You can imagine my sheer excitement, then, when Logitech announced this latest product a few weeks ago. The M570 is the modern, bona-fide wireless version of the good-old Trackman Wheel. Today, I have one here to show off, and I can tell you it's every bit as good as it looks!
PROS: No more cords(!!!), same comfort/ergonomics as wired model, long-lasting battery, RF dongle works with other Logitech devices, customizable buttons, perfect for notebook users on the go, great HTPC accessory
CONS: Availability questionable, bluetooth would have been a nice option, microswitches used sparingly, don't lose that dongle
For roughly 6 years now, I've faithfully stuck with my Logitech Trackman Wheel trackball as my input accessory for all my notebooks and netbooks. I just wouldn't want to use any other device, especially considering how much more I get from this trackball versus anything else. Precision, comfort, ergonomics, performance - it's grown on me. So much so that I would be seriously handicapped today without it.
But as notebooks have shown, cutting the cord is now common place, and with wireless mice now standard fare, I was yearning for the same modern convenience from my trackball. Indeed, the lack of a cordless model has more than often kept me from toting my trackball on the go. With the M570, that cordless freedom and convenience finally becomes a reality.
Many question why there's a need for a cordless trackball at all, especially since it's used still. Obviously, those doubters aren't notebook users on the move like I am who need something they can easily take along and use on the go. For those that missed the newsflash - mobility means no wires! As any seasoned notebook veteran will tell you, wires and cords can be a pain to constantly deal with. The same reasons I prefer to connect my smartphone to my notebook wirelessly via bluetooth instead of using a USB cable, and use wifi for internet versus plugging in an Ethernet cable, applies to trackballs as well. Cables hog precious space in your gear bag, they become tangled, add weight, are a nuisance to carry and have a tendency to get caught on everything that comes near them. When you're on the go, wireless is more than just about convenience, it's about mobility, and for notebook and netbook users in particular, that mobility (or lack of) can become a prime importance.
But wireless trackballs have other nifty uses besides serving those on the move with a notebook. Home Theatre PC aficionados in particular have long-wanted an easy way to navigate their media center's without resorting to a tableside mouse next to their sofa. While programmable remotes and compact wireless keyboards can only go so far, a trackball permits full use of the Windows desktop, allowing complete cursor control for menu navigation, text selection and window dragging/resizing - things that are impossible to do with buttons alone. And since a wireless trackball requires no space to work and no flat surface, you can rest your arm in comfort while you lean back in your ultraleather sofa browsing your media library, without any wires dangling off your furniture.
In the worst case, cables can break, rendering your device useless. I've in fact had to replace the USB cable on my Trackman Wheel once already because of a signal issue - the result of frequent handling and bending over the years. It's also a known that USB extension cables don't always work with all devices. Thanks to wireless though, both these problems become a thing of the past, helping improve reliability and extending the usefulness.
|The box you need to look for|
The other immediate difference is the addition of a forward and back button adjacent to the left mouse button. These work great for browsing, and while they do take a little time to get used to (for previous Trackman users anyway) they are a great addition to have because of their ability to be customized for whatever software you may be using. I'm talking image-manipulation software, CAD/CAM, gaming, and other applications where trackballs have already proven themselves. With the addition of two exclusive fully-programmable buttons, trackball users get functionality unlike anything previously available.
The ball on the M570 is identical in size to the red ball on my Trackman Wheel - except you cannot interchange them for use. That's because while the old wired model used optical tracking, the M570 employs a laser. And the blue ball in the M570 has much finer texture than the black dots on the old red ball. In fact, if you place the red ball in the M570, it will track much slower than with the blue ball, while the blue ball won't work at all with the corded model.
Logitech's SetPoint 6.15.6 software is where you customize your trackball buttons and make other settings to the M570. Out of the box, you won't be needing it since the M570 works great as it is. But if you want to add functionality to your buttons, change the pointer speed/acceleration, or enable gaming settings, you'll need to download the software from Logitech's website. You'll find 32 and 64-bit versions for both Vista and Windows 7, alongside OS X and Windows XP. A small notification icon runs in the lower right for one-click access.
For tailoring button functions to your software, you simply add the software to a program list. For each program, you have options to set the back/forward buttons as well as the middle click on the scroll wheel. These settings can be anything from a cut/copy/paste command, page up/down, double-click, redo/undo or a custom keystroke string such as CTRL+ALT+Y. The customization possibilities can be anything your software allows.
For the mobile road warrior in particular, the software monitors the battery usage in the M570, letting you know much charge you have left in the battery, shown in either days or percent. Although with 548 days reported charge remaining in my single AA Duracell, you'll probably only be keeping an eye on it once every 18 months. If you don't have the software installed, or your notebook happens to be turned off, there's a small LED on the front that will blink once battery power gets low.
|Detailed adjustments for your gaming|
Finally, Logitech did a great job adding an on/off switch on the bottom of the M570. As well as conserving the battery when not in use, it prevents your trackball from waking up your computer. Very many times while moving around I would pick up my Trackman Wheel, accidentally hit one of the buttons, and my notebook would come out of sleep and power on. Now that I can turn my trackball off when I'm done, I can comfortably grab the thing when moving around and not worry about my notebook waking up. Also, when you turn it on, a small LED on the front will glow solid for 10 seconds so you know the trackball is working - nice touch!
