When Logitech's MX Ergo was announced a few weeks ago, I was the kid in the classroom with their hand in the air shouting, "pick me, pick me!" to do the review. Most of the other kids in the room were just yawning. As of this review going live, I'm still not sure the teacher of our figurative classroom even acknowledged me before I jumped out of my seat and started writing on the chalkboard. That's OK, though—not everyone gets trackballs.
I, however, do get trackballs. Both literally and figuratively. As I mentioned in my Steam controller review, I grew up using them. I haven't used them exclusively by any means, but I've certainly used one as my primary pointing device for the couple decades that computers have been a daily part of my life. When Logitech releases a new trackball, it's kind of a big deal to me, like a sequel to a favorite game or a new movie by my favorite director.
Therein lies the rub, though. Sometimes, while you're waiting for someone familiar to release something new, you stumble across an alternative. A similar game with some fresh ideas, or a surprise hit from a director you've never heard of. Not to mention that sequels aren't always better, and directors can be famously inconsistent.
Enter the Elecom EX-G, the high-water mark for trackballs that I'll be measuring the MX Ergo against. I picked up an EX-G nearly a year ago as an alternative to the Logitech M570s that I love. The MX570s keep failing me due to well-known problems with the switches under their primary buttons. It pains me to say that I've bought eight M570s since 2010 because of that flaw. Enough was enough. I never got around to reviewing the Elecom, but that'll make this review all the more interesting.
Features and changes
Enough context, let's talk about the hardware. A handful of features set the MX Ergo apart from its predecessor M570. Its "Ergo" namesake surely comes from the most obvious change: the ability to tilt up to 20° thanks to a magnetic base plate. Before I saw it in person, I was picturing a mechanism not unlike the hinges on a Microsoft Surface's kickstand. In reality, it's vastly simpler than that: just a pivot point and strong magnets to hold it in one position or the other. Curiously, Logitech is also offering a Best Buy-exclusive MX Ergo Plus that affords 30° of tilt. If you need even more verticality, the Plus could be worth a look.
Next up in the change log, so to speak, is the addition of Bluetooth connectivity alongside the traditional Logitech Unifying Receiver option. This is a very welcome upgrade, and one I wish more peripherals included. Nobody wants to use a dongle if they don't have to. The inclusion of Bluetooth is complimented by a button beneath the scroll wheel that allows for toggling connectivity between multiple computers.
Speaking of buttons, the MX Ergo has a couple other new ones that the M570 does not. The scroll wheel now offers tilt functionality, a feature that I appreciate but almost always forget to use (the Elecom EX-G has it, as well). Personally, I'd prefer a thumb-driven scroll wheel for horizonal scrolling, but I can't very well complain about that on a thumb-driven trackball, can I? The last new button is a "precision mode" button that toggles cursor speed way down. It's located above and behind the ball. Logically, it's not a momentary switch like a thumb-actuated sniper button, since that would make it impossible use while still moving the ball with your thumb (unless the ball was the button, hmmm). It does have its uses, though, and it lights up to let you know what it's activated.
Rounding out the big changes are some creature comforts. The MX Ergo swaps out the AA juice packs of the M570 for an integrated 500 mAh Li-Po battery that's purported to last for four months of use between charges. I didn't have any complaints with the previous AA solution, since I have a good charger stocked with my trusty Panasonic Eneloops at all times, but I can't complain about the switch to an integrated battery either. After all, that battery is probably going to last a long time if it only needs to be charged a few times each year. Last, and probably least, the MX Ergo comes coated in a soft-touch finish instead of the bare plastic of the M570.
Let's talk about some under-the-hood changes next. The single biggest question I wanted answered was if Logitech made a change to the all-important choice of primary button switches. Thankfully, the reply I got was a firm "yes." It turns out that the MX Ergo uses the same switches as in the MX Master mouse. These switches are rated for 10 million clicks as compared to the M570's three-million-click switches. I'm pretty sure that none of my M570s made it to three million clicks before getting squirrely, but I am content to know that the Ergo's switches are at least a different part number and that I didn't find forum threads full of people complaining about them while researching for this review. Hopefully, I won't ever find myself soldering in replacements like this guy taught me to do with the M570.