Office Osteopaths Reviews: Contour Rollermouse Red
This review is an osteopath’s unbiased and honest review of a Rollermouse Red by Contour, donated for demonstration purposes and no attempt was made to sway my opinion. Although I classify myself as both, my goal is to speak from the perspective of a health professional, rather than a computer geek who likes playing with new tech.
In a world of never ending computer usage, where we find ourselves attached to some form of device for 8+ hours a day, we are oblivious to the damage done to our bodies. We change our bodies to suit our equipment, instead of changing our equipment to suit our bodies. As a result, we can develop a myriad of different conditions from computer use, from lower back pain and “text neck” to shoulder pain and other RSIs (Repetitive Strain Injuries). Carpal tunnel syndrome and other overuse upper-limb RSIs can be very difficult to treat, costing the both the staff member and the employer time and money.
The mission of ergonomic equipment manufacturers, like Contour and many others, is to prevent MSK (musculoskeletal) issues forming, or to help to treat them after they have developed. This is usually in conjunction with manual therapy, such as osteopathy or physiotherapy.
The Rollermouse Red is a welcome upgrade from my standard two-button job from a local large PC store. The aim of the RMR is to minimise utilisation of the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints and muscles when moving the cursor on your computer and it has done a pretty good job of achieving this.
When we use a regular mouse, the movement of the mouse across the desk involves movement of the wrist, elbow and, to a lesser extent, the shoulder. The Rollermouse Red utilises only the fingers to move the scroll bar and depending on the sensitivity level, the fingers and thumb barely need to move and yet the user still maintains full use of the cursor. The Rollermouse Red feels solid and has rubber feet to prevent accidentally sliding it across the desk.
Instead of a laser tracking the mouse’s transition across the desk to determine how to move the cursor, the laser tracks the rotation and translation of a horizontal bar that is moved by the fingers. The bar is an extra-wide cousin of the scroll wheel on a standard mouse but is so much more. The knobbled rubber bar means it doesn’t slip from your fingers at all and glides smoothly along the axle with great accuracy.
The sensitivity button at the top of the function bar allows you to quickly select the best mouse speed, the default being set to 3 (1200 dpi) but ranging between 1 (800 dpi) and 5 (2400 dpi) and highlighted by 5 blue lights which are off when not in use.
The left and right mouse click buttons also occupy the function bar, along with an actual scroll wheel, double-click, copy and paste buttons. The bar can be pressed for a single click, double clicked and with surprising accuracy, even drag and drop. Using the bar feels odd at first, but it becomes second nature very quickly. My colleagues are graphic designers and, although skeptical at first, were amazed at how quickly they adapted to it.
According to the Contour Rollermouse FAQ the function buttons are customisable which is a feature I loved in my Contour Shuttle Pro 2 for video editing. This could allow you to change the button shortcuts such as quick-saving your work in Word™, inserting an Excel™ formula or leaving the default Copy and Paste buttons as they are. Of course, this only works for you if you are comfortable pressing the scroll bar (or the ‘virtual click’) as your primary mouse button. I didn’t have a problem with this and rather enjoy the near-haptic feedback. The click force and volume can be adjusted too, allowing you to barely touch the scroll bar to register a click if you have an existing wrist condition.
The wrists are supported by a thick gel pad wrist rest, lying beneath and covering the length of the scroll bar and then some, although for left handed users there may be an issue as the gel pad is narrower on the left side. The wrist rest is removable with the use of a small key that comes with the keyboard, which is used for adding the extra ArmSupport Red.
Depending on the use, this bar can be fantastic or it can be slightly cumbersome. If you’re primarily using graphics packages that require high levels of accuracy like Photoshop™ then perhaps a digital tablet would be a better weapon of choice, I found vector-based packages like Illustrator™ were fairly easy to use. It is possible to use both the RMR and a standard mouse should you require, otherwise the RMR is perfect for users of document editing packages such as Word™ or Excel™.
Two keyboard riser lengths are provided, two short and two long, depending on the height of the keyboard being used. The long risers are 155mm long and can be clipped into the short risers, which can inserted in from either side and slide along a rail to support a keyboard. The configuration can be altered depending on what keyboard angle you prefer but the aim is to have the keyboard flat, parallel to the desk.
The stands also mean that moving the RMR moves the keyboard with it so you don’t need to keep realigning the keyboard every time, as it can get annoying to realign the keyboard if you touch-type. It’s still fairly easy to knock or click the scroll bar when typing on the keyboard but it is possible to alter the angle of the mouse so it tilts forward, reducing the likelihood of knocking it and still maintaining complete function of both mouse and keyboard. If this is an issue there is an option to remove the virtual click function which is detailed in the manual and the function buttons can be used for left clicking instead.
An extra large wrist rest, the ArmSupport Red can be clipped on to align the wrist, although this wasn’t provided as part of the demonstration pack.
Other products in the ergonomic mouse family seek to minimise strain on one particular joint, but can offset the mechanical demands to other regions. One example is vertical mice bringing the wrist into a neutral position to prevent damage to the pronator muscles of the elbow, but placing
more strain on the shoulder and wrist. The Rollermouse Red minimises most of the mechanical demands to the wrist, elbow and shoulder incredibly well, thus preventing overuse of the rotator cuff, pronator and wrist flexors muscles in favour of the thumb or finger muscles. The cursor, set at default speed, can be moved across the desktop on a dual-screen setup with a flick of the wrist. By alleviating strain on the aforementioned muscle groups, injured muscles can heal faster than they would with a regular mouse.
No ergonomic mouse is perfect but the only annoyance I could find regarding the build quality is the small clips that hold the keyboard risers together. After just a few times of clipping them together and unclipping the clips both broke off. They are only small and there is no reason to need for the average user to unclip them really, I was transporting them for the purposes of taking photos for this review. It doesn’t affect the usage much, only when moving the Rollermouse Red/Keyboard combination, the longer stand may fall off the shorter stand.
The setup pictured is perfect for use with the Rollermouse Red, however if you use a desk with a short pull-out keyboard draw the height of a raised keyboard can cause your fingers to hit the underside of the desk above it, which can get quite annoying. When using this on a variety of desks to get a rounded idea of how the Rollermouse Red works, this was the only type of setup that it didn’t agree with. I had to pull the Rollermouse Red/Keyboard combination right to the edge of the desk to give my fingers the space necessary, which isn’t a problem but worth considering.
The size of the Rollermouse Red means it takes up a large amount of space in front of your keyboard. However the space that you save from not using a mouse mat means your whole body is directly in front of the screen so it makes up for it. This also means that your body is fully inline with your computer and should be less inclined to lean to one side whilst using it.
Wrap-up: The Rollermouse Red is very useful for both preventing and treating MSK conditions. The high build quality and ultra customisation options means they have covered all of the configurations that their clients may require. It may be expensive but compared to the cost of a few sessions of physical therapy it’s a great investment.
I have been writing bits and pieces of this review over a couple of days while house sitting for family and only as I finish writing this up have I realised that I left my regular mouse at home and haven’t missed it a bit.
If you would like to try the Rollermouse Red, the latest in the line of the Rollermouse family, click here and request a free 14 day trial from Contour.