Logitech's latest top-of-the-line mouse boasts breathtaking design -- a sleek, low-slung, black-and-chrome wedge that looks like a flying car from Blade Runner or a half-sized, sexed-up TV remote. It also features breathtaking versatility: In addition to gliding gracefully about your desk, the cordless MX Air works when held in midair and pointed at a PC across the room, whether for multimedia playback or couch-based Web surfing.
Oh, and it has a breathtaking price: $150. Yes, that's for just the mouse instead of a mouse-and-keyboard bundle, though the MX would be a great partner for Logitech's hyper-styled diNovo Edge at a combined $350.
Still, once you see the MX Air it's hard to resist it. The symmetrical, low-profile shape keeps your hand -- whether left or right -- flatter or closer to your desk than most mice, with seamless left and right buttons falling naturally beneath your index and middle fingers.
Between the buttons, instead of a scroll wheel, is what Logitech calls a scrolling surface -- a touch-sensitive, vertical strip that moves the cursor as you move your finger forward and back. Slow movements are accompanied by a soft, wheel-style clicking noise -- "soft" meaning "hold next to your ear"; it's inaudible with normal background noise.
Fast finger flicks, as with the wheel of Logitech's MX Revolution, activate what the SetPoint software driver calls inertia scrolling: a change from ratchet to flywheel motion that turns scrolling into a speedy blur, reaching the top or bottom of most documents or Web pages within a second. As a compromise between precise and warp-nine navigation, the top and bottom ends of the strip act as up and down buttons for smooth, medium-fast scrolling.
We have mixed feelings about the scrolling surface. We've liked touch-sensitive strips that serve as, say, volume controls on some notebook and desktop keyboards, but we're not sure the technology entirely works as a scroll-wheel replacement. Properly configured, it does provide an elegant gliding motion, but in our case it took a lot of twiddling with the driver's scrolling speed and acceleration settings.
We also fluctuated between using and disabling inertia scrolling, which was often too fast for our reflexes when it came to clicking the strip to stop at a desired point (and several times, we swear, scrolled south when we slid a finger toward the north).
By contrast, we have no hesitation in applauding the four flush-fitting buttons atop the mouse's middle, just behind the scroll strip. (Well, if we have to criticize something, the buttons and the rest of the MX Air's glossy black shell get smudged with fingerprints something fierce; Logitech provides a polishing cloth.)
The buttons -- labeled by tiny orange LED backlights that glow when the mouse is moved -- default to a Back function for your Web browser and Windows Explorer; Select, a redundant left click; Play/Pause for multimedia applications; and Mute for audio volume.
The SetPoint driver lets you reassign them -- except for the left and right mouse buttons, which can't be changed apart from being reversed for left-handed users -- to familiar optional functions such as Document Flip (a pop-up menu of active applications); auto-scroll for navigating documents by moving the mouse forward or back; and cut, copy, or paste.
Whichever button settings you prefer -- and once you adjust to the scrolling surface -- the MX Air is an excellent mouse on your desk: comfortable to hold, effortlessly smooth to move, precise to maneuver (thanks to laser tracking), and quick to respond.
And ready for takeoff.