Hands-on: Logitech MX Ergo wireless trackball mouse

I've been waiting a long time for a new trackball from Logitech. Finally, my patience has been rewarded with the release of the MX Ergo Wireless Trackball.

Good grief! Why didn't anyone tell me that Logitech has come out with a new trackball?

I'm an absolutely dedicated trackball user, as you might already know if you saw my post about the Trackballs I Have Known and Loved last March. But I didn't realize that shortly after I wrote that, and seven years since their last new trackball (the M570), Logitech announced the MX Ergo trackball. Of course, I got one as quickly as I could, and now I am ready to try it out.

mx-ergo-topview.png
Image: Logitech

The list price is 129 Swiss francs (£99.99 / €109 / $99.99). That's not cheap, but at least it is pretty easy to find one here for about 90 francs, that's a bit more reasonable. It is supposed to be available in black, white, or blue, but I could only find black here.

The size, shape, and ball and button placement are similar to the M570 trackball, although it is a bit wider, which I find makes it a bit more comfortable when I rest my hand on it. It is also quite a bit heavier than the M570, and it feels like it is much more solidly built.

One of the major new features of this trackball is the ability to tilt it 20 degrees up from the normal flat position that the M570 had.

mx-ergo-flat-tilt.png

Logitech MX Ergo trackball tilt feature

Image: Logitech

This may look like a fairly trivial change (especially in the pictures above), but what it actually does is reduce the twisting pressure on your wrist when your hand is resting on the trackball.

The tilt feature was accomplished by adding a large, heavy metal base plate (you can see it in the two pictures above), and a rather strong magnet in the body of the trackball. It's a clever solution, but I can't help wondering if the magnet might have some kind of effect on a wrist watch. Hmm. But then again, does anyone who uses a trackball like this still wear a mechanical wrist watch?

I would like to take a minute here to gripe about the information of the Logitech MX Ergo web page. First, in the text on that page it says you can "choose the best angle between 0 degrees and 20 degrees". That's not right, you can't choose an angle between zero and 20, you can choose either zero or 20 degrees, period.

Second, in the little promotional video Logitech has on that page, it includes an incline counter which runs from zero to 20 degrees when the trackball is tilted. Again, this implies that you could stop at some arbitrary angle along the way, but you can't.

I know this isn't a big deal, but it bothers me. Sorry for the minor rant, and we now return to your regular hardware review.

My first impression after just an hour or two of use is that I will have it at the 20 degree tilt, because my wrist and arm really do feel more comfortable in that position.

mx-ergo-sideview.png

MX Ergo Precision Mode button and LED

Image: Logitech

The second major new feature on the MX Ergo Trackball is the 'Precision Mode button', located on the side just above the ball. Pressing this button changes the speed and resolution of the trackball, so if you are making fine adjustments with the cursor it is a lot easier to control. There is a small LED adjacent to the button which comes on when Precision Mode is active.

The Precision Mode button is entirely local to the trackball. Switching Precision Mode on and off is done within the trackball itself, and it does not generate a mouse button event to the computer.

mx-ergo-micro-usb.png

Another major change in this trackball is the use of a rechargeable battery rather than ordinary AA batteries. It is charged using a micro USB cable, which is included. The micro USB charging port is located on the front of the trackball, just below the front edge of the buttons. There is also a battery status and warning LED on the top of the trackball, just behind the 'Easy-Switch' button.

The Logitech webpage says that the battery will hold for up to four months on a full charge. It then includes the typical disclaimer which says battery life may vary based on user and computing conditions. Duh. More useful information though, is that it says one minute of charge will give up to a full day of use (with the same silly disclaimer). At least, though, what this means to me is that if I find the trackball battery dead in the morning, or it dies during the day, I can charge it up enough while getting a cup of coffee to last through the day.

Like many of the latest mice from Logitech (such as my M720 and M590), the MX Ergo can connect to two computers, and both connections can be via either the Logitech Unifying receiver or Bluetooth. One Unifying receiver is included with the trackball, and I noticed that it is now possible to purchase another receiver on the Logitech webpage.

mx-ergo-easy-switch.png

Pairing and switching between systems is controlled by the Easy Switch button and indicator LEDs, located right on top of the trackball.

If you want to use the MX Ergo on a Linux system (as I obviously do), you will need to install the Solaar package so that you can manage the Unifying receiver. Fortunately, this package is now included in the repositories of most Linux distributions, so you can install it quite easily via whatever software manager or package manager your distribution includes.

Pairing is then basically the same for either Bluetooth or Unifying. First, you select the host channel you want to use on the trackball (1 or 2), by pressing the Easy Switch button. Then you put the trackball into pairing mode (it doesn't matter at this point if you are going to use Bluetooth or Unifying), by pressing and holding the Easy Switch button for a few seconds, until the status led starts to blink rapidly. Then start pairing mode on your computer, either via the Solaar utility or the Bluetooth manager.

Switching between paired systems is then done with a single press on the Easy Switch button, and the number LEDs show which host connection is active.

The MX Ergo has a lot of buttons. It obviously has the usual left and right mouse buttons, and only slightly less obvious is the middle button, which is activated by clicking the scroll wheel. One small irritant here, though, because it is all too easy to move the wheel, thus causing some kind of unintended scroll movement, when you are actually trying to click the wheel.

Rolling the scroll wheel up and down produces two mouse button events, and tilting the scroll wheel to either side produces two more mouse button events. If you're counting, that is five different button events which can be produced just by the scroll wheel!

Finally the Forward and Back buttons, located at the edge of the top of the trackball, produce two more mouse button events. If I've got them all identified correctly, that makes a total of 9 buttons on the MX Ergo trackball! In Linux terminology, the mouse button events produced by each button are:

Button Event
Left 1
Middle 2
Right 3
Scroll Down 4
Scroll Up 5
Tilt Left 6
Tilt Right 7
Back 8
Forward 9

All of these buttons do the right thing (ie what you would expect) on all of the Linux distributions I have tried it on so far. The only thing that I can see on the Logitech webpage which doesn't work on Linux is the FLOW technology, which apparently lets you copy and paste text and files between two computers. I have no idea how this works, other than it requires installation of the Logitech Options software, which is only available for Windows and Mac. The one thing I can say, though, is that this capability probably opens up a whole new world of security headaches for corporate IT departments. I think I will continue to live and work very happily without it.

So that's about it for this lovely new trackball. I like it a lot already. I have it paired to the Unifying receiver on my Acer all-in-one desktop system, and to Bluetooth on one of my Raspberry Pi 3 systems. My M570 trackball, which has served me well for the past five years or so, has been relegated to the Trackballs I Have Known and Loved box.

What a nice early Christmas present the MX Ergo has turned out to be!

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