Saturday, August 12, 2006

Review/Commentary: Logitech V400 Laser Mouse

Quick Overview:
  • Logitech V400 "Notebook" mouse
  • Dual Laser technology for more accuracy on more surfaces
  • 5 buttons: Right/Left, Scroll wheel button, Back/Forward button(s)
  • Small 2.4GHz dongle, stores in mouse, also shuts mouse off when inserted

Assuming that the best techno-devices are the latest and greatest, then in the world of computer mice, laser mice would be kings.

Logitech is long a leader in the peripheral field, and for good reason. Many a colleague use their products and purchase them either as upgrades to bundled keyboards/mice, or as replacements.

I have used Logitech mice before, and I've got an old Logitech PS2 mouse somewhere in a computer box in the attic. I use three mice now, two are Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer v.2.0 (one in a keyboard bundle), the other is a USB Kensington travel mouse.

This is my first laser mouse.


The packaging is compact, precise, aesthetically simple. Was thrilled that the plastic housing was perforated and easily opened unlike the vast majority of molded plastic casing which needs to be carefully opened with a knife or such sharp object without impaling yourself with the object or sharp casing.

Includes one Duracell battery.

Software included is only for Windows. Mac users like me are offered a URL to go online to download Mac drivers. Though a detraction in my book, the mouse did work when first plugged in. The forward/backward buttons, however, did not. So for users looking for a great "out of the box" experience may not like the fact that in order to use the mouse to its fullest, they have to go online and download drivers.

Speaking of which, the file is not just for the mouse, but is the Logitech Control Center for OS X which, as far as I can tell, covers all their keyboard/mouse products for Mac. During the install I was asked what kind of Logitech keyboard I used ... I don't, but that wasn't a choice, so I took the default. No problem, but could be confusing to customers.


This is what I'd call a small-to-mid-size mouse. Hence Logitech calling it a "notebook" mouse. The idea behind a notebook mouse is that it is compact, light-weight, easily stored, and fits most of your hand as opposed to the micro mice which I call a finger mouse. It is smaller than the full-hand/palm mice that are more desktop oriented. The V400 is also billed as an "all terrain" and "shock resistant" mouse and has nice lines reminiscent of tough SUV styling.

While the V400 is a comfortable size for my hand, ergonomic comfort lags behind the sculpted form of the Microsoft IME2 (IntelliMouse Explorer 2.0). The V400 is pretty basic shape-wise. But in fairness, miniaturization doesn't lend itself to sculpting to one's hand unless one has very small hands. The IME2 is a full-sized mouse fitting the whole hand.

Where it could use a little sculpting; however, is along the top sides at the back. The angle could be rounded off for a more natural feel.


It's a tough mouse, rubbery plastic throughout which helps in the event of a fall or banging around in a backpack.

I thought my wrist would tire of it after prolonged usage, but that's not been the case. It has even become somewhat comfortable. Fits nicely on the right-hand palmrest of my 17" PowerBook, so that's a real plus when an acceptable surface is not found.

While the laser tracking is indeed accurate, moreso than my other optical mice, the movement can be erratic.

The Logitech software, IMHO, is horrible. Tracking, while good at slow speeds, accelerates too much and the pointer becomes jumpy. The software does not allow one to fully customize the mouse in the way Microsoft's software does. The middle click (scroller-click) is equal to the third mouse button, but the Logitech software wanted to do something else with it. I found this out when when I went to a site that force-opens another window when any link is clicked. Normally, I would middle-click and the link would open in another tab. But it kept opening in another window.

Assuming that I could fix it, I went into Logitech's software to change it, but there was no option to set the button to call the default OS X setting for that button. Thus I went looking for another driver (in addition to the jumping and bizarre tracking acceleration).

I came across SteerMouse and USB Overdrive which are great alternative mouse drivers. I prefer SteerMouse for it's easier setup, but YMMV. Both completely fixed *most* of the jumpiness, and both allow full 100% customization of all the buttons on the mouse - even different uses in different apps. Great software, but each adds $20 to the price of the V400 (which cost me $39 at Sam's Club).

Another drawback is that since I've used it for 10 days, I've found the battery life to be poor. I'm used to my Microsoft Mice lasting for 3 months before changing batteries - 2 alkaline, heavy daily usage. After one week, the V400 battery indicator is pulsing red which indicates the charge is close to nil, though granted, there's only one battery, but still, that means 20 days -- under a month if there were two. Not good. I even turn off the mouse when I'm not working (which is done by unplugging the receiver from the USB port and inserting into the slot in the mouse body until you hear a "click").

Another "con" is the rocker button for forward and back. Looking at the mouse, its assumed that these are 2 distinct buttons as in most other multi-button mice. Unfortunately, this single-button rocker causes problems. Namely, when I'm in Camino (or other browser, text-editor, etc.) and I click forward or backward, I often go forward or to the beginning of a line, then inexplicably jump back to the previous page/line (or vice versa). I've read in Logitech's forums and other reviews that this is common.

Chalk it up to a poor design descision.


The more I've used the mouse, the more I've grown to like it. But battery life leaves much to be desired and is quite disppointing. Even if I were to go the rechargable battery route, there's still the issue of frequent changes, something I prefer not to do.

The other issue, though it's got a strong positive, is spending an extra $20 to get a better driver in SteerMouse since Logitech's is so poor. Instead of a $39 mouse, it becomes a $59 mouse.

Do I recommend it? If the above issues mean nothing to you, or if you can live with them, then go for it, this makes a great mouse. Otherwise, pass.

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