The PC-TRAC Deluxe +10 Apr 2015
Another thing that I have learnt through my exploration of keyboards is appreciating older technology or peripherals. I have grown to appreciate and often favour the older design of keyboards. I particularly like the pearl and pebble colours scheme of the Model M. This is also something that I like in the HHKB. Even though it isn't quite the pearl and pebble combination I really like that simple scheme over other brighter keycaps.
But what I have recently acquired is a trackball. This was something that I had considered getting in my earlier mechanical keyboard days, but never got round to. Although I said I appreciated older technology this is not the greatest example as it really isn't that old. I believe it is from around 1999.
I found this MICROSPEED PC-TRAC Deluxe for $10 on ebay. Originally I was looking for a cst trackball as I knew them to be of high quality. However, what I learnt is that MICROSPEED is CST or what they came to be.
It is in essence the CST KidTRAC and what might be the current PC-Trac. But without the RGB colour scheme. So this does mean it does not have an insanely high DPI like the L-Trac but it does have the signature design. I can't find the exact specifications anywhere but I believe it has around 160 DPI.
The first problem I encountered that it came with a serial connection. I thought I would be equipped to handle this since it came with a ps/2 converter. I learnt that the ps/2 to usb converter I had was only for keyboards. So I had to order a whole new cable.
The trackball itself has 3 buttons. Two of which I have got to work with a useful function. The left and right button function as the standard mouse buttons. But the main problem that comes with a trackball of this design is that it does not have a scroll wheel, since I use the scroll function I thought it might be necessary to come up with some kind of solution. Although I had trouble setting a solution up it is rather simple. The Arch wiki is of course ever helpful.
That is my mouse configuration on Arch for windows I haven't found a solution yet. What this does it emulate the wheel button. To activate the wheel I hold the right mouse button then the trackball functions as a scroll wheel.
I have yet to configure the middle button to what I want it. But being without it has not effected me at all so for this reason it is not a pressing issue.
Another interesting point is that it might be possible to add additional buttons. If it is the same model as the KidTRAC then it might have the same pcb, which means it might be possible to add 3 additional buttons. I'm not quite sure on this at the moment but it is something I am looking into.
The switches used are d2f-01. This is really my first time paying attention to the actual switches used in mice, so I can't really draw any comparisons to others. So to gain some perspective I took apart the mouse I was using previous to the PC-TRAC, the Logitich M310. But I cannot identify the switches used. They do not appear to be omron switches. However, they do seem to have a lower actuation point and require less force to activate. This results in a less clicky switch a little more subdued, when I went back to compare the two it was very apparent which my favourite was. The switches in the PC-TRAC are just much more clicky. They feel satisfying and the sound accompanies this. But the 'logitech' switches just fall a little short.
The switches are great and they are undeniably clicky. They are undoubtedly the best mouse switches I have used.
There are a few problems I have encountered with the trackball. Sometimes it seems to get stuck on a single axis, so I will only be able to move left and right or up and down. This of course is an infuriating problem, especially if it happens a lot. And sometimes it does. I have yet to really pin down what causes it.
It is also possible to unseat the ball and it rocks up. It is impossible for the ball to actually come out of the socket but it can rock. This doesn't affect the action but it can be a nuisance.
It is very comfortable to use for prolonged periods of time. I now much prefer this over an optical mouse. It just feels much nicer to have my hand stationary.
Overall I have to commend the build quality it has already lasted around 16 years and still functions perfectly. The buttons are thick and the trackball is just the right size. It is also very easy to open and clean. There are only three screws on the bottom that allow you to get easy access if you wish to clean inside.
To conclude, I really like this trackball. It is the best mouse experience I have had. Though I prefer to use the keyboard, I sometimes find it advantageous to be able to use a mouse. The colours scheme is my favourite, grey and a different grey. If this is an indicator of CST build quality I am very impressed. The next trackball I buy will be a CST and hopefully the L-Trac.