Home > Photoshop Tips/Tricks, Product Info > Mice vs Trackball vs Tablet

Mice vs Trackball vs Tablet


So many options, so little room on your desktop.
I’ve tried, tested and pretty much weighed them all recently. And the winner is…

Hands down, I use the mouse 90% of the time. And I recently purchased a new one to replace the Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse I purchased with my Mac Pro system last year. (Sorry Apple, it’s a terrible design.) Instead I purchased a Logitech MX Revolution mouse which I must say could very well be the best mouse I have ever used.

Logitech MX Revolution

Logitech MX Revolution


The scroll wheel on the top is “smart” which allows you to either go through a document line by line or quickly scroll through many pages with a single spin. It is also the only mouse I have ever seen with a side “thumb” wheel which acts as a three way button. (I’ve mapped the thumb wheel to the bracket keys to make quick brush size changes while in Photoshop and I must say, that is more helpful than I expected.) On the flip side, it sets a record as the most expensive mouse I have ever purchased with a retail price of $99.95! (Well worth it in my opinion.) Beyond that, I don’t think I need to mention much about what makes a typical mouse good and bad here since I think we all use or have used one.

With that said, prior to purchasing the most expensive mouse ever, I had tried out several trackball offerings since I enjoyed using a trackball back in my younger years in drafting applications. Although they prove easy on the hand, the sensitivity of the optical system seems to need improvement to bring them up to the same level as current optical and laser guided mice. The pointer control was choppy at best and I really had a hard time using the scroll wheel due to the forced hand position on the device. Overall even the most expensive trackball lacked the features and hand ‘fit’ of even an average priced mouse. Needless to say, both of these went back to the store for a refund. Unless they come up with some serious upgrades, I would avoid the trackball unless you have a really small desktop (IE: no room to move a mouse around on).

The last 10% of my work is on a 6×8 Wacom Intous 3 graphics tablet. (They are now selling Intous 4 models with several new features and upgrades.) The tablet is by far the best for overall control within programs like Photoshop and Painter since these can take advantage of the pressure sensitive tip and tilt sensitive pens giving very natural brush control on-screen. Of course a tablet is not for everyone. They take up more desktop than either of the above, cost the most and some people find the pen to cause hand fatigue even with short term use. (Myself included, though it does go after you get used to it.) I do try to avoid general computer use with the tablet as it lacks the ease of use features that a normal mouse has and I’m always misplacing the pen tool.

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  1. May 2, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Great post concerning the mouse/trackball/tablet. I’m with you on the whole tablet issue, never tried a trackball.

    I’ve become familiar with the mouse enough that I can do some pretty precise work that, IMO, the tablet just gets in the way. I know it’s probably just me, but I’ll stick with my mouse and use the tablet when i can’t get things done w/ my mouse, which isn’t very often.

    BTW – I have a Logitech G5 w/ all the weights inserted on medium sensitivity.

  2. reed woodhouse
    June 17, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    I don’t get the animus toward trackballs. I use a fairly old one . It is VERY precise — and I write a good deal and need to place the cursor at the right place. Sure, it gets dirty after a while, but it’s easily cleaned and then works as well as ever. Even if the trackball were less sensitive than it in fact is, I’d prefer it for its ability to remain still and not take up any extra space on my desk — or require lifting and putting down again. I realize there are ‘mice’ now that essentially act like trackballs, with scrolling wheels etc. But to use any ordinary mouse is torture.

    I also think trackpads are underrated. In some ways they seem to me the most obvious choice, and I wish there were a good cheap keyboard that came equipped with a first-rate trackpad. I hate having to move my hands just to edit or scroll or select.

  3. Beazone
    August 20, 2009 at 6:46 am

    Well… I was searching the web for the feedback on mouse vs trackball. There are quite contradicting opinions. Part says mouse forever and that the trackball can’t keep up with modern mices. Others say trackball is the best thing they’ve ever tried and once moved to trackball you never change back to mouse.
    I can say personally I’m not satisfied with the mices I’ve tried during last year. I’ve owned VX nano (Logitech) and there’s a problem with laser – sensivity is very unstable and I feel discomfort when working – always missing the targets :)) (i’ve got to slow down the mouse and move it slowly to a target in order not to miss it). It irritates really.
    I must say however there were more opinions towards trackball than mouse so I’ve ordered an optical trackball to check out myself.
    Hope it’ll make a personal revolution for me in terms of pointing device I dreamed of :).

  4. James Palmer
    November 11, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    As a professional ergonomics practitioner, I wonder at the distorted psychosocial pressures which keep the mouse so acceptable. Scientifically and biologically, a suitable trackball like the Microsoft Intellipoint or a Logitech equivalent should be universal instead of unusual. After seeing so many cases of RSS with wrist arm or shoulder symptoms due to mouse manipulation, I despair at continued preference (?) for the mouse. And the speed and ease of performing cursor control in computerwork results in greater productivity as well as fewer disabilities.

    • modifiedphoto
      November 14, 2010 at 1:15 am

      I agree, this is clearly one of the reasons the mouse has stayed the most prominent device for computer users. Not to mention cost. A trackball system has always been more expensive than a similarly featured mouse. And except when you compare a trackball to an “old” mechanical ball mouse, a mouse does tend to be more accurate. As for tablets, I do own and use one for graphics. However, using the pen does fatigue my hand faster than a mouse and doing every day work on the computer is not practical for a tablet. (Thus the reason I primarily use a mouse and have the tablet only for drawing and retouching since I can work faster and more accurately with it since it has pressure and angle sensing.)

  5. James Palmer
    November 11, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    I paid $65 new for my Microsoft Intellipoint Trackball a few years ago. I looked for a new reserve backup unit on Google. There was just one, and it was on EBay. The price was $600.

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