Trackball Optical, by Microsoft
Posted: 29-Apr-2003

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Microsoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE


The Microsoft TrackBall Optical combines an IntelliEye optical sensor and an advanced ball design. The IntelliEye optical sensor tracks the movement of the ball 1,500 times per second to give you unbelievably smooth, precise control. The Trackball Optical is cousin to the Trackball Explorer; where the Explorer uses a standard palm-ball design, the Optical uses a thumb-ball design.

The Optical also comes with a 3 year warranty.


  • IntelliEye optical technology - The IntelliEye optical sensor reads through dirt, dust and fingerprints.
  • Five Programmable buttons - Five programmable buttons make it easier to navigate the Internet or access and use your favorite programs.
  • Wheel for scrolling and zooming - Scroll directly from your mouse without having to use scrollbars. Zoom without needing to use menus or toolbars.
  • Thumb controlled accuracy - The Trackball Optical is designed for smooth accurate control.

Mac Requirements

  • 15 MB of available hard disk space
  • CD-ROM Drive
  • Mac OS 8.51 or later operating system (excluding OS X or later); iMac also requires iMac update 1.1
  • USB port
  • IntelliPoint software for Macintosh (included)

Review System

  • PowerMac G4 / 867
  • Mac OS 9.2.2
  • 384 MB RAM

In Use
The Trackball Optical is easier on the wrist than a standard mouse, especially for someone who is troubled with Carpal Tunnel. It is a bit different than other trackballs in that it uses your thumb for all trackball movement (rather than your palm or your 4 fingers). This can be difficult to get used to, and also confusing if you switch between this and a standard mouse. I went from the Trackball Optical to a standard mouse after using the trackball for only 30 minutes, and my thumb was already looking for a ball to turn.

The trackball makes it very easy to roll the cursor to wherever you need it on the monitor. The overall design of the Trackball Optical is more ergonomically suited to the hand and more comfortable to use. With your thumb on the trackball, your other fingers lay comfortably on the other controls: two main buttons, two smaller side buttons, and a scroll wheel in the middle. My pinky didn't comfortably reach the buttons, so I used the other 3 fingers for the button and wheel controls. The two thin side buttons are adjacent to the main buttons, and distinguishing them from the main buttons was sometimes difficult.

The Trackball Optical preferences can be adjusted using Microsoft's Intellimouse software, which is super easy to use. You can program any of the buttons and the wheel, as well as set all kinds of sensitivity levels.

The Trackball Optical is a very comfortable fitting device, utilizing your thumb for the trackball, and providing 4 other buttons and a scroll wheel for your fingers to control. It may be more difficult to get used to a thumb controlled trackball, but once you do, the trackball will be much easier on your wrist than a standard mouse. While the 2 small side buttons are a bit close to the primary buttons, the overall design is quite good. For those mouse users who have wondered if they might do better with a trackball, or those already using a trackball, I highly recommend trying out the Microsoft Trackball Optical.


  • Optical sensor reads through dirt, dust, and fingerprints
  • Shape and design is ergonomically excellent
  • Three year warranty


  • Thumb controlled trackball a little harder to get used to
  • Side buttons a bit small and a bit close to the primary buttons

Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 Mice