In prior editions, we recommended Microsoft mice exclusively because they happened to be the best mice available. People sent us nastygrams accusing us of being in the pay of the Borg. Well, we get as mad at Microsoft as anyone else does, so it's a pleasure to be able to recommend some non-Microsoft products in this edition.
Logitech mice are generally a bit less expensive than comparable Microsoft models, and some people actually prefer them, but whenever we try a competing model we invariably find ourselves coming back to Microsoft. Some also prefer tablets to mice or trackballs, but we have insufficient experience with tablets to have formed any valid opinions concerning them.
Here are the mice and trackballs we use and recommend:
None. There is little reason to buy a mechanical mouse nowadays. Basic red-eye mice sell for as little as $10, and even the best red-eye mice cost little or no more than mechanical mice with similar features. The only reason to buy a mechanical mouse is if you have a notebook or KVM that doesn't work with red-eye mice. In that situation, we recommend an inexpensive Microsoft IntelliMouse.
Samsung or Logitech Optical Wheel Mouse. At $12 or so each, these red-eye mice are good enough for nearly any purpose. Similar products are made (or relabeled) by Labtec, Keytronic, IOGEAR, and others. We haven't tried those, but we suspect any of them would suffice. Many models are available, most of which have two buttons and a scroll wheel. Most models have PS/2 and USB connectors, although some have only PS/2. These inexpensive red-eye mice don't have the best sensors or the most robust mechanical construction, but they're precise enough and durable enough to serve most people's needs well. Robert uses Samsung and Logitech red-eye mice on his secondary systems (http://www.samsung.com and http://www.logitech.com).
Microsoft IntelliMouse Optical or IntelliMouse Explorer. These five-button mice sell for three to four times the price of basic optical mice. They appear to be somewhat more durable and precise, but the difference is not large. The IntelliMouse Optical is a standard-size mouse that is usable with either hand. The IntelliMouse Explorer is an oversize mouse that is for righthanded use only. Both models have PS/2 and USB connectors. Barbara uses an IntelliMouse Explorer on her main system, despite her small hands, because she finds it reduces the frequency and severity of hand pain she experiences with standard-size mice. Robert uses an IntelliMouse Optical on his primary system (http://www.microsoft.com).
Microsoft Notebook Optical Mouse. This cute little USB-only rodent is just the thing when space is at a premium. At twice the price of a basic optical mouse, it's not cheap, but it does work on most notebooks, which some other red-eye mice do not. Many children and some adults who have very small hands prefer a mouse of this size for general use. We find it a bit too small for comfortable long-term use, but it is certainly superior to the built-in pointing devices used on most notebook computers.
Gyration Ultra Cordless Optical Mouse. We haven't actually used this product, but we've received so many favorable comments about it from readers that we decided to include it in our recommendations. At $70 or so for the basic model, this is a very expensive mouse, but it is unique because it does not require a mousing surface at all. In optical mode, it works like any other red-eye mouse. But when you press the Bat-button, a miniature two-axis gyro spins up, which allows the mouse to function normally simply by being waved around in midair. One nice feature of the Gyration mice is their relatively long range. The range of the standard unit is rated at 25 feet, and the Pro unit at 100 feet. Frankly, we don't see a need for airborne mice, but many of our readers tell us they use this mouse (and the matched wireless keyboard) on home entertainment systems (http://www.gyration.com/).
Microsoft Wireless Optical Mouse or Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer. If you need a wireless mouse, either of these will do the job admirably. The Wireless Optical Mouse is an ambidextrous, standard-size wheel mouse that uses the PS/2 or USB interface. The Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer is an oversize five-button mouse that is USB-only. These units are intended for desktop use, and so have relatively short range. If you need longer range, use one of the Gyration units.
Microsoft Trackballs. Microsoft produces two optical trackballs, which offer the same advantages as red-eye mice. These two models differ primarily in where the ball is placed. The Trackball Optical puts the ball on the left side near the middle, where it can be manipulated by the thumb. The Trackball Explorer puts the ball at the top front, where it can be manipulated by the index finger. We prefer the latter, but suggest you try both because some people prefer using their thumbs.
For our most recent detailed recommendations by brand name and model number, visit: http://www.hardwareguys.com/picks/mice.html.