Logitech's POWERPLAY and LIGHTSPEED technologies lead the way to a wireless future
After a brief dalliance with wireless and rechargeable mice in the early 2000s, serious gamers generally steered clear of them all together. It wasn’t that they were particularly bad, but more the unfortunate fact that the wireless receivers would have to deal with interference, along with the constant hassle of charging the mouse. I personally always had two mice, just in case the rechargeable one ran out of juice because I forgot to charge it overnight.
Now with the Logitech POWERPLAY mousepad, those problems have gone to the wayside. In addition to POWERPLAY, Logitech has also added their wireless mouse receiver, LIGHTSPEED, to the mousepad for a complete, all-in-one package deal.
Has Logitech really solved all of the pitfalls of wireless mice with their new technology? Let's take a closer look.
Wireless charging? We’ve been here before
The first thing to note is that the technology behind wireless charging is not new. Depending on what model phone you currently have, it probably is wireless charging enabled. You’ve probably also seen those puck-looking discs at hotels, airports, and up-to-date Starbucks. All of those are wireless charging stations.
All of these devices use the QI wireless charging technology that was released in 2008. Ever since then, mobile manufacturers have been working with QI to bring wireless charging to your phone. You can go back as far as the iPhone 4 and use QI wireless charging, as long as you buy an extra part. These days it’s integrated with most, if not all, smartphones.
The basic idea is that the charging station creates a low-power (around 5 watts for mobile devices) electromagnetic field to deliver the power to the device. This energy is sent to your device from the base through induction coils. As long as the coils can talk to each other your device will charge.
So why is POWERPLAY a big deal? The idea behind POWERPLAY is to bring wireless charging to the next level. Logitech spent their time and money developing a way to bring that wireless charge to a device that is constantly moving. That doesn’t seem like too daunting of a task, but in reality, it is.
For QI charging, the inductive coils need to be in close proximity to each other, which means there is the need for constant contact between the base and the device. Without that contact it would be easy to imagine a few phones on a table at Starbucks interfering with each other’s charging.
With POWERPLAY, Logitech has placed not one, but many small inductive coils into the mousepad. This allows for the mouse to be in constant contact with the inductive coils no matter where it is on the POWERPLAY mousepad. Not only that, but Logitech was able to flatten those coils out to just 2mm thick, instead of the 1-2cm you see with most QI charging stations.
The other thing you may notice with QI wireless charging is that your device may get a little hot. It’s not an issue if the device you’re charging is just sitting there doing nothing, but again, we’re talking about charging something that’s moving constantly. Logitech has managed to make the battery charge at a slow enough rate that it doesn’t give out any noticeable excess heat.
Combined with the large surface area of the POWERPLAY mousepad, this makes the POWERPLAY technology one-of-a-kind at the moment. It delivers enough power to keep the mouse charged forever, and the battery itself holds a substantial charge of around 20 hours. In addition, Logitech have set it up so the battery inside the compatible mice don’t charge to a full 100% in order to preserve battery life.
One of the more unique things about the POWERPLAY is the fact that the charging base requires an additional surface placed on top of it. Logitech provides two covers, one hard and one soft, so you can vary the surface based on your preferred feel and texture (and even change it on the fly if you like).
The item that brings this all together is the Logitech POWERCORE module. It acts not only as the battery for the mouse, but as the power transfer device. The battery pops out easily, allowing for it to be swapped in and out of the Logitech G703 or the G903 in about 5 seconds. Once inserted into the mouse of your choice, the POWERCORE module will automatically pair with the POWERPLAY mousepad for a seamless gaming experience. As an added bonus, by being completely encased in the mouse you won’t have to worry about degradation of the charging plates; something rechargeable mice have had problems with in the past
Overall, Logitech seem to have solved the problems of using a device and charging it wirelessly at the same time, and it really does work. Like everyone else, I was playing Shadow of War non-stop (I still am) and not once did I ever have a problem with the G703 or G903 losing charge. We’re talking 8-hour gaming sessions where the battery doesn’t shift from the starting percentage. In fact, over the course of those sessions the charge in the mouse would increase 5-10%.
