Logitech has long since carved out a tidy niche in peripherals ranging from PC gadgets and interfaces to console game controllers and steering wheels. And, overwhelmingly, Logitech does a good job when they put their mind to it. There is always the possibility of an idea a bit ahead of its time (like the early wireless mice), but when Logitech hones a technology you can bet it is being honed in the best possible way. So it is no surprise that the MX series of optical mice are, on the whole, very, very good. Three models make up the MX series ? the 300, 500, and 700. As you'd expect, each model offers a bit more, and the MX 700 mouse is a pinnacle of mousing technology that will make your friends jealous and your fingers happy.
All of the MX series mice feature next generation optical technology from Logitech. This allows much more precise movement on a wider variety of surfaces. In the past, optical mice have often hiccupped when used on surfaces such as wood-grain desktops. The problem is that the variance in the pattern of the surface can cause interference with the laser reflection and detection ? optical mice work by recognizing the laser as it is reflected from the mousing surface back into the mouse. Logitech has beefed up this technology to allow more precision and better reliability on a variety of surfaces, and that is perhaps the most evident improvement in all three models. My old optical mouse would regularly jump from one side of the screen to the other as I moved it across my wood-grain desktop. That behavior instantly, and noticeably, disappeared when I plugged in the MX series mice.
The MX series mice also feature a wide variety of platform and connection compatibility. They will work on both Mac and PC platforms, allowing users of both types to enjoy the enhanced productivity and general comfort of these robust mice. They also support both USB and PS2 connections, meaning that these mice can be added to older systems, systems overloaded on USB peripherals, and the latest USB-laden computers. Supporting such a wide variety of platforms and connections means that just about anyone can pick up one of these mice and get it running in a matter of minutes. Logitech maintains its habit of providing good installation instructions and programs, so we have to give the MX series mice a strong rating on ease of setup.
MX 300 (MSRP $29.95)
The MX 300 is a basic, bare-bones model that doesn't skimp on usability or functionality. It features the standard two-button and scroll wheel setup, plus it includes an additional "quick-switch" button to allow you to jump between programs easily. This mouse is a solid performer with a fairly common look and feel to it. The most innovative function is the "quick-switch", which works a lot like using the alt-tab combination to scroll through open applications. Of course, the MX 300 sports the same next-generation optical mouse technology of the other two models, which is welcome. Overall, the MX 300 is a great choice for those on a budget. I cannot stress enough how much the scroll wheel and optical eye change your relationship with your mouse, and once you've experienced these features, you'll never go back to your old mouse. So if you've been holding out on upgrading your mouse, this is a perfect time to get into the most essential of the new features at a price that is more than reasonable.
MX 500 (MSRP $49.95)
The MX 500 kicks it up a notch. It is an optical mouse featuring the standard two buttons and scroll wheel, the quick-switch button, and the latest optical technology. The additional features of the MX 500 are the "cruise control" buttons (two of them) and the addition of two thumb buttons. By default these thumb buttons are configured to work as "forward" and "backward" in your browser (or any application that features forward and backward buttons), but can be customized to perform almost any keystroke. Those of you who have made the leap to the scroll wheel already should understand the potential of having two more buttons at your disposal. The thumb navigation buttons rapidly become required, and making the transition from your coveted eight-button mouse to anything less quickly becomes a sad experience. The cruise control buttons are similarly useful ? they allow you to scroll up and down in a document without rolling the scroll wheel ? but have not gained as coveted a spot in my heart as the forward and back thumb buttons.
Also worth mentioning is the really stylish design of the MX 500 mouse. If you have one of the new charcoal-and-black PC cases, this baby fits right in. It looks perfect. While the MX 300 adheres to the common mouse design of the 1990s, the MX 500 looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. The design is ergonomic, comfortable, and snazzy. The thumb cradle is just right, and textured slightly to be very comfortable, and the thumb buttons are positioned perfectly for optimal use. The right and left mouse buttons are stylishly set off in a flecked charcoal and their hingeless design makes the mouse much more aesthetically pleasing. The cruise control buttons are slightly awkward at first, but remain usable. Overall, the MX 500 not only packs a ton of functionality, but it looks really cool.
MX 700 (MSRP $79.95)
Anyone willing to spend $80 on a mouse is a serious computer user, and it's good to see Logitech reward that dedication to the machine with a high quality product. The MX 700 is a wonderful wireless mouse with all the functionality of the MX 500. The MX 700 features the same eight button configuration, the same great design, but it frees all of this from the constraints of the cord, and for anyone sick of fighting a mess of peripheral wires on the desktop, this is a welcome improvement. Furthermore, Logitech has improved upon this improvement, making the wireless technology more robust, reliable, and easy.
The wireless MX 700 works on RF (radio frequency) technology to give you wireless freedom without the need for line-of-sight, as required for things like TV remotes. The MX 700 uses a combination receiver/recharger base to communicate with the computer. You plug the base in to the wall and your computer, set it on your desktop, and your mouse will operate anywhere within six feet of the unit.
The problem with wireless mice is that they require a battery, and that battery gets a lot of use because the mouse must always be in communication with the PC in order to provide the precise and instantaneous reactions we demand from our input devices. Previous versions of wireless mice have had notorious power consumption issues, requiring you to keep a battery charger and a backup battery on hand for when your mouse crapped out on you at the most inopportune moment. The MX 700 works around this issue by including a rechargeable battery in the mouse that can be charged by placing the mouse in the receiver/recharger base. After extensive testing, I've only been able to get my mouse to "die" once ? I left it out of the charger and used it significantly for several days. Upon discovering the mouse had actually run out of battery charge, I placed it back in the unit. Not five minutes later, I picked up the mouse and used it to finish my work and shut down my machine. Even with a partial charge the mouse performed wonderfully.
It takes only about two hours to fully charge the battery, which, as I stated above, lasts for a remarkably long time. There is a handy light on the mouse that indicates how much battery charge remains or how complete the recharging process is. In general, this is the most worry-free cordless mouse I've come in contact with.
And that same positive sentiment goes for the entire MX series. The biggest problem we had with them was an extremely rare compatibility issue with some of the extra functions. In the vast majority of applications, and certainly all of the most common applications, the mice performed with no problem. However, the MX 500 and 700 had problems mapping alternate functions to some of the buttons in games like Unreal Tournament 2003 and No One Lives Forever 2. One of the bonuses in having a scroll wheel when playing a first person shooter is that you can usually use it to scroll through your weapons. I found it extremely disappointing to find that UT2003 and NOLF2 didn't support the MX series mice to provide this function. There are workarounds (the easiest is to just re-map the thumb buttons to "control" and "shift" and then configure the game to use "control" and "shift" to cycle through your weapons), and thanks to the robust configuration utility you can generally get the results you want. This will be less of a problem as new games are created in an environment that takes into account the MX series mice. Innovation is a double-edged sword.
Aside from that minor issue, we have nothing but love for our new MX series mice. The eight button configuration, comfortable design, snazzy aesthetic, and solid functioning make them highly desirable. I stand by my conviction that once you've experienced the sublime beauty of an eight button mouse, you will not want to go back, and I firmly believe that wires are "so" 20th Century. Some folks may doubt spending $80 on a mouse is worth it, but I say you can pry my obscenely overdeveloped mouse out of my cold, dead hands.