Behind Every Great Man There is a Great Mouse

Logitech's new top tier mouse, the aptly named MX Master, is now available. Logitech says it is their best mouse ever. Does it live up to the hype? Or is it ridiculous to suggest a productivity peripheral can be hyped at all? 

Design & Ergonomics

The MX Master features a right handed design. It looks cool, comfortable and modern. However, it definitely took a while to get used to. In the beginning, I found the mouse foreign and at times even uncomfortable. I wondered, should I have gotten the Anywhere MX 2 (M905 successor) instead, and stuck with an conventional ambidextrous design? After a couple weeks though, the design really started to grow on me, and there is no going back!

Fun fact, apparently, there is no left handed version of the MX Master as last time Logitech sold a left handed version, it was a colossal flop.

It isn't all roses though. The back/forward buttons are located a little far back for my liking. In the beginning it was particularly a pain, and I barely used them. Over time though, I got used to it and it has become a feature I couldn't live without #firstworldproblems.

The vertical scroll wheel does not tilt left or right like the Anywhere MX 2. This is because sideways scrolling is controlled from the dedicated horizontal scrolling wheel. This is yet again another feature I didn't really use at all in the beginning. However, in multi-window and multi-display workflows where screen realestate is limited, it really comes in handy! Even if you don't use it though, it doesn't get in the way of operation.

 

Battery Life

Logitech like many have moved away from AA batteries, opting instead for a sealed in battery. Logitech assures us the battery should last for years, enough time for Logitech to create a MX Master successor! The mouse charges through an included Micro-USB cable to a port on the front of the mouse. This is truely a great design, as you can use the same cable as your Android phone most likely, and you can keep using the mouse while its charging. Simply plug it into the computer and use it as a wired mouse. The mouse doesn't take long to charge either, especially when plugged into the wall. Apple, take notes!

Compared to the original Performance MX, the MX Master has 10 days extra to the Performance MX's 30 day battery life. These numbers seem more or less realistic based on my experiences. The Anywhere MX nowadays has a battery life advertised to 2 months, making it a good alternative for those who want a smaller or ambidextrous design.

 

Features

Logitech's option software really opens up new avenues to explore and is a must download if you get this mouse. The mouse has 6 custom buttons as shown bellow.

Mouse Schematics

I like to program my scroll wheel button to launch Mac OS X's launchpad feature, which gives me a grid of apps, similar to what you'd find on an iPad or iPhone. The rest of the buttons I ended up leaving in their default configuration. More on this later.

Gesure Pad Customisation within Logitech Options Software - Click to expand

The Gesture button is customisable as shown on the right. On Mac OS X, you can swipe left and right between windows, or swipe up whilst holding the button to invoke mission control, or down for app expose.  Windows 10 can also take advantage of similar features regarding window/desktop management.

 

 

 

The software operates independently from Mac OS X's cursor settings, which is great as I have my mouse and touchpad scrolling set to opposite directions. In previous generations of Logitech's top tier mice, you had to press the scroll wheel down to invoke "Hyper Fast Scrolling." This was a mechanical switch that allowed users to switch between scrolling modes.

With the latest generation of Logitech's mice, by default you click a button on top of the mouse, inline with the scroll wheel. This electronic solution dubbed "SmartShift" means Logitech has been able to program user selectable speeds at which the scroll wheel automatically engages Hyper Fast Scrolling. This user selectable speed is denoted as SmartShift sensitivity in Logtech Options software. 

 

If you spin the wheel slowly, it works as the normal, the same ratchet clicking scroll wheel we are all used to. If you spin faster, the ratchet clicking declicks and is replaced with frictionless, super smooth and super fast scrolling that continues until the user stops the wheel from scrolling further, or manually invokes ratchet scrolling again with the aforementioned reprogrammable button. It is a novel feature, one that I have disabled... Instead, I manually press a button to invoke Hyper Fast Scrolling. Nethertheless, a great feature that you don't realise how much you need it until you are forced to live without it. Logitech also has "Smooth Scrolling," which honestly just increases the frame rate of scrolling and makes the scroll wheel response feel different. This took a while to get used to, but I do prefer it. However, many on the internet switch this off. There is a Google Chrome extension if you want to enable this feature on Google Chrome.

Users can also create custom settings for specific applications. This was similar to previous versions of Logitech's mouse software: "SetPoint", that allowed users to enter a mouse gaming mode for certain applications. 

Logitech Unifying Receiver

I remember getting my first Unifying receiver a few years ago. It was tiny. And years later, its even slightly smaller. The mouse now supports dual connectivity between bluetooth and the 2.4Ghz Unifying receiver. So if your device supports bluetooth, you won't be needing it. Additionally, the mouse supports device switching. By pressing a button on the bottom of the mouse, the user can switch the mouse between three different wireless connections between laptops, phones, tablets and desktop computers. This really comes into its own when you are using one mouse between 3 devices.

Left to Right: On/Off, Bluetooth connect botton, Darkfield Laser Sensor, Device Signal Switch Button

The mouse also features Logitech's Darkfield Laser sensor, allowing the mouse to work on glass with a minimum thickness of 4mm. This adds to the versatility of the mouse especially for travel (despite its large size). As the mouse is wide and flat on the bottom, it is vital you use the mouse on a flat surface for consistent (or usable) results. The mouse's relatively heavy weight makes me recommend a mousepad. You'll have a far smoother experience with one than without one.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this is all you will ever likely want in a mouse. Don't get me wrong, you can game with this mouse. However, that isn't what the mouse was designed for. As a general productivity tool, the mouse really accelerates my workflow and is well worth the ~$100 price tag. It is ludicrous to think Apple's positively awful magic mouse costs more than the MX Master. Food for thought... My only concern is the wireless. I live in a apartment complex comprised of 40 units, so the amount of wireless interference from neighbouring wi-fi networks can become an issue, as the Unifying receiver works on the same 2.4Ghz frequency wi-fi operates on. Additionally, I have an Airport extreme wireless router right next to my desk. I have noticed times where the MX Master starts to stutter for no obvious reason, something many users have also run into on previous generation of Logitech mice. It's a seldom occurrence though, and you can always just switch wireless mode or wire the mouse directly to the computer just in case. The mouse definitely takes time to get used to, with all the new features and right handed design. So if you buy it, try to get accustomed to the features and give it a few days before you think about exchanging it for a more conventional Anywhere MX 2 like I did. I would definitely recommend the MX Master.

Left to Right: Battery indicator (three circular lights), horizontal scroll wheel, forward and back buttons, "gesture pad"

Further Reading

Update: I now exclusively use the Unifying Receiver, rather than the Bluetooth connection due to lag and connection issues. At times, it will simply not recognise that the gesture button is a button at all.

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