A Teeny-Tiny Review of the Macally Qball USB Optical Trackball in a WinXP Environment

By Van Smith

Date: July 12, 2004

I like trackballs.  My desk is always cluttered and a conventional mouse inevitably ends up bumping into things on all sides.  Trackballs stay where you put them and don't demand much space.  When you're benchmarking, jostling the mouse can end up invalidating a run.  Trackballs don't move the mouse cursor unless you roll the ball.  Trackballs travel well and can be used just about anywhere, while mice are persnickety about what kinds of surfaces they'll work on.

Microsoft makes pretty good optical trackballs and the Trackball Explorer is one of the best.  However, the Macally Qball USB Optical Trackball is just as good and is $20 cheaper.  Although the Qball is for the Apple Macintosh, it works great in Windows XP.


Button Layout

Since the Qball is a Mac product, I was initially worried that all of the buttons -- particularly the rubberized scroll wheel -- would work properly under Windows XP.  I've run into a lot of mice and trackballs that have psuedo-scroll wheels that demand special drivers, don't always scroll correctly and often don't serve as a middle button.

Fortunately, Windows XP recognizes the Qball as a HID-compliant device and everything is 100% fully functional as shown below.

The Macally Qball's five buttons work as they should in XP.


Touchy-Feely Stuff

The Qball features a translucent, glitter impregnated trackball that changes from dim red to bright red when touched.  Children are hypnotized by it, although the glitter is a little over the top for most grown men.

Although the Qball is a true optical trackball, the ball itself rests on metal rollers.  This results in a very slightly scratchy feel compared with the buttery-smooth Microsoft Trackball Explorer.  However, the Qball appears to be just a little better-made than the Trackball Explorer.  The Qball also doesn't seem to need cleaning nearly as often as its Microsoft counterpart which somehow manages to suck in grime out of nowhere.

Speaking of cleaning, the ball pops out very easily, so removing gook is no sweat.  Although we've not seen any gunk on them after several months of use, it is possible that the rollers might need unclogging in the far future or sooner in dirtier environments.

The buttons and the rubberized scroll wheel all have good tactile feedback. 

Of course, none of the bundled Mac software works in Windows XP, but, honestly, how many people really want to know how many miles their ball has turned?  And don't the pixilated Hula Girl cursors get a little old after a few days?

Lastly, the Macally Qball is a lot smaller than the Trackball Explorer.

Minbari versus Borg.



The Macally Qball USB Optical Trackball works great in Windows XP and is just about as good a product as the popular Microsoft Trackball Explorer.  If the two devices were the same price, I might give the edge to the Microsoft trackball because of the native WinXP software goodies thrown in.  However, the Macally Qball is usually about $20 cheaper and that's enough dough to tilt the scales pretty strongly in favor of it.