Review by Kevin Steele
Every industry has one: an eagerly anticipated product that seems to take forever to come to market. The XGaming X-Arcade Trackball, announced two years ago, has definitely taken the long road, but it's finally here.
After waiting patiently ever since the trackball was first announced, I was very eager to see what XGaming had created. It was obvious from the moment that I received my review unit that XGaming has put a lot of time and attention into this product: the slick packaging is obviously designed for retail, and even has cutouts so you can touch and spin the trackball (for those who really want to "try before they buy.")
Touring the Trackball
Opening up the box revealed that XGaming's attention to detail didn't stop at the box: the X-Arcade Trackball is an elegant, sleekly designed controller. From the durable laminate, to the t-molding, to the stylish "X" logo, this is a cool looking controller.
About the only nit I have to pick are the mounting bolts for the trackball unit, but considering the 1/2" thickness of the panel, I don't know that they could have routed out the top enough to hide the bolts under the laminate.
The shape of the X-Arcade Trackball is ideal for lap use, with just enough height to house all the components, and a unique top shape that provides for hand support without getting in the way. It also includes six rubber feet on the bottom for use on a desktop or coffee table.
Speaking of coffee table use, you'll have no problems with the controller's cable, as the combo PS2/USB cable is a very generous ten feet in length!
The X-Arcade Trackball is also compatible with PS2 and XBox consoles: in the case of the PS2, you can simply plug it into one of the USB ports. The XBox is not quite so lucky, especially since the XBox does not have direct mouse support, but you can use the trackball with any of the PS2 Keyboard/Mouse adapters available for the X-Box.
For PCs, just plug the trackball into a USB or PS/2 mouse port. The trackball is automatically recognized and treated as a three-button mouse by Windows and Macintosh computers, and no drivers are required: simply plug it in and you're ready to start playing.
The layout of the controller is well thought-out: there are two sets of buttons on both the right and left sides of the trackball, allowing for easy left- or right-handed use (as a lefty, I always appreciate controllers that are ambidextrous).
The buttons are the standard XGaming black buttons, which have a nice feel but do produce a unique "pinging" noise when used that some may find a bit distracting. The button noise is not necessarily louder than other vendors' buttons, but it is higher-pitched.
The unique button layout caught me off-guard at first: the buttons are placed in a vertical arc, with the middle button mapped to mouse button one, the top button mapped to mouse button 2, and the bottom button mapped to mouse button 3.
This seemed like a design mistake to me at first, until I actually used the controller, and the reason for the button placement suddenly became blindingly obvious: the 1 and 2 buttons align perfectly with your index and middle fingers, while the third button sits conveniently under your thumb!
This button layout was extremely comfortable, and I soon found myself wishing that my arcade cab's trackball buttons were placed in the same layout. Hats off to XGaming for working out the ergonomics so well!
The thoughtful design touches didn't stop there, either: the X-Arcade Trackball includes two side-mounted "pinball" buttons, mapped to mouse buttons 1 and 2. While you probably won't need these buttons while playing trackball games, these buttons do allow this controller to pull double-duty as a pinball controller, at least for pinball games that support the mouse buttons (unfortunately, neither Visual Pinball or Future Pinball on the PC support the mouse buttons!)
Perhaps the biggest surprise, however, was the mysterious button on the back of the controller. It took me a while to figure out what it was for, even after reading the manual: it's a "horizontal restrictor" button, which when pushed limits the trackball to only vertical movements (the ball still rolls freely, but only up and down movements are registered.)
Why would you want to do this? To cheat, of course! Let me explain: restricting the left/right movement of the ball is a great way to ensure a straight hit in golfing games, greatly aiding in getting great distance off the tee or helping sink that long putt. Perhaps "cheat" is too strong a word, but the horizontal restrictor button is certainly an advantage that you'll have over players without the X-Arcade Trackball!