Logitech Easy Switch: Switching mice and keyboards between computers is so un-KVM

We look at Logitech's MX series with an eye towards how easy the company makes it to switch mice and keyboards between computers. We also showcase some high-quality budget mice and keyboard options.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

I'm sitting here, on my couch, in my living room, with my dog on my lap, writing this article. There are days, especially like today, when it's just above freezing and rainy outside, and oh-so-cozy inside, that I'm grateful that I get to work the way I do.

Like many here at ZDNet, I'm a long-time work-at-homer. I've worked at home for almost two decades, and on-and-off in the years before that. Over the years, we've tweaked and refined our working at home environment, learning what works and what doesn't. My wife, who also works at home, and I both have our own separate offices, where we can go for meetings, conferences, and focused concentration time.

Also: Best mouse in 2021: The top computer mice compared 

 But we have a little dog who yaps loud enough to wake the dead when we leave him alone in the living room for any appreciable time. We also have a low-cost TCL big screen Roku TV. In addition to streaming period British costume dramas (the dog prefers them over loud science fiction), we've turned our living room into a shared office space and conference room.

We have three Mac minis in here. Two are hooked up to the big screen TV. Another is hooked up to a monitor mounted on an Ergotron arm that rotates out and serves as my primary development machine.

No, we are not p0wn3d by our little dog. We are also not drawn to our La-Z-Boy reclining couch. Not at all.

Look, I know right about now, a bunch of you have just about reached the "it must be nice" stage of this discussion. So, it's important for me to acknowledge how lucky I am to be able to work from home, and especially in pandemic times where many folks can't work at home or work at all, that I have a highly optimized and comfortable work at home space. It's true. But it hasn't always been this way. I spent most of 2017 and 2018 working out of a kitchen using a $50 desk. But when we bought our house a year or so ago, we chose it knowing it had to provide work at home space.

And yet, here I am, typing away on the couch, in our living room. My work at home environment has changed a lot over the years, and I've learned many lessons. One of the most important is that the more optimized your space is, the more productivity improves. When you have to produce as much work output as I do each year, optimizing becomes mission-critical just to get it all done.

All that brings me back to the three computers in our living room and Logitech's Easy Switch technology.

Many of ZDNet's readers are IT pros, so many of you will be familiar with KVM switches. The acronym KVM means Keyboard/Video/Mouse and the purpose of a KVM switch is to connect multiple computers to one set of peripherals. Fun fact: Back in the day, I bought a giant, multi-thousand dollar KVM (about the size of a PC tower on its side) for work that connected 16 computers to one monitor, keyboard, and mouse -- using IBM PS/2-style connectors. Some of you may remember those round green and purple mouse and keyboard connectors from back in the day.

But sometimes we want to share one monitor (in this case, our TV). Or we want to be able to switch between machines without a Medusa's tangle of cables. For those situations, Logitech's Easy Switch mechanism is a total win.

The idea behind Easy Switch is simple. You hit a button on the mouse or keyboard and switch between machines. Early implementations limited you to switching between multiple Logitech Unifying Receivers or multiple Bluetooth-equipped computers.

The new Easy Switch devices Logitech sent me for this story let you switch between both. Your mouse might connect to one computer through a dongle and the next through Bluetooth. I like that because it allows you to keep your options open.

MX Master 3 mouse

Image: Logitech

For my test this time, I used the MX Master 3 mouse. It has two scroll wheels, which is pretty helpful for timeline scrolling when doing video editing and can be tweaked for Fusion 360 navigation. It also has a Gesture button which, when you hold it down, changes the mouse's behavior to emulate gestures, rather than X/Y positioning.

While the MX Master is intended for ultra-precision mousing and fast tracking, I find I just really like how it fits my hand. If you have bigger hands, it's a lot more comfortable than the MX Anywhere 2 I'd been using here previously.

I connected it to my dev machine, which has its own monitor on the side of my couch seat. I also connected it to the Mac mini I have connected to the large screen monitor. My final connection was to my wife's Mac mini, also connected to that monitor.

