When I wrote about meeting with Kensington at CES, I had already been testing their SlimBlade Trackball Mouse for a few weeks. This is the mouse with a trackball that “gives you control even when there’s no room to move a mouse, then switches to mouse mode with the push of a button.” It’s now been well over a month since I started it exclusively with my Toshiba X205, and I am finally ready to share my experience…
Inside the box I found the slimmer than expected mouse, two AA batteries, and an instruction guide. Unlike other wireless mice I have tried in the past, the SlimBlade Trackball does not come with a dongle. I guess that the assumption anymore is that all laptops will have BT built in, but unfortunately that is not always true; assuming that your laptop does (as my X205 did), you’ll be able to connect without tying up a USB port.
This would be a good time to mention that the SlimBlade Trackball is compatible with both Windows and Mac. No software disk is included for setting up and customizing the mouse, be advised that the online manual lies; however, the manual does say that the software is for 360 degree scrolling, and it installs automatically when you are running Mac or Vista. This was not a lie.
If you don’t have built in Bluetooth (my HP TX1000 didn’t), then you might want to look at the Kensington USB Micro Adapter. It’s an additional $40, but just look at how tiny it is! It can stay in your USB port when the laptop gets packed with no worries of snapping.
The SlimBlade Trackball Mouse is composed of shimmery gunmetal gray plastic and it measures approximately 4″ long x 2.5″ wide x 0.75″ tall at its highest rear point – the portion which fits under the user’s palm. A rubber grip runs around the middle of the mouse – exactly where your fingers will naturally fall, and perhaps the most notable feature is the absence of a scrollwheel, which has been replaced with an old-school 360 degree trackball.
There are the typical left and right click buttons, and surrounding the trackball there is an additional Mode button. When this button is clicked and held for three seconds it will turn the mouse on or off, when it is double-clicked it will allow complete “cursor control in tight spaces and on any surface.” You may miss it because your finger is covering it, but the word “Mode” will appear, backlit in amber, when the mouse is turned on or off or when the mouse is switched to or from trackball mode. There is perhaps a half second lag as the mouse changes modes.
But before testing this out, we first need set up and pair the mouse. The two AA batteries (included) should be inserted in the battery compartment located on the mouse’s bottom…
Once the batteries have been loaded and the compartment closed, the mouse must be turned on by pressing the Mode button; the mouse is then ready to be paired.
Ensure that the laser sensor is not covered (as it is in this photo)…
…there, that’s better.
Press the round blue button for a few seconds until the bright blue LED (located in the small hole to the right of the blue button in this photo) begins to blink, which indicates pairing readiness. You’ll need to have your laptop in pairing mode, and once the mouse has been discovered it will need to be selected from the device list. Now the mouse is ready for use.
Also worth noting is the battery meter on the rear – it will show when the mouse is powered up, and I believe that it is supposed to make a red blinking LED appearance when the batteries begin to run low – but since my battery is still going strong (even with my ridiculous use), I can’t really say for sure. Another cool battery saving feature is that the mouse will go into sleep mode when the laptop does the same. Kensington says that battery life can be up to six months; I have no reason to disagree.
Here’s a shot of it showing a full charge as the mouse is powered on; you have no idea how hard this photo was to capture.
Although the ability of the mouse to enter trackball mode will likely be a huge selling point for anyone that hates using their laptop’s touch pad to navigate in cramped quarters, I found that what I most enjoyed when using the mouse was the 360 degree action of the trackball. To me, using a trackball instead of a scroll wheel just feels more precise and speedy.
Those who don’t think that they will need the trackball specific mode can still get the benefit of the rolling ball in a few of Kensington’s other less expensive SlimBlade mice, most notably the SlimBlade Media Mouse – which incidentally does include a 2.4 GHz wireless dongle, yet only costs $60…go figure.
Overall, I have truly enjoyed using the SlimBlade Trackball Mouse; its sleek good looks get comments form those who see it, and I have had to defend it from hostile acquisition a few times. It is pricey, but I believe that its features are pretty awesome and they will justify the expense.
The Kensington SlimBlade Trackball Mouse is available directly from the manufacturer’s web site and other online retailers.
What I Like: The mouse fits nicely in the user’s palm; excellent battery life with built-in gauge; multiple modes – trackball and traditional mouse; trackball feels more speedy and precise than a scroll wheel; sleek good looks
What Needs Improvement: no included dongle for non-Bluetooth laptops or desktops