Introduction

A friend of mine has been doing for a while now a weekly reading on YouTube. Sometimes you can clearly see him holding a computer mouse in his hands, whose only purpose is to scroll the reading material.

Myself, I'm a big fan of webcomics, and find myself frequently reading material that is published online in long strip format, where each chapter or episode is a single continuous vertical strip. This format is geared towards “mobile” usage, designed to be viewed on a display in “portrait” orientation, but if you're willing to risk it on your laptop (and don't want to spend the money to get a convertible one that can be transformed in a tablet), you can simply flip the laptop on its size, reading it like a book. The worst downside I've found to this configuration is —possibly suprisingly— the input mechanism.

The solution to my long strip webcoming fruition issues and my friend's reading is the same: something that allow scrolling documents on the computer without the full encumbrance of a traditional mouse.

Enter the finger mouse

The finger mouse, or ring mouse, is an input device that is tied to a finger and typically operated with the other fingers (usually the thumb) of the same hand.

There are at least three forms of finger mice, that I've seen, that chiefly differ by how motion is handled: the trackball, the “nub”, the gyro and the optical.

Trackball finger mice follow the same mechanism as traditional desktop trackballs, and thus the reverse of the old-style mice with balls: you roll the ball with the thumb, and the motion of the ball is converted into planar motions (combinations of left/right and up/down).

Nub finger mice follow the same mechanism as the TrackPoint™ or pointing stick found on some laptop keyboards (most famously IBM/Lenovo): the nub is pushed around with the thumb, and again this converts to planar motions.

Gyroscopic mice use an internal gyroscope to convert hand motions into planar motions. This has the advantage of freeing up some estate on the rest of the device for more buttons.

Finally, optical finger mice work exactly like the usual modern mice, with a laser and optical sensor, the only difference being that instead of holding them with your hands, the pointing device is tied to a finger.

The search (and the finding)

While researching finger mice options (as a present for my friend and obviously for me), I've been held back by two things: pricing and size.

Size was a particularly surprising issue: most of the finger mice options I've seen appear to be unwieldy, some even resembling more dashboards that would require a full hand (other than the one holding it) to operate, than a practical single-handed input device.

Price was no joke either: with more modest pricing ranging between 25€ and 50€, and some options breaking the 100€ barrier or even approaching 200€, one would be led to ask: who is the intended target for these devices? Most definitely not amateurs like me or my friend, but I would be hard pressed to find a justification even at the professional level, except maybe for the lower-cost options if you spent your life doing presentations.

Ultimately, I did find a palatable solution in this (knock-off?) solution: it has everything I wanted (i.e. an easily acccessible scrollwheel) and the price (around 10€ plus shipping) was low enough to cover the worst case scenario. And this is its review.

Upsides

First, the good news. I'm extremely favorably impressed by the device. It works, it does what I wanted it for, and it's in fact an exceptionally practical device. I mean, I'm not going to say it's good enough for gaming, but I did use it exactly for that too, in the end.

I'm not a pro gamer, most of the games I play are not particularly challenging and I'm generally not a fan of stuff that requires quick reflexes, and perfect timing. But, I do play puzzle-platform games and sometimes you do need pretty good control and timing for them. And I was able to achieve both with this device —definitely much more so with it than with my laptop's touchpad.

To wit, a couple of years ago I had abandoned The swapper shortly after starting it, because I came across a puzzle that had an obvious solution that I was unable to complete on my trackpad. Shortly after getting the new finger mouse, and using it to my enjoyment as no more than a scrollwheel for my weekly dose of long-strip webcomics, I decided to give it a go: let's see if we can finish that stupid puzzle; what's the worst that can happen?

In this case, the worst that happened was that I did manage to solve the puzzle, and many other puzzles after it, all while lying in bed with the laptop on my stomach, a hand on the keyboard (WASD) and the other, with the finger mouse, lying relaxed on the bed sheets. Until 2:30am.

So yes, it's accurate enough at least for casual gaming (I've also replayed Portal, and finally started Lugaru, which was unplayable on the touchpad) and what's more it works on surfaces where a standard mouse would have issues working, such as bed sheets and covers or the shirt or T-shirt you're wearing. Or the palmrests of your laptop, if you don't want to look too weird (but in that case you're not the kind of person that flips the laptop on its side to use it in portrait mode, so you have one less reason to enjoy this gadget).

The device runs on battery, with a single AAA battery. It has a physical switch to turn the power on and off, and from what I understand it goes into low power mode while not being in use too. And of course you can use recharable batteries in it without issues (it's what I'm using).

And it works out of the box (at least on my machine, running Linux).

Downsides

The device isn't perfect.

It's wireless, which while practical may be an issue for security-conscious people (and possibly health fanatics too).

It does require a surface for use as a mouse (but of course not if you only care about the scrollwheel, which is my case for the most part), but it's not that big of an issue since, as mentioned, I've been able to use it even on surfaces where even standard optical mice are notoriously problematic (there are, however, surfaces on top of which the finger mouse has issues too).

It can take a bit to get used to it, and it feels wierd. The most comfortable way to use it is to tie it to the outside of the middle finger, resting the index finger on top of it, and leaving the thumb to control the buttons and scrollwheel. It's not particularly heavy, but not exceptionally light either (yet I suspect a large part of the weight actually comes from the battery, so if you can find an extra-light battery, that might fix the issue for you). I got used to it and it doesn't annoy me in the least, but I've read reviews of people that find it too weird, so this is most definitely subjective.

It ties to the finger with a strap; this allows freedom to regulate the tightness, but it may be difficult to find the optimal one: too tight, and the diminished circulation can make your finger go numb; not tight enough, and the wiggling will chafe your skin.

It's designed to be used with the right hand. This isn't a big problem for me, since I've always used mice with my right hand even though I'm left-handed, but it might be an issue for other people. It can be used with the left hand, and the most practical way I've found for is to tie it to the inside of the middle finger (so it's inside your hand, more similar to classic mice), but you'll need to flip the axis directions (both horizontal and vertical —and possibly the buttons too) unless you use it on your stomach.

Availability

The specific product I bought for myself is already not available anymore on the Amazon page, but several other similarly-priced variants are there. The product I have identifies with USB ID 062A:4010, registered to MosArt for a wireless Keyboard/Mouse combo (even though in this case there's only a mouse), and I've seen the same product ID used in several cheapo brands mouse and keyboard/mouse combos (Trust, RadioShack, etc). Products similar to mine, always from no-name brands and at similar (around 10€, sometimes less) prices, can also be found on both Amazon and other e-commerce sites. I don't know how closesly they match the products I've reviewed (aside from the branding), but given my package flew in almost directly from the factory in China, I'm going out on a limb and guess that for the most part they're all the same thing.

Ah, you want pictures too? There's a couple on my Twitter.