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 more natural 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 best trackball ever, ever, is the Microsoft Trackball Explorer.
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 a 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 who have written about 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. 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 have some advantages over mouse. Here's a summary of the reasons:
If you read many user comments on amazon, you'll see that many 3D Modeler users, or persons with mouse-induced RSI, even some gamers, swear by trackball over mouse. 〔☛ Celebrity Programers with RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)〕
Here's other claims about trackball, but am not sure.
I think trackball and mouse are just different. They have different characteristics. One advantage of mouse is that you can use it for casual drawing. For trackball, that's difficult. But if you really need to draw, a pen-input is much better. 〔☛ Best Input Devices (Jog/Shuttle, Touchpad, Cyborg Mouse, Pen Tablet)〕
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 of operation. One of the major difference is the ball size. Some design have you use thumb for the ball, others you use your middle finger or index finger 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.
One of the most attractive quality of a good trackball is that the ball spins, with little friction. You can try to spin the ball. If the ball kept spinning for a second or two, it's GOOD.
Of the trackballs that i know for sure spins, are: Microsoft Trackball Explorer, Logitech Trackman Marble Mouse, L-Trac Laser Trackball.
Logitech's trackballs are the most popular on the market. They have several models. For review, see: Logitech Trackball Mouse Reviews.
Kensington was famous, throughout 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 notorious for not supporting Windows 7. ( update: Shadow Skill says Windows 7 driver has been released.)
This one, the Slimblade, seems to be the best from the looks. Largish ball. 4 buttons. About $20 more expensive than the Expert Mouse. This is their next generation.
This one is $25. Got a scroll ring. But 2 buttons only. Good reviews at Amazon.
This is $25. From the looks, it seems to be a fantastic one. But bad reviews. No scroll wheel. 2 buttons only.
This one just remindes me of Star Trek. Some people on YouTube mod it so the ball lights up.
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 the Wheel, but no scroll wheel will pain some. For First Person Shooter gaming, apparently there's no agreement on which is better.
Discovered what might be the best trackball today. Large ball, scroll wheel, 5 buttons.
A new product. First available at Amazon on ≈. Though, it is a whopping $150, more expensive than them all. Here's the interesting features:
If you have RSI and don't like trackball, you might try some ergonomic mouses 〔☛ Evoluent VerticalMouse, Microsoft Natural 6000〕 , or trackpad, or some fancy input devices. 〔☛ Best Input Devices (Jog/Shuttle, Touchpad, Cyborg Mouse, Pen Tablet)〕blog comments powered by Disqus