Resolving finger pain, and kind of a Slimblade Trackball Review.
Hey all, so you may have seen my thread where I was in search for a new mouse solution a while back. This search began because of two things. My Logitech G9X mouse had broken, and my fingers were in shambles. I would go to bed with pain in my fingers(more specifically my knuckles), and wake up with it still lingering. There is a lengthy lead up to the actual trackball review so bear with me.
I had noticed my boss used a Kensington Expert Trackball. I asked him how he came to using it, why he switched etc. He plays guitar daily, and his fingers couldn't handle mousing all day and playing guitar for an hour or so every night. This seemed to be similar to my reasons for looking for an alternative, heavy use during the day, and gaming at night.
I decided to give the trackball route a go and got the Kensington Orbit Trackball. My experience with that ball was actually pretty good. My issue with it was the placement of the buttons. They were kind of awkwardly placed a bit far off to the sides of the ball itself. I didn't mind the smallness of the ball on the mouse, that seemed to be a sticking point for some trackball users but it didn't bother me in the slightest.
I was still feeling some finger pain from reaching a bit to the buttons to depress, and figured why not go for broke. I then tried the Anker Vertical Mouse. The line of thinking was maybe the position of my hand being flat all day would cause some weird tension in my fingers that cause the discomfort. I am now pretty sure that wasn't the main problem, but regardless this mouse actually made the symptoms worse. The buttons on the mouse were moderately difficult to depress, but enough so that after a few days of use, my hands were useless. I was in such pain, I couldn't work for two days.
I continued use of the Kensington Orbit and sent back the Anker mouse the same week I purchased it and looked into what would be my third and final purchase. I looked at other vertical mice that had been well received but figured I had moderately more success with the trackball so I should fix the issue I had with that input device, the button placement. Looking at Kensington and Logitech mostly because they seem to be the largest distributors of trackballs in the US and had the most feedback for their products.
After sifting through reviews and reading about driver updates I chose the Kensington Slimblade Trackball. The products hardware is overall pretty solid. The buttons depress with relative ease, but do feel a bit cheap when depressed closer to the edges. The ball is generally pretty smooth moving, but I would recommend using some kind of lubricant to apply to the ball to keep it that way. I would recommend before you even start using it that you try and grease up the ball in some way, because you must twist it clockwise and counter clockwise to scroll and it can cause a squeaking noise. I have been using Turtle Wax Polishing Compound on the ball and casing for the ball. This may seem a bit odd, but after reading around online this is apparently relatively common depending on the ball. The software for the product is called Trackball Works and lets you select customize the buttons to many different layouts. Mine is a fairly simple, left and right click on the bottom, and center click for the top buttons.
Overall the item behaves how you would imagine it would, like a mouse. There is not much special about the trackball, but at a price of around $94 on Amazon, you may be asking if it was really worth it for just another trackball that has very basic functions. For me the answer is 100% yes, my finger pain is almost completely gone. It mainly has to do with being able to keep my fingers in a relaxed position, not to be straining them with gripping a mouse, clicking down the middle and right mouse buttons, the scrolling motion etc. Ultimately moving the large ball around is a much less strenuous use for my three center fingers I have found.
However it wasn't really just as simple as getting this expensive trackball. For starters I also purchased a small beanbag like wrist wrest that sits touching the base of the mouse, letting my hand rest comfortably above the trackball. I also went to my doctor who then referred me to a chiropractor. Even though a good amount of pain had been relieved from the trackball, it wasn't really all the way better or properly managed in my case. The doctor said I took the proper steps in looking for mousing alternatives and was glad I found a semi-solution, but gave me some finger strengthening exercises and stretches to help alleviate almost all of the pain from heavy mousing use. Most of the exercises and methods that I use can actually be found here. I also have some evidence that it was not just the exercises and stretching that helped my fingers feel relief. On the few occasions I do use the mouse to game, the pain will return within a few hours and be pretty insufferable.
These solutions are obviously not a one size fits all, it depends on how you mouse, the kind of pain you have in your hands, and so on. Most gamers scoff at the idea of gaming with a trackball, including me. I do almost all of my pc gaming now with an xbox 360 controller. Very rarely do I feel the need to mouse, even in MMO's like Guild Wars 2, I go out of my way to use custom drivers with settings for games so I don't have to use the dreaded mouse again. When I am forced to use a mouse to game, I will take a break every hour or so to stretch my fingers and so a few finger work outs.
Anyway I hope this weird kind of long write up about my dumb mouse woes was helpful in some way. I know a lot of us suffer from some kind of discomfort from gaming or just mass amounts of PC use and thought this review of my process and the hardware I gave a go would be useful for you guys.