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Several years ago, I found myself wanting a better mouse. My computer at the time was a Mac Pro that was 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. But I found myself on a new quest when Apple released the Magic Trackpad and my boss bought one for me to try out.

I was intrigued by the idea of using something other than a regular mouse on my desktop computer. Over the next few weeks, I tried the Magic Trackpad, the Magic Mouse and a few higher end Logitech mice. Long story short, I wasn’t happy with any of these. I don’t think Apple has produced a decent input device since the Apple Extended Keyboard II and the teardrop mouse. Yes, Apple’s trackpads are the best on the market, but I don’t view a trackpad as a decent input device.

As I pondered all this, I noticed that my boss always returned to his old trackball, no matter what other types of mice he tried. Of course, he used an old, discontinued marble mouse that was difficult to find and way too expensive if you did. But I figured there had to be a decent modern equivalent.

Logitech M570

First stop was the one everyone seems to go to when they ditch a regular mouse: the Logitech M570. It was a thumb style trackball with 3 buttons, a scroll wheel and a pair of back/forward buttons. The buttons and scroll wheel performed as expected, but the ball was fairly small and didn’t have any weight to it. This made it too easy for it to spin up out of its socket sometimes and it wasn’t as accurate as I had hoped. Ultimately, I never could get my thumb to do what I wanted it to do. Even though I used it for over a month, I never really felt comfortable with it.

Pros:

  • Extra navigation buttons
  • Standard scroll wheel
  • Mouse buttons are operated with the usual fingers

Cons:

  • 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

I resumed searching for a better mouse and found a great sale on a Kensington Orbit with Scroll Ring. Yes, that’s a bit of a mouthful. 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. The ball was quite a bit bigger than the Logitech M570 and the buttons were 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 switch to a regular mouse for gaming or if I use someone else’s computer. But I’m a rare gamer and I almost always use my own computer. The only real drawback for me was the fact it only had two buttons. Despite the lack of extra buttons, this became my favorite mouse after only a few days.

Pros:

  • Larger, heavier ball with smooth movement
  • Center ball that you move with your fingers (or whole hand) instead of your thumb
  • Smooth scroll ring

Cons:

  • Using your thumb for left click can result in a little finger confusion when switching to use regular mice for gaming or at an internet cafe
  • Only the two buttons. It could use a third button or some navigation buttons

Conclusion

So far, I have not found a mouse I like better than the Kensington Orbit with Scroll Ring. I wish they would add a few more buttons and name it something unique, but overall, I have not used a better trackball mouse. I even tried some more expensive ones, which I’ll write about later, but so far I have always returned to this one.

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