Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/27/review_smartfish_whirl_mouse/

Smartfish Whirl Laser Mouse

Rocking rodent

By Bill Ray

Posted in Hardware, 27th April 2011 06:00 GMT

Review Smartfish reckons our mice, and other peripherals, don't have enough life of their own, so it has successfully produced a mouse that wobbles in the interests of reducing RSI.

Smartfish Whirl Mouse

Twisted thinking: the Smartfish Whirl Laser Mouse

The premise of Smartfish's "Ergomotion" technology is that the static nature of our wrists is what causes pain, and ultimately damage, to our hands. So the Smartfish Whirl mouse teeters atop a post, enabling it to tilt into the linear and lean into the curves too, in order to provide a bit of variety for the propelling wrist. It works too, though it's a bit small and plasticky for the price.

The leaning of the mouse is immaterial to cursor movement – that's achieved by sliding the rodent around the desk in the usual way. The flanged foot of the pivot contains the laser tracking common to most mice these days, and the tilt is only there to stop the wrist remaining locked in the same position, to force it into being actively involved in the process.

Smartish promises a keyboard based on its Ergomotion principles – apparently it shuffles the keys around while you type – which will presumably perform better than it sounds when it appears. Back in the here and now, the mouse comes in full-size and mini versions, though I found the full-size version to be quite mini enough for my hands.

Smartfish Whirl Mouse

Once you start using it, you don't really notice the leaning

Both versions of the Whirl have a tiny USB transceiver clipped in the flanged plate underneath it for safekeeping when not in use. To get going, once the supplied batteries have been dropped in, you simply plug in the transceiver into a suitable USB port and it all works seamlessly. It's a proprietary protocol; Bluetooth would have been nicer, particularly if the Mini was to be used with a laptop.

Smartfish Whirl Mouse

Strain relief

Some computer users seem immune from the pains of repetitive strain injury, while others are permanently crippled. Personally, I sustain my career with a selection of keyboards and pointing devices used in rotation whenever they become too uncomfortable – always hoping my hands will last until the computers to learn how to listen properly. So I was particularly interested in trying the Smartfish and am pleased to report it genuinely works in reducing the pain of repetitive use, even if it's less than perfect the first time you get to grips with it.

Smartfish Whirl Mouse

The Mini version comes in several flavours

Comparing it to Microsoft IntelliMouse (Explorer II) the Whirl is slightly lighter (135g compared to the IntelliMouse's 147g), but appears roughly the same size. Unfortunately that appearance is deceptive because while the IntelliMouse slopes down towards one's desk, the Whirl drops suddenly off with an overhang that leaves the last two fingers of one's hand with nowhere to go. Balancing a whole hand on the mouse requires one to curve the thumb into a curtsy position under the index finger, which is far from ergonomic.

But once one gets used to the overhang then the mouse is quite comfortable despite the glossy plastic surface. The Whirl lacks the additional buttons to which one has become used over the last few years - sporting only two in addition to the scroll wheel in the centre - and those two buttons feel a little cheap, as does the entire mouse.

Verdict

What Smartfish seems to have created is a £15 mouse, mounted on top of a £25 pivot, and I can't help thinking that for a few quid more having a better mouse would have been worthwhile. But after a few hours of intensive use, coughing up the extra for that pivot starts to pay off. The mouse is definitely more comfortable to use and thus enables longer gaming sessions greater productivity from ageing limbs. If you've mucked about with alternative pointers in the past, then the Whirl is certainly worth a try. If not, then perhaps you should consider it before you have to. ®

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