If you are a gamer you might wonder if you can use a trackball to play your favorite game. I personally think trackball gaming just as good, if not better than a regular mouse. Most gamers still prefer a mouse, but it’s hard to say if that is because so many more people use mice and never tried a trackball, or if a mouse is really better.
Computer gamers have been able to successfully use trackballs in most modern computer games, including FPS, RPG, and RTS genres, with any slight loss of speed compensated for with an increase in precision. Many trackball gamers are competent at “throwing” their cursor rapidly across the screen, by spinning the trackball, enabling (with practice) much faster motion than can be achieved with a ball-less mouse and arm motion. However, many gamers are deterred by the time it takes to ‘get used to’ the different style of hand control that a trackball requires. When you just start using a trackball, it does take a bit of time to get to the same level you were at before, just because you need to get used to the trackball. Once you are comfortable with the trackball, it would seem obvious that a trackball offers more benefits in gaming than a mouse:
Advantages of a trackball gaming compared to a mouse
- A trackball is just as (or more) accurate as the best optical mice
- A trackball offers much better control, which is very important in many games
- With a trackball you only use your fingers so your wrists, arms, shoulders and neck don’t have to move. This gives you better control, more speed while using less energy. You won’t get sore wrists or arms after a long night of gaming.
- Fingers (or thumb) are capable of much quicker and more accurate movements than our arms, which could give you an advantage over your adversaries.
- A trackball doesn’t require desk space or a clean surface or a mousepad. It never needs to be picked up and moved over to make movements, which can be annoying in a game. You can really use a trackball anywhere, placing it on your knee, on your desk, on a couch armrest… especially the wireless trackballs are very versatile in that way.
- The cord never ever gets in the way of your movement, because a trackball doesn’t move.
Advantages of a mouse compared to a trackball
- A mouse leaves your fingers more easily available to hit combinations of buttons than a finger trackball. This could be solved by using a thumb operated trackball where you would have your four other fingers to hit buttons.
- There’s a wide selection of gaming mice (see here) while there are no trackballs that are made specifically for gaming.
- Achieving a smooth 360+ degree rotation on a First Person Shooter (FPS) with a thumb trackball might be more tricky. You have to move your thumb at some point.
Making the switch to trackball gaming
Making the switch to a trackball is definitely something you can do and still successfully game. Not everyone likes trackballs, though, so we strongly suggest to first try a trackball so you can feel the difference yourself and decide if you like it or not.
If you get a trackball, try to force yourself to use it, if you want to learn to use it. Just unplug your mouse and start using the trackball for your computer work and gaming. For some people it does take some time (some days or sometimes even a few weeks) to be as good with a trackball as they were with the mouse, and some people are already good or better with their trackball after a few minutes.
Which trackball is better for gaming?
Buttons and ball size
Although most trackballs are suited for gaming, you might want to consider the amount of buttons on the trackball and the size of the ball. A large ball usually gives more precision and more buttons could give you more options in certain games. Compare trackballs here to see available models and options.
Fit to your hand
Also it could be a good idea to have a look at the trackball in a store first, to see if it would fit the size of your hand. Some trackballs are quite large and some are smaller and more suited for small hands. The Kensington Expert is good for people with large hands, while the Logitech Marble and Kensington Orbit are great for everyone including people with smaller hands and fingers.
Thumb or fingers
Using a thumb or finger-operated trackball is a personal preference, but again: the thumb operated trackball might give you a better chance of using the buttons with your other fingers, while trackball operated by your other fingers gives you more control and accuracy over the movement. This depends a lot on the game though as each trackball always offers a precise control and use of several buttons, so it still remains a personal preference. Examples of thumb operated trackballs are the Logitech Trackman Wheel, Logitech M570 and the Microsoft Trackball optical and Microsoft Trackball Explorer. Multiple finger operated trackballs are the Kensington SlimBlade, Kensington Expert, Kensington Orbit with Scroll Ring, Logitech Marble and the Adesso iMouse T1 / iOne Lynx R15.
I would highly recommend attempting to switch to a trackball if you’re considering it. Most people don’t regret their decision to switch, even for gaming. Some people recommend to alternate between a trackball and a mouse (depending on the game you play or use of the computer), to reduce the repetitiveness of the movements and thereby reducing the risk of RSI.
Compare all trackballs
If you are a gamer and have positive or negative experience with a trackball and a certain game, please share your experience by leaving a comment below.