Smartfish Whirl Mini Notebook Laser Mouse review, now on sale for $50
byJoanna Stern||November 24th 2010 at 1:07pmNovember 24th 2010 1:07 pm
Back when we first locked eyes with the Smartfish ErgoMotion Mouse at CES we knew there was something totally unique about it. No, it didn't have a touch strip or 18 buttons, but thanks to its "pivot system," it did tilt in every which-way. Created by a former chiropractor, the laser mouse tilts in all directions, but not with the aim of moving the cursor or controlling anything on screen as one would think. It wobbles for one reason and one reason only: to relieve arm tension and reduce the risk of Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). Today the company's releasing a smaller, more mobile version of ErgoMotion, now called the Whirl Mini, for $49.95. So, is it what the doctor ordered? Or is it just another odd looking peripheral to add to the collection? We've been using it as our primary mouse for the last week, so you'll want to hit the break to find out.
Whirl Mini Notebook Laser Mouse
Tilting mechanism makes it comfortable
Comes in a variety of colors
No software required
Doesn't work on glass
No extra shortcut buttons
Look and feel
Head on, the Whirl Mini looks just like any other mouse crawling around out there -- its two mouse buttons are separated by a four-way scroll wheel, and well, that's really all there is to it. However, the center of that normal looking mouse sits on a symmetrical, oval-shaped pedestal of sorts, which is what allows the entire thing to pivot or tilt when you claw it. Think of it like a globe on an tilting axis. Or a mouse that moves like a joystick. When you grip the mouse you're able to comfortably tilt it in any direction and rest your hand on it. As righties, we've found it to be more comfortable when tilted towards the southwest -- if you think of it like a compass -- but we'll come back to all that tilting stuff soon enough.
Its two AA batteries and 2.4GHz nano-receiver fit into the rear compartment under main mouse -- we don't know if this was a conscious design move, but when you slide off the plastic covering the batteries actually look like the device's exhaust pipes. The underside of the pedestal holds the laser and on / off switch. Fear not, if that blue or white color up there isn't for you, the Whirl Mini will be available in additional black, carbon fiber, silver and red hues.
So, what the heck is thing like to use? There's no denying that it's pretty odd at first -- we don't know about you, but we've never dreamt of titling our mouse all over the place, and even if we did we probably would have envisioned the movement to actually impact the navigating experience in some shape or form. However, after a bit of time -- about a day or two -- we got used to the fact that it's really just a regular mouse that not only sways in all different directions, but also floats your hand in the air a bit. If the Magic Mouse is a piece of flat land, the Mini Whirl is, well, Everest. Ultimately, we found it to be an incredibly comfortable way of pointing and clicking -- not to mention rocking it from side-to-side is just a fun time.
But, of course, it wasn't designed to just be fun -- it's about comfort and not keeping your arm or hand still for long periods of time. According to that chiropractor / inventor of the Whirl, pressure builds when your hand and wrist are kept straight, and thus blood cannot flow regularly. That can cause joint static paint, which can then apparently lead to Repetitive Stress Injury. It sounds rather painful, and we have no doubt that's a real issue some people suffer from, but considering we've never been diagnosed with such a condition we can't claim that the Whirl Mini alleviated our pain. However, we can say that the form factor does cause you to move your hand and wrist quite a bit as well as hold the mouse in a much more natural and laid-back position. Like we said, we got really used to it and found it to be more comfortable than a number of mice we've used over the past few months just because we are able to just tilt our hand to rest on the mouse.
As an actual computer mouse it's fairly decent. We wish the 1600-dpi laser sensitivity were a bit higher, but it was fine for our usual computing tasks. By just looking at this thing you can tell it's not going to cut it for the WoW addicts or hardcore gamers out there. However, unlike our Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX with Darkfield Dangerfield technology, the Whirl Mini didn't work on our glass desk. Although, it worked just fine on our jeans and granite countertop. Setting up was a breeze -- no software was required on either our MacBook Pro or ThinkPad T410S. Of course, while the plug and play ability is nice, we did wish there was software for customizing the scroll wheel shortcuts (USB Overdrive let us do that with no issue on our Mac, however). We also prefer our mice to have an extra shortcut button or two, so the Whirl certainly disappoints to that end.
We can't say definitively if the Whirl Mini will ease those aches and pains since we never had 'em in the first place, but for fifty bucks its definitely a comfortable little mobile mouse. Would we suggest you pick it over the $60 Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX, which has been our favorite laptop mouse for quite awhile? Not if you tend to work on glass or uneven surfaces or like having a dedicated shortcut buttons, but if you've been looking for a mouse that could keep your wrist and hand moving the Smartfish Whirl Mini is worth a tilt, er try.