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« Road Warrior (On the Cheap) | Main | Retina Display. Appleā€™s Ploy to Make Other Computers Unusable »

The Best Mouse. Period.

I’ve always been perplexed by people who are satisfied using the default keyboard and mouse that came with their computer. Except for Apple, almost all PC manufacturers “include” the absolute cheapest, clunky keyboards and mice possible. Even if you spend a couple thousand dollars on a really high-end machine with a fast processor, upgraded graphics card and hi-res monitor, Dell and HP typically include a keyboard and mouse combo worth less than thirty bucks total. Conversely, iMacs come standard with an excellent keyboard/mouse combo. Were you to purchase them separately, you’d be out $150. Now before you naysayers start screaming about Apple’s overpriced hardware, I will admit their retail price is a little steep, but not at all out of line with comparable products. It’s just that Apple refuses to make or sell cheap junk.

To my original point, what sense does it make to spend thousands (or at least several hundred) on a computer and then skimp on the input hardware. That’s like buying a new Mercedes and driving off from the dealership on retread tires.

My iMac came with Apple’s “Magic Mouse”. While it is a very high quality device with unique features you won’t find anywhere else, I’ve never been happy with it. Its ultra low profile and lack of hand-fitting contours has always left me wanting something with a little more girth and heft. I’ve never been accused of having “girly man” hands. I do love the multitude of clicks, taps and gestures the Magic Mouse provides and third-party apps like Magic Prefs add more possibilities than a piano keyboard, but in the end it all comes down to feel for me. If a mouse doesn’t feel good in my hand, all the configurable shortcuts in the world don’t amount to squat.

Logitech has long been the company I’ve considered to be the “go to” when it comes to input devices. They are also one of the few to provide competent companion software and drivers for the Mac. For years, their “MX” series of mice have been widely considered reference models. For the past three months I’ve been using their latest in this series, boldly named the “MX Master” and I can say without reservation, it is the best mouse I’ve ever used. Like I said, I judge a mouse mainly by its feel. To me that means: 1) the shape should fit my (right) hand comfortably, 2) the buttons and wheels should be easy to reach and offer just the right amount of resistance, 3) it’s weight should be significant without being clunky and 4) it should be wireless, preferably Bluetooth. Yes, I want more functionality than a simple “click”, but given a choice between extra functions and comfort, I choose comfort. The Holy Grail of mice would be one that offers both. Logitech’s MX Master fits the bill.

First, the MX Master’s shape fits my hand perfectly. Its height, width and weight are near perfect and the rubberized thumb contour provides a comfortable rest and easy access to its unique thumb controls. More on those later. The mouse feels solid in my hand and its buttons offer just the right amount of resistance. I can rest my hand on it indefinitely and never click anything I’m not trying to. This is an improvement over the previous MX models who’s buttons were so sensitive I found myself clicking inadvertently on a regular basis. Lastly, the MX Master has two methods of connecting wirelessly, either by using Logitech’s “Unifying” USB dongle or “Smart Bluetooth”. Unfortunately, using Bluetooth requires some relatively new computer hardware that’s both hardware and software compatible with the Bluetooth 4.0 standard or “Smart-Ready”. It’s the same low-power standard that makes the Mac’s “Handoff” feature work. My late 2009 iMac doesn’t have the chops, but my late 2013 MacBook Pro does. I’ve used the MX Master on both machines and found no difference in performance or connectivity using either method. The MX Master allows for easily switching between computers by including the capability to pair with three different machines. A selector button on the bottom lets you switch between computers instantly and because the mouse uses a darkfield laser it works great on any surface, including glass. Another great change: The mouse is rechargeable via a standard micro-USB cable connecting to the “nose” of the mouse. This eliminates two downfalls of other Logitech mice, 1) the need for a desktop cradle and accompanying wall wart and 2) inability to use the mouse while charging. Now when you plug the mouse into a USB outlet for charging, you use it just like a wired mouse. Nice. In short, this mouse meets or exceeds all my physical requirements and expectations.

Now to the fun stuff.

Like I said before, I’ve been a Logitech fan for many years. They’ve done something with the MX Master I’ve never experienced before, designed it to work optimally on a Mac. In the past, with very few exceptions, anyone with a functioning brain could tell Logitech gear was designed to work with Windows first and the Mac was little more than an afterthought. I’ve tried the mouse on both platforms (Windows 10 and OS X 10.11 El Capitan) and I can state unequivocally, “The MX Master is more functional on a Mac”. The “Logitech Options” software includes options to make every button and scroll wheel configurable for virtually any OS X click or gesture. There’s no way I’ll attempt to cover all the possibilities here, but there are a couple of new features I really like that I think merit a few words. First, Logitech has completely re-designed the thumbwheel included on previous MX models. The new wheel is actually a horizontally oriented cylinder. By default, the wheel is configured to slide forward and back through pages of a document, but it can be easily configured to navigate between tabs, apps or desktops, control system audio volume or screen brightness or zoom. I’ve tried them all, but found the default to be the most useful for me. Working with multi-page documents frequently makes the wheel a useful addition. One change made because of the thumbwheel re-design is now the “Forward” and “Back” thumb buttons are stacked one atop the other. This change caused a few erroneous clicks, but I got used to it quickly. Next, the MX master has what Logitech calls a mode button placed just south of the scroll wheel. By default, it switches the scroll wheel between notched resistance to free-wheeling modes, but there are dozens of assignments to choose from including any keystroke combination you choose. This makes this button a true wildcard for any function the user desires. The scroll wheel itself still retains Logitech’s “Smart Shift” technology that shifts the scroll wheel’s mode depending on how fast you scroll and just like in previous versions, that threshold can be adjusted through software.

One feature I have found missing that's different from previous Logitech software is app specific settings. You can no longer configure the mouse buttons and scroll wheels to do different things in different apps. I hope this feature re-appears in future releases. It is the only knock I have (aside from the $99 price) and one that I can live with. For now.

If, like me, you demand really great input devices, Logitech’s MX Master has got to be on your short list. I’ve never used a mouse I liked better and Logitech’s software is proof-positive they are committed to delivering their top-notch experience to Mac users.

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