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To Dongle, or not To Dongle? Wireless mice for laptops

I recently got a laptop and have fallen completely in love with it. The power of my PC on the move.
Written by David Long David, Contributor

I recently got a laptop and have fallen completely in love with it. The power of my PC on the move. That said most laptop users will agree however ingeniously the manufacturer has incorporated the mousepad/nub on the laptop it is never as confortable or accurate as a proper mouse.

That being the case the 2nd most popular accessory for laptop owners to buy (after the laptop case) is a mouse.The whole joy of a portable device is being free to move around so wifi is now a must and this extends to the mice - cables are out. There are hundreds of wireless mice to choose from but how to decide. For reliability and performance the top brands have to be Logitech, Apple and Microsoft (probably in that order). This cuts down the list of offerings somewhat but even with just 3 brands to consider there are still many variations to consider.

To Dongle or not to dongleIf your laptop doesn't have bluetooth than this is a no brainer - your are going to need a rf/bluetooth dongle to link up with your mouse. In my case my Dell XPS m1210 has built-in bluetooth and so I have a choice. I can go for a bluetooth mouse and connect to the built-in bluetooth feature on my laptop (even if it comes with a dongle) or go for a mouse with a rf/proprietary transmitter dongle.

Pros of no dongle a) Battery life - the built-in bluetooth adapter is designed to work with your laptop and is optimised for efficient use of power. A usb dongle will require the laptop to power the usb port and will always be less efficient than a built-in option b) Dongles sticks out. This means you probably can't keep it plugged in when in the case and increases chances of it getting knocked potentially damaging it or your usb port. c) Can't lose the dongle. It is easier than you think to lose the thumb size dongles. They can fall out of the bag or get knocked out by passers by d) Range. RF signals generally give you a range of 2 meters. Adaquate for most purposes but when you use your laptop with a big screen like I do at home having a 10-30m range really helps as I can sit on my sofa watch the big screen and my laptop quietly hums on my desk. e) Price. You can save money by buying bluetooth mice without a dongle. Logitech and Microsoft both make these. However, this is not a real bonus as bluetooth mice are generally more expensive than RF versions anyway.

Cons a) Bluetooth was designed to be versatile, a "jack of all trades" - from file transfer, wireless headphones, wireless mice etc. Most will agree it is a "master of none". Using my Logitech mx5000 bluetooth keyboard and mouse at home I am repeatedly frustrated as it lags behind keystrokes, loses connection or just gets sluggish. It doesn't happen all the time - in fact mostly it runs beautifully, but when it does happen in the middle of a game or while drawing a lasso shape in photoshop it can be aggravating. Logitech's solution is to use bluetooth technology to keep the benefits or added range but to not comply to the Bluetooth 1.1 or 2.0 standard. This means the signal is optimised for the mouse and you get better performance, however, it will not work with my built-in bluetooth so I still need a dongle. b) with a dongle you can hook your fancy mouse up to any computer not just your bluetooth enabled laptop. This is handy if you are going to an area with no wifi and you are forced to use an internet cafe with horrible mouseball mice that just make you want to scream. Or if you want to use it for both desktop and laptop. As most bluetooth mice ship with a dongle too you can probably do this anyway

If you decide to go the dongle route the ultimate laptop mouse would be the Logitech vx Revolution. It's fast, reliable, has great range, lots of handy extra buttons and scrolling for quick navigation. If you want to avoid the dongle or want more features the Microsoft Wireless Bluetooth Notebook Presenter Laser Mouse 8000 is fantastic. It combines mouse and presenter features and it conforms to bluetooth standards so does not require a dongle (although it comes with one).

I opted for the Microsoft mouse in the end and got it for only £39 (from ebuyer - includes £10 discount for using google checkout). It still hasn't arrived so I can't tell you what performance is like but the features are truly impressive. As a mouse it has the usual buttons left, right button, a 4way scroll wheel which also acts as the middle button. It has two additional buttons on the sides (likely for back and forward navigation) an additional 2 buttons on the top which I guess one triggers flip 3D in windows vista. Nothing too special so far but then you pick it up and it becomes a remote control - it can be used to flip through presentations, control music/movies etc. As it is done by bluetooth direct line of sight is not needed and with 2.4Ghz technology it has a range of over 30ft. It doesn't stop there, there is a laser pointer built-in so if you are hooked up to a projector in a meeting you can point with your mouse. The laser pointer is a great touch as I hate getting up in meetings and trying to point at something on the wall and then casting a shadow so it's hard to see what I'm pointing at anyway.

I'll try and add a list of links to the top 10 wireless mice here once I get to the airport (flying to Poland in a few hours). I'll try and use atlarge.com to find me some wifi.

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