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Logitech Bluetooth Desktop MX
Hardware
Written by Aidan   
Wednesday, 04 August 2004 12:59

Áedán takes a good look at the Logitech Bluetooth Desktop MX, a Bluetooth enabled keyboard, mouse and receiver. It doesn't come cheap, but is it any good?

Introduction

The Logitech Bluetooth Desktop MX offers a wireless keyboard and a wireless optical mouse, together with a receiver that doubles as a charging station for the mouse. We looked at a UK model, hence readers from other countries may notice some differences with the model designed for their market.

What you get

Unpack the box, and you'll soon notice there are a fair number of items in there! Let's take a look at the major components; we'll leave out the parts such as the quick start manual, as most people here can read.

The Keyboard

For the most part, the keyboard provides a fairly standard layout in terms of the main section. Cursor keys, Windows keys, Shift keys and Control keys are all where you'd expect them to be. The numeric keypad is only mentionable for it's total conformity with PC tradition. However, look to the top and left hand side, and it becomes obvious that Logitech have worked hard at extending the keyboard's functionality.

These keys provide various functions such as a scroll wheel (Not shown on the picture directly above), a suspend button, a volume control, and much much more. Most of the non-media buttons require the Logitech software to be installed before they'll do anything useful. This probably won't come as a big surprise.

The Mouse

At first glance, the mouse appears to have sprouted rather a large number of buttons, far more than you might expect on the standard two button mouse. The now standard scroll wheel is present, together with a button above, and two more buttons below. Unlike some of Logitech's offerings, the mouse ships with a pair of Nickel Metal Hydride batteries to power it. Logitech were not satisfied with simply adding three more buttons. Real estate that's suitable for more buttons is rather lacking on a mouse, so Logitech placed two more buttons on the side. These are presumably for operation with the thumb if you're right handed, and the little pinky if you're left handed.

The Receiver

The receiver, or Bluetooth hub as Logitech prefers to call it, acts both as a receiver and a battery charger/mouse cradle. This arrangement allows Logitech to use a mouse design that would otherwise chew through non-rechargable batteries at a high rate. As it stands, the batteries will last up to a couple of days before requiring recharging. The receiver also boasts a PS2 keyboard connector to allow access to the BIOS. Normally, the USB connection provides all the connectivity required for Windows. As the receiver also charges the mouse batteries, it requires a separate power adapter to provide the charging current necessary.

The status lights on the receiver are a welcome addition; these lights reflect the status of the various locks on the keyboard. That's caps lock, scroll lock, num lock and function. No longer do you have to guess that the reason you can't log in is that caps lock is on! Sandwiched in the middle of the indicator lights is the connect button, which also doubles up as a Bluetooth activity light. The connect button allows you to associate the keyboard and mouse without requiring a Bluetooth stack on the PC or whatever you've connected it to.

The Power supply

It's not pictured here, but the Logitech Desktop MX Bluetooth ships with a power supply. The power supply appears only to be there to charge the batteries in the mouse, rather than operate the receiver. It can take over 5W to charge the batteries from flat; the USB spec only allows 2.5W so the external power supply is needed otherwise the batteries in the mouse will go flat.

What it offers

Unlike previous Logitech offerings, which have been based around a proprietary wireless system operating in the crowded 27MHz band, the Bluetooth Desktop MX is based around Bluetooth. Bluetooth operates in the equally crowded 2.4GHz band, but uses frequency hopping rather than direct sequencing. This helps to reduce the effects of interference for both itself and other devices that might also be using the same frequencies. No software is required for the keyboard and mouse to work, but some of the functionality of both the keyboard and mouse is lost. This, at least, allows you to physically install and use both the mouse and keyboard before installing the software! Logitech include some extra "function" keys, which map on to the normal F keys. Initially, these "function" keys map on to commonly used Windows menu items. The default mapping includes hotkeys for features such as open, save, undo, redo, and print to name a few. Being honest here, I never used the "function" keys, instead preferring to continue using the standard accelerator keys such as 'ALT-N' for new or 'ALT-S' for save. Most of the media keys work just fine without Logitech's software. Even the scroll wheel on the keyboard functions with no extra software installed!

