Lift the MX Air off your desk, and the cursor changes (unless you uncheck a driver dialog box) from the usual arrow to a larger, darker arrowhead. Now, thanks to the mouse's 2.4GHz, pinky-sized USB transceiver, you can roam as far as 30 feet from your PC, pressing the same buttons and waving the mouse to make the same moves as before, as the Logitech performs without a hitch.
(Back at your desk, you'll likely discover something you hadn't noticed before: that you occasionally lift your mouse a few millimeters off the surface while moving it. The air cursor flickers into life for that fraction of a second.)
What the vendor calls Freespace motion control technology uses microelectromechanical sensors and digital signal processors to track motion and acceleration in three dimensions, with higher accuracy and lower latency than previous midair mice (such as Gyration's) that use minature mechanical gyroscopes.
According to Logitech, the scheme works even if the mouse is held sideways or upside down, and automatically subtracts the slight hand motion or tremor that everyone exhibits when holding a device at arm's length.
We can testify that it truly works -- once you find a comfortable grip on the MX. We alternately held the mouse between thumb and ring finger, leaving the index and middle fingers resting on the main buttons, and in a half-open palm, using the thumb to push buttons as with a TV remote control.
Even after a week's practice, swooping and steering the pointer to click an application icon or Web link was a somewhat slower, less confident maneuver than driving the mouse on our desktop. Indeed, while we lounged halfway across the room enjoying Windows Media Player playlists, we sometimes found ourselves unconsciously putting the MX down on makeshift surfaces such as the arm of an easy chair. (The Logitech is simply terrific on that frequently mentioned optical-mouse testing ground, a pants leg.)
Despite its speed, we don't see avid gamers using the MX Air in the final rounds of a fast-action network party. While it's definitely faster and more precise than the Gyration we sampled years ago, it doesn't become part of your hand or one with your body the way a desktop mouse can when a player's in the zone. Or maybe it's just hard to accustom yourself to waving at your monitor after decades of using an earthbound mouse.
But when used more sparingly, especially for multimedia applications, the MX Air is spectacular. For one thing, it's far more convenient to keep your everyday mouse in your hand instead of dropping it and picking up a bulky Windows Media Center remote when it's time for PC entertainment.
For another, when in flight the Logitech can perform tantalizing -- albeit tantalizingly few -- special maneuvers or gesture commands. Pressing the Volume button while steering the mouse left or right decreases or increases audio volume, as seen on a pop-up horizontal bar on screen. Clicking the Volume button switches audio on and off. Pressing the Play/Pause button gives those commands to your media player.
Holding the Play/Pause button down while sketching a clockwise or counterclockwise circle in the air jumps to the next or previous track in a playlist, respectively. (This didn't quite work on the first try every time as the volume control did, but it was sure fun.)
While you're probably dreaming of dozens of gestures right now, there's only one more that the MX Air recognizes -- giving the mouse a shake. It's disabled by default, but SetPoint lets you specify it as either freezing or recentering the cursor on screen in case you get a little lost -- or, more interesting, link it to a so-called MenuCast command that pops up a customizable menu of favorite applications and suitable commands for certain programs such as media players. Another driver option lets you reassign a gesture to Air Zoom, which enlarges or reduces Web-page text or image-editing windows as you waggle the mouse to and fro.
Logitech says the MX Air's rechargeable battery should last for five days on duty before you must return the mouse to its charging stand. We managed only four days, perhaps because we didn't turn the mouse off overnight (there's a sliding switch on the bottom). It pays to get in the habit of recharging, because while the process isn't too slow -- two and a half hours to top off -- it's a pain to plug in your old mouse for half an hour while the Logitech revives sufficiently for a day's use.
Overall, we think the MX's aerial antics are a delight -- considerably more impressive, in our opinion, than the slippery scrolling strip. We're already dreaming of a SetPoint upgrade that supports more programmable gestures.
Whether you'll be dreaming of an Air of your own depends partly on your budget and partly on your computing habits -- i.e., whether you surf the Web and use a media player frequently enough to enjoy relaxing across the room while doing so. But it's no small feat to make a first-class desktop mouse that performs almost as well when handled like Harry Potter's magic wand. It's not really for everyone, but everyone who sees the MX Air will be smitten.
Logitech MX Air
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This article was first published on HardwareCentral.com.