This notebook mouse keeps your hand from aching after long usage. The only caveat with it is that you need to know how to hold it properly as it is "palm" grip.
Not all that long ago I had the pleasure of using the Whirl - the first ever mouse to feature a revolutionary pivoting system. Today I'll look at the new version made for road warriors. This itty-bitty mouse shares a lot of the same basic feature of its bigger brother, a laser wireless mouse with a unique ergonomic design. In contrast to the original Whirl, the miniature model is designed for people who need wrist relief without sacrificing portability. Is the SmartFish Whirl Mini able to replicate the success of its larger silbing? Read on to find out.
Being familiar with the desktop-version of the Whirl (formerly known as Ergomotion), the Whirl Mini's odd shape and design did not come as any shock. The ergonomic mouse is identical in basic design to the original version, only smaller and lighter. Its size, however, is both a strength and weakness. The proven ErgoMotion helps reduce RSI (repetitive stress injury) by allowing you to keep your wrist in a neutral position no matter how you move the mouse around.
For those unfamiliar with the Whirl, it is a two piece design. The bottom half consists of a pedestal stand with a center column sprouting up out of the center. This central column acts a pivot point for the upper section that resembles a normal two-button mouse. As you move you hand, the notebook mouse's upper body tilts forward and backwards and side to side keeping your arm in the same location. This alleviates stress on the Carpal Tunnel nerves.
This ErgoMotion design is both easy to understand and easy to use. Sadly, while it works extremely well on the full-sized model, using the Whirl Mini does take time to acclimate yourself to. This is always the downside to making a miniaturized version. What works perfect in the full size may not work so great on the small scale. Unlike its bigger sibling, this one has to be held in what is called a palm grip to the get the most from it. Due to its narrow and shallow depth, if you try to hold the mouse in a finger or claw grip, your hand is going to get fatigued quickly. Otherwise, the mouse could easily be used by palm and finger grip users alike. The size does force everyone not used to a palm grip to start mousing differently. Getting used to a new grip may take time and add its own discomfort to the process.
Whirl Mini meets Whirl.
On the positive side, it appears that SmartFish did learn from their first attempt and has added rubberized grips to both sides of the Mini notebook mouse. Thanks to this inclusion, holding the Whirl is a lot easier than if SmartFish had opted for the smooth plastic body of the original. Another improvement is the 4-way scroll wheel, which can now scroll vertically or horizontally. This certainly will come in handy for all you road warriors out there who spend a lot of time working on Excel spreadsheets on your laptop. It is also worth noting that this mouse has an ambidextrous design which suits both right handed and left handed users. This is contrast to some mice makers opting for a more focused design catering only to right handed users.
The smaller battery compartment can be a little rigid and is somewhat difficult to open and close although you shouldn't have to worry about that very often. Just remember to turn off the mouse when not in use (via the slide switch on the bottom) to help maximize the battery life. SmartFish states the battery can last up to ten months before the 2 AA batteries will need to be replaced. The company also took the time to reengineer the battery compartment to include a small storage area for the receiver. Amongst the welcome additions there were some notable omissions. The biggest is the lack of forward and backward buttons. For those who have gotten used to having them, they are sorely missed.
Real World Usage
Like other true plug and play mice, the Whirl Mini requires no special software and in fact, comes with none. You simply plug in the nano USB receiver, turn on the mouse and wait for it to be recognized. It did take a good 10 hours (about a day) to really get comfortable with the Mini mouse due to its smaller stature. Comfort does still suffer in comparison to the full-sized version. In fact, the desktop Whirl took very little time to gain proficiency. Once you used to palming it, instead of trying to finger grip it, it is a fairly comfortable mouse. After a few days of use, your proficiency levels should be back to normal levels.
As for the input controls, the scroll wheel works very smoothly and had a very nice feel (and click) to it. The same can be said of the two buttons which have enough resistance so you know when you are clicking it but will not tire your fingers even after hours of use. I found the smaller buttons more responsive as well.
Besides the size of the mouse, my only other gripe with this mouse is about the lack of extra buttons. SmartFish obviously took the time to upgrade the features of this new mouse over those of the original and they probably should have included the extra buttons. Most top notch mice have more than just two buttons, even on their mini version. If their manufacturers can figure out how to get additional buttons onto a mouse, so should SmartFish.
ErgoMotion technology works
Up to 10 month battery life
Mainly a palm grip mouse, not very comfortable when held in a finger grip due to its small size
No forward/ backward buttons
While compact it is still almost as tall as the original Whirl
Same price as full sized Whirl
Manufacturers often have to make compromises when it comes to designing peripherals for notebook market. Even with these "lowered expectations" in mind, the SmartFish Whirl Mini still is a less than optimal mouse that will only appeal to people with either small hands or people who use their palm to grip their mouse. Frankly, it may have sacrificed too much function for size.
The original Whirl really is an innovative idea. Unfortunately, in the miniaturization process, SmartFish took out a lot of what made the mouse great while keeping all the quirks and foibles of the original. The end result is a two-button only mouse that is too small to be comfortable and that is too tall to easily store in a laptop bag. At this point, I have to recommend either getting the original or looking to other manufacturers if you want an advanced mini mouse with a full complement of features to match the price.