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ATPM 11.12
December 2005

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Hardware Review

by Andrew Kator, akator@atpm.com

Logitech TrackMan Wheel

verynice

Developer: Logitech

Price: $30 (corded); $50 (cordless)

Requirements: Mac or PC with USB

Trial: None

There are many multi-button input devices to choose from, but when it comes to mice there isn’t much difference between one model and the next—at the end of the day, they all leave users with stiff joints and wrist pain from repetitive movements and stress. For many users, the Logitech TrackMan Wheel can offer significant relief from repetitive stress aches and pains by providing superior ergonomics. Instead of moving the hand and wrist as is typical with mouse control, the hand and wrist are stationary when using the TrackMan. The user’s thumb rotates the trackball to control the cursor, and the remaining fingers can be used for the buttons or scroll wheel.

trackman-wheel

Installation is simple and pleasant. With the corded model, plug the cord into an available USB port. With the wireless model, plug the USB radio dongle into an available USB port, and make sure the AA battery is installed into the TrackMan. Logitech chose to use a proprietary radio dongle over Bluetooth. Using their own system ensures compatibility with Macs that do not have Bluetooth, however it also uses an additional USB port and duplicates technology already available on Bluetooth-equipped Macs. The device becomes instantly available without further installation, but Logitech provides additional drivers that allow programmable scrolling, application switching, and keystroke shortcuts.

The TrackMan Wheel requires only finger and thumb movements, so it requires little desk space. Because the device works independently of the surface it is used on, the TrackMan Wheel can even be used almost anywhere (even in your lap) with no problems.

The trackball moves smoothly under the thumb, and the resulting cursor actions are equally smooth and precise. The tracking is precise enough to make text selection easy, even in the first few minutes of use. The buttons offer feedback, both with an auditory click and noticeable movement. The scroll wheel has a rubberized coating, offering a tactile separation from the plastic buttons surrounding it. Using the scroll wheel as a button was a little mushier than expected, but still adequate.

The TrackMan Wheel may take a few hours to get used to. After years of practice, most people automatically try to pickup the TrackMan and move it the same way they would a mouse. This old habit completely disappears after a few days of retraining.

The only thing I would like to be improved about the TrackMan Wheel is the appearance. In my opinion, the gray-metallic-plastic and maroon speckled trackball are not a pleasant combination; it’s reminiscent of the cheap plastic telescopes and science kits available at the local toy store. Something less techno-kitsch would be welcome.

Results

I tested the TrackMan with word processing, graphics, 3D, games, and video editing applications. The device performed admirably in all, and was surprisingly easy to use for precise tasks. This is not only due to the precision of the device, but because during mouse-clicking the cursor will remain stationary even if the entire TrackMan moves—unlike with a mouse. While the TrackMan works for games, it doesn’t offer the solidity or ergonomic options necessary for hard-core game use. Other trackball controllers are better suited for anything more than casual gaming.

Overall, I recommend the Logitech TrackMan Wheel, especially for older users who suffer from aches due to repetitive mouse use.

Reader Comments (14)

michael mckee · December 1, 2005 - 12:49 EST #1
You're almost spot on in this review. But, it doesn't take an older user to develop repetitive use injuries.

There are a couple of other points that you didn't get around to.

A trackball is a much more accurate tool for graphics work than a mouse. It won't replace a tablet but is adequate for mobile work in places where even a small tablet would be inappropriate or unusable.

I have the cordless vesion and find it excellent for presentations. Since it doesn't need a good mousing surface, I can walk around while talking and still advance slides or use the pointer.

On the down side, while this product is excellent for most people, it is a bit small for people with large hands or for left-handers.
Peter James · February 2, 2007 - 12:49 EST #2
Perfect for Gaming.

I know many a first-person gamer that are using the TrackMan device for gaming. In fact, they are superior in many FPS games for the quick response you can get with just the flick of the thumb. The only thing that would make it better is if the ball accepted faster movements - maybe Logitech should consider a gaming version of the TrackMan?
Fonza Sells · March 6, 2007 - 09:15 EST #3
I have a trackman wheel and the curser will not move all the time how do i clean it ?
ATPM Staff · March 6, 2007 - 10:08 EST #4
Fonza - the paperwork that came with your Trackman should have cleaning instructions. Logitech's forums also give advice.
walley bowkowy · December 14, 2007 - 17:17 EST #5
how do i adjust trackwheel to double click?
Cara Curtis · January 22, 2008 - 11:47 EST #6
I totally agree with your assessment in regard to ergonomics. I have worked on a computer all day almost every day for several years and used to suffer severe pain from carpal tunnel syndrome, even to the point of taking meds and wearing a wrist brace. Since I switched to this TrackMan about a year ago, I have had no further problems with it at all. It really does work! There should be more of them made and marketed for this reason alone. Nicer colors would be great too! :) Thank you!
Doug Allen · May 1, 2008 - 17:41 EST #7
In response to the cleaning question, it is pretty easy to clean. The base has 4 screws to remove. Once open, the ball can be removed from the socket and the three nylon nubs that it rides on can be wiped off. Do this as soon as the ball starts to stick or drag.

This is a great product.
Dave Barker · May 18, 2008 - 17:59 EST #8
There's no need to unscrew anything to clean the device. There's a hole beneath the ball through which a pen can be inserted, or you can just grab it from the top and pull it out. It squeezes through the plastic quite easily.

Removing the ball, cleaning the nubs, and replacing the ball can be done in just ten or fifteen seconds.
Will · June 4, 2008 - 02:34 EST #9
A bluetooth version of the Cordless Trackman would be an awesome addition/improvement as well!
Robert · June 4, 2008 - 21:32 EST #10
Thanks. The cleaning tip may be a small thing, but it sure improves the experience.
ally cooper · June 26, 2008 - 10:22 EST #11
Thank you Dave so much for the cleaning tip.
Tim · August 15, 2008 - 02:50 EST #12
If only I'd read down further :-) I just unscrewed the whole thing to clean it, then found it was totally unnecessary.
Teadye · August 19, 2008 - 13:30 EST #13
I've used this product for more than 15 years, for both drawing and hard core gaming. Two things... I disagree that the center trackball is better for any purpose. It require side to side finger movement which will eventually get into your wrist and cause problems. The thumb motion is much more natural and easier on your hands as long as you keep the thing free moving. Clean and dry is key to smooth action. Also replace it when it wears out and starts to drag.

To clean, turn upside down and gently but firmly smack it down on the palm of your other hand. The ball pops right out. I clean mine with a microfiber cloth designed for lenses. You can wash the ball if it gets grungy but be sure it's good and dry before putting back in. Be careful not to pop out the little teflon balls that the thumb ball glides on. It's easy to put them back in but also easy to loose them!

I also keep thumb balls from old mice for swapping out if my current ball has a problem. As long as they are in good shape they can be reused to replace a damaged or clammy ball.

Another trick... it you spend so much time using the mouse intensely (like gaming) that your palm starts to get sore from pressure on the hard plastic get a small gel insert for high heels and pad the top. That is one thing I would change about this mouse, to have a soft insert on the top.
Michael Patrick King · May 20, 2014 - 15:35 EST #14
The way I clean my Trackman is by rubbing it all over with an alcohol prep pad. The alcohol dissolves the grime (mainly dust bound by hand oils) and the pad wipes the surfaces clean. No need to dry it off as alcohol readily evaporates. I usually wipe it down with a succession of two or three pads, then rub off any residue with a clean square of toilet paper. Works like a charm.

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