Tech on the job – Mice

Tech on the job – Mice
3. March 2021

When talking about PR, people always think about strategy, concepts, redactional flow and other very brainiac qualities. But in the end, it’s a lot more physical than it is given credit for, at least for the hands: try writing a 50-page crisis management Q&A in limited time, or reviewing it by scrolling and clicking on every part you want to change and comment, and you end up with very tired hands. In our previous “Tech on the job” article, we presented keyboards to help the maniacs of writing, in today’s episode, we will focus on an even more controversial peripheral: the mouse.

All but one for all, all for one

Let’s be blunt: if your company wants you to work on a random mouse they buy in bulk for 2,5€ a piece and is not open to listen to your needs, you might be better off consider other options… Just like each employee brings a different skillset and set of talents to a firm, they all come with different needs and they are right to ask for the right tools to work in the best conditions for them, and this holds particularly true for their mouse.

The best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade

Heavy use of a random computer mouse combined with awkward working postures of the hands and wrist (which is a dead given when we are working remotely, from our bed, sofa or coffee table) can result in a repetitive strain injury to the wrist. This in turn causes swelling around the wrist which leads to increased pressure over the median nerve, resulting in the onset of so-called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Bottom line: we end up being one man down in the middle of an important project just because somebody up the food chain wanted to save 10 bucks on a mouse.

So, ok, your boss will buy you a new mouse, but you have no clue what you need. Well… We cannot really tell you what YOU need, but we can go with you through a couple of criteria to help you identify what your ideal mouse would be like. With this blogpost we want to guide you on your way to find the perfectly matching mouse for your hand by taking you through a few simple questions and showing you some recommendations for mice that might give you some inspiration or references when negotiating with whoever will pay the bill in the end.You (and they) need to come to a simple realization: the time of the good old two-button mouse is over. It will not cut it anymore: they are unresponsive, uncomfortable and don’t get us started on the plastic cord getting tied in thousands of knots every time you have to pack it in your bag…

Cabled or wireless?

Choosing between a wired or wireless mouse is an important decision, which highly depends on the way you intend to use the mouse.

On the one hand, wireless mice are not constrained by a cable and they are normally travel-friendly, which is generally more convenient and practical in modern business, when you can work from everywhere. However, depending on the manufacturer, they can be less responsive, the signal can be distorted by other devices and, well, you can also easily forget them in a coffee shop or an airport lounge. Worst case scenario? You have your infrared mouse, but you lost the little USB-dongle allowing you to connect it to your computer, which, of course, you cannot re-buy on its own.

On the other hand, wired mice have been around for a while and do not have much left to prove. They are usually a cheaper option for similar performances. The cable is however their main pain point. It can be too short for your office setup and force you into an uncomfortable position, it can be too long and get caught in everything on its way if you don’t do some cable management, it can get tangled every time you go mobile.

If you are mobile, a frequent flyer or a coworking space addict with a good memory, a wireless mouse could be worth the investment. If you are looking for a mouse for a working station or an office, wired mice should get your attention, provided you are not having a flex-desk policy, because, indeed, mice are bacteria nests and you wouldn’t want E.coli, Salmonella, Shigella or Staphylococcus getting passed from one person to another, right?

What about security?

The techie hiding somewhere in a corner of your head might remember reading, back in the day, an article about Bluetooth or other wireless technologies being used as entry points by hackers and therefore a threat for the security of your data. True, indeed, Bluetooth, Infrared and Co. can be used to get information on your system or as an entry point to access your data.

But.

A professional hacker interested in your data would probably find other ways to get access to it faster and more discreetly than by hacking your Bluetooth devices. Just to give you an idea, he would need to be physically present in your office and get a direct line of sight and contact with your hardware to start hacking. Even if he managed to find all the information necessary to connect to your devices, the data he would receive would take a lot of resources for him to decrypt, process and leverage. Any hacker would have a much easier time just sending over a ransomware  disguised as the portfolio or the information of a random influencer, that will most likely end up being opened by an unsuspecting trainee…

Credit: Pixabay / fancycrave1

Moreover, the technology has evolved and most of the devices are now meant to be paired to specific USB-dongles, so that any attempt to connect to or from another device will fail.

