Cherry has been producing computer parts since 1967. If you haven't heard of this German electronics company, you've almost certainly felt its handiwork, as Cherry makes arguably the finest mechanical key switches on the market. From its sleek and silent Reds to its clickety-clackety Blues, authentic Cherry switches are almost guaranteed to make for a quality keyboard, no matter what you say about its design.
When it comes to complete peripherals, though, Cherry's reputation is a little more mixed. It's made some decent-but-unremarkable keyboards, and even tried its hand at mice, which have kind of a '90s white-collar office aesthetic. Cherry's latest crack at a mouse is the MW 4500 (about $26, depending on the retailer) -- a wireless, ergonomic productivity peripheral with an unusual shape and more buttons than you might expect.
The MW 4500 has a few novel features, but its bizarre appearance ultimately works against it. Changeable dots-per-inch (DPI) sensitivity and extra buttons are all well and good, but the device is not that comfortable to hold, and it's somewhat prone to making positioning errors. If you get your hands on the MW 4500 and like the way it feels, more power to you. But even as ergonomic mice go, its appeal may be limited.
If you took a regular office mouse and squished it vertically in a vice -- well, you'd wind up with a pile of broken plastic, springs and screws. But suppose you had an extremely pliable mouse, and you'd wind up with something like the MW 4500. The left side of the mouse is a huge, indented thumb rest with two buttons just below an overhang with the "Cherry" logo. The right side of the device looks like the top of a standard mouse, just displaced. The rest of the peripheral is just empty space on which to rest your palm and fingers.
There's not much else to the mouse's design. You'll either love it or hate it, and you'll probably know which within the first 5 minutes of holding it. The mouse's appearance is extremely strange, but it's also extremely intuitive. The left and right buttons still wind up just underneath their usual fingers, letting you press them, the clickable scroll wheel and the DPI adjustment button with ease. The thumb buttons are large, easy to access and satisfying to click. The MW 4500 takes the basic mouse concept -- and your hand -- and then rotates it about 45 degrees clockwise.
While ergonomic mouse design is largely a matter of taste, I could never quite get comfortable with the MW 4500. With most mice, gravity keeps your hand in place. The MW 4500, on the other hand, rotates the design so far to the right, I constantly felt like I was gripping it in place, like a firm piece of fruit. The mouse's vertical design also meant that my fingers pushed it very slightly when I clicked. I was never quite sure when the device was perfectly still and when it was still moving a tiny bit. I wound up dragging a lot of files when all I wanted to do was select them.
The MW 4500 has a few things that set it apart from a regular office mouse. For one thing, it's wireless, which isn't a bad find in a sub-$30 peripheral. Granted, you have to use a USB dongle instead of Bluetooth, but the wireless capability was just about perfect, in my experience. I was able to use the mouse with my computer from more than 10 feet away, and I never noticed any kind of lag or difficulty in parsing my commands.
Another important feature of the MW 4500 is the ability to alter its DPI. By pressing the central button on the mouse's face, you can switch from 600, to 900, to 1,200 DPI. (Lower DPI means your cursor moves across the screen more slowly; higher DPI means it moves more quickly.) A small light on the side of the mouse will flash one, two or three times, depending on which setting you've chosen. It's a sensible way to customize the MW 4500's sensitivity, and the DPI settings are neither unrealistically low, nor impossibly high. There's a time and a place for each one.
Beyond that, though, the MW 4500 doesn't boast any special features, aside from its unusual physical design. You can't program the thumb buttons, and there's no software to further tweak any of its settings. Of course, mice that offer these features often cost somewhere around $100, so it's not necessarily something that customers should expect in this price range. But it means that what you see is what you get: The way the mouse works right out of the box is the way it will always work.
As already noted, the MW 4500's wireless features are flawless, and there's not much else to say about the mouse's performance. I used the MW 4500 for a few days at my desk in place of my normal mouse, and once I got used to its physical configuration, I was able to handle text documents, numerical spreadsheets, internet browsers, media players and email clients with the best of them. I did occasionally have problems clicking and dragging files, as stated above, but I imagine that might improve after more time with the mouse.
The only thing the MW 4500 doesn't really handle well is gaming, since it's too easy to make minor, involuntary movements by clicking. But frankly, if you're in the market for an ergonomic gaming mouse, you're better off buying from a company like Razer or SteelSeries, anyway.
The major reason to buy an ergonomic mouse over a traditional one, though, is comfort. Ergonomic mice are supposed to put less stress on the wrist, especially for productivity users who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. I found that, after using the mouse for long periods of time, my hand and shoulder felt a little cramped, since I was using muscles that I don't normally associate with mice. But my wrist felt no strain whatsoever. In my opinion, the MW 4500 is neither more nor less comfortable than a standard office mouse, but it may depend on your preferences.
The MW 4500 demonstrates that Cherry can build more than just keyboards. But it doesn't look like Cherry is going to drop the automatic association with "key switches" anytime soon. Due to its odd design and limited feature set, the MW 4500 isn't an automatic recommendation if you're looking for a mouse. However, the wireless functionality is perfect, and the price is more than reasonable, thus making the gadget impossible to dismiss outright.
If you need a peripheral for everyday office tasks and the traditional mouse design doesn't agree with you, the MW 4500 is worth a shot -- although I'd highly recommend holding it first, just to see if you like its nearly vertical design. Otherwise, you can get a standard wireless mouse from Logitech, Microsoft -- or even Cherry itself (opens in new tab).