Honestly, I don’t know what got into me. My old, blue Logitech mouse was showing its age. The scroll wheel was creaky. I’d put little round stickers on the bottom to keep it tracking smoothly. It had started started discoloring in an unsettling way that suggested it was harboring a rare and dangerous bacteria (gross!), and I’d colored over those spots with black Sharpie to hide and hopefully kill off whatever might be alive and growing there.
It was, for the love of heaven, time to get a new mouse. But which? I didn’t want to buy some boring, tinny $15 mouse. I wanted something that was heavy, felt great in my hand, had buttons that clicked with a solid, satisfying click and might even add an invigorating pop to my workflow by saving a few clicks or keystrokes.
So, throughout this month, I went nuts trying to find the right mouse. I tried them out at just about every price, from $10 to $80. As I write this, there are a few mice in boxes on my office floor waiting to go back to Amazon and there are no less than eight on my desk from current and previous “research.” After all this lunacy, I’ve found the perfect mouse, so you don’t have to go looking for it. If you’re hunting for a last-minute holiday gift, or looking to replace your aging mouse, I’m here to help.
The Logitech M705 Marathon. Just buy it already. Of all the mice I tried, it’s the one I’m using to write this story. I can safely call it the best mouse I’ve ever used. (Seriously.) And it costs only $25. It feels solid, with just the right amount of heft. The plastic’s texture is smooth-but-not-slick, cool to the touch and feels a bit like a thin coat of rubber over aluminum. The two main buttons click with a wonderful pop. It tracks smooth as glass and is big enough to prevent your hand from cramping up. The Marathon feels more expensive than other mice that cost three times the price. And it’s not overdone with gee-whiz buttons and features that are hard to figure out.
The Marathon’s most extravagant feature: a clutch button that disengages the ratchet click and frees the scroll wheel to spin smoothly, allowing you to zip to the top of your Twitter feed or a sprawling block of text. There are two programmable bonus buttons to the left; I use them for Mac OS’s “Mission Control,” which shows all your open windows and desktops, and “Launchpad,” an iOS-like app launcher. Both have me cutting through the clutter of open apps and windows fast and without distraction.
My only complaint: The programmable click-wheel button is finicky; it has to be compressed in a precise manner to work. But who cares? The Marathon makes you want to sit down and work.
The Logitech MX Master 2S Mouse ($71): It’s big. It’s expensive. It’s bloated. It feels cheaper than the Marathon and it costs about three times as much. There’s a reason Steve Jobs, who insisted on simplicity, was right to stand firm on a single-button mouse — and this mouse is it.
After decades of breakneck technological innovation across the computer business, the mouse, 50 years after its invention, retains its fundamental, utilitarian purpose: point to things, select them and move them around. Gobsmackingly, the MX Master manages to confuse that singular purpose. It has an extra button where your thumb rests that can be compressed to create actions with mouse gestures — panning, zooming and rotating. I never got the feature to work, although I gave up pretty quickly.
There’s also a second programmable scroll wheel for your thumb. I used it to control my music volume — which was awesome, until I remembered what I paid for this thing. What’s more, the MX Master’s driver busted the scroll wheel on not only this mouse, but my old Logitech, too. The glitch stems from a conflict with Mojave, the latest version of Mac OS, and is easily fixed in your system’s preferences. (Logitech says it’s working on the problem.) Still, I found myself fiddling around helplessly with the mouse and its software until I found the fix on a message board. It cost me an hour of work time. I returned the MX Master this week.
Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse ($60): This is probably the most novel design that’s come to the mouse in two decades. The Arc is flexible and you bend it into a curve to turn it on. It’s small but its shape and rubberized texture feel great in your hand. The touch-sensitive bar that substitutes for a scroll wheel doesn’t give any feedback, which made scrolling awkward, and my hand cramped using it. (There’s a newer model for a few dollars more that includes an Apple-like buttonless surface for scrolling, and that may address this problem.) It’s a perfect mouse to throw in your bag or carry between meetings because it folds flat.
Jelly Comb 2.4 ($9.95): This is the cheapest mouse I tried and there’s a lot to like about it. It’s got a low profile, so it’s also good to toss in your bag. The Jelly Comb is a rough knock-off of Apple’s Magic Mouse 2 and the design is pleasing. Unlike just about every other mouse, the Jelly Comb’s scroll wheel is a rubber ball which is nicer to use than most rough-textured scroll wheels. (Be warned: despite appearances, it doesn’t track left to right.) The Jelly Comb is a tad too small to be my daily driver, but this mouse has a lot of charm. For 10 bucks you can’t go wrong.
Logitech MX ERGO Wireless Trackball ($69): I’ve never owned a trackball mouse and this one piqued my curiosity. It’s fun to be able to fling the pointer across your screen, kind of like spinning a foosball man. There’s a button that slows the pointer speed for more-precise maneuvering so you can zero in on what you need to click.
The mouse is heavy and can be tilted at an angle to accommodate the tech industry’s legion Carpal Tunnel victims. It’s also big and broad, so your palm rests over it nicely. I wanted this mouse to work for me but in the end the trackball was more novelty than advantage. I found myself feeling exasperated after a day of work with it. I also tried Logitech’s cheaper version of this mouse — the M570 Wireless Trackball ($25). It’s not as heavy and the plastic feels cheaper, but it’s a perfectly fine trackball mouse and costs less than half as much as the MX ERGO.
Apple’s Magic Trackpad. I bought a slightly used first-generation Magic Trackpad for $50 on Ebay. (The second-generation model retails for $130.)
The beauty of this thing is that it brings the gestures you previously could use only on your laptop to the desktop. And there’s more to this trackpad than you might think: flick with two, three, four fingers and pinch to zoom or rapidly get to your desktop. Trackpads like these should be standard on every desk — mouse to the right, trackpad to the left. I use mine to quickly scroll through websites and as an additional way to slide between windows and apps. A four-finger flick upward shows all the stuff I’m working on. Combined with a mouse, it’s the fastest way to get around your computer. And it just feels great to use.
The Magic Trackpad works with limited functionality on a PC and there are other less elegant options for Windows. Trackpads like these should no longer be limited to the laptop — they’re too useful and too much fun for that.
Pair it with the M705 Marathon, and you’re set.