Review: Logitech MX Anywhere 2 does multi-device mousing right

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Gizmag reviews Logitech's latest mobile mouse, the MX Anywhere 2(Credit: Stanley Goodner/Gizmag.com)

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Despite the rise of touchscreens, for many people the humble mouse remains the primary computing input device, requiring the right amount of comfort and precision for the user. Just as with tools in the garage or utensils in the kitchen, quality makes a big difference on overall experience. We give the Logitech MX Anywhere 2 mouse a spin, click, and scroll to see how it handles.

Design & Connectivity

The Logitech MX Anywhere 2 mouse boasts svelte curves and a black satin finish. A touch of chrome on the scroll wheel adds a bright focal point, while the textured sides provide equal measures of visual appeal and function. Four smooth "feet" on the bottom of the MX Anywhere 2 let the mouse practically glide over flat surfaces. A micro USB charge port is located at the front, and controls for power, Bluetooth, and device-switching are found on the belly.

Those accustomed to having a mouse’s scroll wheel function as a button may feel a little disappointed as the MX Anywhere 2's scroll wheel only toggles between free-scrolling and tactile-feedback scroll modes when pressed down until it clicks. Nudging it left or right also allows you to horizontally scroll documents or web pages. However, behind the scroll wheel is a button that can be programmed (with Logitech Options software) for any desired command. By default, this button is set to "gesture", which permits the mouse to pan around on a page instead of moving the cursor.

If it weren’t for the pair of thumb buttons on the left-hand side, the Logitech MX Anywhere 2 could be used with either hand as the overall shape is almost a mirror image through the center. It would be a bit awkward not having use of the side buttons, but at least they aren’t in the way. So, if you’re a leftie and are forced to use this mouse, you won't find it too uncomfortable.

Pairing with the MX Anywhere 2 is quick, either by itself via Bluetooth or with the included unifying 2.4 GHz Unifying Pico receiver. No separate drivers are needed and the software for customizing button layouts is optional. With the Easy-Switch button on the bottom, the MX Anywhere 2 can pair with and toggle between up to three separate devices. When the button is pressed and set to the next profile, the MX Anywhere 2 instantly seeks to pair with the relevant device.

Although pairing with the Pico receiver uses up one of the Easy-Switch profiles, the pint-sized USB receiver itself can handle up to six Logitech devices. Using the receiver is the easy way of moving multiple devices between Windows and Mac computers. It's small and ideal to keep plugged into a free USB port. Unlike some other Logitech input devices, the MX Anywhere 2 does not provide a compartment to store the receiver within the mouse itself.

The MX Anywhere 2 mouse is smart enough to put itself to sleep during periods of inactivity, taking only a second to wake up after being nudged. When cycling through the connected devices, you can expect the mouse to work within an instant after each switch. Add another second of wait-time after turning the MX Anywhere 2 on, but all in all this mouse is practically ready when you need it to be.

A small LED below the scroll wheel pulses red when the Logitech MX Anywhere 2 is getting low on power and needs a recharge. It doesn’t take long to fill back up, and you can charge and use the mouse at the same time.

Comfort

Logitech has mastered mouse comfort with the MX Anywhere 2, which is a darn close fit to the average hand’s neutral, slightly-cupped position despite being a mobile mouse. And since the mouse is so light, the wrist doesn’t have to leverage much force to move it.

The way the rear end of the MX Anywhere 2 curves down makes for a perfect palm fit. Mice with big booty, such as the Logitech M557, tend to elevate the hand. And that eventually leads to fatigue and sore wrists. The MX Anywhere 2 keeps wrists flat, raised just enough to cover the mouse with fingers and thumb resting comfortably. The streamlined shape is equally good for claw- or palm-grip (or combination thereof) styles of mouse-holding.

The MX Anywhere 2 certainly nails down size versus comfort for a mobile mouse. While there are slimmer, lighter mice out there, many of them come in an odd shape by sacrificing form for portability. Despite not being (primarily) meant as desktop gaming mouse, the MX Anywhere 2 does an admirable job for FPS (first person shooter) and RTS (real time strategy) games. Sure, it doesn’t have the array of buttons to customize for macros and control, but fluid movement and precision are spot-on.

Performance

Right out of the box, the MX Anywhere 2’s speed and accuracy are fantastic. Those who prefer to tweak the movement can do so by downloading and installing the Logitech Options software. The right and left click buttons deliver that wonderfully firm "mouse click" sound. Although good and clean, some people may consider it noisy if they’ve been accustomed to silent mice. The forward/back thumb buttons are practically mute, like a dull click you feel more than hear.

The big question many may be wondering about is the "phantom clicks" that the original MX Anywhere mouse tended to suffer. So far, the MX Anywhere 2 has always clicked as intended, never missing or doubling-up unintentionally. No fixes are necessary here, so it appears Logitech has listened to user feedback and addressed the issue.

Although requiring the occasional wipe-down to clear dirt and debris, the smooth pads provide mostly-silent mousing on surfaces. Since the MX Anywhere 2 is so light, controlling it feels very airy, responding to gentle movements. Initially, the scroll wheel feels a little loose with the side-to-side motion. "Different" is likely the most diplomatic adjective to describe it. But despite the bit of play in the wheel, it doesn’t take long to acclimate. And it is neither disruptive nor a nuisance for long-term use. The side tilting function of the scroll wheel delivers a faint click with each small nudge, and rarely (if ever) does the wheel scroll when it tilts.

