updated 04:55 pm EDT, Thu August 23, 2007
Logitech VX Nano Review
Those looking for a mouse useful as a full-time trackpad substitute rarely have options that are powerful enough and also portable enough to be a better pick than a bulky desktop mouse. Most mice that use RF transmitters are fast but need a USB dongle (which can easily be lost) and could be too large to fit in a notebook bag. Bluetooth mice don't need these adapters but are often sluggish or simply designed as tiny replacements with few buttons and even fewer features. Logitech's VX Nano supposedly solves this by including an RF adapter so small that it can stay in a notebook and the same free-spinning wheel as the MX and VX Revolution. We believe they have the right idea.
Out of the box
One of the first positive signs that Logitech is sensitive to actual notebook power users is the number of extras that ship with the Nano. The obligatory pair of AAA batteries is backed up by a very useful traveling pouch; these aren't completely rare, but in the case of the Nano goes a long way towards convincing us that the company is sincere. We also appreciated the addition of a USB cradle that holds the RF receiver if you decide to use the mouse with a desktop. This could also be extremely useful as a USB port extender for plugging in a digital camera or an iPod.
Controls and ergonomics
Perhaps the first aspect we noticed of the smaller VX is its feel: this is a very comfortable mouse with a high-quality build, not a basic plastic shell. The mouse is solid without being heavy, and every texture feels just as good as it does on the larger mice. Several hours of use proved it at least as comfortable as most desktop mice. With average-sized hands such as ours, almost every button is directly in reach with very little effort; the lone offender is the middle Quick Look button beneath the scroll wheel, which demands that you take your index finger away to trigger the Quick Look feature (in Windows) or a generic middle button command.
The Nano's scroll wheel is second only to the RF receiver as a selling point, and in practice that proves to be worth Logitech's efforts. Anyone who has ever needed to scroll to the bottom of a long website or a Word document will instantly appreciate the ability to tap the wheel down and spin it freely to jump through a document in far less time than a conventional mouse. Using the feature well does take time, but it's possible within hours to learn how to stop the wheel in mid-spin to get very close to your intended target. Tapping it again puts the mouse back into a traditional scroll mode with detent points, which are helpfully distinct. Gamers and pro users who regularly depend on a middle mouse button may want to be cautious, however, since the scroll feature eliminates the possibility of using the wheel as a third button.
But we don't believe that these users will be Logitech's core audience, and many of those who don't need a quick middle mouse button will be more than satisfied with the Nano Receiver. This is a long overdue development in notebook mice, and we enjoyed never having to unplug the adapter from a USB port (as long as one was free) when stuffing the notebook in a bag. It may also have an unexpected side-benefit for owners of Apple's recent aluminum wired keyboard: the size means the adapter is virtually invisible when plugged into the underside USB port. Its size also seemed no obstacle to speed, as the mouse was extremely responsive -- almost too responsive -- to input. We had to turn down sensitivity in the control panel, but never felt as though we lost precision.
Software use in Mac OS X and Windows
Officially, the VX Nano is compatible with both Macs and Windows PCs, but the practical reality of using the configuration software is one of the few clear shortcomings. Basic setup is extremely simple and gives most functions immediately. However, we found only the Windows-based SetPoint software included on the bundled CD; Mac owners are asked to download the Logitech Control Center from the company website. This isn't a fatal flaw, but it's an unnecessary hassle when the company could just has easily have created a hybrid disc with tools for both.
Anyone who has owned a prior Logitech mouse will be familiar with the experience. SetPoint in Windows is useful for customizing the buttons, but the interface isn't quite as intuitive as we'd like. Control Center is slightly better. But neither is especially needed, especially on the Mac. Almost every feature works without drivers, and with only five total buttons there's very little incentive to reprogram them with a separate utility. In Mac OS X, it's already easy to set the forward/back side buttons to alternate functions like Dashboard or Expose.
It's hard to object with the VX Nano in its stated role as a notebook mouse. We could easily imagine heavy-duty notebook users turning to the controller as an almost permanent stand-in for regular desktop mice. There may even be a few who use the mouse on the desktop, though Logitech hasn't yet hit on a control scheme that will bring most power users into the fold.
If we were to change the mouse, we would move the Quick Look button to the blank space ahead of the wheel and ask the Nano's creators to provide its promised Mac support without a separate download. For the latter, it's simply a question of being honest with users. But none of these are quite enough to stop us from recommending the mouse to most any user, no matter which OS they call home.