When someone tries to sell you a mouse that is “optimized for Windows 8,” they’re selling a mouse that has touchscreen controls mapped onto it somewhere. Some are more robust than others. On one extreme, you have the Asus VivoMouse – a mouse that is all touchpad, with all of the standard Windows 8 touch gestures mapped on. The Logitech T400 Zone Touch Mouse is on the other end of the spectrum, featuring minimal touch controls perfect for people who like Windows 8, but not too much. Ultimately, it’s a response to last year’s flawed Logitech Touch Mouse M600 model, and fixes many of the frustrating drawbacks of that mouse.
Unlike the older M600, which was entirely covered by a touch-sensitive surface, the T400 shrinks that down into one semi-narrow touch strip where the scroll wheel would normally be. This fixes probably the worst part of using the M600, where resting a finger on one side of the mouse would prevent you from registering a click on the other side. It’s a fusion of a traditional mouse and a touch mouse, which seems like a better choice – registering a click with touch controls on a mouse seems a little superfluous, like having touch controls just for the sake of having them.
So, instead, we have the touch zone. It’s a small, touch-sensitive strip in the middle of the mouse, with basic functionality, and without multi-touch. Flicking or dragging up and down handles scrolling, which receives a boost from Smooth Scrolling, which gets activated when you install the mouse’s SetPoint software. Smooth Scrolling does what it says, making scrolling feel a little more like you’re using a touchscreen on a mobile device. You can also scroll left to right, which is mostly useful if you’re using Windows 8 apps or the start screen. Swiping left to right or right to left in a web browser, by default, will navigate forwards and back, but you can change that to enable horizontal scrolling in web browsers using the SetPoint software.
The glass touch zone can also be used as a button. By default, clicking the upper half of the zone will be the Windows 8 button, toggling between the start screen and your most recently used app. Clicking on the lower part will be your standard middle-click. All of those defaults can be changed using SetPoint. You can choose to map show/hide desktop to one of the middle buttons, which I’m sure a lot of people in love/hate relationships with Windows 8 will appreciate. Also, lefties can easily swap mouse buttons if they need to.
Another nice feature that, for whatever reason, isn’t turned on by default is double tap to zoom – double tap on the upper part to zoom in, and on the lower part to zoom out. Tapping to zoom struck me as a better fit than using multi-touch gestures on a touchpad – Windows 8 zoom is step-by-step, rather than gradual, so tapping gives you a little more control than using the touchpad and hoping you don’t accidentally pinch your fingers too close together.
Fortunately, the touch zone isn’t overly sensitive – you can rest your finger on it and not accidentally scroll or activate the Windows 8 button. Every once in a great while I accidentally zoomed in, but over time, this didn’t seem to be too much of an issue.
Physically, this is a shorter, flatter mouse with a smaller profile than most. That makes it great for travel, but not necessarily the most comfortable to use for prolonged periods. There’s a rubber grip on the sides, but rubber grips on mice has always struck me as a solution to an imaginary problem. I didn’t feel like I had any more or less grip than I did using any other mouse, and it wasn’t particularly more or less comfortable to use. The mouse buttons require a little bit more force than your average mouse, but it’s nothing drastic. The surface of the mouse has a matte finish, sparing you from nasty fingerprints. The advanced optical tracking is honed well enough to where you can use the T400 on just about any uneven surface, including carpet, and the mouse works from at least 20 feet away, and around corners.
The T400 comes with a USB dongle, which is part of Logitech’s Unifying line – so, if you’re using a wireless Logtiech keyboard along with this mouse, both devices can work using just one dongle. Up to six devices can be paired at one time to a single dongle. Logitech claims that you can get 18 months of battery life out of the two AAs inside the T400, but that seems awfully rosy. Shame it couldn’t just be a rechargeable battery.
If you’re really into everything that Windows 8 can do, apps included, the T400 isn’t the most robust option out there. But, if you use a few apps casually and mainly stick to the desktop, the T400 is just right – it spares you from unnecessary features that could potentially hinder you from doing what you want to do, as happens a lot of the time with Windows 8 touch pads or touch mice. With its low profile, it’s a solid travel mouse, and it’s comfortable enough as long as you don’t use it for hours and hours on end, in which case the claw-like grip needed to use it might get to you. The touch zone is easy to use, but not too squirrelly – if the standard Windows 8 touchpad strikes you as a little too sensitive most of the time, the T400 is a pretty solid alternative. The extended range on the T400 is also nice for anyone planning on using this to watch movies on a larger screen all-in-one PC.
The T400 Zone Touch Mouse is a good pickup for anyone who wants an easily portable mouse that sticks to the basics of Windows 8 touch controls without trying to do too much at once, while retaining the tried-and-true basics of a standard mouse. You can pick it up for as low as $25.
The Good: Well-tuned touch zone doesn’t do too much, but what it does, it does well. Comfortable to use most of the time. Lightweight and easy to pack. Smooth Scrolling is smooth.
The Bad: Not too comfortable to use for extended periods. If you’re looking for a mouse with a full suite of Windows 8 touch controls, this isn’t it – no multi-touch functionality. Still uses AA batteries.