So you are considering buying a Trackball, that’s great!
But how to decide on the best Trackball?
There are a few things you need to keep in mind when looking for the best trackball mouse for your needs.
Thumb-operated vs. Finger operated trackball
There are two types of trackballs: the thumb-operated models, and the finger operated models.
Thumb-operated trackballs have a small ball located on the left side of the device, which you need to control with your thumb. Your index, middle and ring finger and little finger (pinky), are used for clicking buttons and the moving the scroll wheel.
Finger-operated trackballs have a ball, usually a larger ball, in the middle of the device which has to be controlled with the index and middle finger (and sometimes you can add the ring finger if you want as well). Buttons are placed on each side of the ball and need to be clicked with the thumb and ring finger (and/or pinky). Some Kensington trackballs (Expert, Orbit with Scroll Ring) have a scroll ring around the ball, which is controlled by the ring finger, others have a scroll wheel either on the side or on top of the device.
If you have read this website, you probably know that I’m in favor of finger-operated trackballs. But I need to say that this is a personal preference. Many people swear by the thumb-operated trackballs. I think that a finger-operated trackball offers more precision, because you have two fingers to control the ball, and often the ball is much bigger than on the thumb-operated trackballs, again giving more control.
Are you left-handed?
There is currently only one trackball available made especially for left-handed users, the Elecom M-XT4DRBK wireless left-handed trackball.
If you are left-handed, you can also look at the ambidextrous trackballs, the trackballs that have a symmetrical design, mostly the finger-operated trackballs with the ball in the middle.
Buttons – how many do you really need?
There are trackballs available with up to 8 buttons. The basic trackballs have only two buttons (Kensington Orbit, Kensington Orbit with Scroll Ring), and most trackballs have 4 buttons and sometimes an extra button in the form of a clickable scroll wheel.
Most people that only browse websites, and do basic computing, only need two buttons. I’m a heavy computer user (web designer and developer) and still only use two buttons.
But if you are a gamer, or use more complicated software, more buttons are better. Usually you can program the extra buttons to do specific tasks (via Logitech’s Control Center or Kensington’s Trackball Works software for example), so you can customize the buttons to your personal preferences.
Most trackballs have a scroll wheel, but not all. There are different kinds of scrolling methods:
- A small scroll wheel that can be controlled by the index or middle finger. Seen on: Logitech M570, Logitech Cordless Optical TrackMan, Speedlink Aptico Wireless Trackball, Sanwa Wireless Trackball Pro, Microsoft Trackball Optical, Elecom M-XT3DRBK and M-XT3URBK.
- A small scroll wheel that can be controlled by the thumb. Seen on Microsoft Trackball Explorer, Adesso iMouse T1, Elecom M-DT3DRBK and DT2URBK.
- A large scroll ring around the trackball, offered by Kensington on their Expert, Expert Wireless and Orbit with Scroll Ring.
- Scrolling by turning the ball on its y-axis (Kensington SlimBlade)
- A special large optical scroll wheel can be found on the CST2545 trackball models.
A great trackball that doesn’t have a scroll wheel is the Logitech Trackman Marble, and I would say that is its only downside.
Many people prefer a wireless trackball because it takes up even less space on the desk. There a few considerations though, especially for gamers: the wireless connection is not as trustworthy as a wired connection, and a wireless trackball needs a AA battery (it will last long but still might be replaced more than once a year if you are a heavy user).
And then there is the type of wireless, which is nowadays basically always USB 2.4GHz. There is currently only one Bluetooth trackball, the Kensington Expert Wireless Trackball, which also features a 2.4GHz USB connection in case you don’t have Bluetooth.
Size does matter
When looking for a trackball, the size of the device and the size of the trackball are also important features to consider.
If you have small hands, you might prefer a smaller device, and for large hands the larger trackballs like the Kensington Expert are better suited.
The size of the ball also matters. A larger ball gives more control and precision, in my opinion.
One important thing to take into account is the size of the trackball itself. As you see in the image above there are many different sizes available, and yes… I think bigger is better!
photo © TrackballMouse.org
The smallest devices, suited for small hands, are the Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball, Speedlink Aptico Wireless Trackball, Elecom M-DT3DRBK and Elecom M-DT3URBK, Kensington Orbit Optical and Kensington Orbit with Scroll Ring. And then there is the very small Kensington Orbit Wireless Mobile, but that one is better suited as a remote control for your media center, for people on the road or if you work on a laptop in a Starbucks, or if you’re giving a presentation and don’t have much space on your presentation desk.
The benefits of a trackball
Use on any desk and save space
Because a trackball mouse doesn’t move, you can place it on your desk without the need of a large space to move your mouse around. And it doesn’t matter on which surface you put your trackball mouse, it will always work (you can finally get rid of those dirty mouse mats)! Or use it as a remote for your media center, while sitting on the couch.
More precision and control
A trackball mouse is very accurate. This is largely because you can control the (large) ball directly, combined with optical laser technology that enables you to guide the cursor on the screen without any effort. Some trackballs also offer many programmable buttons to enhance your browsing or working experience on the computer.
And last but not least, you will actually not feel pain anymore in your arms, shoulder and neck while your using the computer! A trackball mouse doesn’t require your arm to make thousands of unnatural movements each day. Just relax your arm on the chair’s armrest, ease your wrist on that smooth plastic and aim your cursor with that shiny ball with minimal movements of the fingers and wrist.
If you are a bit lazy, there’s more good news
Only a few trackball mouses are currently available to choose from, so you don’t have to do a lot of research. It’s easy! Just read the trackball reviews, Top 10 Trackballs, Buyer’s Guide or compare the trackballs on this website and make your choice!
Still can’t decide?
Ask my advice, I’ve been using trackballs for years. Will my advice be objective and impartial? Uhm, no. I am very passionate about trackballs and I have my personal preferences, so be warned that when you contact me, you might end up with a trackball on your desk before you can say “Logitech TrackMan Cordless Optical Trackball Mouse”!
Oh, you’re a bit scared that you won’t like this weird trackball device? Even then I have a solution! Write me a creative, desperate email asking me to give you a free trackball mouse. Once a month, I will give away a free trackball to the person that touched my heart. Just because I want to make you happy and know you will like it.
When choosing the best trackball mouse, you need to take into consideration your usage and hand configuration. Read my reviews and look for smaller trackballs if you have small hands. Do you work professionally with a computer? Then go for the more expensive and larger trackballs like the Kensington Expert, SlimBlade or CST2545, although I think the more affordable Kensington Orbit with Scroll Ring is a very good value-for-money option. If you only use a trackball for basic computing, like email and internet, then a Logitech Marble Mouse, Kensington Orbit with Scroll Ring, or Logitech M570 Wireless Trackball are great options.
I recommend you Compare all trackballs to see which options you think are important, or go straight away to my Top 10 trackballs list or Editor’s Choice Winners or get inspiration from my detailed Trackball reviews.