Reinventing a product is neither easy nor without peril. A lot of time and money can be spent, only to have the end product get zero attention or sales. In some cases, the final result might get nothing but attention – if you like being chewed to pieces by highly-critical and unforgiving consumers.
But even that kind of attention might sell many units either.
One has to strike the right kind of balance when it comes to reinventing a design. Stray too far, and users will feel alienated. Stay too close, and you’ve only added some meager feature that may or may not set you that much apart from existing competition.
However, companies still push forward with their vision, and once in awhile they strike gold. The Penclic B2 mouse happens to be just that kind of product. It’s innovative in such a way to make it stand out from everything else, yet is familiar enough to draw attention and praise.
One look is all it takes to tell that the Penclic B2 is a very different mouse. The device looks much like a fancy pen sitting within its own stand. Despite the appearance, it’s actually all one interconnected piece.
The pen portion simply provides a new and ergonomic way of handling the mouse base. The pen rotates and swivels about the z-axis smoothly, providing a range of positions so you can find your sweet spot.
The buttons are placed on the pen, while the scroll wheel is situated at the top right corner of the base.
The right, left, and middle mouse buttons run vertically up the pen, accessible by the index finger. The back and forward buttons lie to the side for the thumb to trigger. It can be possible, yet not ideal, for a left-handed person to operate this mouse. I wouldn’t recommend it, though, simply because the design is clearly for right-handed users.
The on/off switch and Bluetooth button are located at the bottom of the base, alongside the battery compartment door. The package comes with a retractable Micro USB cable to charge the Penclic B2 Mouse, which is a very thoughtful addition.
Overall, the design is natural and intuitive. Why wouldn’t it be? We’ve spent so much of our lives writing and drawing with pens and pencils. Even though the shape and feel is familiar, it still takes an adjustment time to get the hang of pen-holding a mouse.
Hold the Penclic B2 however you would to hold a pen to write with. Maintain that light grip to move the base of the mouse, which houses the optical sensor. It’s a significant change for design with a serious boost to comfort.
My wife’s Windows 8 laptop found and quickly connected to the Penclic B2 Mouse. The necessary drivers were installed in under a minute and everything was good to go. She toyed around with the mouse for about a day and admired the performance.
Since I do the bulk of my writing from my Samsung Galaxy Note 2, the Penclic B2 would have to work well with my Android device. After entering the 0000 code into my phone, pairing took all of 5 seconds.
The mouse works flawlessly with my smartphone. The left and right buttons function as select and back, while the middle button works as the home button. I’ve found it rather handy to long-press the middle button to switch to different running apps instead of having to reach for my screen or the home key on my Logitech K810 keyboard.
One very interesting fact about the Penclic B2 Mouse is that it somehow fixes the wireless connection between my smartphone and Logitech K810 keyboard. When my keyboard alone is paired to my smartphone, it will trigger multiple button presses constantly, that is until I turn off my wireless network connection.
But when I’m using the Penclic B2 with the keyboard, I can keep my smartphone connected to my wireless network and not suffer multiple keystrokes. This same phenomenon doesn’t happen with my Microsoft Wedge Touch mouse. Bonus!
I have been a Wacom Bamboo tablet user for a number of years, so I figured that I would immediately take to the Penclic B2. I was about halfway right. Despite my familiarity with using a pen-shape mouse tool, the Penclic B2 is in a class all of its own.
It takes about a week of daily use to be accustomed to the way of use, and about two weeks to find your comfort groove.
The difference is immediate. This mouse is far more ergonomic than the traditional mice we grip with a palm- or claw-hold. There is less strain and less pressure on my wrist when I’m using the B2 mouse.
It’s not like one trades a mouse-related repetitive strain injury (RSI) to a writing-related RSI (like writer’s cramp), just because of the arm’s orientation. I’ve been using it all day every day for a few weeks and have suffered no discomfort.
