Trackball vs Mouse, How to Choose Trackball

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Trackball Advantage

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4000ร—2250 [image source]

Mouse Advantage

Why Trackball Can't Beat Mouse for FPS Games

Mouse excels at fast straight line position to position. (because, you simply push it, and this naturally can be done very fast, and naturally results in straight line movement.)

So, if the task is fast straight line jump to n points, mouse beats trackball, pen, trackpad, trackpoint.

For playing First Person Shooter games, the demand for the pointer control is exactly that, fast jump to n points, meaning, straight line movements of the mouse.

Who Prefer Trackball?

Note, some gamers prefer trackball, but very rare.

How to Choose a Trackball

Most Important: Comfort

The most important thing when buying a trackball is comfort. How does it physically fit your hand. All other aspects of trackball are less important than comfort. When a trackball's ball size, position, button position, are designed in a way that you find it hard to operate, then it is a major pain.

Thumb Ball vs Index Finger Ball

Trackballs have many different designs and shapes. One major difference is thumb-operated ball vs index-finger operated ball.

Index finger ball is easier to use than the thumb ball. Because, with index finger ball, you can use the whole hand to move the ball. Thumb based design have the ball on the side, and you must use thumb.

How to Avoid Hand Stress When Using Trackball

Some people got thumb pain when using thumb ball for years.

Can the Ball Spin

When you buy a trackball, the less the ball friction, the better. see Trackballs That Can Spin

Get One with Mechanical Scroll Wheel/Ring

Be sure to get one with mechanical scroll wheel/ring.

Buttons Placement, How Many Buttons

Next importance is button placement. This really depends on the overall design.

There's no general way to say which is good. You just have to try it yourself, with your own hand, because each person's hand is different.

Trackball DPI Comparison

One thing about trackball is how far/fast it can move pointer.

In computer mouse, this is called DPI (dot per inch) (aka CPI, for Counts Per Inch).

Trackball also has DPI, but because different trackballs have different ball sizes, and some can spin better than others, so DPI is misleading.

Instead of counting DPI, a more practical way to judge trackball sensitivity is to rotate the ball half a circle, or whatever exposed area of the ball, and see how far the pointer moves.

It's rather complicated, because large trackballs only expose a small area, while smaller trackball exposes most of the ball surface.

In the end, you just want to roll the ball and feel it.

But, ultimately, it doesn't matter much. Because you can set pointer acceleration in your Operating System {Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac}. That is, with acceleration, the pointer moves further when you roll the ball faster.

However some old trackball such as the Logitech Trackman Marble from year 2004 is too low in DPI. On MacOS, even if you turn acceleration all the way up, it's still too stlow.