It is well known that I am a long-time fan of Logitech products. Well, they've done it again. I just picked up a new Logitech m600 Touch Mouse, and what a lovely, creative device it is. The advertised difference in this mouse is the touch-sensitive surface for scrolling, but I have found that there is a lot more to it than that. Even at first glance it is obvious that this is no ordinary mouse. No buttons. No scroll wheel. No nothing. Just a smooth black surface, absolutely symmetrical in shape so equally well suited for right- or left-handed use. It is wireless, of course, and uses a Logitech Unifying receiver, so you can use it along with up to five other Logitech devices on a single USB nano-receiver. It uses AA batteries, but even that is one of the innovative features of the m600. If you want it to be as light as possible, you can put it only one battery, and it will work. If you want the longest time possible between battery changes, you can put in two. Logitech claims three months battery life on one, and six months on two, but then they turn around in the fine print and say that you will probably get more than that in both cases, but they can't guarantee it. Fine, I guess that's better than over-estimating the battery life in their documentation.
The m600 comes with a CD containing God knows how much driver and application software, but since I will not be using it on Windows, that doesn't interest me at all. So once I had put the batteries in (two), I plugged the Unifying receiver into one of my netbooks running Linux, and it worked like a charm. No muss, no fuss, no fight, no special software or configuration necessary. Then came the first surprise. From my quick glance at the propoganda on their web page and on the box, I could see that there are no buttons on this mouse, and I had assumed that they had implemented button functions as tapping on the touch-sensitive surface. Wrong. It turns out that the entire body of the unit is hinged to the base at the back, and spring-loaded up. When you want to click a button, what you actually do is push on the unit causing the entire body to move down, and that movement combined with the touch surface detection of where your finger is located determines whether you get a left or right button click! This is very ingenious, and works very well - UNLESS you are in the habit of holding the sides of the mouse with your thumb and little finger when you click, as I was, because then you are actually preventing it from clicking. I tapped on the mouse surface a lot of times, before I actually let go of the sides to look at it, and figured out what was happening. Once you know that, it is no problem of course, and it works very well.
Scrolling is done my swiping your finger up/down the touch surface. Besides the "cool" and "gee whiz" effects of this, it has another significant benefit. The touch-sensitive area covers quite a bit of the top and front of the mouse, and you can swipe it anywhere in that area to scroll - so you don't have to move your finger to the center of the mouse, as you would with a normal scroll wheel. That is more of an advantage than I thought it would be initially - you get used to just swiping with your index finger where it normally stays, in position for the left button. Another nice feature of the scrolling is that the action is derived from touch-screen smart phones, so the amount of scrolling is determined by the speed of the swipe, and there is a run-on scrolling effect if you swipe very quickly.
For portable use, the unit has a slot inside the battery compartment where the receiver can be stored, and it comes with a very nice bag. It has an on/off switch on the bottom, so you can preserve the batteries when you are not using for an extended time, or carrying it around.
I bought a Logitech v500 cordless mouse a very long time ago, it was the first mouse I had seen with a touch-sensitive scrolling area rather than a wheel. In fact, it even had a similar kind of hinged body to the new m600, except it was hinged at the front, and pivoted up/down to turn the mouse on and off, and to give access to the receiver storage area, which slid into the body of the mouse. Looking at it now, the m600 seems to me to be a direct descendant of that v500 - with a lot of refinement, and a lot of improvement. If I weren't a dedicated trackball user, I would definitely consider using an m600 as my primary pointing device.