ProsGreat option for users with repetitive stress issues; fair price; reliable wireless system
ConsCan feel awkward; auto-tracking limits accuracy; buttons are hard to press due to angle of hand
We had two testers use the MW 4500 over the course of a few days to generate a broad impression of it. There's no doubt that when you first lay a hand on the MW 4500, it feels different. Some might call it strange. That alone is not a problem, however, as it starts to feel a lot more natural over a few hours of use.
The serious issue we have with the MW 4500 is that it's very imprecise. The cause is not a botched optical sensor, but rather what appears to be some "auto-navigation" that we think stems from the fact that it's impossible for Cherry to anticipate exactly how users will hold the MW 4500. The end result is that you can never know exactly where the cursor is going to go. You can hold the MW 4500 perfectly parallel with the side of your desk, move it up and down, and the cursor will move up and down. Then turn it at a 30-degree angle, move it up and down, and the curson will move... up and down, even though the mouse is now going side to side. It's like the equivalent of over-boosted power steering, in that you never quite know which way will point you straight ahead.
Is this a critical flaw? Well, it would be terrible for gaming, but that's not the target market for the MW 4500. Our concern is that during our Photoshop work, it made getting anything done, including drawing straight lines, pretty close to impossible. For typical office apps like Word and Excel, it shouldn't pose much of a problem, because you're typically just making a quick mouse gesture and returning to the keyboard, but for anything where you're likely to have the mouse in your hand for more than a few seconds, the MW 4500 will not work. Look again at the photo above and notice how we're holding the mouse at an angle. If we then repositioned our hand to hold the mouse up and down, its "auto-navigation" would cause the mouse to track in unexpected ways. Basically, Cherry has designed it so that if the mouse is moved up, regardless of orientation, the cursor goes up. This is not as intuitive as it sounds, trust us.
Another issue we had with the MW 4500 is that the 45-degree angle of the body made it harder to depress all the buttons on the mouse. First, there are the thumb buttons, which are a bit too far away from the thumb rest (and oddly not angled), but less obviously, the two main buttons just don't feel natural to depress. It's not because there's anything wrong with the mechanism itself, but rather that it's much easier to apply force downward with your finger than at an angle as required on the MW 4500.
None of this is to say that the benefits of the ergonomic position aren't significant. It just may take a few more iterations to get perfect. Or perhaps ergonomic mice will go the way of ergonomic keyboards and become very niche. It's hard to argue that typing on an ergonomic keyboard is faster or more accurate than on a flat keyboard. It's not. The same issue is most likely inherent to an ergonomic mouse. It's better for you, not better for your computing.
One thing we didn't have any issue with was the MW 4500's wireless connectivity. Nothing about that changes in an ergonomic mouse, and Cherry has clearly perfected it over years of designing standard wireless mice. Moving from a wired mouse to a wireless model (particularly one with good battery life, such as the MW 4500), is worth the price of upgrading on its own.
Ultimately, we're a bit torn about the MW 4500. It most definitely makes sense from an ergonomic perspective, in that our hands and wrists are not meant to be held parallel to the ground. We don't walk like that, we don't write like that, and we probably shouldn't point-and-click like that. But the shift to an ergonomic position doesn't come without its drawbacks. While our wrists were more comfortable, actuating buttons was harder when holding our hand at an angle, and due to a design decision by Cherry, tracking was somewhat unpredictable, as the drivers attempted to compensate for the fact that when our hand is at a natural position, we don't always return it to the same angle from our body.
The good news is that the MW 4500 is being launched at a very affordable price (around $25), so for anyone who suffers from wrist or forearm pain, it's definitely worth a try. The build quality is good, the features are above average for its price class, and it comes from one of the most respected names in the business.
The Cherry MW-4500 Wireless Ergonomic Mouse is available for $26 through Amazon, as our publication date.