Cordless Devices Make Their Point

In almost 20 years with some kind of pointing device on my desk, I've never had the adjective "cordless" on my mind-nor have I ever wished for more than three simple buttons.

In almost 20 years with some kind of pointing device on my desk, Ive never had the adjective "cordless" on my mind—nor have I ever wished for more than three simple buttons. Mouse, track ball, notebook PC touch-pad, one button on a Mac or two on a PC: Ive been OK with anything, as long as I could turn off excessively twitchy features such as "tap to click."

Despite initial skepticism, though, I found Logitechs just-released MX700 cordless mouse, which lists for $79.95, and Cordless Optical TrackMan track ball, which shipped in the summer and lists for $69.95, to be real improvements in comfort and convenience. High-speed radio links and high-resolution optical sensors make them as responsive as any other pointing device Ive used.

Both units include "forward" and "back" buttons for ease of Internet browsing, although in practice Ive found it more useful to reassign the "forward" button to indicate a double-click. Other buttons, in their default setup, enable more convenient scrolling through documents. The MouseWare software that comes with both devices made it easy for me to find a set of button assignments that quickly became second nature.

Logitechs driver code could try harder to coexist with built-in pointing devices on portable PCs. On a Sony portable (with a Synaptics touch-pad) and a Compaq laptop (with a Trackpoint "eraser head" pointing device), installing the MouseWare utilities masked many of the setup options of the original pointing hardware. Recovering touch-pad functions on the Sony involved a cumbersome removal and reinstallation rigmarole—but I think Ill leave the Logitech code in place on the Compaq because the TrackMan is a big improvement over what it had before.

Quickly noted here in the Labs was the combination radio "base station" and battery charger cradle for the MX700, which indicates charging activity with an LED on the mouse —and gives you a habit-forming place to put the thing, a good idea when you cant just follow a wire to find the little rodent under a pile of work in progress.

I used these devices with both PS/2 and USB ports on Windows 98 and Windows 2000 machines. I could quibble with the aggressive styling: These things look like part of a Darth Vader action figure accessory kit. But theres no quibbling with the function: These arent just executive toys.

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