In North America, the NFL Super Bowl is the penultimate final match for American “Gridiron” football. This also has the half-time entertainment with some big-time stars performing but it is also seen by the TV stations as the most valuable TV show there. It is thanks to many people watching it wherever they can on their TVs and this same football show ends up as a showcase of the best TV commercials that Americans have seen.
Most years I have highlighted and commented on consumer-technology ads that have appeared in this advertising showcase, incase you were overseas or were at a Super Bowl viewing party but missed that ad while reaching for that chicken wing or dipping those chips in that special dip. For example I had cited an ad for Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller with its focus on inclusive gaming.
This year, Logitech had joined the Super Bowl advertising showcase with an ad highlighting their current computer-peripheral product range in a creative context. Logitech is one of those brands I value due to their consistent use of Bluetooth as a wireless-connection option for all of their wireless input devices rather than just the dongle-based wireless approach. As well, the development of Darkfield technology has impressed me due to the ability to use suitably-equipped optical mice on glass surfaces.
Logitech had made so much money during 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus plague. This is due to them selling computer peripherals like mice like the MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse I have reviewed, keyboards and Webcams for us to equip our home offices with. For example, a lot of these devices would have been used to build out a desktop workspace for that laptop as mentioned in this HomeNetworking01.info article. Some of the pundits were evens saying that Logitech could even produce and run a Super Bowl ad on the back of their profits of these sales.
The Super Bowl ad carved out a message about determination in the face of what may be perceived as logic. This may be due to Lil Nas X (Wikipedia article) and his life including coming out as gay and hitting out against homophobia in hip-hop music, or fusing country-and-western music with elements of the hip-hop style especially rapping.
The vision in the ad underscored the use of a wide range of Logitech input devices like mice, styluses and keyboards with differing computing devices for creative purposes. There wasn’t any highlighting of certain products within their latest product lineup but it was about showing the whole lineup working together.
It is showing a distinctive direction for tech-focused advertising where the technology is for use by everybody no matter who they are, along with the idea of running these campaigns during key sports events where everyone would be watching.
As part of a gradual upgrade to a new workspace centred around my new Dell XPS 13 laptop, I have decided to buy a Logitech MX Anywhere 3 Bluetooth mouse. This is a very small portable mouse that is pitched for laptop use while on the road.
This mouse connects to the host computer via a USB-A “Unifying” receiver dongle. But it can connect to a Bluetooth-capable host, presenting itself as a Bluetooth human-interface device, which is the method I have preferred. This means that if your computer is equipped for Bluetooth like most laptops, all-in-ones and some low-profile desktops are, you don’t need to worry about using or losing a USB receiver dongle. That is infact a feature I look for with wireless mice and keyboards for that reason.
Low profile mouse
The setup routine for the Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse was very quick especially when I was wanting to use it via Bluetooth. Here, this was about pressing a button underneath the mouse to make it discoverable then having your Bluetooth host device “find” a new device in the form of this mouse, whereupon you select that device using the host device’s user interface.
Button underneath to select which host device the mouse works with or instigate Bluetooth pairing
Windows 10 even led me to download the Logitech companion software that provides extra functionality for the mouse. This software even showed me the features of this mouse and what I can set it up for including working across two different computers.
It also supports three-host operation so you can use it with three different host devices, no matter the platform. This will please those of us who run two or more computers or similar devices and want to use a mouse with them. A button underneath the mouse exists to select between the three different host devices you have set it up to work with.
Able to work on a glass table thanks to Logitech’s Darkfield tracking technology
This MX Anywhere mouse uses Logitech’s Darkfield optical technology which allows the mouse to work with glass surfaces like . That is compared to most optical-mouse technologies where they don’t work reliably with glass surfaces, be they having a glass top across an opaque material under that surface or them having a glass pane as the table or desk top. I have tested it with a glass coffee table which just has a glass top and have found that it works when I move it on the glass surface.
It is a very shallow compact mouse which fits under an adult’s palm easily. This also means that it can be stowed in your laptop bag or briefcase without taking up much room, making it more travel-friendly.
