Several years ago, I found myself wanting a better mouse. My computer at the time was a Mac Pro provided by my employer, and the aluminum keyboard and Mighty Mouse that came with it were downright awful. The laptop-style, low profile keyboard was terrible to type on and the mouse had a tiny ball for scrolling, which would get gummed up very easily.
At first, I simply traded them in for a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse set which I used for quite some time. It was a basic rubber dome keyboard and standard wireless optical mouse. They were okay. They worked. Ultimately, I wanted something better.
I noticed that my boss would try out other mice, but ultimately return to his old trackball. He explained that it was more ergonomic and he found it easier to use. Unfortunately, the model he used had long been discontinued and regularly sold for over $300 on eBay. Too rich for me. But I figured there must be some modern equivalents.
So I went on a search. My initial requirements were simple. It needed to cost less than $50 and I didn’t want to give up my scroll wheel, which seemed to be a commonly missing feature amongst trackball mice.
My first stop was the trackball mouse everyone seems to go to when they ditch a regular mouse: the Logitech M570. It is a thumb style trackball with 3 buttons, a scroll wheel and a pair of back/forward buttons. The buttons and scroll wheel performed just like the other Logitech mice I had used. That meant the ball was the only thing I would need to get used to.
Unfortunately, this mouse has a relatively small ball that doesn’t have much weight to it. Because of this, I had difficulty moving the pointer any distance by spinning the ball. I also had quite a bit of difficulty with accuracy. The pointer seemed to jump around a bit. To be fair, I think I must have a thumb impediment. I never could get it to do what I wanted it to do. I can’t exactly blame that on the mouse. Even though I used it for over a month, I never really felt comfortable with it.
- Extra navigation buttons
- Standard scroll wheel
- Mouse buttons are operated with the usual fingers
- Small, lightweight ball tended to lift out of its place a bit
- For me, movement was awkward with my thumb
Kensington Orbit with Scroll Wheel
The other mouse I tested was the Kensington Orbit with Scroll Ring which I was able to find on sale. The name is quite a mouthful. There is a previous version without a scroll ring simply called the Orbit. I’m not sure why they didn’t just rename it when they added a scroll ring. Anyway, it’s a center ball with two buttons and a scroll ring, which I thought was very intriguing. The ball is a bit bigger than the Logitech M570 and the buttons are noticeably firm.
I quickly adapted to using the trackball with my index and middle fingers, and the scroll ring seemed completely natural after the first few days. It took a short while to get accustomed to left-clicking with my thumb, which does present a bit of finger confusion if I need to use a regular mouse for some reason.
It was easy to spin the ball to bring the pointer from one end of a dual monitor setup to the other. I was able to accurately place the pointer where I wanted, and I found that I preferred the firmness of the buttons. This became my new favorite mouse after only a few days.
- Larger, heavier ball with smooth movement
- Center ball that you move with your fingers (or whole hand) instead of your thumb
- Smooth scroll ring
- Using your thumb for left click can result in a little finger confusion when switching to use regular mice for gaming or at another machine
- Only the two buttons. It could use a third button or some navigation buttons
If I had less than $50 to spend on a trackball mouse, I would choose the Kensington Orbit with Scroll Ring. I prefer the middle ball, and the scroll ring is nice and smooth. Having only two buttons may be an issue for some people, but made little difference to me.
If, however, you prefer to operate the ball with your thumb, the Logitech M570 is an excellent choice for the price.