Linking the mouse was simply a matter of turning it off and then on, and choosing it from the Logitech Options program.

MX Keys keyboard

Image: Logitech

I really like this keyboard. It fires on all cylinders. First and foremost, it switches between devices with a tap of a button. For kicks, in addition to my computers, I connected it via Bluetooth to my iPad and PS4. It was very cool being able to type on a computer, a gaming console, and a tablet, merely by touching a key.

I have always liked the feel of Logitech keyboards and I feel that, with the MX Keys, I can type all day. It has a solid, comfortable stroke that's not too loud or too quiet. The keys have a slightly more pronounced "dish" shape than the old K810 I used, and I found that quite comfortable.

I also really like the backlighting. It's bright enough to see but adjusts to the ambient light. You can also customize the backlighting to a level you prefer. The lighting shuts down as soon as you move your hands away, so the peripheral isn't sucking power when it's not being used.

MX Anywhere 3

Image: Logitech

Compared to the MX Anywhere 2, the mouse I have been using, the new MX Anywhere 3 is a nice improvement. For our test, I set up the MX Anywhere 3 on my wife's side of the couch and connected it to her Mac mini and mine.

I found that the scroll wheel feels more sure of itself, more precise. It's also easier to click, making it more practical to use as its own mouse button. The dual dongle and Bluetooth option is also a nice improvement.

Other features

Logitech is now bundling a Synergy-like capability with Logitech Options called FLOW Control. This handy bit of software allows you to mouse between computers as if you were simply moving between screens. When you move your cursor to the edge of your screen and then past the edge, it jumps to whatever machine you specify as the destination.

You can also cut and paste between computers. Cut or copy something on the first computer, move your mouse to the screen's edge and jump to the second computer. Then paste, and the item you had on your clipboard will move between the two machines.

It should be noted this works perfectly between two machines operated by one user. We weren't able to use it to move between my wife's machine and mine, because the two machines had different logged-in users.

All three MX devices charge with USB C rather than the Micro USB connectors previous Logitech mice and keyboards used. I haven't had these new units for long, but so far they've been quite impressive in terms of how long they hold their charge.

If you're on a budget

There is no doubt the Logitech devices are top-notch. I've recommended the MX series in my Best Home Office Gear feature earlier this year. But at $59.99 ($99.99 list) for the MX Master 3, $99.99 for the MX Keys, and $78.12 for the MX Anywhere 3, they might be outside the budgets of some users.

To remedy that, I'd like to spotlight a few devices sent to me by VictSing. None of them support switching between computers, but I've had the chance to test them and they're quite nice, especially for the price.

VictSing Mechanical Keyboard: At $39.95 instead of $99.99, this couldn't be more different from the MX Keys. It's wired, where the MX Keys is wireless. It has full-press mechanical keys, where the MX Keys has softer press keys. And it has RGB lighting, where the MX Keys has somewhat more sedate white backlighting.

VictSing Wireless Mouse: This is $16.99 instead of the $59.99 to $99.99 of the MX Master 3. It doesn't have the second scroll wheel, but it is a vertical mouse, so it might actually be better for your wrist. I find vertical mice a bit more comfortable than traditional mice, but I also make a lot more mistakes because I'm so very used to traditional mouse movements. But for $16.99, it might just be an idea to keep one around to switch to when your wrist starts to act up.

VictSing Wireless Mouse for Laptop: This little mouse is only $9.99, compared to the MX Anywhere 3 which Amazon shows at $78.12. Unlike the MX Anywhere 3, this doesn't have side buttons. But it comes in a lot more colors. It also doesn't charge up; it just uses a single AA battery. I've had this mouse connected to my lab computer in the Fab Lab for months and so far haven't had to replace the battery yet.

So, there you go. Three excellent and incredibly versatile peripherals from Logitech. And three somewhat less flexible -- but a lot less expensive -- peripherals from VictSing. What are you using to control your computers? Have you co-opted your living room to be a home office conference area? Let us know in the comments below.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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