Scroll wheel and switch to select detented or smooth operation
The mouse’s scroll wheel has the feel of a Swiss watch’s crown and can provide a smooth feel or a detented “click-click-click” feel. This can be determined you you pressing a “mode shift” button on top of the mouse near the scroll wheel. There are also two buttons for horizontal scrolling or other functions you determine using the Logitech companion app.
USB-C socket to charge your Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse
The Logitech MX Anywhere mouse is powered by internal rechargeable batteries which means you don’t have to worry about buying many AA or AAA Duracells to keep it going. Here, you connect the mouse to a USB charger via its USB-C socket and it comes with a USB-A to USB-C cable for this purpose if you use existing USB chargers.
Here, I have found that I could get a few days of significant use out of the mouse before I needed to charge it up again. Then it takes just a few hours to charge it up. You may find that charging your mouse for the duration of, say, a lunch break may be good enough to get it back in order for the rest of your workday.
Limitations and points of improvement
I would like to see Logitech and others who offer input devices like the MX Anywhere mouse that are charged via USB to take this connection further. If the peripheral uses a USB-C socket, it could support full Power-Delivery compliance to allow for quick charging.
As well, the USB connection could permit wired operation so, in the case of this mouse, it can work as an ordinary wired mouse. That arrangement may be seen as being relevant where wireless operation of input devices is not really desired such as in aircraft or with secure workstations where use of wireless devices isn’t desired. It can also simply be a way to keep the mouse useful to you if the battery dies out while you are working.
If you are travelling with the Logitech MX Anywhere mouse, it is a good idea to make sure it is properly turned off using the slide switch when you have it packed in your laptop luggage. You then turn the Bluetooth mouse on when you intend to use it.
This avoids the risk of the battery depleting suddenly while you are travelling and you having to end up charging it before you intend to use it.
The small size and the use of Darkfield glass-compatible tracking technology makes the Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse a highly-capable laptop mouse. Here, you are not worried about what kind of surface you will end up resting that laptop on and using this mouse with when you head out and about.
Apple and Google have put up a simplified Bluetooth pair-up approach for commissioning newly-purchased Bluetooth headsets and other accessory devices with host devices based on their mobile operating systems.
This approach has the Bluetooth device sending out a short range “beacon” to compliant host devices, causing them to pop up a notification inviting the user to instigate the pair-up procedure. Google even had the ability to invite users to download and install any companion apps for devices designed with the “app-cessory” approach.
It is rather than having the user head to the Bluetooth menu on their host device and to make sure they choose the Bluetooth peripheral device they intend to pair to. This can be arduous where Bluetooth device names appear to be very confusing such as to only show a model number or the device is being set up in an area where other Bluetooth devices are being setup to be discoverable such as “always ready to pair” default setups like Alpine car stereos.
Now Microsoft is working on similar functionality that will appear in the next or subsequent feature release of Windows 10. In this case, Windows users will have the ability to enable or disable this feature and the notifications will appear as pop-up messages.
.. to make these easy to set up
The Windows 10 host computer would need to be equipped with a Bluetooth interface compliant to Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart) standards for this function to work. It effectively makes the user experience for Bluetooth devices very similar to the “plug-and-play” experience that Microsoft achieved for peripherals directly connected to a Windows host computer.
Why would I suspect that a user be required to put a “fast-pair” Bluetooth device in setup mode?
One reason that I would see some manufacturers require a user to place a “fast-pair” Bluetooth peripheral device in a setup mode or specifically enable this feature on that device would be to conserve battery runtime on a portable device. Here, having a device broadcasting the beacon signal all the time may be taking power away from the device’s main functionality thus shortening the battery’s runtime.
It could also be a device security requirement to cater for environments where multiple compliant host devices are likely to exist and you want to make sure that your accessory device isn’t ending up pairing to someone else’s host device. It is an important issue with health and allied devices like fitness bands which work with your smartphone and these devices are dealing with very personal information. This can also be a user-experience issue regarding pop-up notificatiosn for other users’ devices.
