Posted on January 2, 2017
A trackball? Really? Didn’t those go out of style in the 1980s? Well just hold your horses and hear me out. Today we’re taking a closer look at a modern, cutting edge trackball from Kensington, the SlimBlade.
I have actually been a big fan of trackballs for years. Before trying out the Kensington SlimBlade, I had an old Kensington Expert that I would use as an alternative to a traditional mouse. Trackballs have a number of advantages over a traditional mouse. In particular, you can avoid ulnar deviation almost entirely once you get used to the input mechanism. Trackballs provide the added advantage that they are completely stationary, which can be very helpful if you don’t have a clean mousing surface or have limited desk space.
Of course, there are downsides as well. In particular, trackballs tend to be a bit less precise than comparable mice. In addition, it can be difficult to perform complex tasks with a trackball that are fairly easy with something like the Apple Magic Mouse. Whereas with mice, you can easily click and drag, the same behavior can require some interesting finger gymnastics with a trackball. Things like multi-touch gestures were pretty much out of the question.
With that said, what does a modern trackball look like? Luckily, Kensington gives us the answer in the form of the SlimBlade. The SlimBlade was released by Kensington in 2010 and was originally meant to compliment the top of the line Expert Model. Whereas the Expert might be viewed as the Bentley of trackballs, the SlimBlade was the Ferrari: sleek, slimmed down, faster and easier to use for the average non-power user. Whereas the Expert had been a staple for years, the SlimBlade release felt a bit, well, new. Consequently, the initial feedback was somewhat mixed.
The SlimBlade has a number of modern features that position it well against the standard-bearing Expert. Unlike the original Expert, the SlimBlade uses two lasers to tracks position. As a result, I found the tracking to be the best in class — simply outstanding. It also foregoes the trackwheel in favor of using the trackball as the primary input for both scrolling and panning. The low-profile design is reminiscent of Apple design rather than the boxy design found on other models. It is also ambidextrous, which, contrary to with a traditional mouse, I actually found to be quite natural. If you have a nagging wrist injury in your right hand or are just getting fatigued, it actually isn’t too difficult to switch to left-handed use, even for a clumsy individual like myself. The trackball itself is also top-notch and at 55mm is sufficiently large to provide enough precision for nearly all typical tasks.
So where does the SlimBlade fall short? Well, in truth, there aren’t too many things that I would change. The SlimBlade is one of the finest trackballs on the market, and it is priced as such. When first released, the SlimBlade lacked the customizability that one might expect from a high end trackball, but that was fixed after a year or so with the release of new TrackballWorks software. The SlimBlade is wired, unlike most top of the line mice, and wireless connectivity would have been a nice addition. With that said, the wired USB connection is not as big a deal with trackballs, as the base does not move. Some have complained that the input in both the buttons and scroll functionality was somewhat difficult to control, though I personally didn’t have any problems.
The ergonomics of the SlimBlade are top notch if you know what you are doing. The same principles of proper mousing apply when using a trackball. Some have complained that the SlimBlade involves more wrist movement than the Expert due to the low profile design. However, by maintaining a neutral wrist and moving from the elbow (and fingers) when necessary, these problems can be avoided.
Pros of the Kensington SlimBlade Trackball:
- Precise Tracking – With two lasers, I found the SlimBlade tracking to be as good or better than the top of the line Expert model.
- Customizable Buttons – With the TrackballWorks software, you can customize.the button behavior however you see fit.
- Sleek Design – The SlimBlade looks and feels like a modern input device should. Sleek, comfortable, stylish.
Cons of the Kensington SlimBlade Trackball:
- Wired Design – Not fantastic on such a high-end device, but not a big deal with a trackball.
- Precision vs. Traditional Mouse – Not as precise as a traditional mouse.
- Input Mechanism – Takes some getting used to.
All in all, the SlimBlade is one of the finest ergonomic products on the market and works well on both Mac and PC. If you are not doing intensive graphic design work or tasks involving a similar level of precision, the SlimBlade is a fantastic alternative to a traditional mouse that just might save your wrists!
As trackballs go, this is the one you want. Even compared to the Expert, I found the SlimBlade to be a welcome update. Either way, the Kensington Expert and SlimBlade are leaps and bounds above anything else on the market.
Final Verdict: If you’re considering a trackball, buy this one.
Updated on November 21, 2016
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to pay more attention to maintaining my fitness. If you’re in your early 20’s, sometimes it feels like fitness just takes care of itself. A few extra beers at the bar on Saturday night… no big deal. Skipping legs day… well, you might end up looking like a cartoon character, but its unlikely to result in injury. Now that I’m in my 30’s, however, I’ve come to realize that fitness does not just take care of itself!
Those extra beers take their toll on Sunday morning. The unbalanced workout routine leads to muscle imbalances and, ultimately, injury. Luckily, a lot of the effects of getting older can be held at bay to some degree through weight training to avoid muscle imbalances resulting from long hours in the office. There are some aspects of aging, however, that cannot be easily reversed through training. One such effect that I’ve begun to experience in my own life is eye strain.
Fundamentally, there are 4 key structures that function together to make up the visual system:
- Cornea – The clear layer of tissue that forms the outermost layer of the eye and protects the intricate inner eye structure.
- Lens – Focuses light on the retina and brings images into focus.
