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ProtoArc EM01 trackball review

A low-cost, thumb-operated trackball, the ProtoArc EM01 makes for a strong competitor to the Logitech MX Ergo, though it lacks it's build quality.

Our Verdict


A great value thumb-operated trackball, though the RGB lighting is wasted.

The ProtoArc EM01 has the same core feature set and layout as the Logitech MX Ergo but for a markedly lower price. It misses out on the rubber top and software features of the Logitech pointer, but you do at least get RGB lighting instead.

The lighting is confined to a ring that surrounds the 34mm trackball. It will glow in three different patterns, none of which bear any relation to what’s going on with the device, such as indicating the DPI level or the device to which the EM01 is connected, which feels like a missed opportunity.

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The EM01 doesn’t have the rubberized top section of the MX Ergo either, so those with smaller hands may find their hand slides down the side, away from the controls. Otherwise, for larger hands that can rest partially on the desk, it’s equally as comfortable as the Logitech pointer. You also get the same option to tilt the trackball flat or at a 20-degree angle. The tilt platform is rubberized, but not metal, and is fixed to the base, not removable – not that the removable base of the MX Ergo provided any useful features.

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For buttons, you get the same standard mouse-style left-click, middle/scroll wheel, right-click layout as the MX Ergo, with two back/forward buttons to the left of the left-click button. Meanwhile, behind the scroll wheel is the sync button for switching between the 2.4GHz USB receiver or either of any two devices connected via Bluetooth – you hold down the button to sync Bluetooth devices.

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Behind the trackball is the button for cycling through the RGB lighting modes, and behind that is the DPI switching button for changing the trackball’s sensitivity. It steps between 1,000, 1,600, and 2,400 DPI, and because there’s no software these settings can’t be changed. We found 1,000 DPI too sensitive for accurate desktop use, so had to reduce the Windows cursor speed setting to make the trackball usable, which is something we’ve never had to do before on any trackball we’ve tested.

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Once the cursor speed was adjusted, the EM01 proved a very easy-to-use pointing device. The ball is also a touch smoother than the one on the Logitech, making it effortless to move. This was actually a problem before the cursor speed was reduced, as the reliance on only the thumb to accurately move the ball made the ProtoArc feel too slippery – the slight resistance of the Logitech felt easier to control. However, once cursor speed was adjusted, we preferred the ProtoArc.

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Otherwise, the performance of the two trackballs is very similar, though the ProtoArc’s main buttons feel a bit mushier, with less of a crisp, distinct click. The EM01 also misses out on a tilting scroll wheel, and that lower price is felt in the overall build quality.

Meanwhile, the rechargeable 900mAh battery should last up to 100 days per charge, which is in the same ballpark as the Logitech. It’s charged via a Type-C USB port on the front, which can’t also be used to connect the trackball – it’s a wireless-only device.

ProtoArc EM01 pros and cons


  • Solid thumb-trackball performance
  • Comfortable design
  • Great value


  • A bit large for small hands
  • RGB lighting pointless
  • Lacks rubber grip of Logitech MX Ergo

ProtoArc EM01 specs

The ProtoArc EM01 specs list is:

Weight 186g (with metal plate, without receiver)
Dimensions (mm) 63 x 125 x 39 (W x D x H)
Sensor Optical
Buttons 8 (left, right, scroll wheel press, back, forward, DPI button)
Connections USB Type-C for charging only, 2.4GHz USB dongle and Bluetooth
Extras RGB lighting, RGB lighting button, DPI button, sync button
Battery life Up to 100 days

ProtoArc EM01 price

The ProtoArc EM01 is $50, making it a low-cost trackball yet it’s nicely made and with a decent number of features.

Price: Expect to pay $50 (£45).

ProtoArc EM01 review conclusion

For its modest price, the ProtoArc delivers a decent trackball experience, if you don’t mind the slightly less accurate and more fatiguing feel of a thumb-operated trackball. It’s comfortable, has plenty of buttons and the ball itself tracks accurately and smoothly – thumb dexterity notwithstanding. Considering it’s nearly half the price of the MX Ergo, it’s well worth considering, though the Logitech is better built and its software features can be useful too.

For more trackball options, check out our best trackball guide.

Do you own the ProtoArc EM01? If so, what do you make of it? let us know your thoughts and questions via the Custom PC Facebook pageTwitter page, or by joining our 400,000+ member Custom PC and Gaming Setup Facebook group.