What is showing up now is that a simplified user experience is being made available whenever you are commissioning a newer Bluetooth device.
The Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth Headphone Adaptor – OLED display to show time or details about what’s playing like the SteelSeries Rival 700 gaming mouse
Regular readers may have read my review of the Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headphone audio adaptor which implements a monochrome OLED display to show the time or metadata about what what’s playing. Sony has also implemented this concept in a few previous personal-audio players as well as this Bluetooth headphone adaptor because of the fact that this display technology doesn’t take up much room in the device itself and could be best described as a “VFD display for battery devices” where it offers the same brightness as a vacuum fluorescent display while drawing minimal current.
SteelSeries Rival 700 gaming mouse – OLED display
SteelSeries have taken this further by implementing a user-customisable OLED display on the Rival 700 gaming mouse. Here, this mouse uses a special program to copy over game stats or a user-defined logo to appear on the display courtesy of the USB connection. Here, it is proving the idea that an OLED display can earn its keep on a small portable device even if the device is powered from another host device.
The Rival 700 gaming mouse also implements tactile feedback during gameplay so you can benefit from that convincing game effect but it is achieved in a manner to avoid disturbing your gameplay. As well, the mouse is designed for increased durability so you can subject it to intense gameplay or office work and SteelSeries offer it as something to equip your gaming rig or workstation for AUD$100.
Bluetooth could be the preferred way to go for all wireless keyboard and mice applications
A lot of wireless mice and keyboards offered at affordable prices and pitched for use with desktop computers are implementing a proprietary wireless setup which requires them to use a special USB transceiver dongle.
This is compared to some wireless mice, keyboards and games controllers that are offered for laptops and tablets where they have integral Bluetooth support. This is because the laptop and tablet computers are the main computers that come with Bluetooth on board. It is compared to desktops, mainly traditional “three-piece” desktops, that don’t have this feature and require the use of a USB Bluetooth dongle to gain Bluetooth connectivity.
The typical easy-to-lose dongle that comes with most wireless mice
A reality that is coming crystal clear is that the laptop computer along with the all-in-one desktop computer is being seen as a viable alternative to the traditional “three-piece” desktop computer for one’s main computing device. This is underscored with laptops that are taken between work and home along with myself seeing quite a few computer setups where a laptop computer is hooked up to a traditional keyboard and mouse and one or two desktop-grade monitors. Some of these setups even run the laptop’s screen as part of a multi-screen setup.
Bluetooth shouldn’t just be for mobile keyboards
To the same extent, most of the “all-in-one” desktops are being equipped with Bluetooth functionality as a matter of course. This is more so where the goal is to compete with the Apple iMac range of “all-in-ones” or make this class of computer more impressive.
It also applies to a significant number of low-profile desktop computers that are being equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This is to maintain their appeal for desktop-class computing that conveys a sense of elegance in this day and age. A good example of this would be the Intel “Next Unit of Computing” midget computers and similarly-designed computers which are about small size.
The Bluetooth advantage does away with the need to install a USB wireless dongle for that wireless keyboard or mouse or the risk of losing one of these dongles. For traditional desktop users, they can use and keep one Bluetooth dongle which works well if you want to move a Bluetooth keyboard and/or mouse between a secondary laptop and the desktop computer. Similarly the same Bluetooth dongle can support multiple devices like a keyboard, mouse, game controller and multipoint-capable Bluetooth headset.
The gap I am drawing attention to is the lack of traditional-sized keyboards, trackballs and mice fit for use with desktop computers, including novelty mice like the “model-car” mice, that work using Bluetooth. Manufacturers could offer a range of traditional-sized input devices that work with Bluetooth, preferably having Bluetooth LE (Smart) support, as part of their product ranges to cater for laptop-based and all-in-one-based personal computing setups.
Having Bluetooth LE (Smart) support would benefit this class of device because users shouldn’t need to be changing the peripherals’ batteries frequently which is something that can affect Bluetooth setups.
