April 15, 2012

CST PC-TRAC 1550 Trackball Review

Trackballs! Awesome pieces of hardware neglected to oblivion... by everyone that never used one or never suffered from RSI. Believe it or not, people prefer or need to use them up to these days – and where there’s a market, there’s a product; or some, in this case. Clearly Superior Technologies (CST) is the owner of the former “MicroSpeed” famous brand of trackballs which made its name back in the 80s. Design wise not much has changed since then, probably due to the fact that MicroSpeed got many design prizes for their curved profile ‘trademark’. The quality of their components is absolutely impressive though, surely the best under the industry/military grade trackballs, and fact is that only a handful of brands (like iOne) still build consumer-grade opto-mechanical trackballs. Only the ones who experienced the amazing smoothness and “momentum” of those bearings under a nice billiards-sized, decently heavy ball, knows how huge a difference in feel and continuous motion it makes to the trackball control and precision. Back in Quake days, I would never lose someone once under my shaft range. NEVER. Some opponents called the device "cheating" in live game tournaments I won a tad too easily. I guess that's why they call it a "track" ball :) Gaming affairs aside, the fact that only CST (that this reviewer knows of) has continue upgrading its opto-mechanical trackball technology is remarkable and worth of applause. Nevertheless, this review is about the not-so-upgraded – but still quite affordable and competent – PC-TRAC 1550 model, so let’s go for it:

  • Large Sized Ball – makes for fine control
  • Heavy Ball – makes for even better control and prevents unwanted movement
  • Half-Height Ball Case – Easy and predictable 180-degree spins in FPS games!
  • Did I mention that ball rolling under your fingers feels almost as good as sex?
  • Low DPI – 400 DPI is just not enough for modern-day display resolutions
  • Tall angled profile – Tends to arch your hand upwards, may lead to wrist strain
  • Buttons too small on sides – Adds needless thumb/pinky stress to click them
  • Third/Middle button in front – Too hard to reach

Bottom Line: Compared to the ‘industry leader’ Kensington Expert Mouse, the PC-TRAC 1550 wins in the control and feel department, loses some points in the ergonomics department and is not very suited for modern gaming due to its low DPI (dots per inch) resolution, which translates to choppy rotations on-screen with decent sensitivity settings. The new L-TRAC models most probably solves this last issue with their 1600+ DPI settings. Nevertheless, CST would probably be better revamping its 30-yo design with a wider and longer (depth) profile so hands can be a bit more relaxed on heavy usage and fingers don’t get crammed up at the sides of the device with a regular three-central-fingers-on-ball operating posture. For regular computing and its very occasional side-button clicking though, the 1550 is a sure bet.

Score: 8/10


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