For my birthday this year, I got a Logitech ERGO M575 Trackball and a TESmart 4K 60Hz 4:4:4 KVM switch. The trackball replaces my ancient Logitech Trackman Wheel because I've had to replace the micro switches too many times, and I doubt the PCB will survive many more desoldering attempts without pad damage. The Switch is a new idea for me: I upgraded to a QNAP NAS last year, and it has KB / Mouse / Video connectors so I want to "go direct" instead of via the web interface. And ... when I fix other peoples computers, I no longer have to unplug my keyboard and monitor to use them.
I am not sponsored in any way by Logitech or TESmart: These were fully paid for with no incentives or discounts. Not that I'm averse to being given stuff if you want to and I'll be happy to write an honest review if you do, but nobody ever does ...
I've been using Trackmen for a long time - right since the first version came out in the 80s - and there is no way I'd go back to a "normal mouse": it's like playing Grand Theft Auto on the keyboard instead of with the mouse / controller!
But ... the switches degrade and start to "bounce" or release while you are holding them. And while it's a simple matter to open it up, desolder the microswitch, and solder in a new one (and cheap: I bought five microswitches back in 2019 for less than £4 including delivery and they are still available at £4.49) the PCB is cheaply made, and every time you do it, you do some damage, even if you can't see it. Desoldering devices with 3 fixed pins you can't cut free first is always going to stress a PCB!
So eventually, it's going to give up: time for a new one!
And the switch ... I used these back in the 90s to monitor and control a print server and my dev machine and they were ... um ... OK. Ish. Physical buttons, relays, and when you switched, the other computer thought you'd unplugged its monitor. It worked, but it wasn't good - just better than finding the space for another CRT monitor, K/B, and mouse. Our company made them, but we didn't sell many, except for the rack mounted 8-way versions which sold like crazy to one customer.
Trackman ERGO 575
It's wireless, which I suspect is going to give me grief when the cat works it out and decides it's a play-toy. At least with the wired version, you can always find it by following the wire!
If you don't know what a Trackman is, think "upside down mouse": the mouse ball is on the top and instead of moving the whole mouse about, you move the ball with your thumb. Sounds weird? It's really isn't - it takes a day or two to get used to it, but once you do wonder why you ever put up with "normal mice". If you do any graphics work or move controls on a form by hand, just being able to click a button without any mouse movement at all reduces the amount of swearing dramatically. And it never, ever falls off the side of the mouse mat at a critical moment!
In the modern world, recyclability is understandably important, and Logitech has obviously realized this: the old style "blister pack" inside a box is no more. Instead, the packaging is almost all card: just the one unidentified plastic "hanger tag" for display - I would have preferred this to be card as well or at least marked with its plastic type / recycle instructions, but overall it's a good try.
I'll give them 9.5 / 10.
Installation and Using
Seamless: The instructions are simple and effective and it just works. The wireless dongle is inside the battery compartment so you can't lose it if you use Bluetooth instead, and switching between dongle and bluetooth is just a case of pressing a recessed button.
It's a mouse: Windows and Linux (and presumably MacOS) know this. Plug in the dongle, move the ball: the mouse pointer moves.
Compared to the twenty year old version, it feels ... good. Different, because the old one was smooth and the new one has small ridges but it fits the hand well and the buttons feel "sharp".
I did think that the two extra buttons would probably get in the way, restricting access to the LMB but in practice they don't, I have plenty of room. The two extra buttons ("Back" and "Forward" in your browser) work well, but I'd prefer them swapped - "Forward" is easy to access as it falls naturally under your distal phalanx (the "bit with the fingernail") but "Back" is under the middle phalanx and takes a little more "thinking about" to use without curling your finger.
TESmart 4K 60Hz 4:4:4: KVM Switch
It's definitely not wireless! Loads of wires run to this ...
What Is It, Anyway?
It's a Keyboard, Video, and Mouse Switch - which means you can connect 4 computers to it, connect it to one mouse, one keyboard, and one monitor, and it'll sort it all out - whatever computer you have switched to appears on the monitor, and the keyboard and mouse input goes to that device. In addition, this one also acts as an audio device via the USB that carries the KB and mouse, so if your headphones are connected to the switch via the 3.5mm jack connector, they work as well (if you set the switch as the default audio device in your computer - it comes up as "S27F350 (NVIDIA High Definition Audio)" on mine). I found that the audio on my USB headphones got "choppy" if I didn't so I retired them and moved back to my Sennheiser HD580's which are way more comfortable to wear as well as have better quality sound. (I never liked the mike on the USB headphones anyway - maybe I'll get a "proper" free standing mike for multiplayer games.)
