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Rolling Faster, Farther with the RollerMouse Pro

Some years ago, I reviewed the RollerMouse Station (now called the RollerMouse Classic), from Contour Designs (see “Get It Rolling with the RollerMouse,” 2002-08-05). Since then, Contour Designs has released the $200 RollerMouse Pro, essentially replacing the RollerMouse Classic, although the older device remains available in the Contour store for $190. The basics of the RollerMouse remain the same; it’s a USB pointing device built into a wrist rest, attached to a tray that holds the keyboard; the keyboard is not included. The pointing device comprises a roller bar, five buttons, and a scroll wheel, all located between a pair of gel-filled wrist rest pads. You achieve vertical cursor motion by rolling the bar; horizontal cursor motion comes when you slide the bar left and right. Combine the rolling and the sliding, and you can move the cursor as fluidly as with a mouse or trackball.

The RollerMouse Pro isn’t wildly different, since it merely lengthens the roller bar and increases the button count to five. On the face of things, those changes wouldn’t seem all that important, but in reality, they’re huge, particularly the lengthened roller bar. Whereas I found myself bumping up against the sides with the RollerMouse Classic’s shorter roller bar, it’s uncommon to run into that problem with the RollerMouse Pro. And although I don’t use the extra buttons all that often, they come in handy on occasion.

In revisiting my previous review, I realized that as much as I felt the RollerMouse Classic was a good pointing device, it was clear that I hadn’t completely adjusted to it, thanks to the fuss of needing to get USB Overdrive X to control its acceleration and buttons. I had also tried to train myself to use my thumb to control the roller bar, with the hope that I would be able to keep my hands on the keyboard more, but that attempt failed, and I ended up using the roller bar with my right index finger, and clicking the primary button with my right thumb.

But with the added time using the RollerMouse Pro and the acceptance that I prefer using my index finger for the roller bar, I’ve become extremely comfortable with the RollerMouse Pro. It just feels right, which is the true test of a pointing device, and I have no desire to use my now-idle Kensington Turbo Mouse Pro trackball, which I could reach only by cocking my right arm off to the side. In contrast, the RollerMouse Pro’s roller bar is always right below the space bar, requiring less motion and a more relaxed position when doing a lot of moving of the pointer.

Some of my criticisms of the RollerMouse Classic apply to the RollerMouse Pro as well. USB Overdrive X is still required, adding $20 to the price. The tension in the scroll wheel’s button (you can click it too) is still too high, though I adore the scroll wheel and use it constantly for scrolling. And even with my increased skill and comfort, I still occasionally run into situations where I pull out a mouse because the roller bar doesn’t provide the control necessary for very fine graphic editing or fast gaming (the same is true of trackballs and trackpads).

Despite these limitations – and perhaps because I’ve proved to myself that they aren’t show-stoppers – I can now wholeheartedly recommend the RollerMouse Pro. There’s no question that it’s a bit pricey to try if you like the traditional mouse, but if you’re suffering from hand or wrist pain from using a mouse, I think it’s worth spending the money to see if the RollerMouse Pro can help you.

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