- Retina – Light sensitive tissue that behaves like the “film” of the eye, converting light into impulses to be interpreted by the brain.
- Optic Nerve – Carries impulses to the brain.
Virtually all problems related to eyesight involve one of these four structures. Some of the more common ailments involve inflammation and cloudiness in the cornea as well as degradation of the lens’ ability to focus over a wide variety of distances. While many ailments involving the cornea and lens can be addressed with glasses and contacts or surgery if necessary, problems with the retina and optic nerve tend to be related to disease and require prolonged treatment.
The good news is that it appears that computer usage is unlikely to lead to long-term damage to any of these structures. The bad news is that prolonged computer usage can really do a number on your eyes in terms of eye strain, fatigue and inflammation. Issues related to computer usage tend to involve inflammation of the cornea and the musculature that manipulates the lens. Here are 5 quick ways that you can minimize eye strain while working at a computer.
1. Take a Break
This is perhaps the simplest and most effective way to minimize eye strain. The problem with working at a computer for long periods of time is that it involves maintaining focus at a fixed distance. Additionally, while at a computer, we’re often doing work that requires intense concentration. As a result, we often forget to blink, which leads to dried out eyes, and potentially inflammation.
Take a quick break every 15 minutes to stare off into the distance. One rather interesting “workout” for the eyes involves shifting focus back and forth between close and far away text. It works like this:
- Take a pen, credit card or some other item that has text printed on it in a relatively small font and hold it up in front of your face. Focus on the first letter for 2 seconds.
- Next, focus on the first letter of some text at least 20 feet away for 2 seconds. Perhaps a poster, sign or banner in the office.
- Next, focus on the second letter of your pen, credit card or other item for 2 seconds.
- Continue to alternate between the close and far away text until you’re satisfied.
By alternating focus between close and far away text, you are essentially exercising the musculature of the eye that shapes the lens to focus closer or farther away.
2. Check your Lighting
While exercising your eyes and remembering to blink is one of the most important things you can do to reduce eyestrain, working in a properly lit environment is equally important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across developers essentially frying their eyes with brightly lit monitors in dark environments or, worse, squinting to make out text on some poorly lit monitor with painful contrast settings.
There are a couple things to keep in mind when it comes to lighting:
First, you don’t want to work in a situation where there is a ton of bright, specular light. Specular light refers to light which creates those bright spots on your monitor from glare. Typically, specular light comes from outdoor light when sitting by a window or from those trendy bright lights that you might expect in a night club. Instead, try to work in an environment where the light is diffuse.
Second, try to match your monitor brightness with the ambient light level. You don’t want your monitor to be washed out by the brightness of your work environment. Similarly, you don’t want your monitor to be the brightest thing in the room. In short, try to keep things in balance.
10. Contrast and Colors
There is an increasing body of evidence that blue light is responsible for a number of the problems associated with eye strain when it comes to computer usage. Not only that, but blue light can cause problems with the sleep cycle and REM sleep.
One program that attempts to address this problem is f.lux, which changes the color warmth and contrast of your monitor throughout the day to match the natural changes in light that occur outdoors.
Additionally, a number of companies have come out with products that attempt to address blue light generated from monitors. For instance, you can now purchase glasses specifically designed to block the short wavelength (blue) portion of the visible spectrum:
Other companies have come out with products which are placed directly on the monitor in order to dim the blue portion of the spectrum at the source:
By following these tips, you can minimize eye strain and hopefully set yourself up for a long, productive and healthy career in the office.
Posted on September 11, 2016
For many modern office workers, ergonomics may be an after thought. Unfortunately, with more workers spending long hours behind a desk, the number of injuries related to poor ergonomics has skyrocketed in recent years. Consider these 10 quick tips for a more ergonomic desk setup, which may just prevent you from developing tendonitis, an overuse injury, or worse.
1. Adjust your monitor to the proper height
Ideally the top of your monitor will be roughly at eye level. Too often I see folks who are hunched over their desk because of a poorly positioned monitor. If the monitor you are using causes you to bend at the neck or upper back, do something about it! One technique that I have found works well is to grab a couple reams of paper from the copy room. Stack the reams of paper under your monitor until the position is just right.
2. Move your arm wrests out of the way
It is tempting to use the arm wrests on your office chair as a crutch while using the mouse. Unfortunately, doing so often results in poor mousing habits. Ideally, you want to mouse with the entire arm so as to limit the strain on any particular joint. Thus, resting your arms on arm wrests while using a mouse can actually cause injury. My suggestion: lower the arm wrests or remove them entirely.
3. Adjust your seat height
A seat height that is too low will naturally cause you cross your legs or do other strange things in order to fit your legs under a chair that is too short. A seat height that is too high will put unnecessary pressure on your thighs and the back of your legs. Either situation is bad for leg circulation. Position your seat such that your knees form a 90 degree angle. Also, be sure to use a chair that provides proper support. Check out our guide to the best ergonomic office chairs for some ideas.
4. Adjust your desk height
Ideally, when your forearms are positioned on the keyboard and mouse, your arms will fall comfortably at your sides. In order to dial in the most relaxed position, this typically means adjusting your desk such that your elbows form a 90 degree angle with your torso.
