The least expensive mouse with a MicroGear wheel but not the best. (August 22nd, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: Logitech
- Excellent wheel and nano receiver.
- Clip is steady and works well.
- Very long battery life.
- Relatively attractive.
- Not as comfortable or full-featured as the VX despite $10 difference.
- Slightly disconcerting simultaneous button presses.
- Using the clip is an all-or-nothing affair with complicated removal.
Until now, some of Logitech's better mousing features, particularly its extra-small Nano Receiver and its free-spinning metal scroll wheel, have been limited to high-end devices; outside of the MX 620, none of its previous devices have come with either for less than $70. The V550 Nano aims to solve that problem by bringing both features to a $60 notebook mouse and adds a unique notebook-mountable clip at the same time. It succeeds in lowering the cost, but does that come at the expense of design?
design and feel
The V550 Nano stands out among Logitech's recent mice precisely because it's very conventional: instead of the extremely ergonomic grips of the VX Nano or even the V470, the new mouse has a simple, flat surface on both the front and sides. It's not as exciting, though it may well be ideal for users with unusually-sized hands. Logitech also deserves some credit for an attractive silver design in a sea of generic or in some cases ugly devices that have trim simply to be different.
That said, the shape is a definite step back from the VX Nano. The grip is decidedly less natural and is comfortable enough for most average use, but does put more strain on the wrist; it wouldn't be recommended for users who have to use the mouse for several hours at a time. In fairness, this isn't the target audience -- the V550 is only likely to be pulled out periodically -- but it's a sharp contrast to the eminently comfortable VX.
Thankfully, the MicroGear wheel from the VX and earlier mice hasn't changed and is definitely the highlight of the device. In normal mode, it has a very clear, fine-grained motion that makes it easy to scroll line-by-line, but a press down flips it to a loosely spinning wheel that can flip through dozens of pages quickly. It's not always useful, but the quality of the wheel and the choice of accuracy are advantages that other mice still don't have.
The single-piece top shell affects the two main mouse buttons, however. While only likely to creep up in games, pressing both buttons at the same time occasionally creates a slightly jarring movement inside the V550 that may throw off some users. It's not enough to deter one from using the mouse, but it's not likely to instill confidence.
The V550's signature trick is its notebook clip, which in theory saves hassle of carrying the mouse in a separate hand or bag. Logitech goes out of its way to make sure this reinforced when one opens the box. There are not only silver and black clips to color-coordinate with most notebooks but also a metal case to hold all the accessories.
In actual use, the clip works well; it has a satisfying, stable grip and is tiny enough to be placed just about anywhere without tearing into a case or interfering significantly with the look of a given computer.
However, the clip does lose a substantial amount of its worth through the permanence of the option. The clips attach only through an adhesive and aren't reusable. Make a mistake applying the clip, or decide against using it later, and the V550's defining feature is rendered moot. Even removing the clip is slightly complicated and requires a special tool (included with the mouse) to remove without leaving a significant amount of adhesive on the notebook.
That does, ultimately, hurt the usefulness of the clips themselves. Much more conscious thought has to go into using one, and the removal process may be a deal-breaker for those concerned about maintaining the look.
battery life and the nano receiver
Logitech claims a battery life of up to 18 months with the V550. That's far longer than some of these mice have claimed in the past, and it's a figure impossible to test in a review. Having said this, the review VX Nano from last year is still working well after over a year of light use, so there's every reason to believe the new mouse should meet its target.
The Nano Receiver, as always, is a treat whenever it appears. It's less intrusive and is short enough to stay attached to a notebook without snapping free. With the V550, the receiver still stows away and has a clever compartment underneath the (easily removable) bottom shell to stow it away for a trip. The mouse is smart enough to switch on when the receiver is ejected and switch off when the receiver comes back, though there's a power button to manually override this if the receiver stays permanently attached.
As a straightforward notebook mouse, the V550 is a very capable device; it tracks well, has one of the best scroll wheels in the business, and has outstanding power management. It would be hard to discourage someone putting the V550 on a short list, especially as it's the most affordable way to get these features without turning to a much larger desktop part.
However, the mouse's real flaw is its very creator. Simply put, the earlier VX Nano is too much of an improvement for a small $10 difference: it's more comfortable and has two extra buttons that could be vital for frequent web users or those who just want more control.
And while the clip is particularly useful for desktop replacement-class notebooks or power users who rarely use their portables without an external mouse, the care required to place and remove it means that it's not for most people. Rather than try to separate the V550 from the pack with a one-off trait, Logitech would have served itself better by dropping the feature entirely and dropping the price low enough to create a clearer gap between the high-end VX and this new peripheral.