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The task to find both an ergonomic yet practical mouse is one that, at least in our eyes, hasn't yet been fulfilled. There are certainly plenty of comfortable ones, but invariably they involve taking a massive step down in usability as the way you hold them reduces accuracy and they also tend to lack features. Hoping to provide a truly workable ergonomic solution is OrthoVia with its OrthoMouse.
Developed by Jelio Segalle, a brazilian surgeon, over the course of many years and with many prototypes and refinements along the way, the OrthoMouse certainly has had some thought behind it. The question is, can it deliver the goods?
Key to the OrthoMouse's design, like most of these ergonomic mice, is the way it holds your hand in a more vertical, and thus natural, position and provides more support for your hand. This reduces strain on the wrist, pressure on the heel of the hand, and tension in your fingers. However, unlike some ergonomic mice that essentially leave it at that, Jelio has also thought about the usability of the mouse.
Instead of mounting the sensor bang in the middle of the mouse, OrthoVia has it positioned at the point where your fingers and thumb meet, somewhat like it were the nib of a pen. This gives the mouse a far more accurate feel, allowing you to make small movements with just your fingers just as you would with a normal mouse while maintaining an overall more comfortable position.
The combination works very well as we instantly noticed an improvement in comfort, particularly when it came to pain from pressure at the heel of the hand – the bit that normally acts as the pivot for conventional mouse movements. However, unlike some similar mice, like the Microsoft Natural Wireless 6000 and 3M Ergonomic Mouse, we were still able to maintain a decent level of accuracy, meaning everyday work was largely unaffected. That said, the sensor is a fairly basic optical one, rather than laser or Bluetrack, so didn't track all that well on shiny surfaces – a decent dedicated mouse mat is a must.
Due to its sloping sides and hard plastic surface, it's also not the easiest mouse to pick up for when making large movements, though you do get the hang of it over time. A couple of patches of rubber where the thumb and little finger sit would have sorted this out.
The next trick up the OrthoMouse's sleeve is its modularity. Both the back end and the top section that sits between your thumb and fingers can be removed and replaced, with a choice of three sections for the back and two for the top. The back section essentially reduces or increases the amount of support the palm and heel of the hand get. The longest provides the most comfort, lifting your entire hand off the table or mouse mat but, because of this, it makes it more difficult to use your fingers for movement so you lose accuracy. Meanwhile the smallest almost completely eliminates wrist support, leaving only the angle of your hand and the button positions to provide the ergonomic improvements. We found ourselves sticking to the medium size piece as it provides a good compromise.
As for the top removable section, we rather failed to see what the point in this was as our hand didn't really come into contact with it at all. One provides smoother, lower profile than the other so we guess if you have really big hands it might be more comfortable.