After several hours of research, I finally made my selection of the 5 best trackballs among more than fifteen models marketed for the moment. The one that particularly caught my attention is the Logitech MX Ergo which, despite a slightly higher price, offers the best quality product available on the market. You will also find at the end of this article a guide to help you see more clearly the essential criteria to consider when making your purchase.
Logitech is a brand that's known worldwide as a leader in PC peripherals, with hundreds of models of keyboards, headphones, webcams and, of course, mice. They've specialized in hardware for gamers for the past few years, but some products, including trackballs, have been around for a long time in the Logitech catalog. One of the least expensive models presented here is the Logitech M570, an entry-level, wireless trackball.
This compact device measures 8.2 x 16 x 20.8 cm for only 399 grams and is guaranteed for 3 years by its manufacturer. This is the evolution of the Trackman Wheel, which takes up very little space since you don't need to move your arm. There are 5 buttons on this trackball, which can be easily customized according to your needs, allowing it to be used for just about anything you need to do on your computer, without having to move around. Connectivity is great for workers, since the M570 works on a USB wireless receiver that works up to 10 meters away, allowing you to connect not only this product, but also up to 6 other brand peripherals at the same time!
So you can use this trackball, a traditional mouse and keyboard without having to add another receiver on your computer and clutter up your PC's USB ports. Batteries, which are included, ensure nearly 18 months of autonomy, which seems to be one of the big strengths of this trackball. You don't have to buy additional batteries for a very long time, even with intensive use of the product. We can also note that the laser sensor is adjustable to customize the scrolling speed.
On the cleaning side, access to the ball is very simple, from underneath the device, and allows to remove it very easily to wipe it with a cloth if necessary. Unfortunately, we can observe in some cases that after almost two years of use, the main buttons of the M570 tend to double click instead of a single click. This is certainly a big black spot on this model, otherwise excellent for an entry-level model that is offered for less than 40 euros.
If Logitech isn't your cup of tea and you're not absolutely looking for a wireless model, Kensington might be an interesting choice for an entry-level trackball. The Orbit Mouse model we're going to talk about here is an even more compact trackball than its competitor at Logitech, measuring 5.1 x 15.2 x 20.3 and weighing just 295 grams, it's very easy to carry and easy to handle. The Kensington Orbit also comes with a 5-year manufacturer's warranty, which is not only rare for any product in general, but especially at Kensington, which generally provides a 3-year warranty.
The first thing I like about this product is that you can use it whether you are left-handed or right-handed. The design is indeed ambidextrous, because we tend to forget that left-handed people are also allowed to use a computer! I'm one of those people, even if I use my mouse on the right side of the keyboard, but as a left-handed person, I have to admit that many brands unfortunately don't offer products that also work for us and I'm glad to see that this one is designed for everyone. Secondly, I also greatly appreciate the comfortable and detachable wrist rest included which helps to prevent unnecessary hand fatigue and tendonitis or carpal tunnel syndrome, which is very common nowadays.
Finally, this model also has a scroll wheel, which consists of a dial that rotates around the 40 millimetre ball, allowing for easy scrolling of documents or navigation on the web, since unlike other mouse-like models, the Kensington Orbit Mouse does not have a scroll wheel. Note that the Orbit is not a wireless trackball by default and that you can get a wifi model for about 20 euros more than the basic price of about 35 euros. On the negative side, we deplore the layout of the 2 upper buttons, which somewhat limit the ease of use of the device and the lack of possibility to easily scroll horizontally. But if your needs are limited to comfort, reliability, ease of use, and price, the Kensington Orbit Mouse trackball is probably the best option to Logitech's models.
Logitech MX Ergo
Not surprisingly, Logitech also has a number of trackball models in the mid-range, which are certainly the best on the market today. By the way, the MX Ergo, which we'll talk about in this part of the selection, is my personal choice for a number of reasons, but it doesn't include the price, unfortunately. The Logitech MX Ergo is a very compact wireless trackball, with measures of
13.2 x 10 x 5.1 centimetres, which also happens to be the lightest of our entire selection, at only 163 grams, not to mention a handling and transport capacity that I particularly appreciate. As far as the warranty is concerned, no surprise, since this is the time guaranteed by the European standards, that is to say 2 years of manufacturer's warranty which includes here the complete support of the product (without more precision from Logitech). The arrangement of the buttons is excellent, since the design is that of a traditional mouse, with here 8 customizable and easy-to-access buttons.
The default scrollwheel works exactly like a normal mouse and offers horizontal scrolling with a left-right "tilt" of the mouse. It is also worth noting the possibility to change between speed and precision (380 dpi by default) with a simple button. In terms of comfort, the trackball does not offer a wrist rest, but is wide enough and well designed in its shape to ensure optimal support for the hand and wrist. It also offers a swivel on its base up to 20 degrees for even greater comfort.
