Ever since 1984 we have used input devices (like) mice to directly interact with our computers. Weive been through one button, two buttons, three buttons and beyond. Weive endured a dizzying array of sizes and button placements as the years passed. And still, to this day, many of us remain on the search for the perfect input device. While not perfect, the Contour Design Perfit Mouse Optical may be one of the closest to that idealist goal weive seen yet.
We last reviewed the Perfit Mouse over four years ago, back in the final days of the infamous "hockey puck" mouse. In the time since then, a lot has changed with the Perfit Mouse and a lot has remained the same. Rather than reinventing what was already an award-winning product, Contour Design took the same form factor and improved upon it. The resulting product is an intriguing and unique blend of design and ergonomics not often seen in the input device market.
Opening The Box
The first thing one notices when removing the Perfit Mouse from the packaging is how broad the device is. It is significantly wider than just about any mouse on the market today. While most mice are smaller than your hand, this one stretches from the tip of the finders to the edge of the wrist. You donit so much grab the device as you place your hand on it. No clutching required. It is a very relaxed position, with little or no strain placed on your muscles. At this point it begins to become quite apparent that Contour Design didnit settle for making just a mouse, they wanted to make a truly ergonomic one.
Everything about the Perfit has been designed to minimize movements of the hand. In the world of ergonomics, this is usually called pinch force. Across the top of the mouse are three buttons. These are your typical left and right mouse buttons, with a middle button that, unlike most mice, is not a scroll wheel. Each of the three buttons are sculpted into the body and elevated in a way that reduces the load on the fingertips and helps keep them positioned properly on the buttons. Itis almost as if the mouse molds to the hand. In the same light, a thumb support on the side of the mouse is designed to reduce the grip force necessary to handle the device.
While all of the features discussed so far have been in the Perfit Mouse since its creation back in 1995, Contour Design has now taken the feature-set of the original further while maintaining the comfort that must be inherent in ergonomic devices. They have added what has become standard on many mice today: a scroll wheel and two side buttons. "Our primary goal is to provide a high performance mouse that allows users to be comfortable and not become fatigued." said Keith Dupont, Perfit Product Business Unit Manager. "The addition of a scroll wheel and more buttons is certainly not ground breaking for a mouse, but our implementation of these features on our award winning design is." Letis examine what makes these enhancements special.
Most mice put the scroll wheel on the top between a left and right button, but Contour Design has taken it and moved it to the thumb-side of the mouse right above the thumb support. When resting there (as recommended), the thumb is almost already on the scroll wheel. As such, it takes only a fraction of the movement required by top-placed wheels. In addition, it is also a more natural motion. Positioned at the bottom of the thumb support is a new "side rocker", which serves as two additional buttons (typically back and forward in web browsers, etc.). Like the wheel above it, the thumb is pretty much on the rocker already when resting properly. An extremely light push of the thumb forward fires the "forward" action and a slight motion backwards will fire the "back" action. Again, the movement required to accomplish this is very minimal and amazingly comfortable. To this day I have yet to see an implementation quite like it in another mouse.
Connecting To Your Mac
As with most mice, the Perfit Mouse Optical connects to the computer via a USB cable. Unlike a lot of other higher-end devices on the market, though, it is not available in a wireless version. Without getting into a wired vs. wireless debate, this is likely to deter some users. Regardless, the performance of the 800dpi optical sensor is flawless and the cable is long enough to reach wherever it may need to go.
Out of the box, the Perfitis left and right buttons, as well as the scroll wheel, work with Mac OS X without any additional drivers (default behaviors only). Installing the provided Contour Mouse drivers and control panel will unlock the functionality of the remaining buttons, as well as let you program all of the buttons on both a system-wide and application-specific basis.
Finding The Right Perfit
If you like to do your mousing left-handed, youive probably noticed itis a bit difficult to find a lot of left-handed mice. If you have big hands, youive also probably found it difficult to come across a device that isnit too small for you. Contour Design has thought about each and every one of us with the Perfit. Because the mice are made to fit perfectly in the hand, theyive decided to release the device in seven (yes, seven) variations. Thatis three sizes (small, medium, and large) for the left-handers and four sizes (with the addition of extra large) for the right-handers.
To determine which size Perfit a user needs, Contour has developed a simple test. Using a ruler, measure the palm side of the hand from the tip of the middle finger to the first wrist crease with your hand held flat. They then provide a conversion table on their site that tells you which size you need. Receiving a mouse that is sized to fit you makes the experience that more personable and enjoyable.
As can be seen from the photos, the Perfit Mouse is made of a white plastic with silver accents and colored thumb controls. It is a simple design from a visual standpoint, and definitely not the most attractive mouse on the market. The odd shape is the major factor behind this. Other companies usually have mice that look more aerodynamic, but donit mold to the hand quite as well.
A lot of marketing materials throw around the word "ergonomic" these days, often without any supporting material, research or awards. This is where Contour Design is different. The Perfit has received the International Ergonomics Association award for The Best Ergonomic Product. In addition, the device has undergone many studies that have shown its benefits over traditional mice.
Studies are one thing, but real-world experience is often the deciding factor. I work upwards of 12 hours on my computer per day doing tasks as mundane as browsing the web to more intense tasks such as graphic design or illustration. As such, an input device is a very important part of my daily life. Prior to receiving the Perfit for review, my mousing hand had been experiencing slight pains in the wrist and other areas. As the weeks went by, the pain became unbearable at times. I would spend hours away from the computer just to try and relieve enough pain so I could go back and get my work done.
After several weeks of suffering from these repetitive stress symptoms, I decide to try the Perfit. Though it took some adjustment to the different form, there was something quite refreshing about it. The movements my hand made using the device felt more natural, and the "grabbing sensation" I had with other mice was gone. Over the next month the pains in my hand gradually dissipated to the point where they werenit noticeable.
It should be noted, though, that the Perfit is not an end-all solution to repetitive stress-related pains. It has done the most to alleviate my troubles, but it alone will not completely rid you of pain. Switching to another device for periods of time, mousing with your other hand, or simply not using your computer for awhile will help as well.
The Perfit Mouse wonit make sense to some people. Itis as simple as that. If you look at the photos and are asking yourself why youid want a mouse that isnit wireless, is too big and doesnit match your Powerbook, then this device is not for you. On the other hand, if you care more about how the mouse feels and works, or if you have ever experienced pains due to repetitive stress, then this device is definitely for you.
Contour Design understands how we use our computers. They understand repetitive stress and ergonomics. They care about what we do with our mice. Everything else is secondary to that. Itis refreshing to come across a mouse that is incredibly comfortable and such a joy to use. We may not have the perfect input device, but with the Perfit Mouse Optical we definitely have one of the best yet.