In less than three weeks, consumers will start getting their hands on Windows 8, with its radically new “Modern” (formerly Metro) interface, and forming opinions about it. Some of them will be buying it pre-installed on a new computer, while others upgrade their old machines. In both cases, the pointing device they use will have a major impact on their impressions of the new operating system.
Even though Windows 8 was designed with touch in mind, Microsoft has added features which let it function with even the creakiest old mouse or touchpad, using maneuvers such as moving the mouse pointer to the lower right-hand corner to pull up the “charms” icons. These actions get the job done, but they’re not terribly satisfying. It reminds me of operating Windows 3.1 purely from the keyboard–which was something that people did a couple of decades ago, in part because notebooks usually didn’t have built-in pointing devices.
If you’re not using a computer with a touchscreen–and maybe even if you are–what you’re really going to want is a mouse or oversized touchpad that can accommodate the same Windows 8 touch gestures that a touchscreen does, such as swiping your finger in from the right to reveal the charms. Some existing models are already good to go, but an awful lot of other ones, including the dinky touchpad on the Lenovo ThinkPad I bought a little over a year ago, are fundamentally Windows 8-hostile.
So I’m more interested in pointing devices than usual–such as the three new models which Logitech just announced. They’re all designed with Windows 8 in mind; I got some hands-on time with them during a recent demo, and they looked slick.
(They also work fine with Windows 7–but not, oddly enough, with Windows 8 variant Windows RT, which doesn’t allow Logitech to write the device driver it would need to fully support its new features.)
The one I liked best is known as the Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650. Roughly akin to Apple’s Magic Trackpad, it’s a nice large touchpad with a glass surface that you can click to perform mouse-button presses. When I tried it, it provided the silky-smooth experience you’re going to want in Windows 8. (Many Windows computers get pretty jittery even with basic gestures such as two-fingered scrolling.)
The T650 uses Logitech’s USB receiver to communicate with the PC, and as its full name tells you, it’s rechargeable. (Apple’s Magic Trackpad, by contrast, takes AAs.) It’s $79.99.
Logitech is also introducing a couple of Windows 8-centric mice: the Zone Touch Mouse T400 and Touch Mouse T620. The $49.99 T400 has a glass touch strip where your index finger rests, letting you wiggle your finger to gesture up, down, right, and left, and in from any edge. (A mouse with a traditional scroll wheel isn’t well-suited to Windows 8, since the Modern UI involves horizontal scrolling as well as up-and-down movement.) The $69.99 T620 is a posher model with a full-touch top rather than a strip. Both models come with Logitech’s USB receiver and take AAs.
One other thing: As a left-hander, I appreciate the fact that all of Logitech’s new models are southpaw-friendly.