Avi Greengart is the Research Director for Consumer Devices at Current Analysis (Mobile Phones, Connected Devices, and Digital Home). He also regularly writes for Slashgear, sporadically blogs at Home Theater View and Tweets far too often as @greengartAvi's expertise lies in understanding consumer electronics marketing, consumer behavior, and technology adoption patterns: where new technologies meet the mass market. 



Product Review: Logitech VX nano Travel Mouse

I’m a big fan of Logitech’s switchable scroll wheel technology found in their Revolution mouse, so much so that it made it onto one of my Holiday Gift guides despite a $100 price tag – you could reasonably end up spending a quarter of the price of your PC just for an input device. Logitech has now taken that technology and put it into a travel mouse that has is incredibly well designed in almost every respect but one.

The VX nano is not the smallest travel mouse in the world, and that’s a good thing – a super-tiny mouse is not much better than the trackpad or eraser thingie on your notebook. It is light and comes in a beautiful case that slips easily into a carry-on or laptop case. The VX nano is ergonomic without being “handed” (lefties and righties alike should have no trouble using it). Logitech has put a lot of thought into how people actually use travel mice, and it shows. There is an on/off switch, so you can save battery life. When the batteries do eventually run out, they can be replaced with new ones from your hotel’s gift shop – the VX nano uses standard – not rechargeable – batteries. The transmitter can be stored inside the mouse itself, but that’s not what Logitech really had in mind. The transmitter is so small that it barely sticks out of your notebook’s USB port at all. As such, it is designed to be left permanently attached to your notebook so you have one less step for setup/shutdown, and your notebook doesn’t waste cycles loading and unloading the mouse drivers. This is incredibly convenient, and combined with the near-full-size form factor, I found myself using the VX nano far more often than any travel mouse I had ever tested in the past.


The VX nano also borrows the “engine” aspect of the MX Revolution – to switch the wheel between notched and flywheel modes, you simply press the wheel down; to accomplish this task on its predecessor, you had to turn the mouse upside down to flip a switch. Some applications are better for notched mode, such as moving through a spreadsheet row by row. Some are better with the flywheel either for smooth scrolling action, such as reading a web page, or the ability to quickly zip to the beginning or end of a document. 

I tested the VX nano on a tiny Fujitsu Windows XP subnotebook with the full suite of Logitech drivers, on a 15” Apple MacBook Pro and MacBook Air without specifically loading anything, and on an Asus eee PC sub-subnotebook running Linux, again without doing anything other than plugging the dongle into the USB port. It worked flawlessly on the Windows and Mac notebooks, and provided basic pointer, selection, and vertical scroll functionality on the eee. For some reason I have never been comfortable with the touchpad on the MacBook Pro, and the mouse made using the notebook much more natural. Side to side scrolling didn’t work with the VX nano on the eee, and forward/back buttons were not mapped properly. But the eee’s touchpad is tiny, so anything that provides core mouse functionality and is close to full sized is a major improvement in usability.

  The VX Nano isn’t well suited to the MacBook Air, where the transmitter monopolizes the sole USB port and cannot be left in place because it prevents the port “drawer” from closing. When I complained to Apple about this, they sent over a Mighty Mouse, which uses Bluetooth, thus freeing up the USB port again. The Mighty Mouse is a full sized mouse but it has some nice features for travel as well – it has an on/off switch, and it can run on just a single AA battery, which makes it a smidgen lighter. The central trackball is not as sophisticated as Logitech’s dual-mode wheel, but works well for scrolling down web pages. Where the Mighty Mouse drove me mighty nuts was whenever a right mouse button click is required. The Mighty Mouse appears to have just a single button, but by lifting your hand off the left side of the mouse and just clicking on the right side a “right mouse click” action can be made. In short, Steve Jobs will let you do it, but it ain’t natural.  

I’m not crazy about the placement of the VX nano’s forward/back buttons; it’s a bit of a stretch for your index finger to use them. The only real flaw, however, is something that laser mice are supposed to excel at: glossy surfaces. The mouse simply refused to track on the tempered glass desk at one hotel, or on the glossy granite desk at another hotel and in an airport lounge (I’ve been traveling a lot. Actually, I’m writing this on a plane now. Sigh). A discarded newspaper works fine as an ad-hoc mouse pad in the airport lounge, and the VX nano had no problem with the glossy tourist magazine found in my hotel room, but weren’t laser mice supposed to work on just about any surface?

The only other problem is the price. At $69, the VX nano isn’t cheap enough to justify purchasing it for occasional use, and a full sized mouse is more comfortable for situations where portability isn’t a primary requirement. However, for road warriors, it’s a must. Highly recommended.