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Horizen Review : Hardware

Logitech Cordless Freedom Optical Mouse and Keyboard Duo

Wireless Keyboard and Optical Mouse Review

Platforms
Manufacturer Logitech : www.logitech.com.au
Product Page Click here
Review Date 18 Nov 2002
Reviewed By Mike Donato
RRP Price (Aus $) $249 inc GST
Warranty 5 Years
Rating 9 / 10 for PC • 5 / 10 for Mac OS 9 • 8 / 10 for Mac OS X

System requirements (as recommended by Logitech) :

  • IBM®-compatible or Macintosh system
  • Windows® 98, Windows® NT 4.0, Windows® 2000, Windows® Me, Windows® XP, or Mac OS X
  • Available USB or PS/2 keyboard port and PS/2 mouse port
  • CD-ROM drive

Hardware & Software tested on :

1) Power Mac G4 / 867 - Mac OS 9.2.2 and Mac OS X 10.2.2
• OS 9 : Mouseware 4.05 / OS X : Logitech Control Center 1.03
2) Intel Pentium 3 / 800MHz - Windows XP Home

• XP : Mouse driver 9.73, iTouch 2.13 (1.83 supplied on the CD)


Logitech Cordless Freedom Optical Mouse and Keyboard
Does wireless really work and can we achieve freedom from the tyranny of cables?
Does it work as well on Macs as on PCs?
Is it worth having all the extra buttons, hot keys and media control features?
Read on to find out ...

Introduction

Ok, I was a sceptic too. Having heard of the mouse delay problems and hassles with changing batteries every 2nd day I was pretty dubious as to how well they worked. That is until one of my clients ordered a Logitech wireless mouse & keyboard combo for their new PC. After installing it, I realised how good these things were. I was impressed, really impressed. Things have come a long way and the latest generation of wireless products (Logitech ones anyway) are really quite excellent. And they work on both Mac's and PC's ... I have been a convert for optical mice for ages, although the single button Apple optical mouse leaves a lot to be desired (too short a cable and missing a 2nd button/scroll wheel). I had heard a few horror stories about wireless connections and had a few issues myself with infra-red connectivity over the years and so was never really interested in trying out wireless keyboards and mouse. These devices though, are radio frequency, not infra red.

After unpacking the pieces I sat back and admired the product design. The keyboard in particular is a very sexy thing indeed. Looks great with it's charcoal grey tones and rounded shape. Almost looks like you need a pilot's license to drive it as it has buttons, wheels and dials seemingly everywhere.

Setup & Install

Neat, colorful and wasteful packaging, but as these are sold as accessory products and not OEM equipment, expected. The software installer CD comes with old versions of PC software, but courtesy of versiontracker the latest versions were easy to locate, download and update. PCs use iTouch and Mouseware and Macs use Logitech Control Center. The receiver physically connects to the computer either via the USB or PS/2 ports on a PC or USB only on a Mac. There are connection restablishment buttons on the bottom of the keyboard, mouse and on the top of the receiver to establish/restablish connection if the wireless signal ever gets lost in the ether. But this never happened to me as long as I kept the mouse within a meter or so of the receiver. An optional palm rest comes with the keyboard and although I installed it initially I found the standard keyboard to be fine and I took it off to save desk space.

Mac OS 9

Strictly speaking OS 9 is not supported but Logitech Mouseware software installs fine for the mouse. An old unsupported beta version of iTouch software for OS 9 is available but it crashes when trying to install. Unfortunately, I found the mouse cursor tracking very poor in OS 9 whether I was using OS 9 mouse tracking or the Logitech software. Poor control especially with fine movements. Hard to describe but it just "felt" wrong. No amount of fiddling with the tracking software could get it quite right. The standard Apple optical mouse, MS optical mice and all other mice felt uniformly excellent. Having also used Logitech corded mice before and they were fine, I'm sure that Logitech can fix the problem but I found it so annoying that the mouse was unusable for me. They weren't wrong when they said OS 9 was unsupported, although I was surprised given that their otherwise excellent Mouseware software works for all other Logitech mice.

The other major problem is that there is no way to eject the CD tray with newer systems under OS 9. Incongrously, older systems which dont need the CD eject button dont have USB ports to allow the receiver plug to be connected. A work around is to always have a CD in the tray. If a CD is in the tray you can eject it from the menu bar, just dont close it again without inserting another CD... Holding the left mouse button down at startup also ejects the CD / DVD tray, just in case you were wondering. Also holding open the CD cover and poking something thin, flexible and strong enables you to press the CD eject button on the front of the CD mechanism. The logic of not being able to get access to this button completely evades me. Simplicity going too far. Apple also had some issues with this matter with the first round of copy protected music CD's. Once you put one into your Mac you couldn't actually eject the CD - ever, and in the case of iMac's the machine wouldn't boot either. Sometimes Apple does some really stupid things.

The keyboard was a real pleasure to use although none of the extra buttons/wheels, etc. worked without the iTouch/Control centre software installed. Sort of defeating the purpose if you know what I mean. You may as use the cheaper and smaller Apple keyboard, although the cheaper Logitech keyboards are a good choice (except for the CD eject issue).

