Playing CAD and Mouse

30 Nov, 2013 By: Heather Livingston,Robert Green

Cadalyst Labs Report: Cadalyst Labs navigates the maze of input device options for users of 2D and 3D computer-aided design.

Kensington Orbit
Wireless trackball with scroll ring
Overall Grade: A-

Pros: Good size for larger hands; very precise tracking response; nonskid base; power switch for battery conservation.

Cons: Requires batteries; a bit large for laptop bags.

Price: $39.99 retail ($34.86)

Kensington Computer Products Group | 877.350.4141 |

I've never been a trackball fan. It seems that every time I've tried to use one, it strained the tendons in my hands and fatigued whichever finger (or thumb) operated the ball. Despite these prejudices, I tried to keep an open mind when testing the Kensington Orbit wireless trackball and, surprisingly, I found it to be superior to trackballs I've used in the past.

Not much larger than a conventional mouse, the 4.5" x 5.5" x 2" Orbit has a solid nonskid housing that stayed put on desktops and cushioned mouse pads alike. Using a USB nanoreceiver and two AA batteries, the Orbit installed flawlessly. The unit worked perfectly even when used alongside a conventional mouse, making it a viable choice for users who prefer to use two devices in combination.

The Kensington Orbit wireless trackball is a solid option for 2D CAD users.
The Kensington Orbit wireless trackball is a solid option for 2D CAD users.

Thanks to the wide base — wider than any mouse I've used — my hand easily found a relaxed position, with my index and middle fingers using the trackball in tandem while my thumb performed left-click duties and my ring finger, the right-click. For vertical scrolling, two touch-sensitive pads are mounted in a ring around the ball. This took a little getting used to, but became comfortable once I started using my index or middle finger to scroll while the other finger remained on the ball. With a bit of practice I was able to scroll/zoom in CAD programs and coordinate the double-clicking action with the trackball to use context menus with no problems — but I still wasn't comfortable after a half-hour's use. I concluded that for 2D CAD use, where zooming on one axis is all you need, this mouse would be fine, but trying to translate/rotate in 3D space (such as orbiting or panning) was unnaturally difficult.

The product has a 60-month manufacturer's warranty, plus a 90-day money-back guarantee (for original buyers who bought the product in the United States).

All in all, would I ditch my full-featured mouse for the Orbit trackball? No. But the Orbit is much better than other trackballs I've tried in the past, and it would serve a primarily 2D CAD user well. I'm willing to bet that existing trackball fans would become fond of the Orbit in short order.

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