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

Logitech Marble Mouse
January 24, 2003 | Patrick Leyden

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Trackballs are an acquired taste for many computer users. This is especially true for gamers, many of who detest the trackball almost as much as they do the trackpad for any kind of serious gaming. Still, every major input device manufacturer has at least one trackball device in their lineup.

Logitech would appear to be one of the staunchest supporters of the trackball as a viable computer peripheral. The company's dedication to this type of input device reaches back more than a decade to their Apple Desktop Bus-based trackball that was inexplicably shaped like small brick. Logitech's Marble Mouse is the most affordable member of the company's current lineup of trackballs. It is a stylish and functional pointing device for users seeking an alternative to the typical computer mouse as a way to interact with their Macintosh systems.

Trackball Chic
The sleek look of this trackball makes it seem like it was designed to serve a prop in a big budget science fiction film rather than as an electronic desk accessory. The sculpted form of the plastic is only interrupted by the small trackball, which is cradled in the leading edge of the unit. It is almost as though the diminutive pointing sphere was placed in this position as an afterthought when the designer was reminded that they were making a pointing device and not a piece of modern sculpture.

Shades of gray provide the colors of the body and the buttons of this peripheral. The actual ball element of the trackball is a crimson orb that immediately brings attention to itself by the very nature of its contrast with the other parts of the unit. While the overall style of the Marble Mouse is clearly not the least bit inspired by the white and silver curves of the current line of Apple computers, it is not at all out of place next to any Mac sold in the last few years. This is especially true when the Marble Mouse is put in the vicinity of a PowerBook G4 Titanium, which has the most in common, aesthetically, with this trackball offering from Logitech.

Handling the Hardware
The Marble Mouse may look good to most eyes, but looking good does not count for much if the device cannot function effectively. The most important test of any trackball is its ability to have a ball that rolls, with buttons that allow the user to click things. This may seem like a needlessly obvious statement, but today's pointing devices can easily be over-engineered with abilities that are so fantastic that the fundamental acts of moving and clicking are difficult.

Sporting a symmetrical design, the Marble Mouse is a perfect fit for both left-handed and right-handed gamers. With its 'ball-forward' design, the palm of one's hand rests comfortably on the downward sloping rear of the trackball. Moving the ball can be accomplished with a single finger, but I found myself using two fingers to guide the Marble Mouse. Using the device in this way was comfortable for extended use and lead to greater precision when performing certain tasks.

Two large buttons sit on either side of the Marble Mouse. These buttons are set slightly back from the trackball so that the thumb and small finger of an average-sized hand can comfortably access the both movement and mouse clicking. These buttons are large enough so that if you find yourself moving your hand up and down the long-axis of the Marble Mouse they are always in reach.

This trackball does not offer a scroll wheel, but attempts to compensate for this deficiency with two additional smaller buttons set within the two larger mouse buttons. With the Logitech Control Center software installed, these mini buttons are set by default to act as 'cruise buttons,' with the mini-left click being a cruise down and the mini-right click being a cruise up. This so-called Cruise Control is a good approximation of scroll wheel functionality, but I found the mini-right button hard to activate without removing my hand from the Marble Mouse and repositioning it. Thanks to my opposable thumb, this problem did not occur when attempting to use the mini-left button.


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