Best mice alternatives for 2013
Which alternative to the traditional mouse is best for your desk? Find out in our alternative pointer shoot-out
If you suffer from RSI, the culprit could well be your mouse. But never fear, there’s a host of alternatives on the market that can alleviate the strain. We’ve spent the past month using five to find out which is best.
Logitech TrackMan Marble
The cheapest mouse alternative in this roundup by far is the Logitech TrackMan Marble. It’s a basic, wired device, with four buttons sitting behind its large, red trackball, yet there’s nothing cheap-feeling about it. Cursor control is smooth and accurate, with the large red “marble” on its nose imparting a real quality feel to mousing activities. Because it’s so large, the ball is as easy to operate with a thumb as it is with the ends of your fingers. And it’s an ambidextrous design, so it’s at home on both left- and right-hand sides of the keyboard. The best thing about the TrackMan, however, is how easy it is to make the transition from mouse to ball. There’s one snag, and that’s the lack of a dedicated scrollwheel or button, which turns an otherwise excellent device into an also-ran.
Price: £19 (£23 inc VAT)
Logitech T650 Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad
When Apple launched its Magic Trackpad back in 2010, it was a novelty; in 2013, with the advent of Windows 8, the concept of a large, desk-bound touchpad has become a more serious alternative for PC users. The T650 is Logitech’s take on the concept, and it’s just as well made as Apple’s version. The top is smooth, luxurious-feeling ground glass, and it offers mechanical clicking, multitouch tapping and Windows 8-friendly gesture support. Connection is via a small USB wireless receiver, and the touchpad can be recharged via a micro-USB connection. If you’ve been waiting for Windows 8 to make sense on the desktop, this almost helps. Two-fingered scrolling, panning and zooming is effortlessly achieved, as are Windows 8’s edge-swipes, and the T650 adds a few of its own. There are four-fingered Aero Snap, window maximise and minimise gestures, and you can swipe up and down with three fingers to bring up and dismiss the Windows 8 Start screen. In all, the T650 is a marvellous piece of kit. A little pricey, perhaps, but it’s a comfortable alternative to a mouse and brings Windows 8 to life.
Price: £50 (£60 inc VAT)
Contour RollerMouse Re:d and Free2
Of all our mousing alternatives, Contour’s RollerMouse devices are the most expensive. For the cost of the Free2, you could buy three Logitech touchpads and countless standard mice, and the Re:d is even more pricey. Are they worth the money? If you have chronic RSI, unquestionably yes. The concept is simple enough: the RollerMouse allows you to control your cursor by way of a cylindrical bar that spins forwards and backwards and slides from side to side. Below it are left-click and right-click buttons along with a scrollwheel and a sensitivity adjustment button, and the bar is also clickable. It’s a surprisingly intuitive way of controlling the cursor, and after a few days of using them, we found we hardly missed our mouse. We prefer the Re:d’s larger, more sensitive roller bar, but both devices deliver incredibly accurate and sensitive cursor control, allowing effortless selecting, dragging and dropping. And since they sit directly beneath the keyboard, you hardly have to move your hand to move the mouse. That’s good news for RSI sufferers, as is the ability to swap between left- and right-handed operation. The only downside – and it’s a big one – is that price.
Price: Re:d, £200 (£240 inc VAT); Free2, £183 (£220 inc VAT)
Logitech Wireless Trackball M570
Logitech’s Wireless Trackball M570 marries the shell of an oversized mouse with a large blue trackball on its left-hand edge. It’s a familiar shape and design for people used to using a traditional mouse, with a scrollwheel nestling between the two main mouse buttons and a pair of dedicated “back” and “forward” keys alongside. The buttons can be reassigned to different tasks if you don’t get on with these assignations. Since it’s wireless and doesn’t need to sit on a perfectly flat surface, the Trackball M570 can be used when you’re sitting on the sofa or using a laptop away from a desk. However, we did experience the occasional stutter while moving the cursor around our Windows desktop – something we hadn’t experienced with our bog-standard Microsoft mouse. The design isn’t ambidextrous, and if you’re looking for an alternative mouse because of wrist or hand complaints, the Trackball might not be the best option: having to constantly use our thumb quickly tired the muscles around the top of our hand. We found the Marble more comfortable to use, despite the lack of scrollwheel, and it’s cheaper, too.
Price: £35 (£42 inc VAT)