As well, there can be an effort towards improving responsiveness for Bluetooth keyboards, mice and games controllers to maintain Bluetooth’s appeal to the gaming community. Here, this would also be about working with other Bluetooth device clusters such as in a LAN-party environment where toe goal for gamers is to frag each other out rather than being “trampled on” by the enemy.
What really should be looked at is to standardise on Bluetooth as a way to wirelessly connect input devices like keyboards and mice to computer equipment.
Work needs to be done to make it easier for left-handed and right-handed users to use the same computer
A feature that I notice is sorely missing from Windows is the ability to switch between left-handed and right-hand use of the mouse without having to go to the Control Panel and select the Mouse option there.
It would be OK for a person who has a normal hand to “switch” the computer to work to their hand using this method, but would be difficult in some circumstances.
One of these circumstances would be where a computer is shared amongst multiple users with one of the users being left-handed and others being right-handed. Examples of these include workplace, school or public-access computers or computers shared amongst members of a household including houseguests such as the common “his ‘n’ hers” setup.
Mouse Control Panel dialog – Windows 7
Another circumstance is where a user has to switch between left-handed and right-handed operation as part of a physiotherapy requirement for their hands or simply to keep their hands supple. It is something that is becoming common with older people who want to stay active with their hands.
But having to head to the Control Panel or similar preference settings in your operating system each time you have to do this can bewilder people who don’t have much confidence with technology.
There are ways that Apple, Microsoft and the open-source community could facilitate this.
What are the possible solutions?
One would be to use something like a hot-key combination or a simultaneous-mouse-button combination to switch between the operating modes. This could be an option that one could enable in the preferences settings for the pointing devices.
Having this feature would earn its keep with shared computers, workplace computers and public-access computers because users only need to press a certain key combination or operate the mouse buttons in a certain way to “switch hands”. It would also earn its keep with users who find navigating dialog boxes very bewildering and intimidating.
Another way that could work even better would be to set the operating mode for different pointing devices. Here, you could have two mice connected with one sitting on the left hand side of the keyboard and one on the right hand side. Or you could resolve to use your laptop’s integrated trackpad as a “left-hand” device and a Bluetooth mouse as a “right-hand” device or vice versa. Here, you could set one device to be left-handed while another device is right-handed.
Some laptops like some of the Toshiba / Dynabook business-laptop range and a significant number of Lenovo ThinkPads implement two pointing devices. One is in the form of the thumbstick mounted on the keyboard while the other is the trackpad below the keyboard. In these cases, there is a separate set of “select” buttons for each of these pointing devices. Here, having pointing-device-specific hand-selection as outlined here would come in to its own with these computers so you could have the thumbstick set for right-hand use and the trackpad for left-hand use.
This function is supported by some desktop Linux distributions but isn’t supported on Windows or Mac OS X. But there is a third-party free utility that can support this in the form of EitherMouse which supports multiple pointing devices in use at the same time with different settings. This can cater also for users who are slow with trackballs and trackpads but quick with mice.
How can this be done better?
Having to use add-on programs to achieve this goal can become awkward, especially when it comes to computer performance and stability and operating systems could go better by baking this kind of functionality in to their pointing-device code.
As well, some computer users and IT departments don’t have confidence in the use of add-on programs because of the fact that these programs can be poorly written or can contain questionable code that can jeopardise computer stability and security. This is more so with those of us who had passed through the “bulletin-board” / “download-site” / “CD-ROM” era of computing where there was a lot of poor-quality software for download.
Rather, operating system developers could write this functionality in to a subsequent version of their products to answer these needs more effectively and especially cater towards older users who are still using today’s technology.
I have been given a chance to review an advance sample of the ZCan+ scanner mouse. This is a USB-connected mouse that works also as a convenience scanner using an integrated digital camera and supplied software.
There is a variant of the ZCan mouse that is coming soon and will implement Wi-Fi Direct connectivity and software for smartphones and tablets that run the mobile operating environments.
The ZCan+ Mouse itself
The Zcan+ Mouse works properly as a USB-connected plug-and-play three-button scroll mouse using the standard operating-system drivers and configuration options.
