Since Apple started popping out the first mouse to be packaged with a personal computer with the Macintosh back in 1984, designers have been trying to find alternatives to the ubiquitous rodent. Apple itself seems to be out front in terms of interesting creations, experimenting on their mice with intriguing, if not always satisfying results. In this case, Smartfish, with their Whirl Mini laptop mouse ($50), have focused on perfecting the ergonomics of the mouse instead of trying to reinvent it. Did they pull it off?
The most unusual aspect of this mouse is the way it pivots. The base is connected to the mouse body through a central point that allows the mouse body to pivot slightly both laterally and longitudinally, with the idea that you’ll find the ideal position for your hand.
It’s fairly compact, and the wireless USB key is tiny and slots in at the back of the Whirl, in the battery compartment, for transport. It works well enough, seemed decently precise and I had no issues getting it to cooperate with my MBP.
The Whirl’s problem is really its central design feature: that pivot is exceedingly difficult to get used to. I tried doggedly to find a position that even just felt as good as non-pivoting, more ordinary mice — to no avail. The design simply introduced too much unexpected movement into my mousing to keep from being aggravating, let alone achieve its goal of superior comfort (then again, I don’t seem to have any problems using a decent version of of a garden-variety mouse).
It’s also a little on the gaudy side with its cheap-looking faux-carbon surface. The extra bulk of the base doesn’t make it any easier to pack on the go either.
If you’re looking for a more ergonomically appropriate alternative to the ol’ mouse, try looking in the direction of a trackball; the Smartfish Whirl is a little too impractical and awkward to be recommended here.
Arm yourself, Road Warrior: We’re reviewing frequent-flyer worthy gear this week, as a salute to the throng of brave Appleites on their pilgrimage to the annual WWDC this week.