Few gadgets are used more and thought about less than computer mice. In existence for more than four decades, the mouse has proven an enduring interface that has undergone relatively modest change compared to the computers to which it connects.
Still, there are engineers and designers who try to push the boundaries of what we expect from these ubiquitous input devices. The three mice here are anything but modest.
Smartfish ErgoMotion Laser Mouse ($49.99; www.getsmartfish.com)Developed with carpel tunnel syndrome sufferers in mind, the ErgoMotion Laser Mouse sits atop a pivoting pedestal. The idea is to keep the user's wrist from becoming stiff by allowing natural and comfortable movement forward, back, and from side to side. Mouse to the left and it will gently tilt in that direction to follow the movement of your hand, letting the bones and muscles in your forearm move fluidly and comfortably rather than sit rigid.
I've never suffered carpa tunnel, but I found this mouse quite comfortable. The tilting motion, while at first noticeable and a little odd, became completely imperceptible within about a day of normal use. I stopped thinking about its pivoting movement completely by the end of the first week.
However, I do have a couple of quibbles. First, its smooth, bulbous design made it a little slippery, which in turn made me want to grip a bit harder, resulting in the occasional accidental click (the left and right buttons are extremely sensitive). Second, the materials leave something to be desired. A four-way scrolling wheel sits in a cheap-looking chrome plastic bed, and the glossy black body quickly became scuffed while travelling in my bag.
Still, these are small prices to pay to stave off painful wrist injury.
The Smartfish ErgoMotion Laser Mouse is compatible with Macs and PCs.
Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse ($79.99; www.microsoft.com) This soon-to-be released second generation Arc mouse from Microsoft is a beautiful exercise in industrial design.
It snaps flat when not in use to take on a shape similar to that of a thin and narrow mobile handset. This slim silhouette makes it an ideal travel mouse for laptop users who've never grown comfortable with a touchpad (its tiny USB dongle clips magnetically to its bottom side). When it comes time for work, just bend its rump to create the titular arc shape; a profile not dissimilar to that of a traditional mouse.
The scroll wheel, meanwhile, isn't a wheel at all but rather a touch pad with haptic feedback and a light clicking sound to give it the feel of a notched wheel. And under its nose you won't find a conventional red light but rather a blue one, indicating that the Arc Touch is a member of Microsoft's line of , which use a laser technology capable of accurately tracking on just about any surface outside of a mirror.
But while the fancy tech and clever design make this mouse about as much of a conversation starter as desktop pointing device can be, be warned that it takes a while to grow accustomed to it. Having nothing to grip on the side feels weird; my ring finger just dangled under the body. Plus, only the upper portions of the left and right buttons are clickable, which could prove frustrating - especially for someone with short, stubby fingers (like me). I had to alter my normal grip by sliding my hand higher than felt natural.
The Arc Touch works only with Windows PCs.
Razer Lachesis ($79.99; www.razerzone.com) You don't need to play games to appreciate this performance mouse from Razer, makers of high-end peripherals favoured by serious PC gamers.
Its perfectly symmetrical design makes it suitable for both lefties and righties. The matte grip's subtle curves fit my middle and index fingers and palm as though molded specifically for my hand. A sturdy, quilted cord leads to a gold-plated USB connector.
But good looks, built quality, and comfort play second fiddle to excellent performance. A 5600 dots-per-inch 3.5GHz laser sensor delivers exceptional precision with minimal hand movement; you can scroll with exacting accuracy across a 1920-by-1200 display moving your hand not much more than a centimetre. Too fast? Not to worry; sensitivity can be adjusted in increments of 100 dpi, allowing complete control over mousing speed. Regardless of how much you need to move the Lachesis it always feels like its gliding on air thanks to a trio of large, nearly frictionless feet.
Nine programmable buttons - left and right, wheel, a pair of narrow buttons below the wheel, and two on either side of body - provide for a wide range of control options away from the keyboard, whether you're surfing the web, editing a spreadsheet, or fragging your enemies. It also supports macros - single buttons assigned to carry out series of instructions - and the ability to swap between stored control profiles by toggling a key on its underside.
One last geeky feature worth calling out: The colour of the gently glowing wheel and large Razer logo on the mouse's posterior is customizable. You can make the light match the blaze of your tricked out gaming rig at night and then shut it off during the day so your co-workers don't think you're playing games on the job.
The Razer Lachesis works with PCs, but not Macs.