Posted on January 2, 2017
Kensington SlimBlade Trackball Mouse Review
A trackball? Really? Didn’t those go out of style in the 1980s? Well just hold your horses and hear me out. Today we’re taking a closer look at a modern, cutting edge trackball from Kensington, the SlimBlade.
I have actually been a big fan of trackballs for years. Before trying out the Kensington SlimBlade, I had an old Kensington Expert that I would use as an alternative to a traditional mouse. Trackballs have a number of advantages over a traditional mouse. In particular, you can avoid ulnar deviation almost entirely once you get used to the input mechanism. Trackballs provide the added advantage that they are completely stationary, which can be very helpful if you don’t have a clean mousing surface or have limited desk space.
Of course, there are downsides as well. In particular, trackballs tend to be a bit less precise than comparable mice. In addition, it can be difficult to perform complex tasks with a trackball that are fairly easy with something like the Apple Magic Mouse. Whereas with mice, you can easily click and drag, the same behavior can require some interesting finger gymnastics with a trackball. Things like multi-touch gestures were pretty much out of the question.
With that said, what does a modern trackball look like? Luckily, Kensington gives us the answer in the form of the SlimBlade. The SlimBlade was released by Kensington in 2010 and was originally meant to compliment the top of the line Expert Model. Whereas the Expert might be viewed as the Bentley of trackballs, the SlimBlade was the Ferrari: sleek, slimmed down, faster and easier to use for the average non-power user. Whereas the Expert had been a staple for years, the SlimBlade release felt a bit, well, new. Consequently, the initial feedback was somewhat mixed.
The SlimBlade has a number of modern features that position it well against the standard-bearing Expert. Unlike the original Expert, the SlimBlade uses two lasers to tracks position. As a result, I found the tracking to be the best in class — simply outstanding. It also foregoes the trackwheel in favor of using the trackball as the primary input for both scrolling and panning. The low-profile design is reminiscent of Apple design rather than the boxy design found on other models. It is also ambidextrous, which, contrary to with a traditional mouse, I actually found to be quite natural. If you have a nagging wrist injury in your right hand or are just getting fatigued, it actually isn’t too difficult to switch to left-handed use, even for a clumsy individual like myself. The trackball itself is also top-notch and at 55mm is sufficiently large to provide enough precision for nearly all typical tasks.
So where does the SlimBlade fall short? Well, in truth, there aren’t too many things that I would change. The SlimBlade is one of the finest trackballs on the market, and it is priced as such. When first released, the SlimBlade lacked the customizability that one might expect from a high end trackball, but that was fixed after a year or so with the release of new TrackballWorks software. The SlimBlade is wired, unlike most top of the line mice, and wireless connectivity would have been a nice addition. With that said, the wired USB connection is not as big a deal with trackballs, as the base does not move. Some have complained that the input in both the buttons and scroll functionality was somewhat difficult to control, though I personally didn’t have any problems.
The ergonomics of the SlimBlade are top notch if you know what you are doing. The same principles of proper mousing apply when using a trackball. Some have complained that the SlimBlade involves more wrist movement than the Expert due to the low profile design. However, by maintaining a neutral wrist and moving from the elbow (and fingers) when necessary, these problems can be avoided.
Pros of the Kensington SlimBlade Trackball:
- Precise Tracking – With two lasers, I found the SlimBlade tracking to be as good or better than the top of the line Expert model.
- Customizable Buttons – With the TrackballWorks software, you can customize.the button behavior however you see fit.
- Sleek Design – The SlimBlade looks and feels like a modern input device should. Sleek, comfortable, stylish.
Cons of the Kensington SlimBlade Trackball:
- Wired Design – Not fantastic on such a high-end device, but not a big deal with a trackball.
- Precision vs. Traditional Mouse – Not as precise as a traditional mouse.
- Input Mechanism – Takes some getting used to.
All in all, the SlimBlade is one of the finest ergonomic products on the market and works well on both Mac and PC. If you are not doing intensive graphic design work or tasks involving a similar level of precision, the SlimBlade is a fantastic alternative to a traditional mouse that just might save your wrists!
As trackballs go, this is the one you want. Even compared to the Expert, I found the SlimBlade to be a welcome update. Either way, the Kensington Expert and SlimBlade are leaps and bounds above anything else on the market.
Final Verdict: If you’re considering a trackball, buy this one.