The left/right buttons and scroll wheel detents all work and feel identical to the wired version. There's just a tiny bit extra friction on the scroll wheel, but I'm guessing that will go away over time as it gets broken in. The only major difference I've noticed yet is the middle-click on the scroll wheel is much louder and harder than it should be. On my old wired trackball, the scroll wheel clicks the same as the left/right buttons, which is soft and quiet.
Keeping the M570 clean is easy. Like the wired model, the large ball pops out letting you dislodge any crud from around the three small support ball bearings. One small difference is that the laser sensor is uncovered, letting stuff accumulate inside, but a can of compressed air can remedy that. I'm actually curious why Logitech didn't cover this area like the optical sensor is on the wired model. The outside itself is easier to clean than the wired model since the redesign has eliminated the silicone pad over part of the palm rest area that accumulated build-up very frequently.
As for the dongle, there's a small recess in the bottom underneath the battery door where you can store it if you need to unplug it from your notebook. I'm not sure how Logitech would handle replacement of a lost dongle, but since it's cross-compatible with their other wireless devices, a 2nd dongle from a keyboard or number pad should work with the M570.
One of the things I and many others hate when it comes to tech products are paper launches. With all the hoopla Logitech created across the web with the M570 announcement last month, availability has been so far nonexistent. It was by pure accident I found it on sale at my local Best Buy for $49 and bolted out the store with it. Message to manufacturers - if your news release mentions current availability, I expect to see it or buy it next day!
A more pressing question on my mind was why Logitech didn't go with a bluetooth version. For me, bluetooth is already a requirement when it comes to connecting my smartphone with my notebook/netbook - I refuse to carry a USB cable! Since it requires no dongle and is built-in to so many notebooks these days, bluetooth would have worked well for pairing a wireless trackball. But as critics chiming in would note, bluetooth does eat through batteries fairly quickly and does not have the latency of RF or operate at the same range - factors that are more relevant when it comes to using a mouse/trackball. Sure, the small dongle does take up a precious USB port, but so would a bluetooth dongle for a HTPC, and Logitech's RF dongle at least works with their other wireless devices too. Running around with it all day, yes, it may mean you need to remove it and store it constantly, but if that's the trade-off for bulletproof wireless operation, then so be it.
You still might want to keep in the back of your head the possibility of bricking your trackball if you inadvertently lose that dongle. It happens all too often, and while the manufacturer may offer replacements within the warranty period (3 years), there's no guarantee they will sell you one six years out!!! From what I can tell, Logitech doesn't specifically mention their position towards providing replacement dongles, nor is it highlighted anywhere in the terms of the warranty (gotta love the fine print!). Yet addressing this key omission would do a lot not only for consumer confidence, but exemplify the company's reputation. Perhaps if Logitech listed the dongle as a wireless accessory on their product page, along with an MSRP, concerned users could purchase a spare up front, while those in dire straits would find relief knowing a replacement is readily available. On the other hand, this might never even become an issue for you!
Finally, I have to address one notable observation with regards to the internals on the M570, more specifically the scroll wheel and the lack of microswitches. On my old Trackman Wheel, the left/right button and scroll wheel all had them, and still work flawlessly to this day. I'm estimating over the six years I've been using it I've logged well over 6 million clicks, proof enough about their durability. On the M570, however, only the left/right buttons are given microswitches - the scroll wheel and forward/back buttons use the inferior contact pad. How these will hold up over time I cannot tell, but I have to question this evident backward step from the previous PCB design, especially considering the high demands this trackball will be put under by serious users. It's not as if the manufacturer saved themselves a buck or two either because microswitches have been common-place for decades. And even if it's working fine new out of the box, we'll see in six year's time if Logitech have done their homework, as they claim, or merely cut corners with reliability.
This device rocks!!! It took me all of 5 seconds to get comfortable with the M570. Moving over from the wired Trackman Wheel has been effortless, yet the absence of dealing with a USB cable has been profound. As I cannot stress enough, the luxury of not having to deal with wires while on the go is priceless. If you're a heavy notebook user, this wireless trackball is for you, and if you are a dedicated trackball fan, your nirvana moment has come!
Users not accustomed to the M570 may take a while to get used to it's thumb-and-ball operation. But the unmatched comfort, ergonomics, performance and precision will win-over the harshest of critics, while putting even the most expensive mice to shame. With the addition of wireless capability and fully-customizable buttons, the M570 becomes the killer trackball to get and possibly one of the best input devices ever made in the last 15 years. I will even go so far as to say that you are punishing yourself if you don't give this trackball a serious try.
Put simply, the Logitech M570 wireless trackball gets the lgpOnTheMove Best Accessory Award.