NewPoint. (trackball) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Denny Atkin
Boy, you just can't beat competition. Microsoft releases the BallPoint mouse (which is actually a trackball, but let's not get picky) for laptops, and I think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Sure, it has problems: I can't close the laptop's cover with it attached, and the cord is so long that it often gets in my way. It sure beats using the arrow and Tab keys, though. I'm happy, right?
I thought so, until I saw Mouse Systems' NewPoint trackball, which turns out to be the greatest thing since hot cinnamon rolls. If you're looking for a pointing device for your portable computer, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better choice. Shaped like a 114-pie wedge, this little trackball has one wraparound button on the outer edge and a second button on top, next to the ball itself. The control panel software, included in both DOS and Windows versions, lets you select which button will be used as the primary button, equivalent to the left button of a two-button mouse. It also offers adjustable sensitivity and four acceleration speeds: Docking, Cruising, Warp Speed, and Hyperspace. Lefties will be happy to know that you can adjust the orientation--which way is up--so the NewPoint can be used on either side of the laptop.
You can hold the NewPoint in your hand or clamp it to your keyboard. The clamp is a work of genius. You simply slide back a small section, place the lip over the edge of your keyboard, and let the sliding section go. There are no little screws to adjust. Also, the lip that secures the clamp to the keyboard is flat, so you can close your laptop's cover without removing the clamp. This feature alone was enough to make me switch permanently to the NewPoint. The trackball slides easily on and off the clamp; however, unlike with the BallPoint, you can't adjust the angle of the trackball. (I never used this feature anyway--why would anyone want a trackball sitting at a 90-degree angle to the keyboard?)
The NewPoint only misses in one area: The cord is too short. I thought I'd like the shorter cord, as the BallPoints's longer one constantly got in my way. The built-in cord is only about 9 inches long, however, and most laptop computers are about 11 inches wide. You'll be able to use the built-in cord with laptops that have their serial ports on the back. It wasn't long enough, though, to use with the Gateway Nomad or my Texas Instruments TravelMate 2000, which have their serial ports on the left side. If Mouse Systems had only made the cord 2 or 3 inches longer, it would've been perfect. Now I'm forced to use its three-foot extension cord, which is even more troublesome than the BallPoint's coiled cord.
The NewPoint I tested was fully compatible with a Microsoft serial mouse. Mouse Systems doesn't include a bus mouse adapter, so you can't attach it to a PS/2-style bus mouse port. It does come with a nice wallet-style carrying case.
Even with my few complaints, I still think the NewPoint is a winner. Probably the best evidence of this is the fact that my BallPoint and Thumbelina trackballs haven't left my desk drawer since the day I unpacked the NewPoint. Newpoint--$99.95 MOUSE SYSTEMS 47505 Seabridge Dr. Fremont, CA 94538 (510) 656-1117 Circle Reader Service Number 355