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Manufacturer: Kensington
Min OS X: Any Version    Requires: USB Port

Kensington Turbo Mouse Pro
June 13, 2002 | Ken Leyden

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Turbo Mouse Pro
While classics like 'Marathon' and 'Doom II' brought the first-person-shooter (FPS) gaming revolution to the Mac platform, they didn't bring along a corresponding revolution in game control. These early shooters were simulated "2.5D" environments more suited to pure keyboard control than the mouse-keyboard combo more common today. This state of affairs remain unchallenged until 'Quake' burst onto the scene with the most accurate 3D environment simulation available at that time.

The advent of 'Quake' had thousands of Mac gamers scrambling to hack their autoexec.cfg files to add the +MLOOK command binding that would automatically enable the mouse as the primary control device. As a result, the "keyboard-only" versus "mouse-keyboard" debate has all but been resolved for today's gamer in favor of the mouse. In fast-paced network deathmatch games (such as 'Unreal Tournament', 'Aliens versus Predator', and 'Red Faction') the slower non-proportional turn rate and limited vertical-axis support that keyboard-only players need to live with normally equates with *not* living very long ... especially when facing even a moderately-skilled opponent using mouselook. While most FPS gamers will likely agree that keyboard-only gameplay is dead and buried, the mouselook revolution unearthed with it a whole new subject for discussion: traditional mouse or trackball as the primary control device.

I started playing post-'Quake' FPS games on the Mac using an Apple-standard 1-button mouse. I only migrated to a trackball (the original Kensington 2-button ADB TurboMouse) because of increasing space constraints on my computer desk ... I learned that having to pick up and reposition the mouse to get the targeting crosshair across the screen is nearly as bad as keyboard-looking! Though after a few games I really started to discover the possibilities of dedicated trackball control in FPS games. What little I lost in pinpoint accuracy giving up the mouse was made up for in spades with increased turn rates & vertical-axis control. I most appreciated being able to pull off 180 degree "Crazy Ivan" maneuvers (just like the default key mapping in the now-classic 'Duke Nukem 3D') by sweetening the horizontal scroll speed and giving the ball a sharp slap right or left.

When I outgrew the 2-button TurboMouse trackball I upgraded to the TurboMouse 5.0 (4-button) version. The TurboMouse 5.0 was still an ADB-only device, so I needed to pick up a Griffin Technology iMate USB to ADB adapter to continue to use the 5.0 model with my G4 Mac. Recently, I was given the opportunity to test-drive the TurboMouse Pro trackball for a few weeks - a native USB device that sports six additional buttons and a clickable scroll wheel over and above the standard four buttons oriented around the ball. With some small reservations worth noting for unit cost, users with smaller-than-average hands, and left-handed gamers, the TurboMouse Pro is a worthy entry into the TurboMouse trackball line that offers additional gaming flexibility not available in other Kensington trackball products.

The TurboMouse Pro is similar in basic physical layout to the rest of the TurboMouse line: extra-large ball size allowing for precise cursor movement, bilateral symmetry for agnostic dominant hand support, plus the size & feel of the four main mouse-style buttons arrayed about the ball. Though the height and width of the Pro trackball remains unchanged from previous TurboMouse models, the depth (the distance from the leading narrow edge that rests under your palm to the back of the unit) has increased by about an inch. These size-related Pro-specific changes are to accommodate the six additional DirectLaunch(tm) buttons and the scroll wheel behind the ball ... though the Pro model does also sport color changes as well (a slick semi-metallic gunmetal grey with a semi-transparent blue ball). Unlike in previous TurboMouse models the Pro's (USB) connector cord is permanently attached to the back of the unit, so users needing a longer reach in their set-ups will need to purchase a Type A USB extension cord rather than a standard USB patch cable.

The best feature of the TurboMouse trackball line is the ball ... the more you use it, the better it tracks. The ball & bearings get "broken in" with regular use just like a good pair of sneakers or jeans, so using it becomes even more comfortable and satisfying with time. The only maintenance that my previous TurboMouse units have required is to occasionally clean the bearings with a cotton-tipped applicator & rubbing alcohol to remove the buildup of hand oils (the buildup of such oils can affect tracking performance).

A close second to the ball for best-feature status on the TurboMouse Pro are the four main mouse-style buttons. Arrayed about the ball at 1:30, 4:30, 7:30, and 10:30 like the hour-hand of a clockface, these buttons provide excellent aural and tactile feedback. Just a light touch is all that is required to click-hold for dragging icons or accessing contextual menu items.


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