trackball mouse reviews

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Best Trackball Mouse

Xah Lee, 2009-12-24, 2010-08-06, 2010-11-20

In the past few months, i spent many days reviewing the design and functionality of input devices. See:

I've always been fascinated by trackballs. I think they are a more natural device than mouse. However, i've never owned and used a trackball. But have always been thinking of buying one. Every year or 2, i would spend days reading reviews of them, fuzzing about their design, ergonomics. About every 3 months in the past 20 years, i'd spend some 20 minutes in stores playing with them. Today i did again.

The Microsoft Trackball Explorer

The best trackball ever, ever, is the The Microsoft Trackball Explorer.

ms trackball explorer ms trackball explorer2

“Microsoft Trackball Explorer”. amazon The best trackball ever. Large ball. Heavish. Spins!

In a trackball device, the one thing you want, is large ball and with the least amount of friction. So that, you could spin the ball. However, in almost all trackballs i've tested at store, doesn't matter how much force you try to spin the ball, as soon as your finger leaves the ball, the ball stops within second. The only exception i know of is the Microsoft Trackball Explorer.

This trackball have rave reviews all over the web. However, for business reasons, Microsoft stopped producing trackballs, citing that vast majority of people buy mouse. If you search the web, you'll find several avid fans have blogged how they wrote to Microsoft to ask them to bring this device back, but Microsoft basically said “sorry, no.”.

You can see how the demand/supply of this trackball is going crazy. Amazon have sellers selling them from $200 to $500. Right now, there's a seller selling new ones for $500. Holy shit. That's more expensive than a whole computer. On ebay, you can see several starting at about $200. And there's even repair service for this device for $45.

Why Trackball?

Trackball has several advantages over mouse. In general, it is just better than mouse. Here's a summary of the reasons:

  • Less desk space needed than mouse.
  • More intuitive.
  • Offers better control than mouse. Precision when you need it, moving fast when you need it.
  • More ergonomic in general.

If you read many user comments on amazon, you'll see that many 3D Modeler users, or persons with mouse-induced Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), even some gamers, swear by trackball over mouse.

Both trackball and mouse requires some learning. Many will say trackball requires learning, only because they've already learned mouse, probably years of experience. I would claim, that trackball is more intuitive than mouse , generally speaking for new users, and i am pretty certain this would be so if one do a scientific study.

Which Model?

Most comments about trackball are simply about how it is better than mouse, but is not actual review about a particular trackball product in comparison to other trackballs.

Unlike mouses, different design of trackballs have different ways to operate them. One of the major difference is the ball size. Some design have you use thumb for the ball, others you use your long fingers to move the ball. The placement of ball also changes the location of all the buttons.

The following are the most popular ones on the market with different designs.

Logitech Trackballs

Logitech Trackman Marble

“Logitech Trackman Marble Mouse” amazon ($30)

Logitech trackballs are the most popular trackballs on the market. They have several models. For review, see: Logitech Trackball Mouse Reviews.

Kensington Expert Mouse

Kensington Expert Mouse Optical USB Trackball

“Kensington Expert Mouse Optical USB Trackball” amazon ($65)

Kensington was famous, through-out the 1990s in the Macintosh community, for its large ball trackball. In almost all 1990s, the Kensington trackball is the coveted device for high-end Mac owners for all their graphics design needs.

Since the 2000s or perhaps late 1990s, their market got eaten by Logitech, and i think their product's quality and innovation also gradually declined.

I think one major problem is that the ball has a lot friction. I remember i tried it in stores and think the friction is the worst of all trackballs i've put my hands on. Also, Kensington's classic design always seems unwieldy for me. That you have to bend your wrist up to use it. If i actually use this, i'll have to put a thick book in front to rest wrist on.

This trackball is notorias for not supporting Windows 7.

Kensington Orbit Trackball

Kensington Orbit Trackball K72337US

“Kensington Orbit Trackball K72337US” amazon

This one is $25. Got a scroll ring. But 2 buttons only. Good reviews at Amazon.

Kensington Orbit Trackball

Kensington Orbit Optical Trackball 64327

“Kensington Orbit Optical Trackball Mouse 64327” amazon

This is $25. From the looks, it seems to be a fantastic one. But bad reviews. No scroll wheel. 2 buttons only.

Kensington Slimblade Trackball USB 2.0 K72327US

Kensington Slimblade trackball K72327US

“Kensington Slimblade Trackball USB 2.0” amazon

This one, seems to be the best from the looks. Largish ball. 4 buttons. But very bad reviews, and is $101.


I think the best ones would be either the “Logitech Trackman Wheel” or “Logitech Trackman Marble”. The advantage of the Trackman Wheel is that it got a scroll wheel, some prefer it for gaming, but the thumb operated smallish ball is bad. The advantage of the Marble is its large ball for easy index finger operation, got 1 more button than then Wheel, but no scroll wheel will pain some. For First Person Shooter gaming, apparantly there's no agreement on which is better.

L-Trac Laser Trackball


Discovered what might be the best trackball today. Large ball, scroll wheel, 5 buttons.

CST2545-5W trackball

“L-trac Laser Trackball with scroll Wheel” amazon

A new product. First available at Amazon on 2009-09. Though, it is $110. Here's the interesting features:

  • It has a scroll wheel! Nice.
  • Very large ball, at 5.7 cm diameter.
  • 3 buttons. The third button is on the north side of the ball.
  • It uses laser to track, not just “optimal” (LED) as in most trackballs. This is interesting, because trackballs doesn't need to track arbitrary surfaces, so optical tracking tech should be sufficient. Laser might be a overkill. Maybe the extra tracking provided by laser is useful when you have greasy hands that dirty the ball.
  • 1600 DPI resolution.