During our testing we tried to mess with the charging ability of the mousepad by putting additional, non-compatible devices on the mousepad. We can happily report that phones, other mice, or even a small computer screwdriver didn’t interfere with the G703 or G903’s ability to charge.
LIGHTSPEED ahead, Mr. Sulu
By putting the wireless mouse receiver in the mousepad, Logitech has also significantly cut down on signal lag. At most your mouse will be 3-5 inches away from its receiver, meaning that it immediately gets routed to your computer via the USB connection of the POWERPLAY mousepad. Through intense gaming, we put it to the test. Wi-fi bands and Bluetooth had no effect on the signal getting through properly.
After extensive lab testing, Logitech is boasting a wireless signal strength of "up to 16 times stronger" than their competition. What’s really amazing here is that, according to Logitech's testing, the response from the wireless mouse has caught up, and even in some cases surpassed, the response time of a wired mouse. That’s a huge breakthrough! With this next level innovation, Logitech is allowing us to eliminate yet another cable from our desktop.
The LIGHTSPEED technology boasts a stronger, and more encompassing, signal pattern than many other wireless mice. This means you get more consistency in your signal getting through, no matter where the receiver is located. Unlike with the Logitech MX Revolution that I have used extensively, there was never a problem with input lag with these new LIGHTSPEED mice. Logitech have also completely eliminated the need for a USB dongle when the G703 or G903 is paired with the POWERPLAY mousepad.
The G703 and G903
There are two options for your gaming needs when it comes to using POWERPLAY: the basic and the advanced. The basic mouse is the G703. It's a good all-around mouse with no major flaws. It’s comfortable, light, features an RGB LED logo, and comes with a removable 10-gram weight and cables to make it a wired mouse if needed.
This is the kind of mouse you’d be able to see on any desktop in the world and no one would look twice at it. It comes with all the standard features you need, including the DPI adjustment underneath the scroll wheel and two side buttons. The one thing this mouse isn’t is ambidextrous. But honestly, I would never purchase this mouse unless you are going to be getting the POWERPLAY mousepad with it. It’s just too expensive for what is, at its core, just an upgraded G403. If you don’t use POWERPLAY then you’re just wasting $50 on the G703.
However, the G903 is a completely different story. This mouse will cost you a whopping $149.99, but you have to remember that a lot of that cost is in the POWERPLAY technology. For that much money, I better be getting a few extra features.
Logitech delivers on that desire, thankfully. The first thing I noticed, and consequently loved, is the scroll wheel options. You have the option to have a free-spinning scroll wheel or your standard click-to-click scroll wheel. They went even further and improved the spoke on the scroll wheel too, for even less weight.
Unlike the G703, the G903 is ambidextrous. When designing the G903 Logitech made the side buttons removable. So for those left-handed people out there, simply remove the buttons on the left side and pop them in on the right side of the mouse.
The texture design at the base of the mouse is a very nice touch. The faint indents give you a little more slip resistance. The sides of the mouse are designed the same way, giving your thumb a place it will always want to call home. It’s a more comfortable, more breathable design than the G703.
Of the two mice that are compatible with POWERPLAY, I see no reason other than price why you shouldn’t get the G903 over the G703. It's more flexible and functional and brings you everything the G703 has, along with more.
While Logitech has undoubteldy made a great breakthrough with this wireless charging technology, they might have missed a golden opportunity. If they had been able to somehow allow QI enabled devices to work with the POWERPLAY mousepad, this would truly be the computer peripheral everyone must have.
We already see many keyboards incorporating powered USB slots for charging your phone when you’re at your computer. If you can just plop your phone down on the mousepad for QI charging you not only eliminate another cable, but create utility that would be unmatched in today’s market. Maybe we'll see something like this in POWERPLAY 2.0?
Until then, Logitech have made a wireless mouse/mousepad combo that compromises very little, and could fairly be called the most advanced and highest performacne wireless mouse solution on the market. More companies will likely follow with similar approaches, but for now Logitech seems to be moving ahead of the competition at LIGHTSPEED.