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

Cordless Trackman Wheel
January 29, 2003 | Ken Leyden

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The TrackMan Wheel trackball (both the corded and cordless varieties) is a mainstay of Logitech's trackball lineup. Perhaps the most comfortable of Logitech's right-hander only trackballs, the Trackman Wheel sports thumb-driven cursor movement using a well-proven optical ball (used throughout Logitech's trackball products) along with a standard complement of mouse-style buttons. Combined with Logitech's Mac OS X-savvy Control Center driver software (v1.0.4 at press time), the TrackMan Wheel trackball becomes a compelling option for Mac users looking for an Apple mouse replacement. While this unit may not have as many programmable buttons as other Logitech trackballs (such as the Cordless Optical TrackMan) or be a great fit for all types of games (first-person shooters, for example), this product still deserves serious consideration by all Mac-gaming trackball fans.

The TrackMan Wheel is half-dome shaped, like a thick wedge pulled from an orange, just under 5.75 inches long x 1.75 inches high x 3.75 inches wide. The user's right hand lays across the top of the unit (an average adult hand will cover it completely) perfectly lining up the thumb to manipulate the ball and the first two (or three) fingers to access the unit's other three controls (the left button, right button, & the clickable scroll wheel - see below for details). The unit's mottled-red ball contrasts nicely with the overall gunmetal grey appearance of the corded unit. The cordless version takes a more silver-like tone which is also attractive. Both body color schemes have the additional benefit of not showcasing dirt buildup like any device which is handled frequently (if you need an example of this, take a look at a well-traveled original iPod scroll wheel sometime).

The RF receiver unit (for the cordless model) is a triangular wedge about three-inches on a side and around one-inch thick. The receiver's four-foot cable (self-powered via the USB bus) allows for plenty of flexibility in placement. It can easily be placed out of sight without affecting performance.

The TrackMan Wheel (like most USB-based pointing devices operating under Mac OS X) is a great add-on for your Mac. Even before the software is installed you have access to generic "point-and-click" functionality. With the Logitech Control Center driver software for Mac OS X (the latest version of which is a free download from the Logitech site, archive size approximately 5 MB), you can customize the behavior of the three buttons as well as the cursor acceleration associated with the thumb-ball.

Cursor tracking on the TrackMan Wheel is sensitive and responsive, thanks to the optical nature of the mechanism. Day-to-day activities using the unit were transparent after only a short honeymoon period (I normally use a fingertip-driven trackball). The scroll wheel is in a good position for either the first or second finger, and it has a nice no-slip rubber feel.

The cordless version of the TrackMan Wheel worked as well as the Logitech sister product (the Cordless Optical TrackMan) I reviewed in October. While the receiver-base is a bus-powered USB device, the trackball itself is powered by a single AA-type battery (good for "months of normal use" according to the product datasheet on Logitech’s site). The Logitech Control Center software allows users to monitor battery health graphically (green = good, red = bad). And unlike an infrared device, the 6-foot range radio technology used by this version of the TrackMan Wheel requires no line of sight to operate.

From a gamer's perspective, I have the same reservations for the TrackMan Wheel unit that I had for the Cordless Optical Trackman sister product back in October -- but this is not Logitech-bashing, it is just a function of where trackballs as a whole fit into the "Gaming Input Device" universe. For every trackball fan that may comment about how good a trackball may be for a given game, there are just as many gamers on the other side of the aisle that would disagree. Please consider the source (read as: I like trackballs) when you interpret my gaming-specific comments below.


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