Review: Logitech MX Air Mouse

Posted on September 1, 2007 by Chris Duke
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149010a.jpgAmazon started shipping “exclusively” the new Logitech MX Air mouse last month and of course I had to check it out. Here’s my review of this new toy:

First and foremost: don’t read any review from someone that just got this mouse or has used it for only a day. If I had written such a review it would have been a 5/5 star glowing review.

It’s total desktop eye candy… a sexy input device with revolutionary features. I decided to give it at least a week of use before writing my review. I’m glad I did.

It looks great, it’s light, feels great, but it is not perfect. I’ve had it for about a week now (since it was released) and the jury is still out. I’m on the fence as to whether or not to return it due to a single design flaw: constant re-centering. I originally purchased this mouse in hopes that it would give me an alternative pointer device to the mouse, as I have tendinitis from mouse use. After a week of use, it unfortunately hasn’t received much “air time” and for the most part has rested quietly in its cradle. Here’s why.

On the desk: functions fine as a normal mouse but since it doesn’t have side buttons like my MS IntelliMouse, I don’t use it that way. As a web developer I live in a web browser, so being able to slap the sides of my mouse to move forward/back are critical to my work environment. For me, this is an “in the air” mouse solution, which was my original intent for purchasing this mouse.

In the air: works great except for one thing, and this is why it gets 2 stars instead of 5. You constantly (and I mean CONSTANTLY) have to re-center the mouse. To do this you either have to do some goofy gesture (which isn’t as easy as it looks) or you press and hold the Back button, re-center, then release. This constant re-centering must be done every time I pick it up, and often during use. It is a usability killer, and I’m not sure how they could release a product with such a major design flaw.

Wii Would Like To Play: This IS a Wii-like mouse for the PC, no doubt. Same feeling I get with our Wii. Same accuracy as a pointer device, if not better. Before I got the MX Air mouse I actually had a Wii controller that could control my PC to a certain extent using the GlovePIE software and a Bluetooth dongle. It worked, but it was more a proof of concept, so it didn’t work well. What Logitech needs to do is they need to release a USB sensor bar just like the Wii so that you can place the bar below or above your monitor. This would solve the centering issue and make this a usable product. A sensor bar would remove the need to have a centering feature, and it wouldn’t be expensive to manufacture.

If you are considering this product as a couch mouse replacement, I highly recommend it as there aren’t very many alternatives out there for you. For me, in front of a PC, I can’t highly recommend it due to the centering issue.

Cost: for me this is a non-issue. I work an average of 14 hours a day on the PC and am looking for a device that helps with my tendinitis from mouse over-use. I’d pay $300 or more if I could find a solution that helped the pain. Unfortunately this is not a mouse replacement for me.

Other annoying features:

Touch-sensitive scroll panel: This is another innovative feature that is cool, but personally I need more tactile feedback like a wheel. It also scrolls REAL fast so be sure to change your settings to slow it down. Finally, there is a goofy audible “real mouse scroll wheel” clicking sound when you use the scroll panel (sound comes from the mouse) and there’s no way to silence it.

Volume: Again, for couch potatoes this is probably a good mouse, but for me, pressing the volume buttons on my keyboard is a better solution. Why? It seems that when you mute the volume through the MX Air mouse, it mutes a bit too much. This affects my Skype headset volume as well. Even more annoying, is that when I un-mute my volume through the MX Air mouse, it doesn’t raise the volume of my Skype headset back up, so I have to go into the Sound properties and tinker. Essentially, this feature is useless to me because of this flaw.

Buttons: The buttons work great, except no matter if I try to use my thumb or my index finger on top, I just can’t seem to get it into a natural feeling position. Here’s the rub: when using your index finger, you have simple access to the scroll panel and left/right buttons, but getting to the row of buttons is difficult. It’s the opposite situation for thumb use: you have easy access to the buttons, but getting to the scroll panel and the left/right buttons is a stretch. Logitech recommends you hold it like a TV remote, using your thumb to control the buttons. I agree, this is the most natural way of holding this mouse, however unless you have a super-long thumb, the scroll panel is unreachable. The possible solution here is to use your thumb for the buttons and your index finger for the scroll panel… however as an “in the air” mouse, this isn’t practical, because switching figures causes the mouse to move quite a bit and then you have to reposition the mouse (again).

In summary, I think this is a very cool device that is very innovative as a first gen air mouse from Logitech. Hopefully their engineers will read feedback from the community and make a better second gen version that fixes the flaws. I’ve been waiting for a usable Wii-like pointing device for my PC since the Wii came out. This just isn’t it. Plus, I tried to use it Adam Sandler-style to quiet my dog and it didn’t work :)