After years of letting third-party vendors attempt to bring touch-based computing to their baby, Microsoft has finally gotten the message and added native touch and gesture-based control to their latest operating system with Windows 8. It’s a safe bet most manufacturers will add some form of native touch controls to their next-generation of laptops, tablets, and even desktop machines to take full advantage of this more personal style of interaction, but what about those of us still living in the dark ages of – gasp – regular mouse controls?
Thankfully, Logitech has a stable of touch-enabled mice and trackpads ready to help give those with older hardware a gesture-enabled boost into some of the best new features that Windows 8 has to offer. The best of these include the TouchPad T650 trackpad and the focus of this review, the Touch Mouse T620. Touch-enabled mice have existed long before Windows 8, and – let’s be charitable – with little success outside of technology masochists. Not to be confused with its smaller and less-capable brother, the Zone Touch Mouse T400, which adds but a taste of Windows 8 fun, the T620 offers a much better experience for those looking to swipe through Microsoft’s best operating system yet.
There’s over seven billion people in the world, which means lots of different hand sizes, and no single mouse design is going to make everyone happy – the T620 included. Included in the box is the Touch Mouse itself, all glossy and ready to go, Logitech’s Unifying USB dongle, requisite carrying pouch, and even two AA batteries. Its body curves outward to accommodate most larger hands and is coated with a smooth, glossy surface covering sporting Logitech’s familiar snakeskin-style scaly design. It’s comfortable enough, but the shiny plastic used is a fingerprint magnet and more reflective than a polished mirror – I kept wondering if the only reason they didn’t use the same matte touch surface found on the TouchPad T650 was so they could make the Touch Mouse look like a reptile.
The mouse does have a bit of heft to it, most likely to help keep its base planted firmly on a surface to make those gestures more accurate. Perhaps in a show of compromise, it’ll run using only a single AA-battery (up to three months, Logitech promises) to help shave a few precious ounces off the middle. Regardless, this isn’t a heavy or light mouse by any stretch, and as long as you don’t come in expecting a feather (or brick) you should be happy with it.
A nice touch, so to speak, was that plugging in the dongle (on a Windows 8 machine) triggered a quick download and install for Logitech’s SetPoint software and drivers; no need to head over to the official site to hunt them down. Sure, the Touch Mouse will work just fine as a standard point ‘n click mouse without them, but that isn’t the reason you picked one up; you want everything it has to give, and that means using those fancy new Windows 8 gestures. Well, most of them, anyway.
So how does the gestures actually work once you’ve got the software loaded? Not that bad, to be honest, though several are imported from older touch-centric mice and should be familiar for the Windows 7 set. Single-finger Horizontal/Vertical scrolling largely replace the physical middle click wheel in those non-touch mice, while two-finger left/right swipes active back/forward when you need them. A single two-finger middle-click is the new scroll wheel’s middle-click, though having to readjust your hand position to do this comfortably never sat well with me; some things will just always feel better with tactile feedback.
Speaking of feedback, for a touch-centric mouse, there’s no tap-tap touch capabilities here like you’d find on most laptop touchpads; it’s all hard button presses for left/right and middle-clicks using a single click mechanism underneath the cover (no individual buttons, I’m afraid). It works just fine, though I can’t help but wondering if a software upgrade could add the touch features to the mix.
The Windows 8 specific gestures fair much better and actually help make the Touch Mouse a lot more useful. A quick single-finger double-tap in the middle brings up the Start home screen, while a two-finger double-tap in the middle brings up the standard Desktop. Swiping from the left brings up the next App (if one is active) and a swipe from the right brings up the Charms menu. Missing is pinch-to-zoom, maximizing/minimizing windows, and being able to quickly snap Apps and windows to the left or right, all gestures present in the TouchPad. Then again, there isn’t that much finger-wiggling room on the mouse’s surface to work with.
As for simply pointing your mouse cursor around the screen and clicking on what you want, the Touch Mouse T620 works about as well as you’d expect a Logitech mouse to work. They know how to make a great optical mouse and that’s just as true here, despite the touch augmentations, and I found the laser-grade tracking as precise and accurate as the best of them. In this respect it’s superior to the TouchPad T650, or most trackpads in general, as there’s simply no substitute for precision when you absolutely need it. Some of you may find that not having the ability to tap to left/right click a loss (as in most touch-devices), but I’ll take responsive hard-clicks over soft taps any day. There are less expensive mice out there to add some of Windows 8’s gesture features to older machines, but few with as good a build quality as this.