Trackball vs a Normal Mouse: The Ideal pick, and for whom?

Reviewed by Betsy Sanchez
Betsy Sanchez

Betsy Sanchez is a professional graphic designer with over 10 years of experience. She loves all things tech and that's why she started writing on different topics online now here, working with us to help the audience who are looking for perfect comfort.

Trackball vs a Normal Mouse

When you talk about a trackball and a regular mouse, they are a lot different from each other with contrasting functionality and design too.

For many people who haven’t had the experience of using a trackball, the trackball mouse remains a mystery for them.

People often wonder what specialty a trackball brings to the table. To counter that question, there’s a lot on offer that we’ll be discussing.

A regular mouse can be easy to use since everybody is accustomed to holding it in a certain way; however, it does lack long-lasting comfort and isn’t considered the best by a mile.

A trackball is considered to offer higher efficiency, better accessibility, and helps in the prevention of an injury. It is way superior when compared to your regular mouse.

We’ll be having a detailed comparison between both types of the mouse in terms of productivity, ergonomics, and longevity. This way, it will help you in deciding to rather make the switch to a trackball instead of the normal mouse.

The Two Types of Trackball Mouse:

There are two different types of trackball, each of them having its fan base.

1. Thumb-Operated Trackball

In this particular mouse, your thumb operates most of the activity with the trackball placed where the thumb is. In most parts, it does resemble a regular mouse with slight modifications.

The thumb is used mostly to maneuver the trackball with the index and ring finger placed above to click the left/right buttons with the scroll wheel moved similarly to a normal mouse.

If you’re a right-handed person, it is an ideal choice since it is designed for right-hand users. Planning to get one for you? ELECOM Wireless Thumb-Control Trackball Mouse is one of the best sellers in the market.

2. Fingers-Operated Trackball

With this mouse, your index and other fingers control a large ball located on the top of the mouse. It does give an ergonomic feel to it with the left and right buttons placed on the sides as they are bigger and are controlled by your thumb and pinky fingers.

At times, some finger-operated trackballs do come with a scroll ring to make your scrolling experience much better and easier. Fingers-operated trackball mouse do have an edge over the thumb counterparts as they are ambidextrous, can be used by left/right-handers equally. Kensington Orbit Finger-Operated Trackball is the ideal pick for you.

Trackball vs Normal Mouse: Who’s The Winner Ergonomically?

Having poor ergonomics can be a blow to your health. With the likes of a normal mouse offering you almost nothing, it does affect your hand, wrist, arms, etc.

On the other side, a trackball mouse offers a platter of beneficial functionality and features to avoid dealing with an injury. Most workplace injuries can be avoided by simply switching from a regular mouse to a trackball on the fact that a latter uses different muscle groups while operating it.

When you’re using a regular mouse, repetitive strain injuries are bound to happen in the form of tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and others due to the shoulders and forearm being placed in an unnatural position and the repeated use of the wrist.

There’s hardly any protection that you get when you use a regular mouse, which isn’t the case with a trackball mouse. When operating a trackball, your thumb or the entire hand is in action, which is quite different from using a regular mouse. These are less tender muscles that have a lower chance of injury when compared to the muscles required to use a normal mouse.

Additionally, there is enough evidence that clearly shows the benefits of using a trackball for people suffering from wrist pain while using a mouse and experiencing hand camps.

Advantages of the Trackball Mouse:

Employing a trackball mouse does come with numerous pros along with some cons too. However, we’re going to look at the advantages now. Based on studies and thoughts of ergonomists all over the globe, here are the people who would benefit the mouse while owning a trackball mouse:

  • Ideal for Old & Disabled People:

Using a regular mouse can be quite a tough task for older and disabled people as it does not provide the stability to hold it properly. Things change drastically when they use a trackball, as they do not have to move or hold the mouse a certain way.

  • Individuals that suffer from Repetitive Strain Injury:

When you use a trackball mouse, there is minimal windshield action. The arms and your shoulder hardly have to do anything as they are in a neutral position, with most of the motions happening due to your thumb and other fingers.

Blame it on the shape and design of a regular mouse which results in injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, hand cramps, etc. Using a trackball mouse will avoid the difficulty of dealing with an RSI.

  • Those who easily fatigue their Hands & Fingers:

A trackball has an ambidextrous design (Fingers-Operated Trackballs) which is perfect for people whose hands and fingers strain rapidly. It provides you the option of switching between the left and right hand while operating it. This results in an even distribution of stress across both hands.

  • A good option for people working in limited spaces:

If you are one of those who bring their laptop to a nearby café or a place where a flat surface area is quite less, switching to a trackball mouse will be the wise option. Do you know why? You do not have to move the mouse and just roll the trackball to navigate different web pages or move left and right with ease.

Disadvantages of the Trackball Mouse:

There are some disadvantages too that should be kept in mind.

  • Low Accuracy for particular tasks:

Using a trackball mouse does improve the accuracy. However, many people still won’t get the peak precision they experience from using a regular mouse. It is a hard truth that needs to be mentioned. The problem with it is that it is way too sensitive and while you accidentally touch the ball, the cursor is off the radar.

Some of the tasks like, choosing a couple of letters within a word, or dragging a file to where it is required can be a slower process using a trackball.

  • It isn’t an ideal option for Fast-Paced Gaming:

In terms of moving the cursor from a certain point to the other on a linear line, a trackball proves to be the slower option as compared to a regular mouse. The reason being, every rotation of the trackball will only move the cursor at a particular distance on the screen.

In comparison, a regular mouse in one motion using your arm can result in the cursor traveling the complete distance of the screen in a jiffy. With first-person shooter games, you’ll be at a disadvantage as compared to others due to slow movements.

Additionally, you can do a speed and accuracy test by using a trackball and regular mouse. In most cases, it’s the former coming out as the winner.

Best Trackball Mouse – Thumb or Finger-Operated Trackball Mouse?

If you’re someone who wants to stick to the similar operating mechanism of a normal mouse, but you want the forearm and wrist movement to be limited to prevent an injury, the thumb trackball mouse could be more suited to your style.

However, a fingers-operated trackball offers a plethora of freedom and functionality. The best part is that you can move the ball by simply using different fingers or even your palm. Isn’t this wonderful?

Also, a large number of muscles required to operate a finger-operated trackball helps in the prevention of a potential hand/arm injury.

Trackball vs Trackpad – Comparison:

Ergonomically speaking, a trackball is quite similar to a trackpad as it lets you move the cursor with the help of your fingers. Such a mechanism does help in avoiding a repetitive strain injury. While thumb-operated trackballs depend on the thumb mostly, it is better than using the forefinger for repeated motions.

Additionally, trackballs are designed in a way where your hands can easily rest. A trackpad lacks this as your hands aren’t supported well with most of the burden taken by the wrist. To sum it up, a trackball can be more productive and ergonomic when compared to a trackpad.

Bottom line:

People might have different choices according to their preferences and taste. However, there are clear situations that prove that using a trackball mouse is the way to go. They are as follows:

1. If you suffer from hand cramps, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendinitis.

2. When you experience fatigue while using a trackpad.

3. You find it difficult to appropriately keep the cursor in the correct location while you are clicking.

Having a trackball is a must for you as it does eliminate a lot of problems we face in our everyday life while using a normal mouse.