Prior to the Penclic B2 mouse, I had been using the Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse. Both are small, light, and easy to push around. The difference is that I don’t have to chill out periodically to massage my wrist with the Penclic B2.
While moving the cursor comes naturally, the use of the buttons and scroll wheel takes a little more adjusting to. Simple touch identifies one button from the next, preventing confusion or the need to look, but they’re not the easiest to reach sometimes.
Once you get used to the thumb and middle finger providing the grip for movement, the accidental right-clicks stop. The index finger rests directly over the right-click button, which is why you don’t want to use it to move the mouse.
The back and forward buttons, pressed by the thumb, are convenient and can be hit without releasing that much grip on the mouse.
The left-click button is also easy to hit by curling your index finger up just a bit. The middle-click button, however, is my least favorite to use despite how handy it is.
When I want precise control, like when I might be using photoshop, I’ll hold the Penclic vertically. Otherwise, the mouse’s grip will point back toward me, which provides me relaxed control. When I am holding the mouse for precision, I can flex my index finger to hit the middle-click button easily, though I feel it’s too far up the grip. When I’m holding the mouse in a relaxed way, I feel like I have to pinch tighter while reaching just to hit the middle button while not letting go.
The scroll wheel also takes a bit of getting used to. It’s a little awkward, but I found that resting my ring finger on the base lets me hold the mouse while my middle finger scrolls. If I had longer fingers, I would be able to hold the mouse normally with thumb and middle while scrolling with my index. While I can adapt to the placement of the scroll wheel, there will be those who won’t want to deal with it.
The Penclic B2 is heads and shoulders above a traditional mouse when it comes to using Photoshop, AutoCAD, Google Sketch-Up, or design programs along those lines. While it can’t match the results I get with a pressure-sensitive Wacom Tablet, the Penclic B2 offers excellent precision.
The 1200 DPI sensor is sufficient for what most people would use a mouse for: documents, web, some basic games. The Penclic B2 Mouse is not going to be to par for ‘serious’ games. And by ‘serious’, I mean FPS (first person shooter), RTS (real time strategy), and MMO (massive multiplayer online).
The B2 may be precise for typical use, but it’s not precise for gaming. I’ve been able to slowly slide the mouse over an inch without having the cursor move. This makes it difficult to snipe.
Even though the mouse tracks well, it just doesn’t have what it takes to keep up with fast-paced clicking games, like Starcraft. It’s not just the clicks, but also how pressing some of the other buttons can break a precise grip on the mouse.
Most gamers will opt for a gaming mouse for those reasons, but also because the Penclic B2 Mouse doesn’t come with any software to configure the button controls. Users are limited to only what Windows offers in terms of configuration, which is motion speed, scrolling speed, and double-click speed, to name a few.
The Penclic B2 Mouse works on most standard surfaces I’ve used: tile, countertop, wood, plastic, stone, fabrics, and even my bare leg. Highly reflective surfaces don’t do well. Neither does most carpet.
Even though the Penclic B2 Mouse is marketing as an ergonomic mouse, it doesn’t mean it’s limited to only those who suffer and want to reduce injury. This mouse can be a dream to anyone for all day everyday use. Comfort doesn’t need any reason other than comfort, right?
Despite how light and compact the Penclic B2 Mouse is, it’s not something you can just toss in a bag like a regular wireless mouse. I have a concern about the grip breaking apart from the base, unless much care is taken.
The mouse motion is excellent, most of the buttons are great, and the scrolling is adequate. For the quality and performance, the Penclic B2 Mouse is priced well and definitely worth every bit.
My wife, who is an environmental health and safety (EH&S) manager in a science lab, is also the ergonomic specialist. They have been using the Evoluent VerticalMouse ergonomic mouse for the past two years. After trying out the Penclic B2 Mouse for a few hours, I asked her what she thought.
“It’s way better than a conventional mouse,” said my wife. “The vertical mouse is only better because it takes the full wrist off the table surface. But it (the Penclic B2) feels nice. I’d buy it if we didn’t already own the ones now.”
And there you have it.