Accessory powerhouse Logitech is getting into the gyroscopic-mouse market with the new MX Air, a rechargeable cordless mouse that can control a computer's cursor just by being moved through the air (when placed on a flat surface, it works as standard laser mouse).
At £100, it's not the cheapest mouse on the market -- not even the cheapest gyroscopic mouse -- but it adds plenty of media-friendly features, such as playback and volume controls that work right out of the box. The MX Air isn't for everyone, and takes a little getting used to, but we're convinced that many users would be happier unshackling their mice from the desk.
There are plenty of reasons why you may want to move your mousing out of the standard 2D, flat-on-the-desk mode. For computer users with persistent hand and arm pain caused by poor ergonomics or repetitive motion (sometimes called mouse arm), gyroscopic mice like those in the Gyration range have been good solutions, letting users lift the mouse up off the table and control the cursor by moving the mouse through the air. These devices have also become a popular choice for controlling the functions of a Media Center PC from the living-room sofa.
The MX Air is aimed clearly at the home-cinema market. Besides left and right mouse buttons and a touch-sensitive scroll panel (replacing a traditional scroll wheel), the mouse includes a dedicated Play/Pause button that works in most media-playing apps, and a volume button.
When the mouse is on a desk, the Volume button mutes and unmutes the sound. When you pick up the mouse in your hand, hold down the Volume button and move the mouse to the left or right, and a volume meter will pop up on the screen, allowing you to raise and lower the volume with a wave of the hand. Logitech's included driver software lets you reprogram these buttons as well, so they can perform virtually any function you want.
The mouse has a built-in rechargeable battery, and sits in a small recharging dock when not in use. A tiny RF receiver, about the size of a USB memory key, plugs into a USB port on your system.
With other gyroscopic mice, if you hold the mouse sideways and move your hand up, the cursor will still go sideways. We especially liked the extra sensors in the MX Air, which forced the cursor to move in the direction we moved our hand, no matter the physical orientation of the mouse.
One feature we missed, however, was an underside trigger, common on the Gyration mice, which could be used to freeze the cursor while the mouse is in the air. It makes for much more precise movement, especially when trying to click onscreen buttons. Instead, the MX Air offers the option of an oversize cursor while the mouse is in the air, making it easier to see and control.
It takes a good 24 to 48 hours to get used to, but trying out a gyroscopic mouse can be an eye-opening experiment for any desktop or laptop user.
Additional editing by Nick Hide