The 2019 Trackball Revival

Trackball and Mouse

In an attempt to head off some elbow tendon pain I started looking into a different mouse for the office. The suspect mouse is the Dell laser model that came with my work machine a few years ago. At home I use a much more ergonomic Logitech G400 that doesn't seem to give me issues. The Dell has very extreme angle on the front so it's a very unnatural fit for my hand. Maybe it works for people with smaller hands? It doesn't help that the DPI settings seem to be messed up and it will only swap between turtle in molasses and rabbit on meth. It's pretty hard to use in either of those modes. While I'm guilty of keyboard snobbery I'm generally OK with whatever mouse I can find that is comfortable. The Microsoft D66 and Logitech MX518/G400 are usually my go to as they fit my hand well, are relatively inexpensive, don't require any third party software and are basically everywhere. I guess it's time that I started getting into other relatively obscure input devices.

I haven't used a trackball since the late 90s. Back then I didn't care for the trackball as scroll wheels were becoming big and more and more pieces of software were utilizing them. At the time there really weren't any trackballs on the market with a scroll wheel. Optical mice were also starting to come on the scene and were popular among gaming enthusiasts. At the time trackballs didn't have scroll wheels which was a real sore point in early FPS games. We had a Logitech Marble back then, which is still available new BTW. It's a fine track ball but lacking the scroll wheel was a let down back then.

Now a days scrolls wheels are available on the few trackballs still on the market in the US (they're apparently still big in Japan and that's not a joke). There aren't many available as they've fallen out of favor with most people. Logitech makes a couple and there are some sellers online that sell Japanese import Elecoms. I went with a Logitech M570 as the MX Ergo was quite expensive. Plus I'm generally not a fan of non-user replaceable batteries and the rubberized coating the MX Ergo had. While I had used a Logitech Marble years ago I'd never used a thumb ball type trackball period so this was a first. So far I can say the M570 is a pleasure to use. It's only been a little over a week but I'm already comfortable with it. As far as gaming goes I've only managed to try a little Team Fortress 2 with it and I can see a trackball being a huge advantage in FPS games once you adjust. To be honest I'm not sure why these things are more popular than they are with gamers. The M570 is a tad small in the width department so my fingers tend to fall off the right hand side of the device but otherwise it fits my had well. I really don't care for the wireless part, especially since it's not Bluetooth and requires a small USB receiver, but it at least runs on a single AA that's user replaceable. Wireless trackballs don't make a lot of sense if you ask me. They don't move and aren't something you're going to use across the room, but it's what the kids like so whatever.

I think the key to preventing RSI is to stop the repetitive part of it so I'm not ditching the mouse completely. Changing position and devices will help in that direction quite a bit. I'm may be on eBay looking at some older models of trackballs too as most have been relegated to the dust bin of history, although some models can be quite pricey as they have a bit of a cult following. Elecom gets high marks on the new market but they can be pricey as they have to be imported. Really, if you want to one out I'd say give the M570 or a Trackman Marble a shake. You won't be out but for about $20-25 or so and if you like it there are other higher-end options out there. As an added bonus ne'er-do-wells won't really be able to mess you machine and I've already baffled a few people when I had to work in an open office setting this week ...