5. Mix it up
One of the keys to avoiding RSI injuries at work is to mix it up every now and then. If you’re tired of sitting, stand up. When you’re tired of standing, sit down. One way to accomplish this is to use a sit-stand desk. By avoiding repeating the same patterns over and over again, you are less likely to develop an overuse injury.
6. Take breaks
In addition to varying your working posture, it is important to take breaks every now and then to get away from work entirely. If you have been starting at a monitor at close range for an hour, stare off into the distance for a while. Stretch or take a walk. Take a few deep breaths. Not only will taking a break allow you to relax for a minute, but it may actually help you think through a difficult problem or see things in a different light
7. Sit up straight
While your desk setup can influence your posture, many posture issues are musculoskeletal at their core. Consider a weight training program to counteract muscle imbalances that may develop from sitting for long periods of time. Products such as the lumo lift can provide a friendly reminder when you slouch at work.
8. Use an ergonomic mouse
Many modern mouse designs include ergonomic features that may lessen the strain placed on your wrist. Find a mouse that fits your hand comfortably and is easy to manipulate. Doing so can reduce the likelihood of developing tendonitis or other joint injuries.
9. Low glare environment
Ensuring proper lighting can go a long way in reducing eye strain associated with working at a computer monitor. There are two key factors to consider. First, try to avoid bright specular lighting, which can result in bright spots or glare on your monitor. Moderating outdoor light with window shades can also help reduce glare. Second, ensure that the level of ambient light does not wash out the contrast of your monitor. In short, you want your monitor to be as easy to read as possible.
10. Change your contrast settings
Consider installing a program such as f.lux, which moderates monitor color warmth and contrast throughout the day. In addition, ,any word processors and coding IDEs allow you to change the default contrast settings to a dark or light theme which may make text easier to read.
No amount of ergonomic tinkering will prevent any and all possible strains that may develop from long hours behind a desk. However, taking these 10 quick tips into account is a good first step to ensuring a more healthy workplace environment.
Posted on September 1, 2016
Here at 9 to 5 Ergonomics, we try to explore topics of ergonomic health with an open mind. Personally, I feel that ergonomic devices tend to follow fads which are, at times, justified with dubious claims and a lack of scientific evidence. I am an engineer by training and a skeptic at heart. So, naturally, when the standing desk craze of 2010 came around, I was inclined to give it a try with an eye towards the scientific evidence. “Show me the money,” as Jerry McGuire would say.
Several weeks ago, I wrote about the reasons you should use a standing desk. I do continue to believe that standing desks, when used properly, can provide a number of health benefits, and are an important tool in the ergonomic arsenal. However, I am also wary of those who claim standing desks are “the” answer.
Fundamentally, healthy ergonomics is about avoiding repetitive patterns. It’s about varying your posture and work setting so as to minimize strain. Therefore, spending all your time at a standing desk is not a solution in itself. It is, in fact, only marginally better that sitting all day, if at all. So what happens if you use an standing desk improperly? Catchy title aside, here are 5 reasons NOT to use a standing desk (to excess.)
While it has been shown that standing at work can improve circulation, it can also pose a problem for those who might be prone to certain types of cardiovascular problems. According to one study at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, standing for long periods of time increases the progression of carotid atherosclerosis for men with ischemic heart disease. Essentially, standing for long periods of time appears to puts additional load on the circulatory system, which in turn can harden the arteries that lead to the heart.
According to another study at Cornell University, standing for long periods of time is linked to an increased likelihood of developing varicose veins. Roughly 1 in 5 cases of varicose veins are attributable to standing at work.
Standing just makes you more tired. Empirically, I happen to be writing this after a long day at work where I spent several hours at my standing desk. I am tired. Likely more tired than I would have been if I had just bummed around all day on the couch.
There is significant evidence to back this up as well. Standing requires roughly 20% more energy than standing. That’s great if you’re looking to burn calories, but not so good if you are already feeling a bit lethargic.
Standing for long periods of time can also take its toll on more specific areas of the body, namely the feet and joints. The plantar fascia is the ligament that connects the toes to the heel. After standing for long periods of time, it can become inflamed, resulting in a condition known as plantar fasciitis.
In short, that pain in your feet at the end of the day can just be normal strain, or it can become a more serious condition. That is why when I am using my standing desk, I try to take breaks that take the weight off my feet. In addition, you might consider the use of an anti-fatigue mat to help alleviate strain.
While I couldn’t find any definitive evidence tying standing to arthritis, it stands to reason that there may be a causal link. The Arthritis Foundation recommends avoiding standing or sitting for long periods of time. In addition, it goes without saying that if you already suffer from a joint injury or arthritis, standing for long periods of time is not a good idea and will aggravate the condition.
In my own experience, standing too long tends to make my knees sore. I’ve also found that by moving around slightly, perhaps avoiding locking the knees for a few minutes, can help alleviate some of this pain.
This might seem counter-intuitive, but standing can actually hinder your posture. How?
Well, if you use a standing desk for long periods of time without building up sufficient muscular strength to maintain proper posture, it is likely that you may begin to slouch. At that point, standing at work is likely causing more problems than it solves.
