Date: January 10, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams
There’s no shortage of keyboards and mice to choose from when you are looking for a purchase. Today we are taking a look at a combo that should prove perfect for media buffs; even better if you have an HTPC!
When looking to purchase any type of hardware, there seems to be a common problem: Too much selection! The peripheral mark is certainly not excluded from this. Simply taking a look at Logitechs own products page can be overwhelming if you are looking for a keyboard or mouse. We have taken in-depth looks at numerous Logitech products to date and will be doing so again today.
I took a look at the MX3100 combo last May, which included the MX1000 laser mouse. The MX3100 is a very similar set, although it includes an MX600 mouse instead. No need to worry though, as this mouse also has a frickin’ laser.
It seems that corded mice and keyboards are being phased out pretty quickly. This is not a bad thing by any stretch, because wireless technology can help make our lives easier. I have to admit though, that I can’t stand gaming with a wireless mouse, but it’s certainly nice not tripping over a cord during some hardcore spreadsheet action. Of course, alongside wireless connectivity, we also want lots of functionality.
The set we are looking at today is geared toward the media buff… and it shows. If you have an HTPC, then this just may be the combo for you.
Packaging is not something that Logitech changes too often, but that’s because they don’t need to. After tearing open the package, you see everything you expect, including manuals and CD’s. One important thing to note is that Logitech is kind enough to include two sets of AA Duracell batteries so that you can be up and running in a flash. Nothing sucks more than getting home and not having any batteries for the new ‘toy’, so kudos to Logitech for including those.
The USB base that is included with this set is unique. It is oddly shaped, so it’s hard to position is correctly. Picture a piece of plastic that’s bent into a 90° angle. This should be ok, but the cord that runs from it is thick enough to become a pain. Simply, it’s hard to position the base so that it looks nice. I just got fed up and let it hang over the side of the PC ;)
One benefit of the odd base though, is that the keyboard and mouse are both ‘pre-connected’ so that once you plug them in, you are good to go. Another nice addition are three green LED lights on top of the base that represent the status of Caps Lock, Num Lock and the F Function key.
The software included with the set are the latest SetPoint drivers and MediaLife, which is similar to Microsofts Media Center. Overall, it’s a great package and the addition of batteries is extremely welcomed.
Having used the MX3100 keyboard since last May, I can say that there was no huge leap switching to this one. Both keyboards are near identical, although this one has a few additional buttons. Looking at the keyboard from a fresh standpoint though, it’s clear that this is an ultimate media solution… or tries to be.
There are over 30 additional buttons over the standard keys which provide a lot of functionality. The F Mode key is present on this keyboard as well. The F Mode key is nothing naughty, so get your head out of the gutter. Basically, you can configure your F1 – F12 keys to perform keystrokes or other tasks, or pushing the F Mode key will revert them to their regular functions.
On the left side of the keyboard we have a few navigational buttons. If you are browsing a website or looking at a picture, you can zoom in and out with ease. There is also a 100% button which will revert the page or picture to the default state. As if the mouse scroll wheel wasn’t enough, you have one here also. There’s also a back button which will bring you back to the previous webpage or folder, depending on where you are navigating.
There are specific media keys to the top left which are used to open up the respective folders, including My Documents. The top of the keyboard is where most of your functionality will be had though. Of course, you have back and forward buttons, stop and play, eject and mute. If you are using the keyboard for your HTPC, then you may find the record button useful also. Pushing the media button will automatically launch your default media application, which may end up being MediaLife if you chose to install it.
Two nice additions to this area are the shuffle and playlist control buttons, which do exactly as you’d expect.
Other random buttons that are available correspond to your IM program, webcam, e-mail, etcetera. One interesting button is the status, which allows you to change your IM status if you are logged on. There is so much functionality on this keyboard, that it may be able to do things that you are unaware of. To better suit things to your liking, you can change the functionality of *any* of the extra buttons which is a very welcomed option.
If you have used an MX1000 before, then you would get comfortable quickly with the MX600. Both mice are quite similar, but this one is clearly sleeker. The mouse is very solid and should suffice for all of your everyday tasks. I didn’t find it to be as comfortable as the MX1000, but your opinion may vary depending on how you grip the mouse. I can certainly say that this one is not for gaming. After an hour of Unreal Tournament 2004, my hand was sore due to the awkward way I had to hold the mouse. On the other end of the stick though, I found the MX600 to be more precise during gameplay than I did with the MX1000.
The mouse shares a lot of functionality with the keyboard. You can again find Back/Forward buttons here, in addtion to Zoom In/Out and even the 100%. Like all new Logitech mice, the scroll wheel tilts to the left and right. This can be useful if you are viewing large images on the screen, or are reading a poorly coded webpage! If you do choose to use this mouse for gaming, you can set any of the keys to a generic button in the SetPoint software. This will allow you to use these buttons for specific functions in any game, but you cannot do this unless you unassign the default function.
If you want to learn more specifics about a similar mouse, you can read a more in-depth look right here, which is of the MX610. Both mice are identical, minus the color scheme and status lights.
Overall, this is quite a great setup, especially for the low price of $65US. Sadly though, this is one combo that has it’s share of issues. I have used many wireless Logitech products without many problems, but this is where that ball stops.
The base for this set is questionable, because I did not only have problems with one of the products, but both. In last months review of the MX610, Matt pointed out that the mouse had the tendancy to fall asleep far quicker than it should. The MX600 shared the same problem, and I found it would also be sticky during normal use, at times. This is not really a small issue, because in this day in age, I expect to never see those problems.
Many people who already use wireless peripherals will likely know what it’s like to have the batteries die without warning. Keys you press on the keyboard will not show up on the screen, or at least they are far and few between I had this problem the very first night of using the keyboard, so I figured that the batteries that Logitech included may have just been duds. I switched to some new batteries that I bought at the store, only to find out that the problem did not diminish at all.
I blame the base once again. The reason is because that the problems experienced are nonexistant if you point the peripherals directly at it. Like many people, I have a desk that has a pull-out keyboard tray, and my PC tower sits right beside it. In order for the best signal, I had to keep the base at the front of my case.
I found this to be rediculous, because I have no such issues with the MX3100. With that kit, I could literally go in my driveway and still have either peripheral work as if I was in front of the PC. Since most of Logitechs wireless lineup are universal with their bases, I decided to test both the MX3000 and MX600 with the base that came with the MX3100 combo.
Sure enough, both products worked *perfectly*. The keyboard never had an issue, and the mouse didn’t even fall asleep on me. Chances are, I could have received a buggy base. Either way though, if you are to purchase this set, you will want to make sure they you have a clear pathway for the signal to reach the base.
In spite of those bizarre issues with the base, this is still a great kit. The keyboard is one of the finest that I have used, and the mouse is not so bad either. If you are a gamer, this set may still be worth your buy for the keyboard alone because of the superb price, but the MX600 is definitely not a gamers choice.
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