All posts in “Mouse”

Lexip’s joystick-mouse combo is a strange but promising hybrid

While at CES I try to avoid getting bogged down by dozens of random gadgets, and this time I mostly succeeded — but the mouse reviewer in me was intrigued by Lexip’s new gaming mouse that’s also a sort of floating joystick. It’s a strange but cool idea, and although the learning curve is high, I can see some hardcore gamers and productivity fiends getting a lot of use out of it.

Lexip is running a Kickstarter right now to fund the mouse, and has already tripled its modest goal, but the company was kind enough to send a pre-production version of the device to me for an early look.

The basic idea is very simple: what if you took a perfectly good gaming mouse and sort of mounted it on top of a very flat joystick? Theoretically, you would get the best of both worlds: the absolute x-y movement of the mouse, plus the relative, analog movement of a joystick.

And that’s more or less what the Lexip does. But as you might expect, it takes a big of getting used to.

The mouse portion is quite good; I’m very picky when it comes to mouse shapes (I use a Logitech G500s… since you asked) and found the Lexip perfectly comfortable, if slightly small. There’s an analog stick on the side, a nice touch for space sims, and three configurable buttons in addition to the usual left, right, and scroll button. The sensor seemed solid, no jitters or problems with my mousing surface.

There’s no thumb shelf, and I would have preferred the button paddles reached further towards the front of the mouse, but neither is really possible because of the joystick portion of things.

To that end, the whole top of the mouse is essentially a giant analog stick; you can tilt it in any direction and it acts just like a second analog input. So in a flight sim or space game you could be looking around the cockpit or directing the guns with the mouse itself, yawing and rolling with the full-mouse joystick, and controlling thrust and strafing with the little joystick. Pretty cool, right?

That kind of control could also be useful to artists, 3D and otherwise. Working in 3D means a lot of rotating on various axes, zooming in and out, and so on. Having two analog sticks on the mouse itself might allow an artist to replace a handful of commonly used keyboard shortcuts or mouse gestures.

Speaking of which, the analog movements can be mapped like mouse buttons; I set mine up to have the tilts mean forward and back in a browser, plus scrolling up and down. It didn’t take long for these movements to become pretty natural, though I should say I also triggered them accidentally a bunch of times. (You can disable or gestures for any application, but I was too lazy.)

The configuration tool could use a lot of work, though. Razer and Logitech have been honing their tools for years, allowing complex macros and interesting integrations. Lexip’s is workmanlike, lacking options pro gamers and power users might want. That’s relatively easy to fix with updates, of course, but the DPI selection method and inability to create a “double click” button made it hard to keep the Lexip as a daily driver.

It also required something of a lighter touch than I’m used to; I tend to rest most of the weight of my hand on my mouse, apparently favoring the left side, since the Lexip tended to activate the “left” gesture now and then (certainly my fault and not a bug, just saying). It also seemed to me that the left side was easier to depress, but that may just be how I perceive it. (Speaking of left sides, a left-handed version is forthcoming.)

And you’ll need to pay close attention to your grip, since of course if you tilt forward by pressing down with your index and middle fingers, you’ll click while you tilt and cause all kinds of chaos. The extra non-button space on the front is meant to alleviate that, and it does, but I had to shift the position of my fingers to get a solid surface on which to push down. Not a deal breaker, just something you’d have to get used to.

I asked if the version I have will differ in any way from the version backers will receive, and was told only minor aesthetic changes will be made.

Overall I think this is a fun, smart device and one that many people might find useful. Of course, with even early bird prices starting above $100, it isn’t cheap. But you probably already know if this is something you’re willing to give a shot. It’s a cool idea and it works, with some small caveats, so order with confidence.

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 using standing 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. 

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. 

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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Microsoft’s slick new keyboard comes with a fingerprint sensor built in

Your next keyboard could have a fingerprint scanner built right into it.

Microsoft has put up product pages for two new Surface accessories – the Modern Keyboard and the Modern Mouse

For the new Modern Keyboard, the company has built a fingerprint reader right into the keyboard, similar to Apple’s offering on the Macbook Pro. The fingerprint scanner looks like any other key, is located between Alt and Ctrl keys on the keyboard, and gives users a new way to log into their Surface devices.

The built-in fingerprint scanner is just one of many ways users can log into their devices. Microsoft also currently offers a tool called Windows Hello, which allows users to log in with facial, iris, or fingerprint recognition.

Microsoft called the aluminum keyboard “virtually indestructible.” The keyboard works with Bluetooth and can also be connected directly. It’s compatible with Windows 10, 8.1 and 8, the Windows 10 phone, Android 4.4.2-5.0, Mac OS 10.10.5,Mac OS 10.10.5/10.11.1, and 10.11.4 and iOS8.1-9.2.1. The devices must support Bluetooth 4.0 or higher.

Two AAA rechargeable batteries are included, which give the keyboard a battery life of up to 2 months on full charge. The keyboard weighs 14.8 ounces.

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The Modern Keyboard isn’t the company’s only upgraded accessory. The Modern Mouse uses Bluetooth 4.0 as well and is an aesthetic upgrade from the company’s previous offerings.

Modern Mouse

Modern Mouse

Image: microsoft

The Modern Mouse will retail for $49.99 and the Modern Keyboard will be $129.99. Both devices are “coming soon“ with no other information from Microsoft.

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