The latest in the search for a better pointing device, Contour Design’s RollerMouse Pro claims to be the “World’s greatest mousing device” but how does it stack up in day-to-day use? Is it worth the steep $200 price tag? Contour Design offered me the chance to test-drive a RollerMouse Pro for a few weeks and here’s what I thought:

RollerMouse ProThe Device: The RollerMouse Pro doesn’t fit cleanly into any pointer device category I know. It’s not a track ball, not a touch pad, not a mouse, not a tablet. It has aspects of all these devices, but is truly its own device.

The long cylindrical roller is used to control a pointer. The cylinder spins up and down while sliding back and forth. A traditional left and right mouse button are complemented by a scroll wheel (with the standard functionality) and a centered double-click button. The cylinder can also be pressed down to accomplish a left-click adding further to the convenience of the device.

The RollerMouse Pro has two special function buttons (which are absent in the standard RollerMouse.) By default they act as a click-lock (click and hold) and scroll-lock (click and use the main roller to scroll.) A web mode allows the buttons to be used as forward and back in web browsers and the final mode allows custom software to be used to assign the buttons to additional functions.

If all that isn’t enough, the RollerMouse Pro is integrated with a wrist rest which improves keyboarding posture. The comfortable, high quality lycra wrist rest is removable for cleaning.

In use the RollerMouse Pro is highly functional with a comfort unmatched by any pointing device I have used. I used the RollerMouse Pro daily at work for several weeks prior to this review. For the first few days I found I needed to adjust the mouse tracking speed slower than I typically used with a mouse, but after just a few days of using the RollerMouse Pro I was back up to my typical (“twitchy” as many would say) high mouse speed with all the accuracy I have with a traditional mouse.

One of the RollerMouse’s claims is that since the user does not have to reach to their side the hand position is more ergonomic when mousing. While I am not an ergonomics expert I will say that while using the RollerMouse Pro I did find that some tension and aches I had in my right shoulder and lower neck absolutely disappeared.

The video below shows how the RollerMouse Pro sits below the keyboard so it can be used with only a minimal departure from the keyboard. To show how little movement is needed I have added stripes to the roller with some orange tape. During this video I moved the pointer all around the screen, from launching a web browser from the start menu, to selecting a link to Gmail, to scrolling around the page, to closing the window.

You can see how little movement of the cylinder was required for these standard tasks. While hard to show in a video, if you reach the end of the the RollerMouse’s movement before reaching the corresponding edge of the screen you can feel a click on the cylinder and it will continue the pointer movement to the edge of the screen. This behavior was easier than expected to get used to.

I found that using several fingers from my right (dominant) hand gave me the best control, but this second video shows how I was also able to control the RollerMouse Pro with just my thumbs (I used my left thumb to give some resistance on the cylinder while I controlled it with my right thumb.) This method allows the RollerMouse Pro to be used without moving the hands from the keyboard. I found this ideal when working in text-centric applications like word processing and shell sessions.

I used the RollerMouse Pro on both Mac OSX and Windows with no need for drivers on either platform. In both cases the RollerMouse Pro was recognized by the operating system as a standard mouse and all standard features were immediately available.

While there are advantages to being able to program your own functions to specific buttons it is invaluable that the first two modes mentioned above work without any additional software. I personally didn’t make much use of the two additional buttons between the main array and the roller cylinder. In the long run I might try to program them for copy and paste, but to me they neither make or break the device.

Conclusions: After setting up the RollerMouse Pro (which was a breeze) and using it for a few weeks I have found it significantly better than traditional mouses. It offers the advantages of a laptop trackpad (easily accessible with little or no movement from the home position on the keyboard) while offering a fast learning curve and outstanding range and accuracy.

While a price of just shy of $200 keeps me from recommending this to the casual user, for those who spend their work days at their computers the RollerMouse Pro has a lot to offer. The unanticipated advantage of the RollerMouse Pro was the liberation of a few square feet of desk space previously occupied by my mouse and mouse pad.

An ergonomic design, high quality construction, convenient placement, an integrated wrist rest and unbeatable functionality make the RollerMouse Pro a great choice for anyone who spends hours a day at their computer. It did take several days to get used to, but if you’re not sure if it’s for you there’s always the option of their 30 day free trial.

RollerMouse Pro or Classic? There are a handful of differences between the classic and pro versions of the RollerMouse (see the image below, pro on top.) The pro is only $10 more than the classic and features a larger opening for controlling the main cylinder, larger buttons and two additional buttons. All these features make it well worth upgrading to the pro version.

RollerMouse Pro and Classic

review, technology, mouse, pointer, hci, human computer interface