With frictionless roll enabled, a single flick of the finger sends the wheel spinning, scrolling page over page for almost 10 seconds. That’s a lot of document that can be covered, ideal for Twitter feeds or Kickstarter project listings. In this mode the wheel is very sensitive, so even a light brush against it with your finger will unintentionally nudge the screen. But the wheel does stop on a dime, preventing any residual scrolling after the finger lifts up off it.

Pressing the wheel down in order to switch between tactile-feedback and frictionless rolling does nudge the screen just a tad. There’s no way to not have lines move when doing this, unfortunately. As for noise, the smooth roll of the wheel makes only the subtle sound of whirring bearings. The MX Anywhere 2’s thin clicks of ridged-scrolling are a touch noisier than some other Logitech mice, such as the M557. It sounds like a finger lightly running along the teeth of a straight comb, which may only bother those who prefer ninja-silent mice.

The button below the scroll wheel isn’t something you’d want set to a common function. It needs either a serious finger curl to poke or the moving of the index finger over in order to press down. The latter feels easier to perform, but it’s far more awkward. Considering the compact form versus the average-sized hand, this button may have been more successful located on the top side of the scroll wheel.

Courtesy of the device's Darkfield Laser sensor, tracking is smooth and precise, not unlike using a fine-tipped pen on a device’s screen. Countertops, wood tables, glossy magazines, glass desks, metal, couch cushions, clothing, and even bare skin make perfectly acceptable surfaces with which to use the Logitech MX Anywhere 2. Mousing also works on textured materials, such as thick-painted walls or carpeting. Keep in mind that uneven surfaces will throw off the mouse's accuracy and tracking. As long as the surface is smooth, the material doesn't really matter that much.

Battery Life

The battery life of the MX Anywhere 2 mouse is pretty good. While it doesn’t quite have the longevity of the Logitech Keys-to-Go keyboard (which users can easily forget needs charging due to the months upon months of uptime), it does well for itself. Light-to-moderate use will require charging about every eight weeks. Heavy users may need to charge monthly. The mouse takes only a few minutes of being plugged in to work for half an hour, and one can always charge and use the MX Anywhere 2 simultaneously.

Although the MX Anywhere 2 has a built-in battery, it's removable for safe recycling purposes. It could be possible to replace an old battery with a new one, but Logitech would have to provide replacements along with instructions. Some may balk at this mouse not having replaceable AA batteries like its predecessor, but if you do the math it’s not that big a deal.

The box states the MX Anywhere 2 mouse needs a full charge once every two months. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume we’re all power-users that charge monthly instead, so would go through 12 power cycles a year. Most rechargeable batteries claim a lifespan good for 500 cycles. But, again, for the sake of argument, let’s assume 250 cycles for peak performance. That crunches to 20 years and 10 months. Even half that number is an incredible amount of time to keep a mouse based on battery life, considering the likelihood of such gadgets being lost, broken, succumbing to natural methods of failure, or simply shelved because of a newer, shinier product release.

Logitech Options Software

Although optional, the Logitech Options software provides an easy means of reassigning the thumb buttons, scroll wheel tilt, and the gesture button, as well as adjusting the MX Anywhere 2 mouse pointer/scroll speed. Current button commands conveniently show when the mouse pointer hovers over the button highlight dot. You can also invert the scroll wheel as well as swap the primary left/right buttons.

Changes made with the Logitech Options software apply to the current Easy-Switch connection only. So if you decide to swap buttons and invert the scroll wheel with one profile, it won’t affect any of the others, and vice versa. Since the connection through the Pico receiver counts as a separate connection from Bluetooth by itself, one could have two different control layouts to use with the MX Anywhere 2 mouse. This only works on PC/laptops with USB ports and built in Bluetooth wireless.

Although the MX Anywhere 2 mouse itself doesn’t have a battery indicator, aside from the LED blinking red when low, the Logitech Options software does show a rough estimate via an icon at the bottom right of the program. By default, the software is set to notify users when the mouse’s battery life gets low, which is an added benefit when paired with a Mac or PC.

The Verdict

Logitech understands that modern consumers own multiple devices for entertainment and/or productivity. The MX Anywhere 2 mouse caters to the masses by providing cross-platform compatibility and Bluetooth connectivity with up to three separate devices. This mouse is practically plug-and-play right out of the box, ready to go, and since it’s so small and light, the MX Anywhere 2 is easy to pack in pockets, bags, or briefcases at a moment’s notice.

Unlike its predecessor, the MX Anywhere 2 features a built-in battery instead of relying on separate rechargeables. Not everyone will be happy with this aspect, despite Logitech’s assurances of longevity (the numbers bear this out, too). While quiet for your average mouse, the MX Anywhere 2 may not be silent enough for some. And even though it doesn’t affect operation, the slightly loose-feeling scroll wheel might give the overly picky something to nag about.

But if the minor quibbles are of little concern, the MX Anywhere 2 has the right kind of curves and snappy performance to keep hands happy. The cursor tracking movement is astoundingly smooth for a device this small, making it feel like a natural extension of your hand. And it just works. Those looking for a mouse that meshes performance and mobile portability should find that the US$79.99 MSRP for the Logitech MX Anywhere 2 is money well spent.

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