The ball of this model is located at the position where the thumb is on a traditional mouse, this is another reason to like this trackball, since someone used to using a mouse is not out of place and gets used to it very quickly. From a connectivity point of view, we have the choice of the "Unifying" wireless with the same USB receiver as on the M570, allowing to connect 6 devices of the brand on the same connector.And if this choice is not suitable, the trackball can also be connected via Bluetooth. The whole thing is rechargeable via micro-USB with an autonomy of 4 months for one charge, which represents about 1 minute of charge for a full day of use.
The MX Ergo is PC and Mac compatible, if you're still looking for an excuse not to buy it. There are no major downsides to this Logitech product. We can nevertheless point out that regular cleaning of the ball is necessary for long-lasting good functioning. The only major complaint I personally have about the Logitech MX Ergo is its price, which is close to 80 euros. To be honest, even the most precise and comfortable mice designed for demanding people and in the same brand don't reach this price (if you exclude the G Pro). It's a real shame to ask such a price for a mid-range trackball, even if it really has everything for it and I highly recommend it, if your wallet can get over it.
I can easily assume that you are certainly not familiar with the Elecom brand, as the product described here is a good quality Japanese import. If you don't want to put 80 euros in a trackball, the Elecom M-XT3DRBK is an excellent alternative to the Logitech MX Ergo, sold for about 36 euros. As you can see from the other devices offered in this article, these products are generally rather compact and light. The Elecom is no exception with dimensions of 12.4 x 9.5 x 4.8 centimeters for about 200 grams, very close at this level to the MX Ergo selected as my personal choice, which is a very good thing.
It has 6 customizable buttons and a sensitivity adjustment knob that allows you to easily switch from 750 to 1500 resolution, which once again places it in a very similar specificity to its main competitor. The M-XT3DRBK also features a scroll wheel located in the middle of the unit, which is easy to reach from the index finger. The ball (a grey, evenly readable precision ball) is also located at thumb level on the left side, just like a traditional mouse that requires little adjustment time.
From a connectivity point of view, this is fortunately a wireless product with a USB receiver that responds up to about ten meters. Nothing very developed therefore, but more than enough for easy use and transport, if needed. Regular cleaning, which is necessary, is quite easy to do thanks to an access to the tracking ball from underneath the device. What I deplore, however, and what you must absolutely be aware of, is that we are dealing with an imported product.
So, even though products on the European market must offer a minimum 2-year manufacturer's warranty, some buyers have the unpleasant surprise, when they want to replace one of these trackballs that is defective (which sometimes happens, as we know), to hear from the customer service department that this product is only guaranteed for one month. This is a serious problem for me, but it's obviously only the case if you are unlucky enough to come across a non-functional or broken product. I would rather recommend buying the Logitech equivalent if you can afford it, but otherwise, for the price, this is a perfectly correct alternative choice...and less than half the price of the MX Ergo offered by the Swiss brand.
It is indeed Kensington, already present previously in this selection, which catches our attention in this top-of-the-range, with an excellent, practical and ergonomic trackball, for a price that goes with the range. Let me introduce the Kensington Expert Mouse wireless. First, let's look at the dimensions for this large model (since there is a smaller "medium" model available) which measures 15.3 x 12.5 x 7 centimetres and weighs over 600 grams. It is certainly a little more bulky and heavy than some of the others in the selection, but it has a major advantage: a flexible and detachable wrist rest.
This is the case for several models of this brand and it is a good thing, since people who choose trackball as an alternative to the mouse often do so because of pain or problems caused by the use of a traditional mouse. We can add to this the fact that the design of the Kensington Expert Mouse is designed for ambidextrous use and is therefore suitable for everyone, without exception. And while the Expert Mouse is comfortable and designed for everyone, it also has 4 buttons neatly arranged around the red ball, which are fully programmable and customizable to your needs.
It also displays a directional dial around the same ball, which allows you to scroll vertically (but not horizontally unless you press the keyboard shift at the same time, too bad) with simplicity, although personally I prefer a scroll wheel comparable to traditional mice. On the other hand, the lack of scroll sensitivity adjustment directly on the device, but present in an external software, is regrettable. The whole system is based on wireless, thanks to a small USB receiver in this case, which provides the connection up to 10 meters. You also have the choice of a wired system of 1.80 meters, for a reduced price, if you prefer that, but wireless is certainly much more practical. It can also be connected via Bluetooth, which is very appreciable.
