Microsoft Trackball Explorer review


Microsoft’s blurb boasts, “The IntelliEye optical sensor tracks the movement of the ball 2,000 times per second to give you unbelievable smooth, precise control”. Whilst undoubtedly smooth, I would argue against precise. When first booting up, I was amazed by how sensitive the device was. Just a small turn and the cursor had moved the whole way across the desktop. After turning the mouse sensitivity down, I was able to get a little bit more control over the device. However the mouse still felt rather loose, especially compared to the Kensington turboball. Whilst fluidity may be a highly desired quality for some, I found it gave the device the tendency to glide beyond the desired point, and so much reducing accuracy. I was able to get used to this, but it is a very different sensation from in other trackballs and initially very awkward.

This fluid movement is probably due to the lack of moving parts in the device. Normally, trackballs would have rollers on the inside to track the movements of the ball. If the ball moves to fast, the friction from the rollers acts to slow down the ball. Because the Trackball Explorer has no such parts, the ball has a nasty habit of spinning past the desired point if your finger ever comes off the ball. The oversized mouse ball in itself did not seem to make any difference in control, although admittedly it was more comfortable than my previous trackball.


Installing the device was as simple as plugging it in. Windows 2000 automatically recognized it and I was instantly able to use it. An installation of the bundled Intellipoint software later and I was able to change the functions of each mouse button. The device is natively USB, but is supplied with a PS/2 adapter. You can use the PS/2 adapter and then change the sampling rate, but for most purposes I would recommend using the USB port, for its higher default sampling rate. USB devices do use some CPU cycles, but with any CPU over 300Mhz this should not be a concern. I was able to plug the Explorer into both my root USB ports and the USB ports on my Microsoft keyboard without any grief.


As mentioned above, the Explorer comes with Microsoft’s Intellipoint software, which for the most part just acts to change the button functions from a wide selection of functions, including actions in your browser (i.e., forward, back, stop, refresh, et cetera), as well as keystrokes and basic windows actions (such as launch the start menu).



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