A pointless review of my (current) favorite mouse, the Contour optical mouse

August 16, 2023

The short background is that I'm strongly attached to real three button mice (mice where the middle mouse button is not just a scroll wheel), for good reason, but what I really wanted was a three button mouse that also had a scroll wheel. For a long time people pointed me to the Contour mouse as the single mouse they knew of that featured this (see comments here and here), but I kept balking at the price. Then in late 2015, I finally talked myself into spending the money to get a Contour (it's a bit like talking myself into a decent desk chair), and once I started using it I came to love it. I always told myself I would write a review someday, but I never got around to it. Then I discovered that this mouse has been discontinued, which is why I call this a pointless review.

(Before I got the Contour I tried out a hack with two mice.)

The Contour (Optical) mouse is an ergonomic mouse that has three old fashioned mouse buttons on the top (like the HP 3 button mouse I once reviewed), plus a scroll wheel and a rocker button on the side where your thumb rests (well, the scroll wheel is above and the rocker button below; my thumb naturally rests comfortably between them). Because the scroll wheel has to be on the thumb side, the mouse comes in right and left handed versions, and also in three different sizes. The 'ergonomic' bit is mostly that the back of the mouse is comfortably shaped for my palm and the front mouse button area slopes down to one side (to the right on a right handed mouse).

When I started using the Contour, I thought the rocker button was a bit silly, especially since all it did for me by default was go back and forward in web browsers. Since then I've become quietly addicted to it to the point where I get irritated when it doesn't work in some browser (or some browser context) or browser-like environment. I almost never use the keyboard or click the buttons; I move my thumb down slightly and flick the rocker in the appropriate direction. It's so automatic now that I don't think about it.

(In X, the rocker button generates button 8 and button 9 events, which is apparently the standard for this.)

In general, the Contour is (and has been) everything I could ask from a mouse. It's been comfortable, responsive when I move it around, and the mouse buttons and the scrollwheel all work fine. It feels quite natural to work the scrollwheel with my thumb, especially scrolling down. People who need to move the scroll wheel long ranges might feel slightly differently, but I don't consciously noticing re-positioning my thumb to start scrolling again.

Except that we now get to a slight fly in the ointment that was one factor delaying this review, because there have been at least three versions of the Contour mouse. The first version of the Contour that I received had a conventional (black) scroll wheel with conventional and readily apparent click stops in the scrolling action. However, another one I received later had changed the scroll wheel action to be basically free of stops, which was apparently a deliberate change in the name of ergonomics (you're pushing less hard to move the scroll wheel) but had the side effect of making the scroll wheel much more hair trigger. On this Contour, brushing my thumb against the scroll wheel with a little too much friction could trigger an inadvertent scroll action, which was a little too easy to do when just moving the mouse around.

The third version of the Contour is the one that I received when I hastily bought some spares after I found out it had been discontinued. This version has a chunkier knurled scroll wheel (that's not all black), and in a quick test its scroll wheel action is back to the standard click stop style of regular mouse scroll wheels. I haven't used these so I can't comment about how the new scroll wheel feels in real use.

Overall I'm sad to see the Contour mouse be discontinued. Not only was it a good mouse (even in the hair trigger scroll wheel variation), but as far as I know this leaves us with no free standing relatively conventional mouse with three top buttons and a side scroll wheel.

PS: Contour still makes a variety of mice and other ergonomic things, but not this specific 'three buttons with side scroll wheel and rocker button' mouse. Past versions of this mouse were known as the 'Contour Perfit' or 'Perfit Optical'. My two currently active Contour mice report in Linux lsusb as 'Perfit Optical' (the older, clickier scroll wheel) and 'Contour Mouse' (the newer smooth scroll wheel). I believe the newest one also reports as 'Contour Mouse'. These different generations of mice may also use different USB versions, although it's hard for me to tell right now.

(I believe some versions of this mouse may have been wireless. I have the wired USB version, partly because I'm not a believer in wireless mice. Or wireless keyboards.)

Written on 16 August 2023.
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Last modified: Wed Aug 16 23:26:09 2023
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