That is why it is important to observe proper standing posture while working at a standing desk. In general, it takes time to acclimate to standing for longer periods of time. Don’t jump right into it if you are just beginning. Instead, begin with just a few minutes standing and work your way up to longer periods of time once your core strength and musculature adapt
Like many things in life, standing in moderation is a good thing. However, we must be careful not to overdo it. Certainly if you begin to feel muscular strain, pain in your feet or begin to slouch, it’s time to take a break. Standing desks are a powerful tool in the ergonomic arsenal. But take it easy, especially at first!
Updated on August 9, 2016
Here are 9 to 5 ergonomics, we’ve covered the subject of ergonomic mice pretty thoroughly. If you’re simply looking for a comfortable mouse that will get the job done, for instance, then look no further than our guide to the best ergonomic mouse. We’ve also discussed peripheral topics such as how to mouse properly, how to prevent mouse elbow, and how to select the best ergonomic mouse pad for your setting.
One might conclude, then, that we have covered ergonomic mice from every conceivable angle and that there are no new subjects in the ergonomic mouse space to explore! How incorrect you would be!
Today we’re taking a look at the most cutting-edge mice on the market. These are not necessarily the most ergonomically minded, but instead what I would call the most “ergonomically adventurous.” These cutting edge designs will define the next generation of computer interaction. Or, they might be confined to the trash heap of “good ideas but failed.” In either case, these devices are a glimpse into what could be the future. So buckle up… and prepare for the top 3 mouse reviews for the ergonomically adventurous:
The Microsoft Arc Touch is one of the most innovative designs on the market. The key to its design is its folding “arc” which allows you to quickly convert the flat device into something that resembles an ergonomic mouse. The design is innovative, utilitarian, rugged and looks fantastic. Once in the arc position, I had no trouble using the mouse like any other. While one might expect quality to suffer in favor of portability, with the Arc Touch, you really get the best of both worlds: a high-quality mouse that is also portable when needed. Sensitivity, build quality and feel were all spot on. The only minor complaint I had was that the secondary functions were somewhat difficult to use. Nevertheless, this is a top-notch wireless mouse, particularly for the travel minded.
- Portable ergonomic design – Easy to fold up and take anywhere.
- Touch scroll wheel – Natural, easy to use scroll wheel that provides appropriate feedback.
- Build Quality – Stylish and built from quality materials.
- Tracking and Sensitivity – Sensitivity that gets the “feel” right.
- Bluetooth Connectivity – Easy to connect, particularly useful for coffee shops and places where you need to be able to connect wirelessly.
- Secondary Functions – Side button is somewhat confusing and difficult to use.
- AAA batteries – Would have preferred lithium batteries, particularly at this price point.
If you’ve never used one of these, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past 5 years. The Apple Magic Trackpad is the gold standard when it comes to trackpad interfaces. Apple recently updated the design to be even more sleek with the Trackpad 2.
The Apple Magic Trackpad 2 is incredibly intuitive. It almost makes me feel as though we’ve finally achieved all of the crazy marvels of the modern future that we dreamed about in the movie Minority Report 10 years ago! Perhaps the most useful feature of the Magic Trackpad is the multitouch functionality. By mapping multitouch gestures such as “four finger swipe” or “two finger scroll” the Magic Trackpad allows you to do virtually anything you want from a single interface.
Some users complained that the Magic Trackpad requires a flat surface and that it occasionally had trouble waking up from sleep. Personally, I’ve never had any problems, however. When I’m not using my Logitech MX, this is the interface that I prefer to use.
- Touchpad – This the gold standard for touch pad interfaces.
- Multitouch – Easy to use gestures for mac make the magic trackpad significantly more efficient than other options.
- Build Quality – The Magic Trackpad is bulletproof, sleek and stylish. Exactly what you’d expect from apple.
- Tracking and Sensitivity – Intuitive. Gets it right.
- Bluetooth Connectivity – Not surprisingly, for mac users, works seamlessly.
- Requires a flat surface – Will tip if not flat, which can lead to unwanted clicks.
- Wake Up – Some users complain that the touchpad does not seamlessly wake up.
I am biased. Full disclaimer. However, the Logitech MX is literally the best mouse I’ve ever used. It is sleek, smooth, rugged, has a battery that lasts for weeks, feels good in my palm, works on any surface, has controls that are intuitive and easy to use, connects wirelessly… I could go on and on. In short, if it were up to me, I’d just say “buy this mouse.” And, of course, that’s exactly what I did. I put it on this list because, while it is a “traditional mouse” in some ways, it is also so far ahead of the competition that it will be a leader for years to come.
Still, there are those who will point out the Logitech MX’s flaws. The tertiary buttons are a bit difficult to use. To be honest, I rarely find myself using them at all. I’d just as soon they’d left them of. In any event, if that’s your biggest complaint, you’re doing pretty well. I love this thing.
- Precise Tracking –On any surface, from glass to textures, the MX Master tracks seamlessly.
- Bluetooth OR USB connectivity – Either one works, which is great for PC and Mac Users
- Easy Connections to Multiple Computers – The MX Master actually allows you to switch between multiple computers without having to establish a new connection.
- Lithium Polymer Batteries – Doesn’t waste batteries or time. Just hook it up via USB and the batteries will charge. I’ve found that the mouse will run for weeks on a single charge.
- Ergonomic Design – Literally the best ergonomically designed mouse on the market (in my humble opinion)
- Strange tertiary button feel – Somewhat difficult to use and press.
