Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 160 / JANUARY 1994 / PAGE 124

Ballpoint Mouse. (notebook computer trackball) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Clifton Karnes

Notebook computers are amazing. It's hard to believe that you can cram a 486 motherboard with 16MB of memory and a 200MB hard disk into such a tiny package. In fact, notebook designers have been able to miniaturize everything except the person using the computer. It's the user interface that presents the biggest challenges in these tiny PCs.

The screen, keyboard, and pointing device on notebooks all must be large enough to be usable but small enough to be portable. Screens have mad great strides in the last few years; keyboards haven't improved much and probably won't. Pointing devices are where the current action is, and with Windows running on nearly 60 percent of all notebooks, a good, solid pointing device is a must.

Most people would agree that, for a notebook computer, the trackball is the portable pointing device of choice. It comes closest to the mouse in terms of accuracy and control, and it occupies very little space.

Microsoft has just introduced its newest entry into the trackball fray: the Ballpoint Mouse 2.0. It's smaller and sleeker than its version 1.0 big brother, and the trackball itself is much improved. In fact, with its silky smooth action and skid control, it rivals desktop trackballs. It's easily the best trackball I've ever used.

Right out of the box, you can tell the Ballpoint is different. Its new design fits your hand the way a pointing device should. The edges are smooth, and the underside sports a nonslip runner grip. The buttons are larger than they were with the 1.0 Ballpoint, and their position is different. Instead of the left and right buttons being on top of each other on one side of the mouse, the left button is on the far side and the right button is on top. There's a third button opposite the left button that becomes the main button for southpaws. (It can be reconfigured as the right button if you prefer.)

Like most other laptop trackballs, this device clips on the side of your notebook, It has small hangers that will fit most notebooks and allow you to close the case with it attached. The Ballpoint uses a PS/2 connector, and there's also a QuickPort version that simply snaps into any QuickPort-equipped computer. No serial-port version is available, however.

The Ballpoint also comes with a new release of the Microsoft Mouse Driver, version 9.01. With this new driver, you can not only adjust the buttons, as discussed above, but also control the size of the cursor; add mouse trails; make the pointer grow when you move the mouse; and adjust what Microsoft calls color, which in this case means choosing black, white, or reversed for the mouse pointer.

In addition to these features there are some other interesting options in the new driver. With Magnify, you can use a hot key to enlarge the area under the mouse pointer. With Snap-To, the mouse pointer automatically moves to the default button in a dialog box. Set Screen Wrap to on, and the pointer will move off one edge of your display and appear at the beginning of the opposite edge. Locate uses a hot key to move the pointer to the middle of the screen. Although Screen Wrap seems more like something you'd want to use as a practical joke, the other features are all useful, especially on a notebook. It's worth noting that you can use this version of the driver with your mouse, too, if you want to take advantage of the latest enhancements.

Many notebooks these days come standard with pointing devices, but if yours doesn't, this well-designed, smooth, and surefooted trackball may be your best pointer bet.


(206) 882-8080 $125

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