Kensington SlimBlade Trackball Review

by Reads (6,384)

The Kensington SlimBlade Trackball combines the precision input of a trackball with useful multimedia and image manipulation controls. With the press of a button you can switch modes on the fly without taking your hand off of the device.  The SlimBlade also offers a unique low-profile shape that is comfortable to use without a wrist pad, requiring less space on your desk surface. Read on to find out how useful this trackball is in real-world situations and if it is worth purchasing over competing products.

Specifications

  • Multi-function ball lets you easily navigate through your music, pictures and documents using media or document view mode
  • Fingertip access to image and media controls
  • Control cursor and scrolling; volume, play/pause, stop, and next; zoom in/out, and pan, all with the ball
  • The sleek stationary design saves your desk space
  • Mac & PC compatible, including Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Mac OS X
  • USB 2.0
  • 5 Year Warranty

The Kensington SlimBlade Trackball carries a suggested retail price of $129.99.

Build and Design
The design is sleek and modern, with smooth rounded edges and a really nice silver metallic paint covering the body. The control layout is very simple with the trackball centered between all four buttons. Kensington also included mounting tabs that will line up the trackball with other compatible devices for a clean and concise user-interface.

The build quality could be better considering the high price, especially compared to some of the options from Logitech or Microsoft. The SlimBlade doesn’t offer a trackball locking ring to keep the ball secured, which might result in damage if someone knocks the assembly off your desk and the ball goes flying. The internal trackball sliders seem to collect dust and debris quickly, and needed to be wiped down every couple of days.

 

Performance
The shape of the SlimBlade is comfortable to use, but puts your hand in a position where the trackball acts like a sled to move around the desk surface. I feel Kensington should have included weights of some sort to give the trackball a more solid footing, instead of relying on it being connected to other Kensington products to stay in place. The small rubber feet slide around easily once they get a light coating of dust.

The button placement doesn’t seem as intuitive during use, requiring awkward hand movements to hit the right mouse button. The primary mouse button can be easily triggered with your thumb, but the secondary button can only be hit with the far right corner of your palm. I would prefer using a fingertip for more precise control of a button. The movement settings of the trackball are limited to the standard Windows Vista settings for speed, as Kensington does not give you the ability to change any settings via software.  The SlimBlade supports page scrolling through a radial spin of the trackball just as if you were turning a knob. The trackball gives you audible feedback during the scrolling motion through an internal speaker which can’t be disabled.

The multimedia and image manipulation buttons are easy to access, almost easier than the right mouse button. Pressing them activates a head-up-display on the screen, showing the current mode the mouse is in. In multimedia mode the trackball scrolling motion adjusts the volume up or down, and the left and right mouse buttons turn into play/pause and stop. Spinning the ball left or right changes to the previous track or next track. In image manipulation mode, the scrolling action zooms in or out, spinning the ball pans the screen, and tapping the left or right mouse buttons quickly zoom in or out.

 

Conclusion
I think more user-customizable software would have really improved things with the SlimBlade Trackball. The software you install doesn’t let you change settings of any kind, including keystroke macros dedicated to various buttons or movements. This Kensington trackball is priced above some of the other options on the market, including wireless versions. With a lower price and improved software this trackball has a lot of potential, but in its current form it leaves some of us scratching our heads and wondering.

Pros

  • Sharp design
  • Drivers offered for both Windows and Mac OS

Cons

  • No way to customize settings
  • Awkward movement to hit right mouse button


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