- Horizontal/Thumb – Scroll feels a bit rough in comparison to other mice I’ve used
- Price – Not exactly a value mouse, but not unreasonable either.
Updated on July 31, 2016
Continuing our series on ergonomic chairs for gamers, today we’re taking a look at the DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair. DXRacer has a particularly interesting story in that the company actually started in the automotive industry. Founded in 2003, DXRacer sought to build high-end, high-quality, performance seats for racecars. Due to their success and stellar reputation in the auto industry, they have been able to branch out into other niches such as office and gaming chairs.
The first thing you notice about the DXRacer chairs is the clear racing heritage. Particularly when it comes to gaming chairs, the padding, bolsters, shape and finish are all inspired heavily by their automotive counterparts. The racing heritage is fantastic because it means that DXRacer chairs will stand up to even the most intense gaming sessions. After all, if they can survive the temperatures and abuse they receive on the race track, surely, they can handle a few sessions of Gran Turismo or Grand Theft Auto.
Another fantastic feature of DXRacer chairs is the wide variety of shapes, styles and designs. DXRacer produces 6 lines of gaming-oriented chairs. They are the F, R, K, D, I and M lines. The apparently random naming conventions aside, the variety of options means that you can really dial in exactly the fit and style that you want. As a quick guide:
- F Series: The smallest chairs available, targeting individuals not taller than 5′ 11″
- R Series: Aimed towards tall and slender body types.
- K Series: Wide and large, supports up to 300 lbs.
- D Series: The most padded chair available, broad shoulders.
- I Series: Firmest padding available.
- M Series: Most similar to an executive chair, padded without a fitted race car feel.
Today, we’re specifically looking at the DXRacer Formula (F) Series Bucket Chair, but it’s nice to know that there are a wide range of other chairs available from DXRacer.
By far, the best feature of the Formula Series chairs is the build quality and materials. The chair is not made from real leather, but it feels as though it could be. The polyurethane leather-type material is durable, breathable, comfortable and looks fantastic. Given the race-inspired design, it’s not surprising that the DXRacer chairs are some of the most highly praised chairs on the market for their ability to stand the test of time.
Unlike other gaming chairs, the Formula Series chairs are elevated off the ground, in a similar fashion to an office chair. The chair rolls around on casters, which is fantastic if you’re looking for chair that is portable. The Formula Series is as adjustable as any gaming chair that I’ve come across in both height and recline (tilt lock). Even the arm wrests are adjustable, which is great because I’ve often found them to be more of a hinderance than a functional feature when it comes to proper mousing technique. The F-Series chairs can even be used as an office chair replacement if need be. You might even win some style points, given the chair’s modern automotive-inspired design.
The one caveat to the DXRacer’s apparent perfection is that it is a bit small for me. I am rather tall and slender at 6′ 3″, and the F-Series appears to be aimed at those who are 5′ 11″ or so and below. Perhaps I would have been better off with an R-Series chair. With that said, the padding quality was fantastic, and even I could get by with the F-Series for short tasks.
Pros of the DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair:
- Build Quality – The DXRacer is built from a solid steel frame and top-notch materials.
- Leather-Like Feel – The polyurethane leather is soft, breathable and feels nice.
- Appearance – Modern looking, race inspired, stylish.
- Adjustability – Adjustable in height, tilt-lock and arm wrest height.
Cons of the DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair:
- Sizing – Does not fit taller individuals. However, DXRacer offers several other models that do, including the R Series.
The DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair is one of the highest-quality chairs for gamers on the market. The materials, durability and build quality are second to none. It also looks really cool, which is to be expected given the company’s history in the race car industry.
Final Verdict: If you’re looking for a high-quality gaming chair that can also be used in the office, give the DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair a shot!
Posted on July 28, 2016
9 to 5 ergonomics started as a blog dedicated to ergonomics in the workplace. We’ve looked at the best ergonomic office chairs, the best ergonomic mice and the best standing desks on the market. We haven’t really branched out from the office place, however. Today I am going to take a look at the X Rocker 51396 Pro Series Gaming Chair, which is definitely not an office chair. Instead, it is an all-encompassing, top-of-the-line gaming chair for the hardcore gamers.
So why am I writing about a gaming chair on an ergonomics blog? Well, it turns out that ergonomics matter for gamers too. In fact, given the constant and high-speed repetitive motions involved in many modern games, ergonomics may be even more important for console gamers seeking to avoid RSI injuries than those spending their time doing relatively slower paced office tasks.
X Rocker is a top-notch chair manufacturer that has been in business since 2005. They focus primarily on designing and building comfortable chairs aimed towards gaming, music listening and other multi-media settings. The X Rocker 51396 Pro Series Gaming Chair is a top of the line model aimed specifically towards gamers with a particular emphasis on audio and comfort.
The 51396 features several ergonomically minded features. While the chair is soft, it is not what I would call plush. Instead, it provides ample lumbar support, and is tall enough to also provide a headrest. The chair comes with arm wrests, though as I’ve written before, you may want to ditch them as they tend to interfere with natural movement patterns and can actually cause more problems than they solve. In addition, the arm wrests are not of particularly high quality and are not padded. All the more reason to ditch them.