Anyways, it would be understandable that, say, your data protection officer has objections, but de facto, the risk is extremely limited. It exists, however, especially in environments you can’t control (cafés, airports, public transportation), so think about how you want to use the device and decide wisely! Plus, between you and me, if you want to find weaknesses in your security, look at your professional smartphone which is most likely 10,000 times easier for anybody to hack just because you really want to use Air Pods or bullet headphones that keep disconnecting and you let Bluetooth on all the time to make it easier to reconnect them. Who can relate?

Size does matter. Is it big enough?

Your hands are different from all your colleagues, be it by their size, their span or the mobility of their fingers. Even the way you hold your mouse might differ: are you a palm, a tip or a claw grip kind of user? With all that, how can one think that one size fits it all?

A mouse, especially for heavy users, needs to fit like a glove to avoid unnecessary fatigue and strain on the muscles and joints. Manufacturers cannot tailor to every single need, so you will have to make a compromise and go for the solution that gives you the less trouble to get used to the new grip.

There are many points to take into consideration in terms of ergonomics, but the most important are undoubtedly:

  • The size and weight of the device: don’t give a micro mouse to gigantic hands, don’t give a mastodont of a mouse to fragile wrists
  • The grip strength: you need to be able to move the mouse easily, without strain on your fingers and wrist when holding it with a light grip
  • The lack of contact stress: your wrist must not be in contact with any surface when manipulating the mouse, it should not slide on the mousing surface alongside the mouse but be slightly elevated.
  • The so-called “elbow mousing”: contrary to what is being done by almost everyone in the world, you are not supposed to move your mouse by moving your wrist but by moving your elbow to reduce the stress on the fragile wrist.

To meet those different needs, mice nowadays come in all forms and shapes. Which one fits you best?

Are you looking for efficiency before anything else? Are you a crazy multitasker? Go for Logitech MX Master 3

The MX Master series have been a household name for quite some time now, and the latest one, the MX Master 3, is without a doubt one of the best mice for office work, be it for long session or precise work such as graphic design. It is comfortable to use for most people and charges in just a few minutes thanks to its USB-C port, avoiding one of the major downfalls of wireless devices which can be either taking forever to charge or run out of battery extremely fast.

Credit: Logitech

This wireless mouse, unfortunately only designed for right-hand users, has some great features particularly interesting for the office life, including the possibility to connect to several devices (say a PC, a laptop and a tablet) and switch from one to the other in an instant, or a thumb wheel to scroll horizontally.

Another very interesting feature is the thumb rest transformed into a button: press the button, move your mouse and you can execute specific commands, such as switch desktops, open specific apps… This can be controlled through the dedicated Logitech software, which could be a problem for your IT manager (he was already pissed after you managed to get the budget for a fancy mouse, he will definitely not be happy with having to install third-party software on his computers).

With a retail price of 109€ this one ain’t the easiest to afford, but it actually is a beast designed for productivity that is extremely hard to let go after you tasted it.

Are you a geek-at-heart that likes pretty things? Are you looking for a powerful wolf in sheep clothing? Go for Razer Pro Click

Just a few months ago, the idea of listing a Razer peripheral in a list of recommendations for office peripherals would have been totally crazy, given the heavy gaming focus of their products. However, the latest releases of the three-snake brand made it possible.

The Pro Click is the result of a collaboration between Razer, one of the most prominent gaming hardware manufacturers and Humanscale, a company specialized in the production of ergonomic peripherals for the workplace.

