In 2013, it was my pleasure to review the Rockstick Mouse, a click-free ergonomic mouse that resembles a joystick, but has trouble hitting much of anything with precision. Evidently, Rockstick mouse developer Jianbo Deng wasn’t too unhappy with my write-up of his product, as he volunteered to send me a review sample of its second iteration. While similar in principle to its ancestor, the Rockstick2 so completely changes the family appearance that it really should have another name. In my opinion, though, those changes are very much for the good.
On the ledge between comfort and precision
In my previous review, I noted the lack of precision attainable with the Rockstick mouse. While the Rockstick2 doesn’t fully remedy the situation in this department – it still can’t compete, for example, with the DXT – it does bring an improvement over the first-generation design. This is due to a major shape change that alters the way the mouse interacts with your hand.
When using the original Rockstick, you’d rest your hand on a plate and slide the mouse around with your whole arm. This was relaxing, provided you didn’t have to actually hit anything with the mouse pointer. If precision was required for some task such as photo editing, the experience became anything but relaxing.
This situation changes with the Rockstick2. The hand-rest plate is almost entirely gone, replaced by a small ledge outboard of the mouse body. While allowing the heel of your hand to remain in contact with the work surface for some degree of precision, this design still keeps your fingers comfortably away from it. For better control, the aforementioned ledge actually snaps off its magnetic attachment, to be swapped out for a flush trim piece that comes standard with the mouse. This configuration makes the Rockstick resemble an overweight DXT mouse, but it still doesn’t come close to offering the same precision.
Click-free mousing, the Rockstick’s flagship feature, is once again well-implemented in the mouse’s second iteration. The new shape makes “rocking” clicks easier than ever to register – particularly right-click, which was a bit of an effort with the old “joystick” design.
I’m feeling it for web browsing, but not using it in Photoshop
In terms of tactile appeal, the Rockstick2 is among the most touchable, holdable mouse designs I’ve tried. The surface is that lightly tacky rubberized plastic that never gets too hot during work or too cold after breaks. The shape fits my hand perfectly, filling up my grip without crowding my fingers.
For maximum comfort, I find it best to keep the plastic ledge attached. The precision piece is a nice idea in theory, but in practice I find that it detracts from comfort without adding all that much precision. The Rockstick2 design itself, even modified in its current version, just doesn’t lend itself to precision. It’s too big, for one thing – try to imagine writing with a pen of that diameter. For another, it’s hard to click and drag accurately (as often required by graphic design) when the mouse body and click button are one piece.
In addition, there are some quality and design issues with the precision piece. The one I received doesn’t snap-fit as well as it should for a magnetic attachment, making frequent swapping a questionable proposition. More annoyingly, I tend to run over my own little finger with the mouse while using the precision attachment, pinching it between the mouse and the desk.
Choosing your size and configuration
If you have large hands, you should be aware that the Large size Rockstick2 is made without those detachable pieces we just got through discussing. I have no idea why, but users of the Large have no option besides the full-width hand rest ledge; it’s permanently attached.
How large is Large? Measure your hand across the knuckles; if it’s 3.75″ or less, you can safely use the Small/Medium. Bigger than that and Large is recommended – however, I personally feel that the Small/Medium might work fine for slightly beefier mitts than advertised. My own hand is right on the 3.75″ line, and as you can see from the pictures, the mouse doesn’t exactly get lost in my grip.
Both wired and wireless versions of the mouse are available. Given the miniscule price difference between the two ($10) I see no good reason to skimp. The wireless, which is the one I evaluated, implements that feature competently enough with a micro receiver that nests inside the mouse for travel.
Please do re-invent the wheel!
The Rockstick2, like the original Rockstick, has a thumb-operated scroll wheel. In my opinion, thumb scrolling is generally bad news. Even Contour, whose signature mouse has a thumb-operated scroll wheel, warns against using that wheel too much. Whether mounted on top of the mouse or on the side – where it’s found on the Rockstick2 – a thumb-drive scroll wheel makes my thumb want to scroll right down to another mouse after just a few minutes. Thumbs simply weren’t built to turn scroll wheels. Were I the designer of the Rockstick, I would either find a way to position the scroll wheel where it can be operated by the fingers, or else I would get rid of it entirely. A scroll wheel that hurts to use is worse than no scroll wheel at all.
Lots of ergonomic mice, including the DXT and Evoluent, now allow you to swap resolutions on the fly, without opening a control panel or going to any particular trouble. This feature is implemented with varying degrees of convenience; more with the Evoluent, which positions its selector switch and indicator lights in plain view, and less with the DXT, which must be picked up to reveal the button and lights on its base.
The Rockstick2 DPI button is positioned for easy thumb access on top of the unit, but its speed indicator system leaves somewhat to be desired. There is no light or way to tell offhand what speed is currently set; you have to press the button, then count the number of times (0-4) the indicator light flashes. The higher the number, the higher the speed. At the same time, each button press notches the speed up one level; so if, for example, you press it and count three flashes, that means you were on Level 2, but you are now on Level 3.
Confused yet? Can’t say I blame you. In my opinion, color coded lights would be a great improvement on counting flashes.
Click-free or die
If your work requires design-grade precision, the Rockstick2 is probably not the mouse for you. (See the DXT for a much better option.) If, however, you stick mostly with ordinary computer tasks, the Rockstick2 could be a great choice – and if click-free mousing is a requirement for what ails you, it’s pretty much the only choice.
Disclosure: This review was made with a complimentary sample.