As one might expect, the 51396 audio quality is top notch. The chair includes two speakers and a ported subwoofer, which provide plenty of volume for even the most serious gamers. The 51396 can even connect with other chairs for those who want to take their gaming with friends to another level. The chair can receive audio via the provided wireless transmitter that hooks into your existing sound system via RCA cables. The control panel allows you to independently adjust the bass and treble volume levels and also provides an auxiliary RCA output if you’d like to connect to other audio devices. One thing to note is that the chair is actually capable of providing what I would describe as “too much volume.” That is, the speakers can produce sounds that are loud enough to cause damage to your hearing over longer periods of time, so be sure to keep the volume at a reasonable level if you want to be able to hear in your later years!
The 51396 allows you tilt and swivel, and comes with a pedestal that positions the chair up high enough that your legs can extend comfortably. It does not, however, recline as much as other more couch-like chairs on the market. Though reclining can be an ergonomically advantageous position in some cases, soft couches tend not to provide a great deal of lower back support, which can have a negative impact on the spine. The 51396, on the other hand, fully supports the back and positions you slightly more upright as a consequence.
Pros of the X Rocker 51396 Pro Series Pedestal 2.1 Gaming Chair:
- Setup – Out of the box, the X Rocker 51396 can be up and running in less than 30 minutes.
- Back Support – Ample lumbar support and even includes a headrest.
- Appearance – Modern looking, and stylish.
- Built in Speakers – Clear, high-end speakers deliver quality audio.
Cons of the X Rocker 51396 Pro Series Pedestal 2.1 Gaming Chair:
- Recline – Does not recline particularly far if that is a preferred position.
- Arm Wrests – Cheap, unpadded and unnecessary.
The X Rocker 51396 is a top of the line chair for a gamer that wants all the bells and whistles. Unlike a couch, the 51396 provides an immersive gaming experience while also providing an ergonomic design. The wireless audio quality is as good as any stereo system and is designed a particular eye towards gaming. If you are looking for a high-quality chair that will support your gaming habits, this may be the one.
Final Verdict: If you’re looking for a top of the line gaming chair at a reasonable price, try out the X Rocker 51396.
Posted on July 22, 2016
Today I am going to do something out of the norm and talk about mouse pads. Why mouse pads? Well, the interesting thing about a mouse pad is that you shouldn’t ever need one. I’ve written extensively in the past about why it is important to mouse from the arm instead of the wrist. Theoretically, then, a mouse pad is an unnecessary expense, because if you are mousing properly, there is nothing to “pad.” Your mouse is the pad.
With that said, there are still some reasons that you might want to consider purchasing a comfortable mouse pad:
Though mice have gotten better at tracking on imperfect surfaces, they still aren’t perfect. A mouse pad on a glass or textured desk may help the mouse track more accurately, which in turn means fewer movements. Fewer movements means fewer repetitive motions and a reduced likelihood of developing and RSI injury.
Rests Between Mousing
In some cases, you may want to rest your wrist briefly between mouse movements. For instance, you might be reading an article and scrolling using the mouse wheel. During these periods of time, its fine to rest your wrist on a mouse pad with an integrated wrist wrest. Just remember to lift your wrist once you begin mousing again. For some folks, the wrist wrest may be too tempting, so I would only recommend going this route if you have developed sufficient muscle memory to mouse properly.
Protects Your Desk
Though not strictly a mouse-pad consideration, a good mouse pad can prevent you from scratching the beautiful rosewood top on your luxury office desk.
Given that there are some reasonable reasons for purchasing an ergonomic mouse pad, here are some things to look for when making such a purchase. Or, if you prefer to just cut to the chase, click here for our #1 choice on Amazon.
Key Factors to Consider:
Look for a mouse pad that is built in such a way that it wont fall apart. Some mouse pads are constructed with plastic that wears out quickly. Pay particular attention to seams and construction materials. For instance, mouse pads that are glued together with poor adhesives that are not reinforced may fall apart.
The last thing you want is a mouse pad that slides around on your desk. Seek out a mouse pad that has a good, firm anti-slip base. Typically these mouse pads use a special gum-rubber on the bottom that grips the mousing surface well.
Wrist Wrest (Or Not)
As mentioned above, a wrist wrest is a matter of preference. For those who do prefer to have a wrist wrest, make sure that it is comfortable and will not interfere with proper mousing technique. Others may explicitly prefer mouse pads without a wrist wrest in order to encourage better mousing technique.
The key here is minimal friction. The less force required in order to move the mouse, the less likely you are to overshoot mousing targets and the fewer movements you will need to make. In addition, look for a mousing surface that allows your mouse to track properly. Since nearly all mice are now optical, this means that some texture on the mousing surface may be desirable, though not so much that it creates friction.
Best Ergonomic Mouse Pads 2016:
- Seenda Aluminium Mouse Pad with Non-Slip Rubber Base (Check Price >>)
- Belkin WaveRest Gel Mouse Pad (Check Price >>)
- Belkin 8″x9″ Mouse Pad (Check Price >>)
- Non-Slip Backing – The backing materials on the Seenda mouse pad are top-notch.
- High Quality Materials – Whether its the aluminum bevel, or the precise mousing surface, the materials on the Seenda are top of the line.
- Additional Area – The uncovered portion of the mouse pad gives you room for pens or other items.
