Thursday, October 22, 2009

Logitech TrackMan Wheel Review

In my constant quest for the perfect combination of equipment to alleviate the pain, and to set me further on the path of actually becoming a robot (able to sit in front of a computer for 16+ hours a day), I've tried all kinds of different input devices.

I've been using the ZeroTension Mouse for quite some time, and while it has all but eliminated my ulnar nerve strain and the pain in my wrist and elbow (by allowing me to rotate my hand to a vertical position where it should be, vs. flat like most mice require), the sheer size of the device forces me to hold my arm too far out to the side of my keyboard, and thus the pain in my shoulder has increased.

I've finally decided to give a trackball a shot.

So far, I love it. I went with the Logitech TrackMan Wheel (corded... the cordless version seemed a waste, and the wireless dongle that plugs into your computer is huge). You have to clean the ball bearings that "float" the track ball every week or so (extremely easy), but the precision is great (though I still use a tablet for drawing and extreme precision), and I love not having to move the device around (it's stationary and the ball moves).

It took about an hour to get used to (I kept trying to move the whole thing [blush]), but now it's fantastic. I love how little desk real estate is quires.

I was also a little worried about pain in my thumb joints from the constant, repetitive motion, but I've been using it for a little over three weeks, and I haven't noticed any pain there at all.

It took me a while to decide between the devices that utilize the thumb and the devices that utilize finger movement. From back in my "regular mouse" days, I remember the excruciating pain in my hand from constantly turning a scroll wheel with my middle finger. I assume the trackballs that utilize finger movement would produce a similar effect, so I went with the thumb ball. Even now, I feel the growing pain from using a scroll wheel with my middle finger again, and I have to be diligent about actually clicking the scroll wheel down like a button to activate using the ball to scroll (I wish I could disable the wheel's ability to scroll, and use it ONLY as a button, but that doesn't seem to be an option).

My one gripe is that the device still positions my hand too flat (thus creating that ulnar nerve strain again). There is some slope to the device, that places your hand a little less flat, but it's still too much. Thus, I've been working on a solution to tip the device up to get it more vertical (so that the ball is almost directly on top, with the buttons on the side and the side of your hand resting on the table, like the crappy picture to the left).

I tried a couple of different wedges fashioned out of Sculpy, but they were pretty garish. I also tried a giant wad of Silly Putty, and while it's the best thing so far, it tends to flatten out over time. I even thought about cutting off the right edge of the TrackMan Wheel to create a new planar surface (though not enough surface), but I think the best solution is probably going to be creating a wedge out of a block of wood and then maybe trying to integrate it into the side of my keyboard somehow (after I cut the number pad off so my arm isn't stretched out so far).

All of this nonsense could be easily eliminated if Logitech simply built the thing correctly in the first place, with the ball on top and the buttons on the side. Your hand would be in a zero tension position, and all would be right with the world.



Radek Pilich said...

Exactly. I am looking around to buy a trackball and there is not a good device to buy, because no one really keeps your hand in the zero tension position.

I was thinking about buying this mouse and doing similar modifications as you've proposed even before finding this post. And I am most likely going to do this :)

How have you solved it?

The Invisible said...

Still using the track ball "as is," and really noticing it in my arm and shoulder (still much better than a regular mouse, and the pain that I anticipated in my thumb hasn't appeared --so that's good). Simply tipping the trackball up on its edge will alleviate the pain I'm sure, I just haven't had time to cut a piece of wood (I think that will be my final solution).

I wish Logitech would just make the housing with the ball on top and the buttons on the side (like a Zero Tension Mouse).

pc-spiele said...

After using the trackball for about 5 months, I'm still thrilled. Sure, the gunk from my oily, sticky, food-covered hands still builds up on the ball, but unlike mechanical mice and trackballs, it doesn't cause sticking and jumping of the cursor. The action was still smooth. I had not even noticed that it was getting harder to move the ball until I popped the ball out, and gave the contact points a quick cleaning.

Anonymous said...

I am so confused by your need to clean the ball housing weekly. I have 2 of these(work and home) and have had them for at least 5 years and I don't think I have cleaned them more than 3 times ever. The ball always moves smoothly.

Have you tried using the Cordless Optical Trackman (,en) ?
It sounds exactly like what you are describing that you want.

The Invisible said...

Why are you so confused? EVERY review you read about these devices comments on how they need to be cleaned out or they stick (even just slightly, but enough to screw up tiny movements). After a couple of weeks, I guarantee there is build up on the three points inside the area where the ball sits --unless you are an alien who does not shed dermis cells.

The only positional diff. between this trackball and the cordless one is the placement of the ball (one you move with your thumb, the other with your fingers). It does NOTHING to moving your hand position to the zero tension point. Both need to be turned onto their side to function in a zero-tension state.