Software functionality

Logitech's software, although bundled as a whole, actually consists of two separate parts. One part is Logitech's relatively well known software, and the other part is third party. This join is fairly well hidden however, so that the typical user will consider it to be a single application. Logitech's software handles both the initial pairing and the control over the keyboard and mouse. As with most of the Logitech desktop series, the various function keys and other buttons on the mouse and keyboard can have their functions altered to suite the user. Just like TCP/IP, Bluetooth requires a protocol stack to function. The other part of the software is the Bluetooth stack. The stack that is provided with the Logitech Desktop MX for Bluetooth comes from Widcomm. Widcomm appear to have become the de facto standard in terms of Bluetooth software, but some users have hit problems with Windows XP and Widcomm's Bluetooth stack. For users of other Bluetooth dongles, the use of Widcomm's software provides a consistent interface, which allows you to communicate and synchronise with other Bluetooth devices. Installation Physical installation of the Logitech Desktop MX for Bluetooth is simple enough, with a minor twist. Logitech recommend charging the mouse before using it, which make take a little while. All the batteries required are supplied with the Logitech Desktop MX for Bluetooth. The keyboard itself takes two standard AA alkaline batteries. Once the mouse is charged, software installation can take place. Fortunately, the mouse and keyboard operate normally before the software installation, although the connection might not be encrypted. Logitech recommend connecting the receiver before installing the supplied software. After the software has been installed, a reboot is required to activate the Widcomm Stack. After the computer has been rebooted, the Logitech software proceeds to pair with both the keyboard and mouse. Pairing with the keyboard requires the entry of a PIN number, which is used as part of the encryption key. This additional discovery and pairing is required, as the Widcomm Bluetooth stack takes over from the receiver's Bluetooth stack. Unfortunately, Logitech chose to use only a four digit key for the pairing process. A longer key would be preferable, but even a short key is better than no key! Testing The Logitech Desktop MX for Bluetooth was tested with an EPoX 8RDA+ board running Windows 2000, an IBM T30 Thinkpad running Gentoo Linux, as well as a Sony PlayStation 2. Installing the receiver onto the PlayStation 2 was simplicity - just plug it into one of the USB sockets. Unfortunately, we did not have any PS2 software that can use the mouse, so this functionality is unknown! The keyboard did, on titles that support it, work as expected. On Gentoo Linux with no Bluetooth stack loaded, the receiver appears as a standard USB keyboard and mouse. Whilst Linux has support for Bluetooth, in the form of BlueZ, Logitech have a slightly non-standard Bluetooth module in order to support keyboard and mouse before any Bluetooth stack is loaded on the host.

In use

After a couple of weeks of use, a few things were noticed. Occasionally the connect button on the reciever remained lit even after the PC is turned off. This doesn't represent a huge power drain, but does throw a fair amount of light in a dark room for those who have their systems where they sleep. We tracked this down to the USB power being removed and reapplied without the PC being able to initalize the unit. This could happen if your system provides standby power to the USB ports, and you unplug and reconnect the unit. Secondly, once the keyboard and mouse have been left for a while, they drop into a low power sleep mode. It can take up to ten seconds or so for them to resynchronise themselves with the Bluetooth hub when they're next used. Both the keyboard and mouse buffer input so that no data is lost, but it can be a little disconcerting having the input get to the PC some seconds later. Once they've re-established the connection, input is instantanious, as you would expect. Logitech provide software updates, but be warned, you need to have the Logitech/Widcomm software already installed in order to update it. Losing the installation CD-ROM would require trying to obtain another one from Logitech (or some kind heart).

Summary

A nice keyboard and mouse working together with a Bluetooth receiver. If you have Bluetooth devices you want to connect, this is a pretty smart way of connecting them. On the other hand, Bluetooth adaptors can be found fairly cheaply now, so it still works out fairly expensive to buy. Of course, if you don't have any Bluetooth devices, then might be little more than a rather expensive keyboard and mouse!

 

What do you think? Discuss in the forum!

 

See also

None found.


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