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October 11th, 1999

Orbit USB 2-Button Trackball
Contact and Other Information
Manufacturer: Kensington
Product Info: Orbit USB 2-Button Trackball
Description: USB enabled trackball style input device
Address: Kensington
Attn: Customer Service or Sales
2855 Campus Drive
San Mateo, CA 94403
Price: US$29.95 at
Telephone: 800-280-8318
Fax: 650-572-9675
Requirements PowerMac
USB port
System 8.1 or later
or Windows 98
USB port
System Used For Testing Blue and White PowerMac G3/400
System 8.6

Orbit USB 2-Button Trackball, Solid Low-end Offering
by Kyle D'Addario

For those using the hockey puck style mouse included with the iMac or G3/G4 systems, or the iPuck, who are longing for something more, Kensington may have an answer. The Kensington Orbit USB is a two button trackball for use on USB equipped Macs. Functionally, it is a dead ringer for the traditional Kensington Orbit, but some stylistic enhancements have been made for the Macintosh-oriented USB version.


The Orbit it slightly larger than a traditional mouse, but shaped essentially the same. Instead of moving the mouse, there is a ball at the end of the device (where the middle button would be on a three button mouse), and a button on either side. For those that have never used a trackball before, the Orbit should feel comfortable. The translucent white and green device supports the hand much the same as a traditional mouse, but cursor control is achieved by rotating the ball located at the end of the Orbit.

For those who have endured the iMac style mouse, the Orbit will feel glorious, a veritable input-heaven. It is big, easy to control, and the snazzy case style will allow it to fit in with any iMac or G3/G4 and its peripherals. It has a somewhat solid feel, and cursor control is simple. Connectivity was as simple as one might expect. The Orbit plugs into the USB port on the iMac style keyboard, and is hot-swappable with any other USB input device. In other words, if one wanted to use a USB joystick, the Orbit can be unplugged and the USB joystick can be plugged into the same spot without having to restart the system. However, there are some drawbacks.

For those used to working with other Kensington products, specifically the oversized 4-button Turbo Mouse, the Orbit will be a monumental disappointment. Compared to the indestructible feel of the Turbo Mouse, the Orbit feels flimsy. Popping the ball out of the case on the Orbit to clean the bearings also does not inspire confidence when compared to its older Turbo brother. The bearings on the Orbit are tiny and fragile looking compared to those on the Turbo Mouse. Also, the Turbo Mouse anchors itself to your desktop space simply because of it's size. The Orbit does not, and after a few minutes of use the Orbit shifts around and vertical and horizontal orientation can become confused. We found ourselves having to physically move the Orbit back to the original starting point on the desk every so often.


Mouseworks screenshot
(Click for larger view)
Perhaps the key feature of the Orbit is the ability for it to work with the Kensington MouseWorks software. MouseWorks is a truly brilliant product, allowing for precise cursor control, button programming (Orbit buttons can be programmed to function as a traditional "click" button, and the other as OS 8's contextual menus…like Window's right-click, or any other combination of your choice), and turning features on and off like snap-to-default. The snap-to-default feature centers the cursor on the default button of any new dialog box. This feature alone makes using the MouseWorks software worth it. MouseWorks also allows for the creation of application sets, which set button controls differently depending on the application you are currently working in. For example, if the left button was set to be the "click" and the right button to contextual menus (control + click), when playing a game such as Unreal, the right button could be changed for the keystroke to jump, thus allowing more control from the Orbit itself. The major problem with the Orbit USB is that the MouseWorks software is not included. It is a free download, and not a terribly large one at that, but many users are going to miss the beauty of using the MouseWorks software and thus not get the true experience of using the Kensington Orbit USB. There is no excuse for the MouseWorks software not to be included with the product. Without it, the Orbit is just another trackball.


If you are looking for a replacement for your hockey puck style iMac mouse, the Orbit is a solid choice, especially if you are going to download the MouseWorks software. However, if you are looking for a solid workhorse trackball, or are considering replacing your old Turbo Mouse with a USB enabled device, you will be disappointed. Hold out for a USB version of the Turbo Mouse.

Final Score (Maximum score is 5 Gadgies)
3 Gadgies
Pros Easy to use and setup,
a relief over the hockey puck iMac style mouse
Cons MouseWorks software not included,
more flimsy feeling than the Turbo Mouse

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