In 2004, 3M came out with a product called the Ergonomic Mouse. More like an upright handgrip with a tracking pad attached to the bottom, the 3M mouse was notable because it kept the palm of your hand perpendicular to your work space. That design supposedly relieves the pressure on your wrist's median nerve, the focal point of carpal tunnel syndrome. Microsoft's new Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 is more of a happy medium between 3M's unique design and that of a typical mouse. Serious sufferers of repetitive stress-related injuries should definitely consult a doctor before using this or any other nonqualified review for medical advice. We will say that as an alternative input device, we found Microsoft's new mouse comfortable and easy to use, but a few design miscues make us wish Microsoft had given this mouse more thought.
The most obvious feature of the Natural Wireless 6000 is that, unlike standard mouse designs, this model's buttons, wheel, and palm rest upward to the right. It lends the mouse a unique shape, but it also has the effect of rolling your wrist up off your desk. Your reviewer will refrain from commenting on any therapeutic benefits this mouse might have, but I'll simply rely on my credentials as a longtime mouse user and say that this design feels less stressful on my wrist. I also found it easy to adjust to the nonstandard hand position. Once I tweaked the cursor sensitivity in the included software, using the Natural Wireless 6000 became, well, natural.
The only problematic feature about the mouse itself is the location of the thumb buttons. Rather than leaving them next to your thumb, where you'll find them on the standard mice that have them, Microsoft instead elevated them with the plane of the main buttons. This puts them in the dead zone between your thumb and forefinger, which means you have to move either your thumb or your main finger to get to them. Making such a move interrupts smooth mouseflow, and takes some getting used to to feel which of the two buttons you're actually going to press. Placing the buttons on the thumbrest would have been much more logical.
If the thumb buttons are irritating, the scroll wheel is actually one of the best we've encountered outside of Logitech's superior MX Revolution mouse and its flywheel design. The scroll wheel on the Natural Wireless 6000 feels sturdier than the wheel on Microsoft's Intellimouse 3.0, and its thick, rubberized coating makes the wheel feel satisfying to move. It also has responsive side-to-side tilt-based scrolling, which you'll appreciate if you spend time with wide spreadsheets or other large files.
The Natural Wireless 6000 takes two included AA batteries. We prefer rechargeable wireless mice, and since Microsoft's suggested price for this mouse is $80, it's a little cheap that it uses only standard alkalines. Fortunately, you can find the mouse for less money from the retailers that sell it. We're also amused by the USB RF receiver, which is almost as big as the mouse itself. We've seen full-sized mouse and keyboard sets that only require a thumb drive-sized USB receiver, so we're not sure why the receiver in this model needs to be so big. It's certainly not a major issue, and we found set up easy and the connection strength generally reliable, but the design feels like a clunky throwback.