SlimBlade Trackball review

There’s always been those who’ll use a trackball in preference to a mouse or trackpad. Other than aesthetics there’s very good reasons for this, not least that employing different controllers is an effective way to reduce risk of Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) when using your Mac.

Kensington’s SlimBlade Trackball consists of a huge red ball situated at the centre of a 15 x 13cm base. The base has four buttons situated around the ball, these offer right and left click and two modes, media and document. The latter modes require software, which when installed lets you zoom in on documents and change volumes within iTunes, for example – no keyboard required.

The ball is flecked with reflective particles, which are used by the optical sensor underneath to detect directional information as you roll or twist the sphere. That Kensington has implemented understanding of a twist motion within this system means it can easily be used to zoom in on images, to control audio volume and to scroll up and down within documents or web pages.

Movement of the ball is fluid, once you grow used to it. Naturally, use of the twist movement requires use of more than one finger. As a tool for existing RSI sufferers there are some limitations – the ball sits high from the table placing extra strain on your wrist, though you can mitigate this strain with use of an armrest. The twist motion requires use of your thumb, the only digit with its own muscle, which can potentially cause extra stress to damaged wrists. However, for sufferers and non-sufferers alike Kensington’s device offers a useful alternative to a mouse, though most physiotherapists recommend a tablet and pen as the most natural alternative interface for any computer user hoping to avoid RSI.

Finally, there’s the limitation that trackballs inherently aren’t as accurate to use within creative applications as other interfaces. No matter how sensitive the optical movement sensors, we find it challenging to use trackballs as accurately as a graphics tablet, for example.

OUR VERDICT

We liked this device. It’s easy to use, effective for general use, fairly accurate for most tasks and because it requires your arm to move in a different way to a standard mouse it can help ease the stress which causes RSI, though isn’t entirely effective for existing sufferers of that condition.

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