UNIX, and Linux.
I had the mouse installed on my main desktop computer for over a week and used it for all my mousing needs. The buttons on the mouse, though plentiful, took almost no time to get used to. There is definitely a very “natural” feeling to this mouse. It did feel a little chunky in the grasp, but it glided on the pad with minimal effort. I used it on my Belkin mouse pad with a wrist rest, and it was comfortable. The mouse proved an able partner in all computing tasks, including Web surfing, word processing, spreadsheets, and games. More than once it had me thinking “Why didn’t I think of this?” There was definitely a contemporary simplicity in its design and layout.
What were the downsides? Of course, there were a few. First, I felt a little tied down with the cord. I’ve gotten used to (spoiled perhaps?) the freedom of a cordless mouse, and with the Vertical Mouse, I was restrained to the mouse pad. No picking it up and using it on my thigh or another surface. Secondly, the height did not work well with my keyboard drawer. The Vertical Mouse 2 is about 3 times taller than most mice. With the mouse on the wrist pad, the drawer would not close. This in turn made it very difficult to reach the surge strip under the desk mounted on the wall. So I had to pick the mouse up on the desk, but the cord now was pulling with the drawer closed. I definitely was missing a wireless mouse with no cords in the way at this point. This is the type of uphill battle I was talking about: the world is set up for a certain type of mouse, and it is difficult to do anything differently. Finally, the size of the mouse precludes it from being portable, unless you think Dell’s USS Inspiron with the 17” widescreen and 10+ pounds of heft is perfect for toting on your next Hawaiian holiday.
This product is designed for the desktop computer user who suffers from RSI, or is at risk for developing it. While a retail price of $74.95 is expensive for a corded optical mouse, niche products always carry a premium price. Just like “fat free,” “no salt,” or lately “no carbs” are more money than the “regular” variety at the supermarket. As a mouse, the product is solid, comfortable, and the included software fine tunes the controls to your needs.
- very comfortable to use
- programmable buttons
- adequate cord length
- excellent 1200 dpi optical engine
- can be used both PS/2 and USB
- color scheme (this product is different enough without being purple as well)
- corded, not cordless
- too high to fit under desks with keyboard drawers
- no clicks on scroll wheel
- size precludes portability
Who should buy this mouse?
RSI sufferers who can give up life with a cord to be pain free.
Special thanks to Evoluent for supporting this review.