TESmart doesn't do as well as Logitech did here:
The box is card, but the main unit is wrapped in a plastic "thin foam" bag and is cushioned by two white foam pieces, neither of which is recyclable in my area. The cables are also in plastic bags that are printed with the "don't bin" and "recyclable" logos, but aren't acceptable to my local waste collection operatives. A paper label with the part number would have been better, and the foam bag could be discarded; the supports replaced with card ones.
I'll give it 4 / 10 for packing.
Installation is pretty simple - or would have been if I had just one monitor instead of my three-monitor-setup. Only hassle was swapping cables between monitors as my central monitor was connected to a DVD-I port on my video card instead of a HDMI port. Swapping cables worked fine, and Windows didn't care, it kept all the images on the right monitor. My motherboard bios didn't though - I'll have to see if I can change that later.
Unplug the monitor from the computer, plug it into the switch. Connect the switch via the two connector single cable to the PC using a HDMI port and a USB port.
Unplug the keyboard and mouse from the computer, plug the KB into the switch, insert the new mouse dongle in the switch mouse port.
Connect a second set of cables to the QNAP NAS HDMI and USB ports.
Plug headphones into jack socket.
Plug in mains adapter.
And it doesn't care what OS the computer runs: I have Windows 11 on the desktop, and Debian Linux on the QNAP NAS, but it'll connect to anything with HDMI and USB, I think.
Loads of different ways to do this: there is a physical switch (which feels cheap and nasty) on the front of the box but I don't like it: it is happy to switch to devices which aren't connected so to switch between two powered computers takes one press from 1 to 2, but three presses for 2 to 1 and all you get in the meantime is a blank screen
You can use a mouse gesture - tap twice on the left of the screen to go left, tap twice right to go right - but that's really bad: you have to enable it but when you do the mouse is restricted to the single monitor and you can't reach the other two on my main system. That's a fail for me, but if you run single monitor then it's not a problem, and there is a sensitivity adjustment so you should be able to get it to work for you.
You can use the keyboard: tap SCROLL LOCK twice and then a number to switch to that device. This works nicely, and you can change it to use RIGHT CTRL instead of SCROLL LOCK if you have apps that need the button
Or you can use the remote control: individual buttons for each device. If I make it a holder to stop it being a cat toy, I may end up using this.
And ... the computers never know you have switched away, thanks to a nice feature where it passes through the monitor EDID when asked - so Windows doesn't reorganise your desktop every time you use a different computer!
It works as if connected directly - no ghosting, no colour bleed, no discernible delay on input or output - I gave it a thorough test with Grand Theft Auto and noticed no difference in play.
The only difference is that I can switch one monitor from PC to NAS and leave the other two running as if nothing had happened. Which hopefully means I can move my development SQL Server from PC to NAS which didn't want to work for me via the web interface. And I'd never suggest that it would allow a boring Teams meeting to continue on one monitor while playing games on your personal computer on the other. :InnocentWhistleSmilie:
It's Not Perfect
No matter what method you use to switch, it's not instant - there is a roughly two second blank screen each time you change sources. I can live with it, but depending on what you want to do with it that may be a deal breaker.
Only the four buttons for the source select on the remote work - the other four do nothing at all, which looks cheaper than you might expect.
The box itself is an awkward shape: it narrows side-to-side from front to back, and widens in thickness at the same time. Add in a stylistic hump on the top as well and you can't put it easily under a monitor stand - or under a monitor because the plethora of cables fouls the base-to-monitor stand upright. I'll probably end up making something to hang it on the back of the monitor so the controls and indicators are accessible by standing up. I certainly don't have 30cm x 20cm of free desk space to sit it on - if I did, there would be a fourth monitor occupying it! :laugh:
And that's the point of having a switch - to reduce the amount of clutter on your desk. So why doesn't it fit comfortably under a monitor?
There Was a Problem
It's a 4 way switch: it connects one monitor, one mouse, one keyboard to up to four computers.
So ... why does it come with only two cables? I've contacted the people I bought it from (via Amazon) to find out - because the ad I bought it from says and shows four cables - but the manual says two, and that's what I got.
