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Switching to a trackball helped my wrist fatigue, you should try one too

Kensington Orbit
Kensington Orbit (Image credit: Windows Central)

I'm not as young as I used to be. I've been grappling with finding the best mouse for everyday use for a while now, in part, because my body has been telling me I need to change. The aches in the wrists and the fingers are more frequent and lasting longer, and even my beloved Razer DeathAdder V2 Pro can't change that.

Before I worked at Windows Central I spent years working on massive laptops with dodgy trackpads and desktop PCs in communal office spaces with terrible mice. So it's been well over a decade in the making, but finally, I've decided to do something about it.

Out of the blue, I decided to try a trackball. The results have been immediately noticeable to the point that I'm absolutely convinced and won't be going back to using a regular mouse as my daily driver. It's better than I ever imagined it could be.

What's different about a trackball?

Kensington Orbit

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The main difference to using a trackball over a normal mouse is the movement. The only part that moves is the ball, so the rest of the mouse stays static. You still get buttons and a scroll wheel, though exact designs will vary, but the crucial factor is that you're not required to move your wrist across the desk.

Instead, your wrist remains static and you use your fingers to push and pull the ball, moving the cursor across the screen as you go. This is the biggest change and for me, the most comfortable.

Spending five days a week in front of the PC working, then some evenings gaming, all that wrist motion from moving the mouse across the desk has been creating some pretty bad fatigue, and while it hasn't completely gone (yet), after a few weeks with a trackball I've noticed a massive change.

The model I got is the Kensington Orbit. In part because it wasn't very expensive and if I couldn't get along I wasn't too much out of pocket. But it's also got an interesting design which I've really resonated with. The two main mouse buttons are on either side of the trackball, with a scroll ring surrounding it. To scroll up and down webpages I now rotate the ring with my thumb and ring finger, and it's been so much nicer to use than a regular scroll wheel.

The added bonus to this model is also an included wrist rest. It's an unusual experience to start with, though, after all, I've been using a normal-style mouse since I was a youngling. But it hasn't taken long to get used to it, and I'm now both comfortable and as accurate as I am on a mouse.

An unexpected side effect is I have more desk space now since I'm not devoting a large chunk of it to a mousepad.

What a trackball can't do

Wolfenstein Youngblood

Source: Windows CentralGames like this are not good with a trackball. (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The big elephant in the room is gaming. I have tried using the trackball for it, thinking I might be able to pull some insanely quick moves off with a simple flick of the ball, but it's not really worked out. At least not for the games I play the most.

In something like Age of Empires or Oxygen Not Included, it's fine. But for shooters, it is not. It's just not accurate enough, and though I could probably practice, it's easier to sub in a proper gaming mouse.

After all, I'm not gaming on my Logitech Ergo K860 keyboard either.

You also don't get the sort of customizable buttons you might find on a gaming mouse, either. So if you're using those as shortcuts for non-gaming features, as I used to, then you'll be missing out on those as well.

A new approach

Kensington Orbit

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

It's taken time and a lot of effort to prize my favorite gaming keyboard and mouse away from my desk for regular use, but I'm certainly feeling better for it. After the initial learning curve, there's nothing worse about using a trackball over a mouse, and I actually think I'm now more accurate with it.

If, like me, you're plagued with wrist fatigue then give it a try. You can pick up a good trackball for not a lot of money if you're not sure, as I wasn't, and it could be the change you've been looking for.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

6 Comments
  • Definitely worth breaking-into a trackball for these very reasons. And yes, the games I go on, I can 'turn more quickly' in place, which helps with the shoot-em-ups. Try that Kensington Orbit model and see!
  • I've been using trackballs for 15+ years. I started with the Microsoft Trackball Optical and am now using the Logitech MX ergo advance. I even game with mine and it works great. Of course I have years of practice. I remember it took me about a week to get used to it, but yeah only a week and I've never looked back. Gaming was a little longer, but now the Trackball's are so much more advanced and the settings are fantastic that gaming with it is so simple now. It's so funny now watching people move the mouse all over their desks when all I have to do is move my thumb. I'm so much better at FPS as well.
  • I use the MX myself and love it. Have one at home and the office. Pro Tip - Buy it at Best Buy and you get an extra adjustment wedge that I prefer due to the angle it provides.
  • Perhaps the thing for me with gaming is that I'm using a finger-input trackball over a thumb. I can see how a more 'normal' mouse grip and controlling with the thumb could work. Maybe I need to get a few more in and play around.
  • But it's not compact and not suitable for gaming.
    For those same limitations, track point is better than track ball. It's cheaper and much more compact too
  • Size doesn't really matter to me, it doesn't move around. It's taking up a lot less space than the mouse mat I use for gaming