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Any video editor will tell you that their work is only as good as the performance of their three-button mouse. Traditional three-button input devices are contemptibly clumsy to use and require a bit of practice to master, but the added flexibility of that extra button can mean a big difference in time management and creativity.
Logitech hopes to bridge the gap between two and three-button mice with the $40 Zone Touch Mouse T400, a companion to Windows 8 devices that features a Zone Strip between the main left and right buttons to navigate movement using simple touch gestures.
Design and features
Logitech offers the mouse in red, blue, purple, black, and patterned colorways to match your Windows 8 device, most notably the Microsoft Surface 2. The front of the Zone Touch Mouse T400 uses the same downward sloping shape you'd expect from a standard input device, though the low profile design will likely be uncomfortable for larger hands to grasp.
Additionally, the curvature of the button placement forces your hands into a hunched-over position which can be difficult to maintain for longer mousing periods. In this case, I very much preferred the smooth contours and ergonomics of the mouse packaged inside the
A thin layer of contoured rubber grips all four sides of the T400 so your hands have a comfortable place to rest while you're using it, and left-handed users will be happy to hear that the mouse is perfectly symmetrical and easy to use with either hand. Of course, this means that you won't see any buttons on the side of the mouse to scroll back and forth through a Web browsing session, but more on that later.
On the underside of the device, you'll find tracking strips on all four corners that add a smoothness to your scroll, as well as a power button toward the top to save battery life and a removable plate for the battery compartment, which holds two AA batteries. Logitech says that you shouldn't have to replace batteries for 18 months, so check back in May 2015 for an update.
The battery compartment also includes a convenient slot for you to store the USB micro receiver while you're not using it, handy for travelers sick of hunting through their laptop bags for that elusive dongle.
The T400 is a member of the Unifying Receiver family of peripherals that lets you control up to six Logitech devices using a single bite-size USB receiver. Its size also makes it convenient to stick into tight places like the back of an already crowded television set, though I'm sure some users will complain that using a single USB port is already a waste of space in a market saturated with Bluetooth wireless mice such as the Microsoft Sculpt Touch.
Regardless, the Unifying Receiver works just like any other plug-and-play device, though I would recommend installing the included Logitech SetPoint software to get the most customizable options for the buttons as well as the shortcut swipes.
The most obvious difference between the T400 and traditional three-button mice is that the center button is actually a glass touch strip that offers Windows 8 users and creative professionals a versatile shortcut to four-way directional scrolling, browser navigation, and more with a simple swipe of your finger.
You can change the function of most of the swipes using the aforementioned SetPoint software, but the default settings are tailored for Windows 8 users: for example, you can swipe up and down on the strip to zoom in and out, and gesture left and right to navigate back and forth through Web pages and menu tiles.
I remain unconvinced that touch strips are ready to replace the classic scroll wheel. The lack of precision in the sensor makes it cumbersome to use for things such as zooming in and out of a Google map, or highlighting individual lines of text. In those cases and plenty more, the individual notches on a scroll wheel work better to take you where you want to go. Of course, you can change the sensitivity of the touch strip using the software, but there are still some instances where you'll miss that tactility.
Additionally, you can touch the rear of the strip to bring up the desktop screen or swipe across the top section of the zone to navigate back to the Windows start screen. On the other hand, if you're looking for the quickest way to access the Charms bar, or tend to use plenty of pinch-to-zoom, you'll be happier with either a dedicated touch pad like the Logitech Wireless Rechargeable T650, or even the Logitech TK820 keyboard/touch pad combo.
The T400 is best served as a companion to a Windows 8 device, as long as you don't mind sacrificing some functionality compared to a dedicated touch pad.