But as Logitech said that OS 9 was unsupported this section is for those who are interested in OS 9 usability.

Mac OS X

Pretty slack from Logitech but no Mac software comes supplied with the package. A quick check on versiontracker (again) and also the Logitech site soon had the appropriate software downloaded & installed. The software includes all the functionality of mouseware and iTouch in one bundle accessed in System Prefs. The mouse tracking issue with OS 9 was minimal in OS X. I found that the best settings were to set movement to slow but acceleration to medium or high. This gave the best sensitivity for fine, slow movements but still enough oomph to move across the screen in one movement without having to pick up and relocate the mouse. Still not as good as a cabled mouse with accuracy but pretty close and you "got used" to it very quickly. It was fun controlling iTunes from the keyboard - really like the sound/mute/play/next song controls there, especially as iTunes doesn't have to be the active app.

Fortunately the Control center software allows you to reprogram one of the soft keys on the keyboard to allow the CD tray to be ejected in OS X , although it was not immediately obvious how to get this working. I really blame Apple more than Logitech for this debacle. Not allowing access to the CD/DVD eject button that is built into every CD and DVD mechanism is really inexcusable in all their most recent systems. Shame Apple shame. And Logitech should make this more obvious in their documentation.

PC

Without doubt the best keyboard I have used on a PC. Love the feel, the look, the customisable controls, everything. My favorite feature is the volume control dial and the CD / DVD controls are cool too. Finally a practical and easy to use volume control, very responsive too. The extra buttons I thought were just a gimmick but once I programmed a few in, I found them to be useful shorcuts and ones I ended up using regularly. The iTouch software is straight forward to use and easy to reprogram if you want to quickly switch things around. None of the Mac problems were evident and in fact that is where the keyboard and mouse currently reside.

The mouse is simply good, rather than excellent. Certainly as good as any other optical mouse I have used by MS or Logitech anyway. The mouse software is comprehensive with all the usual options, like button mapping, tracking speed, etc. Nothing special there, although I like the Logitech layout and software design. Very usable. Where it shines is the lack of a cord. Wireless operation on a keyboard is less important than with a mouse. After all you dont move a keyboard around all that often. Having no cord on a mouse however, without a cord dragging around restricting movement, getting tangled up every now and then, is a somewhat liberating experience.

Gameplay is good and you never have to worry about the mouse cable getting caught at a critical moment again, although low batteries would be an even worse scenario. Rember to save often or install fresh batteries !

I found that the iTouch software crashed out on my PC every 2nd or 3rd startup. I ended up just installed a shortcut on the desktop to start it up after the PC had booted whenever this happened and it always worked fine after that. A minor incovnenience and probably some startup incompatibility with my firewall, anti-virus software or something else. These are the sort of things that often happen with PC's that are maddeningly difficult to sort out.

General Comments

You can get the keyboard and mouse separately but it's cheaper to buy them as a pair. The only problem that I see is that it would be better to be able to mix and match the keyboard and mouse from the wide range that Logitech make. Logitech have recently released a new wireless and rechargeable mouse - the MX700. This looks really sexy indeed (almost like a battlebot, but more useful) - and even better than the keyboard design. Best of all it can never run out of batteries - just pop the mouse into the receiver which also acts as a charging cradle. Not sure if the receivers are compatible or not if you tried to mix and match the 2. My preference would be to have the existing keyboard and the new MX700 wireless mouse as a pair. Not a currently available option as yet. Logitech are you reading this?

Even though it is assymetric in shape I found the mouse to fit both the right and left hand equally well (which surprised me) but the functionality of the thumb button is lost when using it left handed unless you have a very dextrous little finger.

Battery life seems good, especially for the keyboard. I recommend using good quality alkaline batteries to maximise times between changes. Having spoken to other longtime users, keyboard battery life seems to run between 3-6 months and mouse battery life at 1-2 months although this was more variable than the keyboard. This is a slight added cost factor. Remember to always have spare batteries close by or your old mouse ready to plug back in. The PC and Mac OS X software includes an ability to check the battery life of both the keyboard and mouse.

Optical tracking seems to be generally poor on shiny black, white, mirrored or glass surfaces, but the Logitech mouse is not alone here. In fact the best optical mouse I have ever used for tracking across all different surfaces is the good old Apple optical mouse. Now if only it came with a 2nd button, scroll wheel and was wireless. Knowing Steve Jobs anything is possible, but I'm not holding my breath.

Value for Money

For what you get, I think it is reasonable value for PC usage. Pricing is at the upper end of the market, but for those who do buy I am sure that you will never go back to a corded unit again. Wireless is the way to go. Harder to justify for use on a Mac unless you must have wireless and you never use OS 9. Apple keyboards are almost always excellent but if I had to choose between the twoI would take the Logitech.

Summary & Conclusion

Great unit for a PC, Buy one if it is within your budget. You can always use your old keyboard as a spare (and in case the batteries run out), same for the mouse. Waste of money for OS 9 users, as the iTouch software is unavailable and for me anyway, the mouse tracking was terminally poor. I've said enough above about the CD eject issue to make you aware of my feelings there. OS X users -great product once you program the CD eject soft key. You can tell that Logitech are primarily a PC company although they are to be congratulated for their Mac support.