And I have to say, the customer service was excellent - I was contacted the next day, very early on a Saturday morning by email with an apology:
Tiffany, TESmart :
We apologize for the inconvenience caused by our error. We'll be sure to work it out for you, so here are two options for you to choose from:
1. We will reissue two HDMI+USB dual parallel ports for you. Since the reissued accessories need to be shipped from the Chinese warehouse, the estimated delivery time is 15-25 working days.
2. We can refund part of the payment for you, and you can purchase the corresponding wire through shopping platforms such as Amazon. Thanks for your patience.
Within an hour and three pleasant emails, a pair of cables were winging their way to me from China. OK, they will take a while to get here, but that's pretty good service in my book.
Early this morning, the postman forced a package through my letterbox (for US readers, that's a slot in the front door of the property with a spring loaded flap through which mail is delivered).
Inside were two cables, each carrying HMDI and USB signals between the switch and a computer.
Problem solved - but if you are thinking of buying one, check the package and advert carefully - mine might have been an oversight, but I obviously can't tell without buying a second device!
The "Week Later" View
I've had them in use for a week now, and I have to say they are pretty transparent in use - I still have to remember to use the mouse "back" button instead of clicking the browser, and I've started switching off the switch at night to reduce the glare in my office by several LEDs - but that has the added advantage that the cat can't turn my computer on any more (yet). I will have to make a housing for it though - it gets in the way and takes up too much valuable deskspace at the moment due to the impractical shape.
The trackman is comfortable, and "just works" - you can't ask for more than that!
Adding other devices to the Switch
Most android devices (and my Surface Go 2) don't provide DisplayPort or HDMI out - but they do have USB-C which includes DisplayPort-over-USB which means in theory that you can buy an external adapter which plugs into a USB-C port and provides an HDMI connector.
So I thought I'd try it and bought one - I'm not going to recommend it although it works, see below - and plugged it in:
- My Surface Go 2 worked perfectly: mouse, keyboard , and video all just worked as soon as plugged in.
- Herself's Samsung Galaxy S5e worked brilliantly: mouse and a proper keyboard on Android is just wonderfull!
- Herself's Nokia T20 didn't - mouse and keyboard worked, but no video.
- My Huawei P30 Lite didn't - again, mouse and keyboard, but no video.
- Herself's Samsung Galaxy M32 didn't - yet again, mouse and keyboard, but no video.
It turns out that not all devices with USB-C connectors implement USB-C: the cheaper option is to fit a USB-C connector and use the USB 2 or 3 chipset - which doesn't include DisplayPort-over-USB and cannot generate the video signal the switch needs.
So while you can add some "non PC" devices via a USB-C to HDMI adapter, be aware that it depends on the device itself whether it will work, it isn't the fault of the adapter or switch if it doesn't!
The other reason I won't recommend the adapter ...
Don't get me wrong, it's nicely made with an aluminium body; it provides 4K HDMI, a USB-C charging port, a USB3 and a USB2 port, an SD card reader, and a TF card reader; the cable is short as you'd expect, but quality.
But ... you also get a card offering you a £10 Amazon Gift Card if you write a complementary review - and that's a business practice I don't really like. According to them, it's so they can "crowd test the product compatibility" but it smells of paying for "verified customer" glowing reviews and that doesn't sit well with me. The device is worthy of a good review, it's the "paid for but not disclosed" bit that I don't like.
Good device; dodgy marketing.
Trackman: 9.5/10 Perfect device, it loses half a point for just missing the point with recyclable packaging. If you are stuck on normal mice, it's a good way to try the upside down versions and maybe see what you have been missing.
Switch: The packaging loses a point; the lack of two necessary cables that I expected to have included (as advertised) would have lost it a lot more. The switching could be faster, and there are "cost-cutting" signs here. An option to ignore disconnected ports would be useful. But ... even then, the savings in desk space and hassle that it gives combined with the "plug and go" that it offers adds a bunch more. I'll give it a strong 8/10 - it does what I want, but there are some bits that could be better.
Would I let a friend buy one? Yes, for both devices - and that's really a good compliment!
- 19th March, 2023: Added "other devices" section.
- 13th March, 2023: problem resolved.
- 1st March, 2023: Some images disappeared between final preview and posting - re-uploaded
- 1st March, 2023: First version
Born at an early age, he grew older. At the same time, his hair grew longer, and was tied up behind his head.
Has problems spelling the word "the".
Invented the portable cat-flap.
Currently, has not died yet. Or has he?