The autonomy with the batteries (included here at delivery) is several months, but is of course dependent on the use of the product. It should also be noted that the Kensington Expert Mouse is not only compatible with Windows 7, 8.1 and 10, but also with MacOS 10.8 and higher. All of these features are excellent and make the Expert Mouse the ideal high-end trackball, sold for over 107 euros, which can clearly put off some of us. However, I think that the quality, size, ergonomics and connectivity of this product justify the somewhat high price, even though the mid-range choice is comparable for 20 euros less. It is up to you to see whether it is worth it.
How to choose your trackball?
Traditional mice are generally chosen to be dispensed with for a number of reasons, including the fact that they can cause muscle pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. Another reason besides ergonomics may also be the lack of space for arm movement required to use a mouse. If you have already made this choice, whatever your reason, you still have to weigh in the balance the different selection criteria of one trackball against another. In this buying guide, we will therefore try to present the essential criteria to be taken into account during your purchase, in order to find the trackball that suits you perfectly.
The first criterion to take into account is that this type of device requires little hand movement and none at arm level. You can therefore expect a trackball to be comfortable to use. There are many choices here, but you usually have a choice between models that offer a wrist rest or a surface that's large enough and well-designed to hold the whole hand (especially at Logitech). Personally, I only use a wrist rest for my keyboard, but I have to admit that since I bought one, I've been able to spend a lot more time on my computer without any discomfort.
It's simple, I can't do without it now that I own it! So Kensington is certainly a wise choice, as most of their models, whether entry-level or high-end, offer these wrist rests that are very comfortable but also detachable, if you don't need them. If you don't want this option, Logitech offers trackball systems that are wide enough to rest your entire hand on, like the M570. That's usually enough to avoid muscle pain over a long period of use. Another alternative, again by Logitech, notably on its MX Ergo, is the possibility to rotate the device on its base, up to 20 degrees in this case. It's perfect for putting your hand in a comfortable position in any situation. These are the options generally offered by manufacturers and I don't recommend one in particular, although I must admit that the wrist rest is rather tempting and I prefer the ergonomics of a Logitech.
The position of the ball
This is a very direct criterion that should be compared with the previous one, which is comfort and even ergonomics. Some trackball systems have the ball positioned directly in the middle of the buttons, this is the case of most of the models at Kensington and traditionally what is found by default on the market. This is functional, of course, but in some cases it can limit easy access to the buttons around the ball and prevent the use of a scroll wheel, which is much more practical than a dial positioned around the ball.
At Logitech, the ball is generally positioned at the level of the user's thumb. For me, it's much more convenient. It's easy to imagine that it might take some time to adapt to those who are used to "classic" models, who might prefer to stay on a ball placed in the center of the buttons, but for those who are used to traditional mice, it takes only a few hours and the change of scenery is only partial. In short, even if I tend to recommend a positioning on the thumb, the other possibility can be just as good, depending on the desires.
It couldn't be simpler. The more, the better. From 4 to 8 buttons, it's ideal, since these are usually adjustable thanks to external software that is more or less easy to use. In any case, we do not go too far by saying that you should acquire a model that contains at least the same number of buttons as a traditional mouse and that has at least two more to go forward or backward in its navigation (changing pages for example). And if you decided to buy a trackball with a wheel, one click on it is simply a bonus.
The wired model: The first possible choice is a classic wired model, usually found on entry-level models. If this is the case, don't expect easy transport, nor of course in most cases the advantage of being able to use your trackball from your sofa or any place somewhat distant from your desk.
The wireless model: The second choice is wireless, which generally operates on a 2.4 GHz frequency, which is the most standard today. There are usually about 10 meters of operability and little or no interference with other devices.
The Unifying Model (Logitech): In the case of Logitech, you can even count on the "Unifying" system, which allows you to operate up to 6 Logitech wireless devices with the same USB receiver. That's handy if you have a wireless keyboard or headset, since you don't have to worry about having additional USB ports for all those devices.
The last possibility is, of course, Bluetooth, which is one of the most common methods at the moment, since it is very simple to operate. But at the moment, a number of models even offer both traditional wireless and Bluetooth, for increased compatibility, which is very much appreciated. In all cases, you have to make sure that the battery used is suitable for you, whether it is a rechargeable battery or a micro-USB cable (and therefore a long-lasting battery) which generally offers better autonomy. Logitech has the best potential on this point, in my opinion.
This is important, as problems with these products are often related to tracking and click buttons, which tend to occur in the first year of the product, if not sometimes in the first few months. As we have seen in this selection, some manufacturers present 3 years and even 5 years on some of their models. Unfortunately, as we have also seen, some imported devices, such as the Elecom also presented in our selection, only offer one month warranty, which I find detestable and very bad sign from a serious manufacturer. Nevertheless, you know this when you buy the product, especially when, of course, a mid-range model costs as little as 20 or 30 euros. In any case, this is a criterion to be closely watched in order to avoid unpleasant surprises in case of problems encountered in the first two years of use.