Mouse, Trackball, or Touch Pad? Which One Should You Get?

Back in the early 90s, there was a flaming debate about what kinds of input devices people should use to move a cursor around in the monitor. A war was about to start, and just in the nick of time, the debate was settled and people wanted mice that they can move around on a pad. It was all fine and dandy until laptops took center stage and introduced touch pads that were much more versatile in portable environments. After that, people were contemplating getting touch pads that were much larger for desktop computers, and even going back to the old track ball mice that everyone way back in the day used. Which one’s better? Are they even good for today’s use? Let’s explore this!

1: You Don’t Have To Stick To Just One

If you’re thinking about getting another input device, you probably don’t want to give up using the mouse. Why not have both?! It’s perfectly possible to attach both a mouse and a touch pad to your computer and use whatever you’re comfortable with for the moment. I myself would consider using a touchpad for web browsing and work, and my laser mouse for gaming. There’s nothing wrong with hardware polygamy. It’s fine by most computers!

2: Gaming…

And while we’re talking about gaming, let’s dive in a little deeper. Some gamers that have spoken to me say that their track ball mice are a bit hard to get used to. But once they got acclimated to this new environment, they never wanted to turn back. Others tell me that it’s a nightmare and they just use it for web browsing and other things that don’t require a massive amount of precision. From what I gather, your gaming experience will vary based on preference and the ergonomics of the device you choose. Be sure to test out a track ball on a game before buying it!

As for touch pads, don’t expect much. They really don’t do you any favors. Try gaming with this:


What about those “touch” mice? You’ll have a slightly better experience with a touch mouse than a touch pad, but you’ll have to get used to hitting the surface without expecting the buttons to click. That’s probably the hardest part of playing games on a touch-interface mouse like the Apple’s “Magic” mouse or the Logitech T630, shown below.


3: Durability

“What will last me longer?” This is probably the most often-asked question I get in my inbox from hardware enthusiasts who are just starting out with accessorizing their computers. The simplest answer to this question is: “Look for whatever has the least moving parts.”

Trackball mice? Moving part city! First of all, you have the big ball that wafts dust, grease, cat fur, and tons of other nasty stuff (like potato chips, in my case) down into the mechanism that detects the ball’s movement. That can’t be healthy!


Touch pads and touch mice are by far the healthiest option, but not necessarily versatile enough for gaming. Their lack of moving parts makes them very robust and therefore very attractive to those who want something that will outlast even the best run-of-the-mill mice.

Optical mice also have a good track record, although the gaps between the scroll wheel and the two buttons can often get jammed up with all sorts of dust. The same problem exists there (especially with friction-less scroll wheels) as it does with trackball mice. It’s just a tiny step up, since the laser or LED on the bottom is obviously not a moving part. I must tell you, however, that I had to take apart my mouse three times in the last two years from the enormous amounts of fur that get caught in the scroll mechanism of my Logitech MX Revolution mouse. It’s worth it only if you have no pets and keep your hands and work area ultra-clean.

The Final Verdict

So, let’s recapitulate: If you want the highest amount of durability, get a touch mouse or a touch pad. But if you want to game like there’s no tomorrow, a high-end regular mouse does the job, although you could grow fond of having a trackball. Keep in mind, though, that the trackball mouse will need regular cat hair cleanups and it will be a bit sluggish after some years of use if you don’t take extra-good care of it.

Got anything to add to this discussion? Leave a comment below!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez
Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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