The state of computer navigation
Sure, the mouse may one day perish to fancy new touch operating systems and better multitouch hardware, but that's just not the computing world we currently live in. Let's start with the biggest issue: terrible trackpads. Readers of our laptop reviews are certainly not strangers to the fact that many systems – big and small -- are riddled with quite unsatisfactory trackpads. Sometimes, like with HP's ClickPads
, that's a result of poor multitouch software that attempts to try and enable more finger gestures but ends up ruining the basic navigation experience -- we often wonder if anyone uses some of these laptops before shipping the out. Other times, it's simply the result of uncomfortable and poor hardware, like with Dell
newest systems which can be so frustrating and physically painful to use that there's no other option than to reach for an external mouse. That's not to say some trackpads aren't close to perfect – Lenovo's dimpled ThinkPad surface
and Apple's aluminum multitouch touchpad
are two of the best -- but even then there are some that find flat surfaces uncomfortable for long periods of desktop navigation.
But trackpads will soon be a thing of the past as touch-based operating systems that are completely oriented around finger input take over, right? Well, not any time soon. The iPad may represent an early move towards larger touchscreen interfaces, but the iPad is a secondary device, and our primary desktop operating systems were built with the mouse as the primary means of control. Simply replacing the mouse with touch leads to inconsistent experiences -- just look at the Windows 7 laptops with touchscreens
that have popped up recently. While the OS is more touch-capable than previous Windows OSes, users cannot rely solely on touch -- another method of pushing the arrow around is required. No matter how you slice it, Windows 7 and Mac OS X are still very much mouse-based operating systems through and through. We can't say what will be next from either company, but we do know Windows 8 isn't expected until 2012, so it looks like the majority of us will be living with the mouse for the next two years at the very least.
So yeah, the mouse isn't close to being buried; heck, it isn't even on life support. And there's also the little fact that external mice are actually pretty great, and can do more than ever before with improved shortcut options and scrolling functionality. We've spent the last few months testing some of the more advanced mice on the market, so mosey on down to see how they perform.
The newest mice reviewed
Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX ($80)
Of all the mice we have played with, the Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX stole our hearts most consistently. Most travel mice are too small to use comfortably as an everyday mouse and typically lack the extra controls of full-size mice, but not the Anywhere MX. It's wireless, about the size of an BlackBerry Curve, and perfectly symmetrical for both righties and lefties. Saying it's comfortable to use is an understatement if we've ever heard one – its wider body fit snugly in our hand, and it felt like its grippy coating melded to our fingers after a week or so.
The MX has a scroll wheel between its right and left clickers with a shortcut button below them, as well as up and down arrows on its left side. We had no issues configuring all those on a Mac or PC with Logitech's Control Center software. Hands-down, our favorite part of the mouse is the shortcut button, which is preset to activate Windows Areo or Apple Expose. We also love that the scroll wheel can be pushed in to change from a click-to-click scrolling to hyper-fast scrolling, but the latter option doesn't have quite enough precision. The Anywhere MX also has Logitech's Darkfield laser tracking technology, which allows it to be usable on most surfaces. That's no lie, either – it worked just fine on carpet, a glass table, and on rough title flooring.