Where the scanning takes place in the ZCan+ scanner mouse
But as a scanner, this works in a manner that is totally different to early-generation handheld scanners which worked on a “line-by-line” basis. You have to install a special program on your Windows or Macintosh computer from a supplied DVD or download the program from the manufacturer’s Website listed in the instruction manual if your computer doesn’t have an optical drive. This software is important because when you scan with this mouse, it “stitches” the images taken with the mouse’s camera together in a similar vein to the software you may use to create “panorama” photos with your digital camera.
You have to connect the ZCan+ mouse directly to your computer’s USB ports rather than via a bus-powered USB hub or a keyboard that has USB sockets especially if you want to use the scanner functionality. This is because the scanner functionality demands more power than if the device is just working as a mouse.
Screen-grab during my scanning of a business card
To start scanning, you press the illuminated blue button on the mouse and drag it over the item you want to scan in a zig-zag motion. When you press that illuminated blue button, the software will start and show the object on the screen. It will also highlight areas you need to re-scan if you missed parts of them. Once you stop scanning, you have the ability to crop the area you scanned and it makes it easier to identify the area to crop. The resultant images are shown as high-resolution images which would please anyone who is doing desktop publishing, wants to print the images or work with them on high-resolution displays.
You can save what you scanned as a JPEG, PNG or PDF image file or use the software to “read the text” to save as a Word document, text document or Excel spreadsheet.
ZCan application with scanned business card
It works well with scanning small areas like newspaper articles, snapshot photos, till receipts and the like and can even scan actual object surfaces very well. But I wouldn’t ask it to work a complete A4 or Letter page because you can find you end up with a messy scanning result as I have tried for myself after scanning a magazine page.
The OCR function only works with images you have created with the ZCan+ scanner and works properly when you have the document held still such as having it in the “scanner mat”. As well, the software has the ability to use Google Translate to allow you to translate printed text to another language. The software also supports direct “in-place” sharing to Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote and Flickr along with the ability to “read” QR codes. This function is so useful if you use a regular desktop or laptop computer and want to “delve in to” that link in a newspaper or magazine that is represented as a QR code using that computer.
Where do I see this scanner mouse fit in?
I see the scanner mouse work as a “convenience” scanner for whenever you are targeting small items. For example, I would use it for scanning business cards so I can get the contact details in to Outlook, scan till receipts as PDF files for expense-claim purposes, scan snapshots to JPEG image files to send to someone or share using Dropbox or Facebook, or transcribe newspaper and magazine articles. People who dabble with various hobbies or crafts may find the ZCan+ useful for scanning a pattern from clothing, soft-furnishings or similar items that they like to save as a JPEG image for “taking further” in the digital space.
It wouldn’t really replace the regular A4 desktop scanner or the multifunction printer’s scanning function for scanning most business documents or newspaper articles that cover an A4 or similar-sized sheet.
Point of improvement
The ZCan+ scanner mouse could implement a setup method that I have seen with some USB 3G modems or with some HP printers that I have reviewed in order to make it easier to install on computers that neither have an optical drive nor access to an Internet connection. This is where the device contains the necessary software on memory integrated in the device and exposed to the computer as if it is a USB memory stick.
Similarly, it could use a TWAIN or WIA scanning application interface so it can work as a scanner for third-party applications like a lot of graphics and image-management packages.
Conclusion – Is the ZCan+ a tool or a toy?
I would call the ZCan+ scanner mouse a tool for supplementary or convenience scanning needs when handling small documents.
This device will strongly appeal to the traveller with a Windows or Macintosh-based laptop or tablet who is scanning business cards, receipts, images, etc; business or home computing applications where you want to quickly scan small objects and documents but find the regular scanner in “all-in-one” unwieldy or unsuitable for the job, and people who are involved with genealogy and want to scan family snapshot photos or small documents for archival purposes.
The “two-in-one” ability of a convenience scanner and a mouse would strongly appeal to laptop users who like the regular mouse over the touch-pad as their pointing device, along with the highlighted convenience scanning feature.
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