Review: Logitech Cube

Logitech’s Cube is a portable mini-mouse. It’s not cube-shaped, but it is about the same size as an ice cube, so I suppose the name is apt.

But an ice cube is what you may need after using the two-inch long, one-inch wide pointing device for more than an hour. While its tiny, non-traditional design might earn it a spot in a glass display case in the MoMA, the frustration and pain you’ll experience using it in the real world will certainly make it the enemy of ergonomics experts everywhere.

The Cube fulfills its basic purpose. It’s a lightweight (less than an ounce), handsomely designed but unobtrusive mouse. It fits in any pocket and is perfect for travel. Set it down on just about any smooth surface and its optical beam glides with pointing precision. Swipe your finger anywhere along the Cube’s top to scroll up and down. Pick it up off the table and it transforms into a PowerPoint clicker you can use to move forward and backward through slideshows or presentations.

The main reason people use mobile mice is to get away from their laptops’ touchpads. Even though touchpad technology has vastly improved over the years, and OS X Lion has glitzed Mac touchpads with more functionality than any mouse ever had, travel mice remain popular. Hence Logitech’s push to develop what it thinks is the ultimate travel-sized pointing device.

There’s just a teeny problem. The Cube is ultimately uncomfortable to use for any extended period of time.

I have what could be considered medium- to large-sized hands. They started to cramp after a few minutes of grasping the two-inch-long mouse. While sitting at a San Francisco Starbucks (amazingly, I was able to actually garner a table) I hadn’t downed but a quarter of my Mocha Frappuccino before my hand muscles tightened up. I wasn’t just mousing, either. I was replying to e-mails, moving between mousing and typing as normal.

To use it properly, you have to position your hand in an unnatural arch. The beauty of the Cube is its Lilliputian size, but that’s also its gotcha. Small hands might have a better time with it.

As I mentioned, the Cube also has a PowerPoint presentation mode. As it happens, this is where the Cube clicks — literally. Click to move forward through your slides, turn it upside-down and click it again to move back. In this context, it all but melts into your hand.

So in the Cube, we have an excellent presentation tool and an uncomfortably small mouse. Is it worth 70 bucks? I guess that depends on how big your hand is.

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