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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:
- Review Of Gaming Mouses
- Mathematical Models of 3D Inputs Control
- A Review of The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 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” 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” amazon
This one is $25. Got a scroll ring. But 2 buttons only. Good reviews at Amazon.
Kensington Orbit Trackball
“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 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.
“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”. A interesting, but discontinued trackball. amazon