- Sleek Design – Good looking and easy to clean.
- Tracking – Some users reported tracking issues with particular Logitech mice.
- Non-Slip Backing – The gel material of the Belkin WaveRest prevents the mouse pad from sliding.
- Integrated Wrist Wrest – Provides wrist support when not mousing.
- Build Quality – Some users have reported that the mouse pad wore out too quickly..
- Pad Conformance – The wrist pad does not conform to the wrist, merely supports the wrist.
- Value – The basic Belkin mouse pad, provides excellent value at an affordable price point.
- No Frills – For those that prefer functionality over looks, this is the most basic and functional mouse pad on the market.
- Appearance – Not much going here, just a basic mouse pad.
More so that most computer purchases, the ideal mouse pad is truly a matter of preference. At such affordable price points, you might even consider buying a couple, trying them out, and using the one that you find most comfortable and injury prone.
Posted on July 19, 2016
At 9 to 5 ergonomics, we like to talk about ergonomic chairs. Recently, we discussed the best ergonomic office chairs on the market as well as the the best office chairs under 200 dollars in the value segment. We’ve also started looking at more niche products, such as the best chairs for gamers. Today, we’re continuing our look at the niche chair market with our guide to the best ergonomic kneeling chairs.
Kneeling chairs are not a particularly new concept, but the design of kneeling chairs has evolved dramatically over the past few years. The kneeling chair attempts to resolve three key problems with typical office chairs.
First, typical office chairs have a bad habit of placing the spine in a rounded position. Though a rounded back position can be alleviated by focusing on proper sitting technique, the reality is that many Americans lack the core strength and flexibility to sit properly. A kneeling chair inherently promotes a better spinal posture by removing the back support found on office chairs and positioning the hips in a more forward position, thereby encouraging a posture somewhere between that of sitting and standing.
Second, a more upright posture improves diaphragm position and promotes more efficient breathing. This is particularly important when working at a desk job that requires deep concentration. Often we neglect our regular breathing patterns and other natural rhythms such as blinking when we are intensely focused at work. By sitting more upright and by opening up the diaphragm, a kneeling chair may actually improve breathing as well.
Lastly, a kneeling chair will naturally strengthen core muscles over time because the muscles of the abdominals and lower back are forced to support the torso rather than relying on a chair frame for support. This can be a double edged sword initially, because although we want to strengthen the postural core muscles, overdoing things off the bat before these muscles have had time to acclimate can actually promote poor posture instead.
With that said, this guide will go over some of the most important things to consider when purchasing a kneeling chair. Or, if you prefer to cut to the chase, click here to see our #1 pick on Amazon.com.
Top 3 Best Chairs for Kneeling Chairs 2016:
- Flash Furniture Mobile Wooden Ergonomic Kneeling Chair (Check Price >>)
Boss B248 Ergonomic Kneeling Stool (Check Price >>)
Work Smart Ergonomically Designed Knee Chair (Check Price >>)
Key Factors to Consider When Buying a Kneeling Chair:
Kneeling chairs are completely different from typical office chairs. Completely. Whereas office chairs are defined by bells and whistles, in many ways the ideal kneeling chair is minimalistic. As mentioned above, the philosophy behind the kneeling chair is that it strips features away, thereby engaging the core muscles that support proper posture.
That’s not to say that many of the same considerations don’t apply. Here are the 3 most important factors to consider when buying a kneeling chair.
It comes as no surprise that this is first on our list of considerations. It might be tempting to assume that all kneeling chairs have similar ergonomics. Not so. Kneeling chairs still vary greatly in terms of the resting angles and body types that they support. Seek out a kneeling chair that is comfortable and fits you. That means that it ought to be adjustable over a range of positions that fit your particular body dimensions and workspace preferences.
Not too firm, not too soft is the name of the game here. Whereas I typically look for firm support in an office chair, and soft cushioning in chairs designed for reclining and comfort, with a kneeling chair, you really want the best of both worlds. Kneeling chairs need to be supportive, particularly in the knees and seat cushion. However, due to their design, kneeling chairs need to support your full body weight. Therefore, cushioning is particularly important in the knees. Seek a kneeling chair that is soft enough so as to avoid pressure points, but still provides adequate support where you need it.
Because kneeling chairs are relatively simplistic, one might think that build quality doesn’t matter. It turns out that it matters a lot. In fact, the build quality is probably the single biggest factor when it comes to the way that a kneeling chair will perform over the long term in improving posture. If you are stuck with a flimsy kneeling chair, it is unlikely that the chair will provide the lower body support required in order to develop core musculature. Not to mention, poorly constructed chairs tend to be uncomfortable, which means you probably just won’t use it.
Our Favorite Kneeling Chairs:
- Build Quality – The wooden frame and grey cloth design is, simply put, fantastic.
- Portable – The caster design of the Flash Furniture kneeling chair is a differentiating feature.
- Appearance – Looks great in any setting.
- Angles – Unique design allows all angles to change as you raise and lower chair.
- Padding – Despite the quality materials, the padding is bit more firm than other chairs on the market.
- Adjustability – The Boss B248 features a pneumatic system to raise and lower, which allows you to really dial in exactly the position you prefer.