Microsoft D67 00001 Trackball Optical Mouse

“Microsoft D67 00001 Trackball Optical Mouse”. A interesting, but discontinued trackball. amazon

gaming mouses

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Review Of Microsoft SideWinder Gaming Mouses

Xah Lee, 2009-12-18, 2010-11-19

Spend few hours looking at gaming mouse today. Here are some thoughts.

Even if you are not a gamer, a gaming mouse provides multiple reprogramable buttons and that is a productivity gain. Generally speaking, it has more advanced technology than a non-gaming mouse.

Gaming mouse from Microsoft:

  • “Microsoft SideWinder X8 Mouse”. amazon
  • “Microsoft SideWinder Gaming Mouse”. amazon
  • “Microsoft SideWinder X5 Mouse”. amazon
  • “Microsoft SideWinder X3 Mouse”. amazon
Microsoft sidewinder x8 mouse

“Microsoft Sidewinder X8 mouse” . Wireless. amazon

Microsoft sidewinder x8 mouse 2

“Microsoft Sidewinder X8 mouse”, and a recharger with magnetic connector.

All these mouses have 1 scroll wheel, 3 instant-change-dpi buttons, and at least 5 programable buttons. But the X8 has 7 programable buttons, counting the left/right nudge of the scroll wheel.

The X8 is wireless, all the others are wired. The wireless of X8 is actually quite advanced. It uses and comes with one standard AA sized rechargeable battery. It has a magnetic connector, so it snaps onto the mouse when you need to connect the charger, and you can use it as a wired mouse while it is charging. It also features a new blue laser technology, for a 4k DPI tracking. But even if you are a hardcore gamer, any DPI over 2k is basically useless. (See: What's Mouse DPI; Does Mouse DPI Matter in Gaming?.)

The middle 3 red buttons let you change dpi by a single press. They light up. The top button is 2000 dpi, the middle 800, the bottom 400.

Changing dpi is a great feature. For gaming, you want fast action, for example when turning, but when you are aiming at a far target, you want less sensitivity for precision aiming. This applies for non-gaming work as well, such as working in 3D modlers.

All are shaped for the right hand, except the X3, which is symmetric.

Microsoft sidewinder x3 mouse 2

“Microsoft Sidewinder X3” amazon

In the end, i bought the Sindewinder X3, on discount, for $20 at a local Fry's Electronics. It is fantastic. The flat cylinder shaped scroll wheel is great, because it is easier to push as a actual button too. (Most other mouse's wheel is tube shaped and hard to press.) I choose this model because this is the smallest among them, and i have small hands. Also, this is the only among them that is symmetric for either hand. I always use 2 mouses, one for each hand. But i'm buying this mouse for my left hand. When playing combat games, i use left hand for mousing. Also, this is the lightest among them. I prefer mouse as light as possible. Those gaming mouses that comes with attachable weights seem ridiculous to me. Another great feature about this mouse, or perhaps the whole series, is that it is shaped so it is easy to grab and lift. You want it to be easily grabable for quick lifting, sometimes needed. Many mouses come in some oval shape that's comparably less easily grabable.

One thing curious is that the laser at the bottom does not glow. In all optical mouses i've used, they glow a red glow. And if you lift the mouse, after few secs they'll start to flash. On the X3, there's no light on the laser. (if you peek into the lens carefully, you can however see red light inside.) I find this no-glow interesting and welcome.

Razer Naga Mouse


“Razer Naga MMOG Laser Gaming Mouse” amazon

Review at: Best Mouse for Programers and AutoHotkey Keyboard Macros.

Logitech Gaming Mouses

Logitech G9 mouse Logitech G9 mouse wheel

“Logitech G9 Laser Mouse” amazon, offers a wheel that can switch between smooth mode and notched mode.

I haven't tried any Logitech mouses. No particular reason, just that i've always been happy with Microsoft's keyboard and mouse. The current available gaming mouses are:

  • “Logitech G9X Laser Mouse” amazon
  • “Logitech G9 Laser Mouse” amazon
  • “Logitech G500 Gaming Mouse” (optical) amazon
  • “Logitech MX 518 High Performance Optical Gaming Mouse” amazon

According to a amazon reviewer, the G9 and G9X are identical except that G9X offers 5000 dpi vs G9's 3200. LOL. See: What's Mouse DPI; Does Mouse DPI Matter in Gaming?.

One annoying thing is that most spec don't say their size. Here's some info gathered from a amazon reviewer “Lakemechanic”:

  • V220 — 8.8 long
  • V320 — 9.8
  • V450 — 10.5
  • L6, L7, L8, MX400, MX Revolution — 12.3
  • LX7 — 12 × 5 × 2.5 (long × wide × high)
  • MX518 — 12.5
  • MX620 — 12.8
  • G5 — 12.5
  • G9 — 10.5
  • Microsoft Basic Optical Mouse — 11.2 × 5.1 × 4.2
  • Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 — 12.4 × 6.7 × 4.2
  • Razer DeathAdder — 12.6 × 6.9 × 4.5

(all units in cm.)

What's the Difference Between Optical vs Laser?

Both optical and laser mouse use light technology. Optical mouse uses LED, while laser uses laser. Laser tech can track on more surfaces, at higher frequency.

Other Notes

Wikipedia article Mouse (computing) has quite a lot juice on mouse.

  • “Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000” (68C-00001) amazon
  • “Microsoft LifeCam VX-7000” amazon
  • “Microsoft LifeCam Cinema” amazon

The best one from Microsoft is the Cinema one. I think i'll have that.