Logitech’s G500: All thumbs

My love affair with Logitech products goes back for decades now. I have always adored their sense of  style, of quality. If peripherals were cars, Logitech keyboards were Maybachs, their mice, Ferraris.  In a tradition I still follow today, the first thing I do if I buy a pre-built PC is to replace all the plastic attachments with Logitech gizmos. For me, ninety-nine percent of computing is virtual, but that one percent, that last one percent, represents the interface between me and my machine and many PC manufacturers vastly under-appreciate it. Not Logitech.

The mix of quality and style seen in their devices is really unsurprising given that the company was born out of a business alliance between a Swiss and an Italian computer science grads who were friends at Standford back in the late 70′s. The two raised millions of dollars in seed money and in 1982 they unveiled the P4 mouse.  In ’85 came the C7, the company’s first after-market mouse. Steve Jobs spotted them soon after and they were asked to provide mice for the up-coming Mac. The company showed a tremendous amount of business savvy in the 90′s and moved most of its manufacturing to Suzhou, China. It’s engineering is centered in Fremont, Ca., along with groups in Switzerland, Taiwan, Vancouver, Washington and one in Toronto, Canada. The company generates revenue close to 1.8B a year.

MX510 – Mouse Love

The mice that come out of Logitech today are certainly vast improvements over the $99 P4 that debuted back in the early 80′s, but for me, none can beat the MX510. It was the first exceptional gaming mouse I ever owned. Bought back in 2006, I used it in countless scrims and pubs and is responsible for literally tens of thousands of frags. The MX510 here in North America came in Italian-racing red and had a holographic finish that was unique to each mouse. It was an optical mouse, came with 12-bit data paths and capable of 15g (that’s 7g’s more than an F-18 Hornet can handle). Two years ago, the MX510′s teflon feet peeled off, but I replaced them with bits of the slippery material from a craft store and nowadays, the old girl, is still clicking strong.

The 510 was an ergonomic revelation. Merely holding it in the palm of your hand was a sexual experience and its  looks only added to the overall feel. With two thumb actuated buttons, a robust scroll wheel flanked by heavy duty left and right paddles, it was design perfection.

The G5

A few years ago, seeing it covered in battle scars, I came to realize that I needed to give my beloved MX510 a rest, I put it out to stud and bought myself the newest Logitech mouse, the G5. I had just started playing the state-of-art shooter Battlefield Bad Company 2 and I felt I need a state-of-the-art mouse to go along with it.

A 2000 dpi mouse, with on-the-fly sensitivity controls and a variable weighted cartridge was the ticket. I remember everyone raving about this mouse. PC Magazine said it was the best mouse ever.

Talk about high-tech, the G5 used lasers. Frickin lasers! This was not merely a mouse, it was a light saber.

But while the MX510 was a workhorse, the G5 was a skittish thoroughbred. Though it lasted me through two years of BFBC2, a few months of Black Ops and a month or so of A.V.A., I recently had to put the G5 to sleep — permanent like, if you know what I mean. You see, it had an Achilles Heel: it’s chord. While the MX510 had a rubber-covered chord, the Logitech designers felt that they needed a slimmer, cleaner look. They chose to sheath the G5′s data cable with braided cloth. The cloth was slipperier than rubber and helped to prevent kinks and was supposedly less prone to wear. Unfortunately, the chord was far too stiff and the braid quickly ripped. With the loss of the stiff braid, the wires in the cable snapped and the mouse kept losing connection. This was a common problem with G5 owners as a quick Google of “wire” and “G5″ will demonstrate.

I cannot count the number of times I was caught with a dead mouse mid-game in A.V.A. I fly around the corner ready to blast some away and…a little melody from my computer would sound “boo-boop”, to tell me there’s a USB interrupt. The mouse would go dead, only to “wake-up” a few seconds later. But by then I’d be dead too. Sadly, something had to be done and I did it. The mouse is now in a landfill somewhere in Michigan (Toronto exports its garbage there. Thanks Detroit!).

The G500

With the loss of the G5, I looked around and decided to buy a year old product, the G500. While Logitech’s latest Call of Duty-inspired G9X looked sharp, I couldn’t bear the thought of having to stare at that ugly green MW3 logo painted on it when I played. As well, the idea that some of my money would go to help pay for Bobby Kotick’s salary put a nail in that plan.

The G500 looked similar to the G5 and it had good reviews in the gaming press. It had a staggering 5700 dpi, a fly-wheel middle button and you could save multiple config profiles for the mouse using Logitech’s Setpoint software.

Awesome –except for one thing. When I got the darned thing home, I realized that the middle and right-mouse button produced the same effect when clicked, regardless of how you programmed the mouse. I wasn’t the only one to spot this glitch, but the only intelligent thing I could find on the subject was written in a small thread on Logitech’s forums: link.  This was a flaw in the hardware and couldn’t be fixed by a driver update.

While the hardware problem had all my initial attention, I then noticed that the G500 now sported five buttons that were thumb activated. Now, my thumb is as fat as most human thumbs and the probability of me accurately activating these tiny switches on the G500 was as likely as me playing Little Wing with my toes. Now, try doing so in the heat of combat. It’s no wonder that one of the best reviewers of this mouse wrote this critique over at Gizmodo — how did I miss that article when I was looking to buy the mouse in the first place!

Logitech needs to re-examine the gamer-mouse interface, because G500-aside, we aren’t all thumbs.

Add to these troubles the fact that Setpoint, the configuration software that comes with Logitech peripherals, has more conflicts than the Balkans and you get a sub-par mouse.

Great Customer Service

Fortunately for me, I decided to peer inside the hard copy warranty that came with the mouse and it alerted me to their Customer Service’s toll-free number.  A quick call to the nice staff at Logitech’s help desk and four days later I had a brand new, fully-functioning, G500 sitting on my front porch thanks to both Logitech and UPS. Wonky mouse, but great customer service.

Stuff Happens

I can chalk up the hardware glitch that caused the button malfunction as a manufacturing screw up, you know,  “stuff” happens when you’ve made well over seven hundred million mice.  I can even understand how the Setpoint software can fail to operate properly, after all, there’s a ton of things that can go wrong in software. What I cannot understand is how Logitech got the ergonomics on the G500 wrong. That cluster of thumb-side buttons is ridiculous and the critic at Gizmodo nailed it on the head, “this mouse can get you killed.”

For a company whose products oozed style and an engineering staff that easily managed form and function, the G500 seems to depart from the norm. It is clumsy and overly complex. From a design point-of-view, it is nowhere near the MX510. While the G500 is still a good gaming mouse, it’s accurate, silky smooth and still exciting to fondle, I’m disappointed that crucial design details were missed. Perhaps the G500 is a metaphor for what has been going on at Logitech lately. The company has gone through poor quarters and recently, their CEO had to step aside. The bad luck continues with their current CEO  admitting defeat and pulling out of  Google TV this week.

I don’t know what has been going on with this company but I for one think that things will only stabilize when they refocus their efforts on what they used to do best, create great computer peripherals.

By the way, the new G9X seems to be a step in the right direction…then again, that braided cord is still there.

While the G500 isn’t a total failure in my eyes, there have been products that Logitech considered so in theirs. Here is a list of them: Mice that didn’t Leave Logitech Labs

 

 

Let us know what you think of Logitech and their products below.

 

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