August 3, 2004 By Shane Peterson
The LT Tball, a product in KeyTronic's "Lifetime" series, scored major points by integrating a trackball into a keyboard.
If you don't like trackballs, this product likely won't thrill you. But for those who do, a serviceable trackball just below the space bar on an enhanced 104-key layout is heaven. It's one less piece of clutter on your desk.
The LT Tball keys respond nicely to keystrokes, and the keyboard feels better than the stock "Quiet Key" -- a misnomer if there ever was one -- I was using. The KeyTronic's L-shaped "enter" key is a plus too. Not having to move my hand off the keyboard to use the trackball was another benefit. Doesn't seem like a big thing, but not having to do it made working with documents much easier.
Using the trackball is easy, though the suggestion in the User's Guide to use your right and left thumbs to control the trackball and depress the right and left mouse buttons is perhaps a little misguided.
My thumbs aren't sufficiently coordinated to pull off the suggested maneuvers with the trackball, and using them to hit the right and left mouse buttons to select text was dicey. I found using my index fingers to move the trackball and my thumbs to hit the mouse buttons was much smoother.
I also found that setting the mouse button configuration to "left-handed" made it easier for me as a right-handed person -- I could use my right index finger and thumb to select text with the trackball quickly and accurately.
Though the LT Tball very much appeals to me, it irked me in equal amounts. The trackball's size is a major problem. Sure, the company had to use a small trackball for a compact product -- a huge trackball below the space bar would put a severe cramp on the Tball's usability and style by getting in the way and looking ugly. But it's so small that tiny amounts of dust and grit play hell with the three ball bearings and rubber rollers in the trackball's housing, causing the cursor to refuse to move across the screen, or hitting some invisible vertical or horizontal line and only moving along that line no matter what direction I rolled the trackball.
The upshot was that I had to remove the trackball at least twice a week to clean out the housing with a toothbrush -- not a huge hassle, but enough to irritate me every now and again.
That said, the benefits of having a keyboard with an integrated trackball far outweigh the hassles. For those of you who like to indulge your sense of order, the LT Tball can't be beat.
MSRP -- $99.99
Enhanced 104-key keyboard
Three Windows keys
Center-bearing switch technology
Large L-shaped Enter key
25 mm trackball
Removable retaining ring for easy cleaning
Standard left and right mouse buttons
High-resolution, 260 c.p.i.
Total travel -- 0.150" +/- 0.020"
Travel to peak -- 0.050" +/- 0.010"
Peak force -- 2.0 oz +/- 0.6 oz
Height -- 1.63 inches
Length -- 18.00 inches
Depth -- 9.4 inches
Rating: 4 out of 5
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