It is a hero in terms of performance as it is equipped with the optical captors installed in all the latest gaming mice of Razer, with 16,000 dots per inch (an overkill for any kind of office-related task – imagine, it can send up to 16,000 signals when moving it just 2,5 centimeters) and with an accuracy of over 99,4%. In addition, its optical switches for the right and left clicks are graded to resist over 50 million clicks and the battery will last you over 400 hours over one charge. Seems perfect, doesn’t it?

Credit: Razer

When speaking about the battery of this mouse, there might be a little struggle: it’s using a micro-USB cable to charge, instead of the much faster and more popular USB-C. The core of the problem is that the design of the mouse makes it nearly impossible to use just any micro-USB cable you might have, you have instead to use the one provided with the mouse, and we all know what happens to charging cables…

So, let’s face it: The Pro Click is no doubt on the pricey side with a retail price of 109,99€, and is once again only planned for right-handed users. But the influence of Humanscale on the design makes it a real contender to be one of the most ergonomic mice from a major manufacturer on the market at the moment.

Are you touchpad addicted? Do you need a mouse only from time to time? Do you lose your mouse all the time? Go for Logitech Pebble or Microsoft Bluetooth Mobile Mouse 3600

Both these mice are ambidextrous and on the cheap side of our price scale, tagged respectively at 24,99€ and 34,99€. They are clearly meant for a mobile use, on the go, and for rather tiny hands. The low price point makes them quite disposable and easily replaceable.

The Pebble connects to a Logitech USB-dongle, works with all operation systems and is basically plug and play. To be honest, for such a low price, of course, you are not getting anything really fancy (two buttons and a scrolling wheel, give or take) and a design that doesn’t make it really ergonomic for longer sessions (you might want to look at the more pricey Logitech MX Anywhere 2 for this). Anyways, a point that might be important for some of your most fashion-addicted colleagues: the Pebble offers five different colors.

Credit: Logitech

In comparison, the Microsoft mouse is for tiny hands that are not comfortable with bigger mice, offers decent features, three different colors and an OK level of performance for office work. It is small enough to be carried in any bag, and all-around a great solution for anyone looking for an inexpensive pointing device they know they can rely on (the battery is marketed as holding charge for up to 6 months). Its dimensions make it easy to lose, but at least, it will be there for you when you need it, most of the time!

Credit: Microsoft

Are you one of these weirdos that use their left hand for most things? Go for SteelSeries Sensei Ten

With around 10% in the world being left-handed, most manufacturers have made the very capitalist choice to build their mice for the other 90% of the population. This makes looking for a left-handed mouse quite the adventure, but more and more mouse manufacturers are offering ambidextrous designs, which are, if not optimal for either hands, at least comfortable to use for both left- and right-handed people.

SteelSeries is one of those manufacturers. The Danish firm is heavily focused on producing gaming peripherals but has been releasing lower entry points products that could definitely fit in our list. The Sensei Ten offers a left-handed-friendly design combined with a state-of-the-art  sensor that makes the mouse extremely easy and accurate to use. Once again, the full potential of the mouse is revealed by the proprietary software, but some of the built-in features are enjoyable from the moment you plug it in, for instance the Tilt Tracking that allows it to keep tracking your movements even when lifting the mouse over your desk (especially practical for users that move their mouse as if they were conducting a symphonic orchestra, lifting it and slamming it on their desk to make it move faster).

Credit: Steelseries

At a retail price of 79,99€, the Sensei Ten is slightly more accessible and could be one of those devices firms could look at as a mouse for their new employees to use at first, the time to see if they feel comfortable with it or if they need something else. Its only real downside is the cable, which is not braided and therefore susceptible to be crushed, torn, cut or broken in the daily office life. Shit happens…

Are you Hipster much? Are you old enough to remember the boot sound of Windows 95? Go for Microsoft Classic IntelliMouse

At the first glance, this is not the most appealing mouse of the ones we presented, be it specs-wise or in terms of design, but it will no doubt bring back fond memories to the boomers among us. The Classic IntelliMouse is the latest version of a mouse that was basically used in all offices around the world, a mouse that was not flashy at all but a mouse that was doing its job, no questions asked.

