For years now, I’ve cherished my two Microsoft Trackball Opticals (one at home, one at work) fearing the day when I’d have to replace one. My Microsoft Trackball Opticals (MTO’s) are rarer than you might think. Not only has production of the MTO been discontinued — mine might be some of the few MTO’s produced that actually work.
About ten years ago when I first started using the MTO, I became almost religiously converted, evangelising trackball mice to anyone who would listen. Many converted — some to the Logitech series and some to the MTO’s I recommended so highly. Many sore wrists and arms were healed. Mousepads vanished. Desktop space formerly reserved for wandering mice was given back to the commons. Water almost turned to wine once.
Then, a couple years later, I noticed some people, including my mother in law, were complaining that the trackballs in their MTO’s were just too sticky. A coworker said he had to clean his constantly, and even then it was tough to roll. I was convinced they were doing something wrong.
“Did you use window cleaner? Is hand lotion gunking it up? ?”
My MTO, which I had been using for over 5 years, was smooth as glass. I could gently flick it and the ball would spin freely and silently in the socket, like a beach ball in a pool. Not so in the other’s mice.
One day at the office I decided I had to figure out what was going on. On a whim, I put the ball from my MTO into the socket of the “bad” mouse. It worked smoothly, just like mine — huh? The opposite was true: putting the other mouse’s ball into my MTO’s socket exhibited the same tough rolling my coworker complained about. It must be the ball!
Looking closely at the two extracted trackballs side-by-side, it was clear: My MTO’s ball was glossy, and in the mirror-like reflection I could make out fine details in the window and office. The other ball had a somewhat cloudier finish. My mother-in-law’s mouse had the same problem.
Here’s what I know. The “bad” mice were more recent productions of the Microsoft Trackball Optical (a lighter , more gray plastic is the most noticeable difference).
I have a few theories on why the trackballs got in such poor shape:
- The newer MTO’s shipped with poorer quality trackballs with a less polished finish and never worked smoothly. (Maybe… But that seems like something QA would have noticed and rectified quickly.)
- The MTO’s worked fine out of the box, but the plastic used in the trackballs was less durable and eventually degraded.
- The MTO’s worked fine out of the box, but the little metal bearings upon which the trackballs rest were produced differently and scratched the trackballs over time.
Whichever the case may be, I realized I may never be able to find a good high quality trackball mouse again — at least not one with” forward” and “back” buttons. The MTO was the only trackball mouse with more than three buttons on the market. Today you can find some used MTO’s for sale online at inflated prices, but I suspect most of them are of the defective variety.
Worse, I knew thousands of people probably tried those flawed MTOs and either suffered with them or gave up on the whole idea of trackballs altogether. Maybe this is why the MTO’s were pulled off the market. Or, maybe there just wasn’t enough demand to begin with. My irrational side feared manufacturers would soon cease production of trackball mice. My future grandchildren would have to listen to my endless rants about the way things could have been.
So, last month when I read about the upcoming release of the Logitech M570 due to “overwhelming demand,” I knew I could put my fears to rest. And, with the unceremonious arrival of the new Logitech M570 at my doorstep last night I’m ready to tell you what I think about it. Will it live up to my unrealistic expectations and help me overcome my sentimental attachment to my proven, sexy Microsoft Trackball Optical? Find out shortly in the review….