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How to choose a computer mouse

01 September 2015 ( 10 February 2020 )

Your mouse is arguably your most important piece of computer equipment. Why? Because you use it more than any other piece of hardware to communicate with your computer

Computer mouse
What to look for when buying a computer mouse

As important as a computer mouse is, we often give it little thought and make do with whatever came with our computer.

And if we ever need a replacement, we usually look for the cheapest mouse available without really thinking any more about it.

However, it’s worth taking a closer look at the different options to find the computer mouse that works best for you.

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What mouse type do you use?

There are several different types of computer mouse in use today:

• A roller ball mouse is the most basic. The roller ball on the base of the mouse is the tracking device; if this is your preferred mouse, you might struggle to find a new one as they've been largely phased out for the laser mouse, which doesn't get stuffed up with fluffed up resulting in a jumpy pointer. 

• A laser mouse tracks your movements with a laser light on the base of the mouse.

• A wireless mouse doesn’t require a cord.

• A touchpad mouse is built into the keyboard of your laptop.

Each different type of mouse can have one button, two buttons or a combination of up to five buttons and a top wheel for scrolling and/or other tasks. Most today have at least left and right buttons and a wheel (with the exception of touchpads on Macs).

If a conventional mouse doesn’t appeal to you, you can buy a special gaming mouse, a mouse with a tracking ball on the side or on top, a stationary mouse, tilt wheel mouse and more. There’s a dizzying array of options available.

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Choosing a mouse

Bells and whistles aside, the most important consideration when buying a mouse is ergonomics. Ergonomics, the study of workplace efficiency, is playing an increasingly important role in the design of all types of office products because of the increase of disorders collectively called repetitive stress injury or RSI.

If you only use a mouse or touchpad occasionally, ergonomics shouldn’t not a major issue, but if you use it every day for hours at a time, the wrong mouse can lead to RSI. A standard mouse makes you hold your wrist in an unnatural position called “static extension”, while resting your palm on a hard surface. Over time, this static extension combined with the micro-movements you make with your fingers and wrist can lead to chronic pain and inflammation in your hand and wrist.

An ergonomic mouse is designed to minimise all those unnatural movements and the tendency to hold your wrist in a static, but unnatural position. Two of the best styles are:

• A mouse with a large body and a thumb-controlled ball on the side; and

• A vertical mouse, which your hand holds in a more natural and relaxed handshake position.

Of the two, the vertical mouse may be the better choice because the constant use of your thumb on a ball can cause or aggravate pain in the thumb.

Ergonomic experts recommend only very occasional use of touchpads of any kind because they force you to hold your arm in the air. Over time, using a touchpad can be fatiguing and the unnaturally short movements in your shoulder and elbow can lead to RSI.

Choosing a mouse becomes much easier if you consider ergonomics instead of fancy features – it’s about your health, after all.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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