- Padding – The padding on the Boss 248 is top notch. Soft, but supportive memory foam.
- Appearance – The black metal frame flies under the radar, but is nothing to write home about.
- Quality Control – Hit or miss build quality according to some reports.
- Casters – Allows chair to be moved around relatively easily.
- Padding Quality and Support – Padding wears out quickly and is too soft to support the knees properly.
- Sizing – Too large for shorter folks
Kneeling chairs are inherently a very personal purchase and ideally you can try out a couple designs before landing on the one that suits you best. With that said, the Flash Furniture and Boss 248B are both fantastic kneeling chairs that will work for a wide range of folks looking to mix things up at work. Just remember to not overdo it off the bat and you should see postural improvements within a few weeks. Happy shopping!
Updated on July 17, 2016
Here at 9 to 5 ergonomics, we’ve written a lot about office and executive chairs. In fact, we have a guide specifically outlining the best ergonomic chairs on the market. We’ve also looked at the value segment in our guide to the best ergonomic chair under 200. We haven’t, however, spent a lot of time looking at other niche chair markets. Today, we’re doing a run down of the best chairs for gamers.
This guide will go over some of the most important things to consider when purchasing a gaming chair. Or, if you prefer to cut to the chase, click here to see our #1 pick on Amazon.com.
Top 3 Best Chairs for Gamers 2016:
- X Rocker 51396 Pro Series Pedestal 2.1 Gaming Chair (Check Price >>)
- DXRacer Formula Series Bucket Chair (Check Price >>)
- X Rocker 5172601 Surge Bluetooth 2.1 Sound Gaming Chair (Check Price >>)
Key Factors to Consider When Buying an Chair for Gaming:
When considering the purchase of a gaming chair, it is tempting to merely apply the same criteria one might use when purchasing an office chair. Some of the same criteria are worth considering, but nowadays, there are a number of bells and whistles specifically geared towards hardcore gamers that can really make a difference in your gaming experience.
It comes as no surprise that the ergonomics of a gaming chair is the first thing that I consider in a chair. In some ways, I look for the same features I would look for in an office chair: adequate lumbar support, comfortable seat cushioning and a reasonably molded design.
However, the movement patterns in the office are very different from the movement patters involved in gaming. In particular, it is not nearly as important to be able to work in a “lean forward” sort of position. Therefore, you might consider how the chair reclines when evaluating whether a chair is ergonomically suitable. Many gaming chairs offer adjustable tilt and back support.
As with an office chair, the usefulness of arm wrests on a gaming chair is debatable. If you do purchase a chair with arm wrests, make sure that they are adjustable for situations where you do not want to have them in the way.
Finally, many gaming chairs are designed to be used in a relined position close to the floor, similar to the way that one might sit in a low slung sports car. There is nothing wrong with these chairs, but it is worth considering whether this is your preferred position, or whether your gaming activities are more suited to a traditional chair.
Whereas firm support is almost always desirable in an office chair, it’s not always the case that we want a firm gaming chair. Yes, it is always important to properly support your back. However, while reclined, the chair will naturally provide a reasonable amount of back support, and therefore you might consider purchasing a chair that is softer, which may be more comfortable.
Many gaming chairs now come with built in speakers. Some chairs even feature wireless capabilities, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the gaming experience without the hassle of plugging in wires. These chairs bring you closer to the action of your games, but can also be unnecessary if you already have a sufficient stereo system attached to your gaming platform of choice. Since many console gamers already have immersive home stereos, built in speakers may be an unnecessary expense.
Though there is a bit more wiggle room when it comes to gaming chairs, it is still nice to be able to dial in exactly the angles that you prefer. Look for a gaming chair with adjustable tilt and back support. Some gaming chairs also offer volume controls for the built in speakers and other nice perks.
Our Favorite Chairs for Gamers:
- Setup – The X Rocker is easy to get set up and going without much fuss
- Back Support – The X Rocker provides quite a bit of back support.
- Appearance – Sleek, modern appearance with racecar like textured backing.
- Built in Speakers – Clear, bluetooth sound
- Vibration Functionality – Immersive vibration feature
- Recline – Recline is somewhat more limited than might be expected from a chair at this price point.
- Arm Wrests – Arm wrests not of particularly high quality (but you didn’t want those anyway, right?)
- Build Quality – The DXRacer is made from incredibly high quality materials that will last a lifetime.
- Back Support – Ergonomic back support, similar to that found on the Aeron and other high quality office chairs.
- Appearance – Looks like a racing char, great for the Gran Turismo crowd.
- Neck Support – Chair is tall enough and ergonomically designed to provide neck and head support as well.
- Recline – Provides sufficient recline for gaming.
- Arm Wrests – Arm wrests leave a lot to be desired, hard and flimsy.
- No Built In Speakers – Lacks built in speakers
- Built in Speakers – Clear, bluetooth sound
- Back Support – Sufficient back support
- Affordability – A good value, reasonably priced compared to other top gaming chairs.
- Padding Quality – Padding wears out quickly.
- Heavy – Difficult to move around
The value of a gaming chair is in the eye of the beholder. Many folks will likely prefer to just game on their couch. However, if you are a hardcore gamer like I am, it might be worth purchasing a dedicated gaming chair. You can’t go wrong with any of the chairs on our list today. Happy Gaming!