Last week, I fell in love with a mouse. No, not the pesky rodent variety, but the remarkable MX Air Rechargeable Cordless Air Mouse from Logitech, which I shall call MX Air for the sake of brevity. Like most people these days, I use a personal computer not only for surfing the Internet and sending e-mails but also to view photos, listen to music, and watch video clips, films and TV shows whether at my desk at work or from deep inside my squishy beanbag at home. According to the research firm IDC: “By 2010, the amount of data is forecast to grow six-fold, to nearly one zettabyte (that’s a 1 followed by 21 zeros, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). IDC predicts that nearly 70% of this information will be created by individuals, not corporations. Much of that information will be in the form of video clips, audio downloads, digital photos, and other forms of personal entertainment.” The problem is that in my sometime languorous, sometime fevered pursuit of those zettabytes, traditional remote controls can’t provide precise cursor control, while a mouse can. Conversely, a typical mouse can’t provide in-air control, while a remote control can. Enter the MX Air Rechargeable Cordless Air Mouse.
So what on Earth is an Air Mouse? It’s a mouse that you do not need to place on a hard surface to use—you can wield it like a remote just like the Wii controller that can input gestures as commands. A 2.4GHz wireless receiver swaps mouse movements for cursor control, making the MX Air perfectly suited for lounging in a living room with a media centre PC or, if you wish, to control your PowerPoint presentation from 30ft away. The MX Air also functions more than adequately on land like a regular mouse with its sleek ambidextrous shape and eight buttons. The MX Air, with its laser tracking technology, tracks flawlessly on nearly any surface—white or black, solid or pattern, shiny or matte unlike LED-powered mice. Though fully functional on the desktop, its hand-held capability sets the MX Air mouse apart from all other pointing devices.
Artfully designed in glossy black and flush amber backlit controls, the MX Air hardly looks like a computer peripheral. Its swoopy, contoured shape encourages users to hold it like a remote control—fingers underneath the mouse, with the thumb on top for button selection. The show begins when you pick it up, and while holding down a button, execute different multimedia commands with a flick of the wrist. For example, with the Volume button held down, waving the mouse either to the right or left adjusts the volume up or down. If you hold the Play/Pause button down, a clockwise motion skips to the next track, while a counter-clockwise motion repeats the track or jumps to the previous one. Making use of three separate technologies, the “Freespace motion control” lets you move around in space disregarding how or where you point the mouse, and it can filter out unintentional hand tremors significantly to maintain a steady cursor. Pretty cool and pretty useful too, as it works with all of the most popular media applications, including iTunes, Winamp, WinDVD, Internet Explorer, Opera, Firefox, and more.
Installing the MX Air is a snap. Logitech provides an illustrated, multilingual user guide with step-by-step instructions: Charge the MX Air, plug the USB receiver into a USB port, power-on the MX Air and you are good to go. Plug and play. Logitech’s included software, SetPoint, allows you to customise cursor and scrolling speeds and remap button functions and MenuCast provides on-screen menus for easier navigation in popular media, video, photo, and Web browsing applications.
Using the MX Air like a traditional mouse on a flat surface is a breeze, too, despite a few unfamiliar features. Dispensing with the scroll wheel, the MX Air has a scroll panel that you swipe your finger along to scroll up and down—a light brush and it scrolls just a few lines, but whip your finger along it and pages will zip by very fast. You can also scroll by pressing down on the upper or lower part of the bar. The scroll panel has another cool feature—a built-in speaker that makes a clicky-ticky sound when you scroll up or down a page. Apart from the scroll surface and left-right buttons, there is a back button, a select button which performs a left click, a play button that stops and starts playing songs when a media application is open, and a volume button.
Picking the mouse up turns the MX Air into a remote control that works up to 30ft away. When the MX Air is held in the air, you can navigate content and applications by pointing and clicking on icons and hyperlinks—just as you would when using a desk-bound mouse. The moment the mouse is lifted from a surface, Freespace motion technology recognizes that it is no longer being used on a flat surface. It identifies its orientation in space, and then isolates and translates multiple axes of motion into on-screen cursor movements. The cursor also automatically changes to an extra-large arrow, greatly aiding visibility, especially if you have settled yourself into the perfect sweet spot of the aforementioned beanbag. Airborne, the mouse tracks perfectly, and you can even adjust the sensitivity as well. The physical effort required to point the mouse is on par with lifting your forefinger and the in-air pointing works exactly as you would expect.
The MX Air is both an excellent mouse and a fantastic remote control, offering the best of both worlds. Though a lot of people might baulk at its price tag of Rs8,995, it’s definitively the peripheral of choice for the HTPC crowd.
A PC running Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows XP (prior versions of Windows are not supported). A USB port is required for the micro-receiver and a CD-ROM drive is required for software installation. However, plenty of media-friendly features such as playback and volume controls will work right out of the box on Apple computers too.
Write to Harsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.