Looking for a better way to control a computer’s cursor than the typical mouse for things like digital artwork, video editing and Web browsing? Kensington’s $100 Expert Mouse Wireless Trackball can easily put clicks and scrolls exactly where they need to be.
The 5- by 5-inch black trackball base sits firmly on a desk and has a two-inch bright red ball, although if you turn the base over, you run the risk of the ball falling out and rolling onto the floor. It has a snap-on wrist rest and the trackball can be a good choice on a desk or kiosk so small there’s no desktop room to maneuver a traditional mouse.
The best part of using the Expert Mouse Trackball is its middle name: Wireless, so there's not a cable to be seen. To get started, put a pair of AA batteries into the back of the device and either plug the included Nano USB dongle into your computer or connect it through the system’s Bluetooth page. If you use the Nano receiver everything is automatic and the trackball worked on the first try.
To set up the system’s Bluetooth link, you need to press all four of the trackball’s actuation to make the device discoverable and then click on the Expert Mouse Wireless Trackball in the computer’s Bluetooth screen. It also worked on the first try.
I used the trackball for everything from basic classroom uses (like Web browsing, playing educational games and working with spreadsheets) as well as more specialized roles (such as using Photoshop or math simulations). It not only was more precise than the optical mouse I had been using, but you can roll your hand over the ball to move between places quickly.
In addition to using the trackball’s individual four actuation buttons independently and assigning individual tasks to them, you can add two more actions by pressing the top two or bottom two buttons at once. There’s a central scroll wheel that lets you zip through a long Web page, which you can customize as to which way it is spun to go up and down.
The good news is that the trackball is ambidextrous, and unlike symmetrical mice, works well for righties and lefties. Under the skin is Kensington’s DiamondEye optical tracking system that smoothly and accurately registers where the ball is. You can make a slew of adjustments with the downloadable Trackball Works software, like changing the pointer speed and adding acceleration as well as changing the scrolling speed.
Unfortunately, you can’t adjust the trackball’s resolution, but the Wireless Trackball can be set to change its button settings based on the program that’s being used. There are versions of the Trackball Works software for Mac OS X (version 10.8 to 10.11), PCs (Windows 7, 8.x and 10) and the trackball works natively in Chrome systems.
To save power, the trackball goes to sleep when it’s not being used. That’s good in giving the batteries a longer life, and the set I used had no problem lasting for the 6 weeks that I used for several hours a day. On the other hand, it also means that if you use the host system’s Bluetooth to connect to the trackball, be prepared for the trackball to lag by a few seconds as it wakes up.
Kensington backs the Wireless Trackball with a three-year warranty, but if it’s like earlier Kensington trackballs, it will last a lot longer than that. At $100, it costs the same as Kensington's Expert Mouse Wired Trackball, making it a bargain in the classroom. There are much cheaper mice and trackballs available, but none that better put the cursor in its place.
+ Customizable buttons
+ Three-year warranty
+ Includes USB receiver
+ Wrist rest
- Can take a few seconds to wake up
- Ball can fall out