This version modernizes the classic designs and also packs a couple of tech upgrades, especially in the sensor. It is a wired mouse and is quite on the chubby side of the scale, but it’s comfortable and you can definitely rely on it in the hardest circumstances.

For 42,99€, you get a mouse that is virtually indestructible and with a proven track record of excellence.

Credit: Microsoft

Do you want the best for your wrists or elbows? Go for Logitech MX Vertical

The vertical design of this Logitech mouse is interesting as it forces the hand of the user in a unique “handshake” grip. This position is hands down the most natural for your hand on a mouse, as it matches its natural position when you are walking or sitting at a table. It is definitely the best in terms of ergonomics, even though it might not be the easiest to get the hang of.

This mouse also comes with a number of all the excellent features we listed in other Logitech mice. One of our favorites is the smart charging. A fully charged battery is meant to last you four months, but in case you are taken aback by your battery dying out in the middle of a meeting, or worst, a pitch, plugging the mouse in for just a minute will give you an instant three-hour charge. You can also connect the mouse to up to three devices (PC, laptops, tablets) and switch between them at the click of a button.

Credit: Logitech

It feels a bit bulky to the smaller hands, but it is no doubt an experience you might at least want to try when you pick up a new mouse for your long office sessions. At 85,99€, it is an investment that you will definitely consider if you want to save time and money on treating an inflamed carpal tunnel.

Are you an alien? Are you looking for a thrill? Do you want to learn something new? Go for Logitech MX Ergo Wireless

We can already see eyes rolling in the back. What the hell is that thing? Well… Using a trackball is definitely not for everyone, but if some eSport players manage to be among the best on their games using such peripherals, it is proof enough that it can be as efficient as traditional mice with enough practice. We even have some ZUCKER. heads using them in their home office.

But what is a trackball exactly? Well, it is one of the most ergonomic features you can put in a mouse. How is it ergonomic? The trackball replaces every movement of your elbow and/our wrist for moving your mouse cursor by a flick of your thumb on the ball that controls the cursor. Easy as pie. Ok, not that easy, but extremely fun to master!

It is hard to really compare traditional mice to trackballs in terms of tech specs, it would be like comparing apples and oranges. They are clearly for different people, who also use their computer differently. But the ball of that mouse is responsive, the grip is stable in most hands (it does not offer a left-handed version, though) and offers the most popular connectivity options (USB, Infrared, Bluetooth) you can expect from a mouse in 2020. You will also note the tilt plate under the mouse: you can change the angle of the mouse by up to 20° to adapt your grip to the most comfortable position for your wrist.

Credit: Logitech

The only real downside we found to that mouse is that it asks a lot of the user to feel at ease using it. The trackball is one thing, but you must learn a totally different finger position to make use of most of the buttons on the mouse. Perfect illustration is the two buttons usually associated with Previous and Next that you traditionally click with your thumbs on the side of the mouse, (if you have more than three buttons on your mouse)  but are now under your pointing finger, or the wheel that offers two buttons when you slide it left or right. It is quite the gymnastic to go through for the health of your joints.

At 109,00€, it is in the pricey portion of our selection, but it is definitely an experience you will not regret if you like a challenge for your mind.

Now it is up to you

So, here you have it, a very short selection of very different mice for you to consider and ask yourself the right questions. We do not aim at pointing you in one or the other direction, we just wanted to present you a series of options you might not have heard of, each with its very advantages for your office life. You can use our article as a source for some tech lingo to convince your boss: there’s a good chance your IT manager will not argue with your boss when they sign off on your choice. There are also cheaper alternatives to our selection, which might make it easier for whoever needs to pay for your new peripheral. But do not, under any circumstances, underestimate the importance of having the right mouse for your hand: this can have very severe and long-lasting consequences. Once you start feeling a pain, it is already too late, so do not wait too long before starting searching your quest for your own Holy Grail of mice.

A post by Pierre Poinsenet