A Tale Of Two Mice Reveals A Superior Design

July 8, 2010
Editor-in-Chief Joe Desposito tells of his experience with Logitech and Gear Head wireless mice. He finds a clear superiority of electronic design with the Logitech mouse.

Wireless mouse

Wireless mouse

Lately I’ve been noticing design flaws in some of the consumer products I’ve been using. Frankly, I’m quite surprised. I’ll call one case in point “The Tale of Two Mice.” Recently, I decided to buy a wireless mouse as a present for my wife, spending more than I usually would for myself.

I looked over the selection of wireless mice in the Micro Center store near me. For this particular gift, I wanted a red wireless mouse (see the figure), which significantly narrowed the selection.

I settled on the Logitech V450 Nano, priced at $49.99. The word Nano in the name refers to the USB receiver, which is not a stick, but a much smaller device that you can hardly see once you place it in the USB port.

This mouse worked just like a wired mouse, which I expected. But when I went to purchase another wireless mouse, I found that I had been lulled into a false sense of security.

Taking A Low Price for granted

This time, I was buying a mouse for myself, so I looked for the lowest-priced wireless model that I could find and settled on the Gear Head Wireless Optical Mouse priced at $14.99. The only tradeoff that I could tell from the packaging was the USB receiver, which was sized more like a standard USB stick. But for the $35 price difference, I was willing to accept it.

After I installed the Gear Head mouse, it did not work as well as the Logitech mouse. Apparently, when the Gear Head mouse goes into sleep mode, the only way to wake it up is by clicking. (Not so with the Logitech mouse, which wakes up when you move it.) This forces you to change your mouse-use behavior, but I was okay with that.

Another problem occurred when the computer went into sleep mode. The Gear Head mouse did not come back on with a click, but needed to be rebooted (in a sense) by removing and reseating the USB receiver. This is a pain, for sure.

And, the Gear Head mouse broke apart mechanically after about four months when I tried to replace the batteries. In essence, I got what I paid for.

Now I was in the market to replace that mouse, so I returned to the Micro Center store. I still didn’t want to spend $49.99 for a wireless mouse, but I certainly thought I should check out a lower-priced Logitech model. I saw the V220 Cordless Optical Mouse selling for $24.99. The only difference from the V450 is that the V220 has a longer USB receiver, much like the one the $14.99 Gear Head uses. But there was another choice.

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A New Competitor for the V450

Unlike the last time I had been in the store, Gear Head was now selling the 2.4-GHz Wireless Nano Mouse for $19.99. I thought about the attractiveness of the ultra-small USB receiver of this model, which cost $30 less than Logitech’s V450. But, I decided to pass on it. I had lost faith in Gear Head. Instead, I purchased the V220.

To my surprise, the cashier rang up this Logitech mouse at $22.99 instead of the $24.99 marked on the package and gave me an $8 rebate coupon, which priced it at the same level as the original Gear Head mouse I had purchased. This actually seemed unfair to me. Logitech was now competing with Gear Head on price when Logitech clearly had a superior product. And it would probably have to do so again with the V450, since Gear Head now had a competitor for that product.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I still wasn’t certain that the V220 was any better than the competing Gear Head model, since I hadn’t tried it yet. I was wondering if this was a clear software edge for Logitech in usability or something else.

I thought the V450 possibly worked as it did because it was using the latest low-power hardware technology and did not have to go into sleep mode at all, saving the user from having to click to wake it up. If this was the case, then the V220 might not have the same low-power advantage.

When I installed the V220, I found that it worked just like the V450. In terms of usability, both work just the way a wired mouse works, which is what I expected from the start. Whether or not this is due solely to a software advantage on Logitech’s part or to a combination of software and hardware, the competition is obviously finding it difficult to compete. And whether or not this continues to be the case, we’ll have to wait and see.

Also noteworthy, Logitech took care to make it easy to open its plastic packaging via perforation on the back panel. Kudos for that as well.

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